His terrific new album, The Wolf, may address his outsider status in country music, but country-rock rebel Shooter Jennings has been anything but a loner of late. He’s about to start a family with his girlfriend of six years, Sopranos actress Drea de Matteo; he’s thrilling crowds with a kickass live show on his current tour; and on Saturday night, he joins a host of rowdy friends (including Kid Rock, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Steven Tyler) to honor the music of Hank Williams Jr. on Giants (9 pm/ET on CMT), a raucous two-hour salute to the man known as Bocephus. TVGuide.com spoke to the 28-year-old Shooter — the son of the late, great Waylon Jennings — about Hank’s influence, his impending fatherhood and doing a little bit of acting in an upcoming cameo on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
TVGuide.com: You and Hank’s daughter Holly Williams perform "The Conversation," a duet made famous by your dad and Hank. How much influence did Hank have on your own music?
Shooter Jennings: Hank Williams Jr. is one of the biggest influences on me and my music. I have "Country Boy Can Survive" tattooed on my arm. As a kid, I knew him, because my dad was so close to him, but it wasn’t until I was about 22 that I started understanding his lyrics. He’s the most underrated songwriter in country music. A lot of people can’t get past the rowdy football thing, but there is such a sensitivity to his songwriting, especially in his early records.
TVGuide.com: And now you’ve become friends with Hank….
Jennings: After [taping] Giants, I pulled him aside and said, "Hank, I may not see you very much, but I’m talking to you every day." Because I hear in his music so many of my own struggles, things that I can relate to. I’m not quite the same kind of character, but at the same time his music speaks to me. I’m sure if I were to fly out to Montana and go hunting with him, that’d be great, but I’m more into searching eBay for vintage arcade games than I am going hunting.
TVGuide.com: From Alan Jackson to Tim McGraw, there are some pretty big guns on Giants. Who’d you enjoy seeing?
Jennings: One of the coolest people I got to meet was Alan Jackson. He is one of the few living legends in country music. We did this photo shoot, and I said, "Mr. Jackson, I think you’re a great songwriter." He said, "Thank you, Shooter," and I was like, "Oh my God, he knows my name!" It was one of those kind of moments. And meeting Steven Tyler. That was bad-ass.
TVGuide.com: Tell us about your CSI: Crime Scene Investigation cameo, set to air on Jan. 10.
Jennings: Jewel is in the episode, too. The CSI music supervisor decided on me and [my band, the .357s] and called. I was like, "F--k, yeah, we’ll do it!" The episode is set in Vegas during Rodeo Week and we’re the band playing in a honky-tonk bar. We’re performing two songs off the new record, "This Old Wheel" and "Higher," and this massive fight breaks out between a prostitute and a buckle bunny [rodeo groupie]!
TVGuide.com: As the boyfriend of Adriana La Cerva, we have to ask you: What’d you think of The Sopranos’ finale?
Jennings: We loved it, but like everyone else we thought our [TV] screwed up and had to rewind the ending! It was brilliant to me, because it left the [ending] up to whatever you thought. It’s funny: Everybody was rooting for Tony Soprano for all those years and then everybody got so mad when they didn’t see him die!
TVGuide.com: You’re about to become a father any day now.
Jennings: In two weeks! I can’t tell you how ready and excited I am. I think I’m more ready than Drea is. It’s going to be a little girl and it’s definitely going to be two weeks from now, if she doesn’t come before then. Already I’m wrapped around her finger, man.
TVGuide.com: Think you’ll make a good father?
Jennings: I think so. I love little kids so much. Every time I’m with Drea and we go to a family Thanksgiving or something, I always end up in the basement, playing with the little kids, running around in circles, while all the adults are upstairs. And Drea is going to be such a good mother. This kid is definitely not going to take any s--t from anybody. [Laughs]
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