The first thing you should know about Billy Currington is that although he was on the cover of Playgirl, he didn't get naked inside. I checked.
"I didn't think it was a big deal," Currington says. "I wasn't gonna be taking my clothes off for it. I took some pictures for publicity reasons, and somehow those pictures got sent to Playgirl."
To the disappointment of female (and male) fans, the 31-year-old former personal trainer stays mostly clothed in the four-page spread. The country star can't help but laugh about the whole thing.
"It's been good for us," he adds. "It's gotten us a lot of gigs."
Currington hooked up with the Indy by telephone from Illinois (which he pronounced with the "s"), one stop on a tour that will bring him to Colorado Springs on June 25. He's been a busy guy since the 2003 release of his Party for Two, which included a duet penned by and sung with Shania Twain, and which was nominated for a Country Music Award. As a result of that success, Currington has been profiled or featured by countless papers and magazines. In addition, two singles from his album have charted in the Top 10.
All of this aside, Currington is one good-lookin' guy. People and Nashville Lifestyles thought so; both magazines named him one of today's sexiest country music stars.
"It's kind of funny to me," he says. "I'm very flattered and very thankful that the town I've lived in for 13 years now would choose me for something like that. It's pretty neat."
And what makes a country star sexy? "Looks." And, as an afterthought, "Talent. All of that combined."
It's easy to see why the fine folks and hard-hitting journalists at People think Currington is hot, what with that gym-rat physique and smoky bourbon baritone. He seems to have the chops to back up the cheekbones, as his music initially drew attention for its substance rather than its style. "Walk a Little Straighter," one of the two charting singles from Billy Currington, is a harrowing, if ham-handed, portrait of growing up in the shadow of an alcoholic father. Sure, it's modern country balladry at its slickest, but it deals with subject matter that departs from the ubiquitous country radio themes of girls, God and jingoism.
Does this, along with the increase in substance-driven artists like Jeff Bates and Jimmy Wayne, mark a sea change in the scene? Currington doesn't seem to think so.
"If you look back in the history of country music, it kind of changes. Every 10 years, it seems like it's outlaws, then it's like the Kenny Rogers and the Dolly Partons and the Statler Brothers or whatever. Then it's back to George Strait and Garth Brooks, then it's the poppier side again, then it's country again. I think I'm in the middle somewhere. I don't think I'm really outlaw and I don't think I'm really bubblegum country, either."
Currington's current tour will stretch into November, after which his plans are indefinite. "My album [his sophomore release, due out September 27] will be just coming out," he says. "I could be doing some stuff by myself on the road, or I could be laying in the sunshine somewhere. There's no telling."
-- Aaron Retka
Cowboys Night Club, 3910 Palmer Park Blvd.
Saturday, June 25, 8 p.m.
Call 596-1212 or visit billycurrington.com.