Lionel Richie Lionel Richie

On his new album Tuskegee, one of the year's most pleasant surprises, R&B and pop icon Lionel Richie reinterprets his catalogue with help from contemporary country stars, adding a little twang to hits like "Say You, Say Me" and "Dancing on the Ceiling." Friday night, some of those same artists — Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw and Rascal Flatts among them — reunite with Richie in Las Vegas to show off their creations live onstage in ACM Presents: Lionel Richie and Friends — In Concert (9/8c, CBS).

TV Guide Magazine: Aside from the performances, what else does the special feature?
Richie: The artists' stories about me and how the songs affected them. These are the stories they told me when they walked in the door to record. We left as a group of brand-new old friends. I'm sure Rascal Flatts were a part of the Commodores — I just can't figure out where their picture is!

TV Guide Magazine: It sounds like there's real camaraderie there.
Richie: This is just the greatest group of people you can assemble. And they actually like each other! What I discovered about country is that when they like you, they like you. It's not a façade.

TV Guide Magazine: What else surprised you about recording in Nashville?
Richie: I asked [Rascal Flatts'] Gary LeVox what he did before he came to the studio. He said, "Lionel, I killed a buck this morning." Now, you don't hear that conversation in Beverly Hills. It's just a whole laid-back approach to life. It makes me remember why I wrote [the lyrics] "Easy like Sunday morning."

TV Guide Magazine: Some of the artists performing tonight, like Lady Antebellum and the Band Perry, aren't on the album.
Richie: They were supposed to be! The problem is that to do a duets album when everybody is available is a nightmare. So you can pretty much imagine that there may be a Part 2 coming. And if not, you'll definitely have the Band Perry or Lady A doing a song with Lionel Richie, because I'm writing them right now. To me, I've discovered a real group of people who love melody. In the rest of America, we've lost melody. But in Nashville, they never threw it away.

TV Guide Magazine: So has your daughter Nicole heard the record?
Richie: Yes, and she and Joel [Madden, her husband] are my two critics now. The good news is, they loved it.

TV Guide Magazine: It's good to see her back on TV again too, on NBC's Fashion Star.
Richie: She's been waiting around for a very long time to find the right kind of show. She's a fashion fanatic — and I have the American Express card bills to prove it.

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