Sitting in a bar one night thinking about an ex-girlfriend, Joe Denim decided to jot those thoughts down on a napkin. From there, Denim turned the thoughts into a song – "Pray for You," which eventually was recorded by Jaron and The Long Road Love and became a 2-million copy seller and part of a platinum record.
Denim went on to write several more successful songs, and he performed with Toby Keith, among other country music stars. He also routinely does radio promotions and uses his comedic talents as an MC at events – most recently, the Tree Town Music Festival in Forest City, Iowa, on Memorial Day weekend.
But there's another side to Denim – a patriotic side. The son of a Vietnam War veteran, Denim has strong views of the value of the military and the true meaning of Memorial Day. He shared those with The American Legion.
The American Legion: There's going to be thousands of people here at Tree Town. What's it like standing up in front of all those people?
Joe Denim: I enjoy talking and singing in front of people. I consider it like I'm in a living room with a whole bunch of friends – all these (performers) are my friends. We've been on the road for 10 or 12 years, and we've always crossed paths on the road, so it's going to be a big family reunion. I'm really excited about it.
Q: Is it a tight-knit community within the country music industry?
A: It's not like L.A. or anything. Nashville's like the biggest small town you've ever seen. Everyone knows everybody. When we're at home, we're all hanging out with our families. We see each other all the time, so when we're out here on the road, it's kind of an extension of that.
Q: When some people think of Memorial Day, they think of the Indianapolis 500, cooking out and three-day weekends. What does Memorial Day mean to you?
A: My dad was a radarman in the Navy and did several tours in Vietnam. He doesn't even like me talking about that, but I'm real proud of the fact he did that. So Memorial Day always has been a special holiday for us: respecting and understanding what the veterans and groups like The American Legion have done. Memorial Day, for me, is respecting and understanding why we can do this kind of stuff: what all the veterans and military have sacrificed so that we can grill out, hang out, laugh and have fun. It's a very special holiday.
Q: A few days ago, country music had a program to salute the troops. Why does patriotism run so strongly through the country music community?
A: I think Small Town, U.S.A. , is bigger than anyone wants to let on. The country music market and demographic are soldiers, they are blue-collar, they are small town, and that's what the military is made up of. Country music fans are all about family and respect, and that's what the military is about.
Q: Memorial Day is about remembering those who gave their lives serving our country. If you could deliver a message to those currently serving, what would it be?
A: I would say, "Thank you. Thank you for making that sacrifice." We're out here on the road a lot of the time, away from our families, so I totally understand what it's like to be gone. I can only imagine what it would be like to be stationed outside the country months, weeks, even years at a time. I would just like to say the utmost of thanks to the men and women that are making sure we can hang out to talk and play country music. So thank you.