AXS TV’s acclaimed series, “The Big Interview With Dan Rather” shines a spotlight on some of the world’s most beloved and influential artists and performers. Each week legendary newsman Dan Rather is joined by members of entertainment royalty discussing each artist’s lives, legacies and careers.
The series returns for an exciting seventh season on Tuesday, April 16 at 8 p.m. ET with an exclusive sit-down interview with one of rock’s all-time greatest vocalists, Steve Perry. Future episodes include candid conversations with KISS frontman Paul Stanley; pop pioneer Cyndi Lauper; Foreigner members Mick Jones and Lou Gramm; REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin, Neal Doughty, Bruce Hall, Dave Amato and Bryan Hitt; Oscar-Winning actor, writer, director and musician Billy Bob Thornton; comedy legend Carl Reiner and his son, acclaimed filmmaker Rob Reiner; iconic Country star Travis Tritt; celebrated singer/songwriter and guitarist Boz Scaggs and multi-talented musician and radio host Paul Shaffer.
In this exclusive interview, Dan Rather speaks with members of the press, including Go Jimmy Go, Guitar International, KXEL in Iowa, Best Classic Bands and Focus On The 615, about the new season of “The Big Interview” and much more.
How did “The Big Interview” get started?
“The Big Interview” was Mark Cuban’s idea when he re-purposed what used to be known as HD-NET. When I started with Mark we were doing a news program on HD-NET, and when he renamed the channel to be a go-to place for pop culture, he proposed I do these kinds of interviews. I had some reservations about how they’d be but decided to try a few. The rest, as they say, is history.
You’ve interviewed a lot of top musicians over the course of your career. When did you become a fan of music?
I grew up in Texas in the 1930’s and 1940’s and in the early part of my life, if Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb or Roy Acuff didn’t sing it then I didn’t know it. I’ve never been musically inclined to play an instrument but as life went on I developed a liking for all kinds of music. My knowledge wasn’t broad or deep but in doing “The Big Interview” it’s increased. It’s been a real education for me.
Of all the shows you’ve done, what have been some of the biggest surprises?
I’ve had a lot of surprises. Steve Perry had a justified reputation of being a recluse and someone who didn’t welcome interviews. I was a little worried going in but discovered that just the opposite was true. He came to play and was really in the moment. Paul Stanley was another. Most know that he was born with a deformed ear. He was thoughtful and introspective about discussing it and talked about how it affected his life as a child and later, his life as an adult. When he was discussing that I felt we were really discussing one of our goals, which is to get to the interior of the person.
Are there any other country artists you’d like to have on “The Big Interview”?
I’d like to sit down with Alan Jackson. He doesn’t do a lot of interviews but he’s on my list. Then there’s Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown and Garth Brooks. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get them all somewhere in the near future.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve learned about interviewing that you can pass along?
There are two big things, whether you’re just starting out as an interviewer or have been at it for years. The fundamentals begin with preparation, preparation and preparation. Right behind that is being able to listen carefully. It’s one thing to hear. It’s another to listen carefully. Pick up on things your subject says as a way of forming questions. Don’t be chained to a list of questions you’ve written down or memorized. I’ve spent my life interviewing rock stars, celebrities, kings and dictators but the basics never change – prepare and listen carefully. The more preparation you do the better the interview is going to be.
Sometimes an interview can become a conversation and can roll on and on. Have you found some that you wish kept going?
One that immediately comes to mind was with Sammy Hagar. He’s funny, has a great sense of humor and endless anecdotes and stories. Some of which may even be true [laughs]. Another was one of the early interviews with Jack White. I wasn’t familiar with Jack and didn’t know his music, but he was so intelligent and I could’ve talked to him for hours. Travis Tritt is another terrific guy and good person who has such a reverence for the traditions of country music, which I could relate to. Carl and Rob Reiner were also entertaining. I wish that interview could’ve gone on all afternoon.
Are there any thoughts you’d like to share on the current state of our country and world?
Like most people, I’m concerned about what we’ve become as a country. I worry about the world in the sense of things like nuclear annihilation and climate change. But my overall thought is that if we stay steady and concentrate on the things that unite us instead of divide us we’ll be all right. I’m an optimist by nature. It may be a long valley but we’ll come out and be better on the other end.
What do you find most gratifying about doing “The Big Interview”?
I never was or ever intended to be the smartest guy in the room, but I’ve always loved to learn. In doing these shows I’ve learned a lot about people. It’s like going to graduate school about humans. Having this program at my age and doing work that I really enjoy; my gratitude runs deep.
“The Big Interview With Dan Rather” premieres Tuesday, April 16th at 8 p.m. ET on AXS-TV.
Season 7 Line-up:
April 16 – Steve Perry
April 23 – Paul Stanley
April 30 – Cyndi Lauper
May 7 – Foreigner (Mick Jones & Lou Gramm)
May 14 – REO Speedwagon (Kevin Cronin, Neal Doughty, Bruce Hall, Dave Amato & Bryan Hitt)
May 21 – Billy Bob Thornton
May 28 – Carl and Rob Reiner
June 4 – Travis Tritt
June 11 – Boz Scaggs
June 18 – Paul Shaffer