When Nashville was ravaged by tornadoes last month, nationally-syndicated radio talk show host and American Idol mentor Bobby Bones stepped up to the plate to help those who were deeply affected by them ultimately embodying the true human condition.
“Everybody here comes together quickly,” Bones said. “It almost doesn’t matter what the disaster is. This is a place that looks out for each other, so I’ve been out doing my deal, but what’s even greater is to see everybody come together. Even my radio show, we’ve raised $70,000 in a day. I think seeing everybody come together is pretty great.”
For the past two seasons on ABC’s Idol, the Arkansas native has been a mentor to the contestants and has now extended his mentorship role a little deeper this season.
“The judges don’t get to be with the contestants when they’re not judging them,” Bones said. “The last two years I usually join them in Hollywood Week and go from there, but this year they were like, ‘Let’s put you out on auditions as well.’ A lot of these kids and singers come in and they’re nervous or still confused on what they’re going to sing. The great thing for them is that I can give them advice on that, but the great thing for me is that I can start to form a relationship earlier with them and the earlier that I start with them, the better and quicker I can get to know them, and I think that helps both of us as the show goes on. When Hollywood Week started, I had a relationship with a lot of them, so they felt comfortable coming to me and asking about song selection and to listen to the arrangement. So it’s just getting a relationship earlier so I can be more effective with them.”
Besides watching the best of the best singers perform their hearts out, this year fans of Idol will get to see the contestants put themselves into their own genres and not be swayed to go into a different direction musically by anyone.
“I think every season there’s good talent from people all over the country,” Bones explained. “What’s been great about the show is that they’ve allowed these contestants to just decide on what genre they are and to just go and chase it. There’s no one that’s trying to put a contestant in a box. They’re not looking at any contestant going, ‘Well we should move you over here and you should do rock or country.’ It’s all about who are you and how do we amplify who you are. So I think there are a few contestants, who are really great—and not any better—but just great because they know exactly who they are and they already have mastered their niche. So I think we’re going to see a lot of these artists do a bit like what Alejandro [Aranda] did last season where they just come on and do things differently.”
Next up on Idol is its annual Showcase where the Top 40 contestants head to Hawaii at Disney Resort Aulani to perform in front of judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan for a spot in the Top 20.
“Anytime you get to go to Hawaii it’s pretty cool especially when someone else pays for it,” Bones laughed. “It was awesome and Disney Aulani is really one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to. So we’ve spent a few days there and also a lot of the contestants are like I was where they’ve never been to Hawaii to do anything. Until I got a job where I was working, I couldn’t afford to go to Hawaii, so it was pretty cool to see their faces too. It was their first time to go somewhere that’s neat and then obviously when you’re performing on a beach with a big stage your adrenaline is flowing a little more. I think we saw a breakthrough with their performances, so Hawaii is always wonderful.”
As the host of The Bobby Bones Show radio show that reaches millions of people every day, Bones is able to break emerging artists by playing their music on the airwaves. Bones’ radio show also won this year’s ACM National On-Air Personality of the Year award.
“I think the thing that means the most to me is that our listeners come together so much,” Bones said about what the award means to him. “We won National Personality of the Year again, which is cool and all, but it’s things like when the tornado hits we go on in 24 hours and raise $70,000 to 80,000 in a day. That really is what matters to me as far as the radio show goes. It’s not so much the trophies, but what can we do to impact the community, not just the one that we live in, but the ones that all of our listeners live in. The trophies are cool, but it’s the thing that we can do together that is the coolest.”
And when Bones is not at the radio station he’s at home doing his podcast, which is appropriately titled BobbyCast that can be heard on iHeart Radio where he dives deeper into singers’ lives and careers.
“We’re on episode 250 at this point,” Bones said. “We’ve been doing it for a few years inside of my house. We’re doing millions of streams on this thing constantly just because I wanted to talk to songwriters and artists about things they don’t normally get interviewed about. We would do an hour-long sit downs. So that’s what we do now. We bring people over to the house, we have two microphones and we talk in-depth about their creative process about being a songwriter or an artist. Everybody from Colbie Caillat to Chris Stapleton, everyone’s been over to the house. Even Luke Combs just came over, so it’s pretty cool to go second and third level with a lot of these artists. Jake Owen, who is a country singer, is always a fantastic guest because he just says what’s on his mind. Brett Eldredge is another that’s great to interview. I really enjoyed Chris Kirkpatrick from NSYNC because for me I grew up in the ’90s and to hear a lot of those behind the scenes NSYNC stories was pretty cool to me and he was so open about all of them. I’m such a music fan of all genres, so Judah [Akers] from Judah & the Lion was really great and they’re a big alternative band. Those are some of my favorites from the past six months or so.”
Bones can also add host to his long list of duties that he has undertaken. The Grand Ole Opry officially made its return to television on Circle, the recently launched country music and lifestyle network, with the weekly live-recorded series Opry.
“I used to beg to be put on The Grand Ole Opry, period, on the show” Bones said. “It was such a big part of my life growing up and my grandma was raising me and we would watch it and listen to it on the radio. I just wanted to play it and the first time I got to play The Opry, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I started playing it more and more and they knew how important that was to me as an entity and something to keep educating people about. So when they started to develop the show around it, they knew how important it was to me and I knew how important it was to them, and for me to come on as a producer, writer and host has been a lot of fun. And to just to be able to go out there every week is pretty amazing.”
Bones also tours the country with his band called Bobby Bones & The Raging Idiots where he gets to connect with his listeners on a daily basis.
“We do a concert-comedy tour and it’s a lot of stand-up and comedy music,” he said. “Just to be able to go out and tour the country and play theaters and just meet the people that’s my favorite part of it. It’s all about making people laugh and getting to spend time with everybody that listens to the radio show and meet them. It’s pretty fantastic and between that, the radio show, American Idol and The Opry, things are going pretty great.”
As for his charitable side, Bones also works closely with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“I think we’ve done at this point $13 million for them,” Bones said. “And as I say we, I mean me and my listeners from doing shows, radio fundraisers and to even merchandise items. For me, the most important thing that I do is to have a pedestal to be able to help others and as long as I can do that I feel pretty fulfilled.”
So what does the rest of the year look like for ever so busy Bones?
“Hopefully in the next few weeks, I get to announce a new television show that I’ve been working on for the past four to five months,” Bones explained. “And I’m just excited for people to see the distinct talent we have this year on [Idol]. Every year, it’s good, but I just like to see how distinct it is and these kids know who they are. So that’s fantastic and every morning on iHeart Radio doing the radio show and we’re on in more than 150 cities, so I’m just doing my thing and trying to do as much for others as I can.”
Catch American Idol on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.