Country crooner Ty Herndon is animated as he discusses an injury he sustained on tour last week, at the same time complaining about the lingering pain as he downplays it.
"It wasnâ€™t that bad," Herndon admits in his southern twang, during a phone interview. "I just broke a tooth. But I had to get off the road and rush to a dentist in Atlanta to get it fixed."
Herndonâ€™s health scares havenâ€™t always been so mild, however.
After bursting onto the country music scene in 1995 with his chart topping single "What Mattered Most," Herndon felt on top of the world â€” until he was grounded by an arrest for drug possession and a stint in rehab. Now 45 years old, he took a break from the country star life he had grown accustomed to when his unhealthy lifestyle began taking a toll on his music.
"This is my first song since 2002," said Herndon of "Right About Now," the single from his newly-released album of the same title. "And I gotta say, I really enjoyed making this new album more so than some of the older ones. Iâ€™m in a better place."
HERNDON, WHO WAS born in Meridian, Miss., first got noticed when he played regularly in the honkytonks of Texas. He was signed to Epic Records and released his first album in 1995. What Mattered Most was an immediate success.
"It did really well," says Herndon, who grew up in Alabama singing bluegrass and gospel music. "I just donâ€™t think I was prepared to handle all of the pressure that came with that."
Herndon was arrested in Ft. Worth, Texas, in June 1995, shortly after "What Mattered Most" hit No. 1 on the country Billboard charts. He was charged with possession of drugs. Herndon went through rehabilitation at an Arizona facility before resuming his career.
News of his arrest had little impact on Herndonâ€™s record sales. His second and third albums did just as well as the first on the charts. But his fourth album, Steam, released in 1999, failed to crack the top 10.
"At that point, I was just tired," said Herndon. "I needed a break."
Herndon tried once more to restore his spot on the country charts. The single "Heatherâ€™s Wall" was released in 2002. Performing poorly compared to previous hits, the song peaked at No. 37. Herndon was forced by record executives to shelve his newly recorded album. A greatest hits album was released in its place.
Returning home after the disappointment of his failed album, Herndon became dependent on drugs and alcohol and gained more than 75 pounds.
"My friends saved me," said Herndon of the bleak period. "They got me back on my feet again."
After his friends convinced him to get cleaned up, Herndon began to make some changes in his life. He lost the excess weight and regained his health. The unmarried singer credits the support of his family and friends with turning his life around.
"I donâ€™t drink or do stuff like that now," he said of his past vices. "And I donâ€™t need to, which is even better."
IN 2006, A NEWLY sober Herndon decided that the time was right to start making music again. Songwriters Darrell Brown and Michael Peterson wrote "Right About Now" for Herndon to use as his first single.
"The first concert back was awesome, man," said Herndon. "It felt like my first time performing in front of a crowd all over again."
Herndonâ€™s publicist, Ronna Rubin of Rubin Media, is also glad to have the singer back in the studio.
"Ty has the experience of a seasoned musician, but is able to look at things from a fresh perspective thanks to his break. That combination is unique for veterans in this business," says Rubin.
Herndon will be performing songs off of his new album at Nickâ€™s Nightclub in Alexandria on Friday, June 29. Price of admission is $20; the show starts at 9 p.m. Nickâ€™s is located at 642 S. Pickett St. For more information, call 703-751-8900 or visit http://www.nicksnightclub.com.
He plans to stick to his newfound healthy lifestyle. Along with remaining sober, he exercises regularly, running daily.
"I actually just got back from a run," he apologizes, out of breath. "I did eight miles. Eight miles man!"
Herndonâ€™s summer plans, besides running, include touring to promote the new album.
"Iâ€™m also going to be working on a music video," said Herndon. "Iâ€™m just glad to be doing what I love again. Itâ€™s good to be back."
Herndon is now living in Tennessee, outside of Nashville. Did he leave Texas because of all the bad memories of his arrest in Ft. Worth?
"Heck no," Herndon laughs. "All of my exes live in Texas!"