John Rich serves as a boardroom advisor on this season's "All-Star Celebrity Apprentice."
Rich is one of the music world's true Renaissance men. He has earned success in every aspect of the business - as an artist, songwriter, producer and publisher, not to mention talent scout and entrepreneur - while forging one of modern music's most recognizable personas.
He is perhaps most widely known as half of Big & Rich, whose game-changing approach to music and entertainment has spawned platinum albums and sold-out tours, and for his stint on Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice," where his memorable 2011 win raised well over a million dollars for St. Jude Children's Hospital.
Those accomplishments, however, only hint at the extraordinary contributions Rich has made to country music and the wider world of entertainment.
Start with the fact that Big & Rich itself is just one facet of the Muzik Mafia, a musical state of mind founded by Rich, Big Kenny and a handful of friends that spun off careers - including that of Gretchen Wilson - as it dazzled audiences with its diversity and inventiveness.
The accomplishments are plentiful on every front. As an artist, Rich was a founding member of Lonestar, sharing lead vocal duties and co-writing early hits including "Say When" and the chart-topping "Come Cryin' to Me." As a solo artist, his two albums include the top five "Son of a Preacher Man" and his singles include the top 15 "Shuttin' Detroit Down." As half of Big & Rich, he has been responsible for two chart-topping albums, Horse of a Different Color and Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace, and a number three, Comin' to Your City, as well as EP's and DVD's that have sold more than six million copies, and 10 top 40 singles, including the chart-topping "Lost in This Moment." In fact, he is the only artist in country music history to have top 15 records as a solo artist and as part of a duo and group. Most recently, he and Big Kenny have released Hillbilly Jedi, whose kickoff single, "That's Why I Pray," is among their most successful ever.
As a songwriter, he has co-written many of Big & Rich's hits, including "Lost in This Moment," "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)," "8th of November" and "Big Time," but again, that is just the beginning. He is co-writer of several of Gretchen Wilson's smashes, including the phenomenally successful "Redneck Woman," Faith Hill's "Mississippi Girl," Faith and Tim McGraw's "Like We Never Loved at All," Jason Aldean's "Why," "Johnny Cash" and "Amarillo Sky" (nominated as Song of the Year and Video of the Year by the Academy of Country Music) and songs recorded by Martina McBride, Gary Allan, John Anderson, Aaron Tippin and Tracy Byrd, among many others. He is a three-time ASCAP Songwriter of the Year and has received many Grammy, ACM, CMA and CMT Music Award nominations. Among the 2,000 songs he has written are more than forty that have hit the top 40.
As a producer, Rich co-produced the first two Big & Rich albums and the first two Gretchen Wilson albums, as well as projects by Randy Owen, John Anderson, Jewel, Cowboy Troy, James Otto, Keith Anderson and others. As a music publisher, he has worked with some of Nashville's finest songwriters and published songs including "Don't You Wanna Stay," the smash by Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson.
His history on television includes a stint as a judge on "Nashville Star," as host of "Gone Country" and, with Gloria Estefan, Nelly and Joe Jonas, as a mentor on "The Next." All are natural extensions of the eye for young talent he has displayed since the days when he discovered and helped nurture the career of Gretchen Wilson.
All of those personas, from artist to nurturer of new talent, flow from a heart-and-soul dedication to his art. "The only thing I ever cared to do with my life, from the time I was five or six years old," he says, "is make country music. That's why I write as much as I do. It's why I'm constantly looking for new artists to work with. I'm constantly producing new records. I'm always on tour. It's all I care to do. Country music is not a hobby for me. It's my DNA."
He spent his early years "in West Texas in a trailer," he says, listening to KMML-FM in Amarillo, dreaming of being on country radio and playing the Grand Ole Opry. He followed the dream to Nashville, where he got a job at a show at the Opryland theme park. There he met the guys with whom he would form Texassee, which became Lonestar. After parting ways from the group and landing a solo record deal, he began teaming up with friends for a Tuesday night jam that spawned the Muzik Mafia, the most eclectic collection of entertainers and artists ever to hit the city. Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson, Cowboy Troy, James Otto, Two-Foot Fred and painter Rachel Kice were among those who emerged from that incredible scene, and their influence is still being felt across the musical and artistic landscape.
Rich's own persona - big, brash, "with a King James in one hand and a Crown and Coke in the other" - is a huge part of the equation. It has brought him guest spots on dozens of major TV and radio shows, given his political and social comments vast exposure and given him the power to raise money for a variety of charities.
Successful long-term careers, though, need more than a unique identity and visibility. They require a solid foundation, and that is what lies beneath that persona. "John is one of the most talented, creative and hard-working people I've ever met," says his partner Big Kenny, and it's a sentiment echoed again and again by people who know and have worked with him.
Together, foundation and persona have made him one of country music's most effective ambassadors, someone who continues to make important contributions to the genre he loves in every aspect of the business. He does so on his own terms, as one of the music world's true originals. "People know what they're getting when they get me," he says. "I've never B.S.'d anybody about anything when it comes to music or how I approach the fans or what's important to me. They know." And with each new project, no matter his role, he continues to make important contributions to the fans and to the music they and he love.