When Aaron Tippin calls, he's just sitting down to lunch in a Cracker Barrel in Tennessee. Meals at Cracker Barrel have become more common for Tippin over the past two months.
The restaurant chain started dabbling in country music three years ago, and Tippin is the latest artist to join its lineup; his new CD, He Believed, is being sold in all locations.
When he talks to you, the 50-year-old Tippin seems like a Cracker Barrel kind of guy warm, respectful, "down-home." You'd never guess he got his big break in a very American Idol kind of way: He was discovered on TNN's You Can Be a Star in 1985, where he landed a songwriter's contract.
Tippin says he does wish the TV shows then had been as big a deal as they are now.
"Those guys walk out of there with a minimum of 2 or 3 million fans," he says. "That's a pretty good profit margin, if you can get all those folks to buy records."
Tippin doesn't watch today's reality TV though, for a very simple reason. Two years ago, his television broke, and when the family went out shopping for a new one Tippin was eyeing a big flat-screen they decided it was too expensive and they'd just wait.
"And so we waited," he says. "The boys finally forgot about the TV. And next thing you knew, we all forgot about it. There's no TV in our great room anymore."
Tippin himself is often away from his Tennessee home, anyway, playing gigs to promote his studio work. Six of his 10 albums have gone gold and he's had numerous chart-toppers, including "Kiss This" and "Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly." Over the years he's also written songs for Garth Brooks and Kenny Chesney.
"I'm working on a truckin' album, working on a bluegrass album. Sheez," he says, "my plate is always full. Every time I turn around, I stick something else on it."
He adds, "I'm a lucky guy. I've seen every state in the union several times, and so I've seen the beauty of this country. The older you get, the more you kinda just want to stay home, but, hey, it's what I do, and everybody can't come to my house."
If you did go to his house, you might find Tippin writing songs, but you might also find him making wine. He says it's become a family affair, and that his boys like to crush the grapes. He, however, passes on stomping them himself.
"You don't want my feet in anything that's gonna be drunk," he says.
So perhaps you should just do your drinking and eating with Tippin at Cracker Barrel. At this lunch, he's ordered a big bowl of soup, lots of crackers and pinto beans.
"I'm a bean freak," he says.