Artist Spotlight: Joe Diffie: A 'Homecoming' for the Holidays

Before becoming a star of the 1990's country music boom, Joe Diffie spent many years working with bluegrass bands and earlier this year he returned to his roots with his Rounder Records debut Homecoming. In this article he talks about the CD and much, much more!

Over the years, artists such as Kitty Wells, Tammy Wynette, and Alan Jackson have all had success with not just their music, but also their culinary talents. Adding his name to that list is veteran hitmaker Joe Diffie, who has just released his first-ever collection of recipes, Homecoming: The Diffie Family Cookbook.

When asked about the link between Country Music artists and cooking, Diffie told Roughstock that it’s a natural thing. “That’s a good question, and I don’t know if I know the answer. I guess the whole idea or notion of being a country person is the fact that you like home style stuff, dealing with family and all that kind of stuff, and cooking just falls right in there.”

The Oklahoma-born singer said the book was inspired by his love of creating in the kitchen. “Well, mainly because I love cooking. My mother helped me do it. We decided to gather up all of our family recipes, and that’s where it all evolved from,” he said.

Compiling all the recipes from his family enabled Diffie to reminisce about days gone by. “One of our family members would send in one of the recipes that they would bring to Thanksgiving or Christmas. It does make you think about a lot of different memories, and stuff like that.”

What are some of Joe’s favorite recipe from the book? “Oh, man, there are so many of them,” he says with a smile. “ A couple of my favorite meals as a kid were ones my mother used to make were Garlic Chicken Fried Steak and there was a Stuffed Peppers recipe that I really loved. There’s a whole bunch of them.”

Diffie says that early feedback from his fan base has been positive. “It just came out, but we’ve had some fans e-mail, call, or text to say they’ve really enjoyed it so far, and that they can’t wait to try out this one or that one.”

The cookbook shares the title of Diffie’s latest project, Homecoming. It’s a full-fledged Bluegrass album, which returns him to his musical roots. “Well, it is, you know. I sang Bluegrass music for about six years back home in Oklahoma before I ever moved to Nashville, so we searched around for a title and Homecoming seemed the most appropriate. We didn’t want to say the whole “Joe Diffie goes back to his roots” thing, but that’s what it amounts to. We thought it would be a good idea to name the cookbook the same thing to get some recognition, you know.”

While a Bluegrass disc, there are a few songs that would be right at place on any Joe Diffie release, such as the nostalgic “Route 5, Box 109.” Of the track, the says “That’s my favorite song on the record. It’s just so well-written, and it reminds me so much of ‘Home,’ which was our first single at Country Radio---how the song talked of the thoughts and emotions that people go through thinking about home and their parents and the place where they grew up, and their friends. It evokes memories in a lot of folks.”

On the other end of the emotional spectrum, there’s “Til’ Death,” which sounds like it would have come straight from the pages of the Stanley Brothers songbook. “Knowing that there has been a long line of tragedy songs in Bluegrass, I told somebody that I wanted to write a good old murder / death song. It kind of evokes pictures of what someone---in their darkest of heart---would want to do if they caught their spouse cheating on them. We sat down and wrote it one night, and lo and behold, it made the album.”

A performance on Homecoming that is garnering a lot of attention comes from the most unlikely of sources----The Black Crowes, and their 1992 hit “Hard To Handle.” How did the decision to record the rock classic come about? “Honestly, I had heard a demo,” Diffie says. “It wasn’t Bluegrass, but it was a real up-tempo Country kind of thing. I really liked it, so I just kind of threw it in the pile. We had an overabundance of songs---about fifteen or twenty, and we could only do twelve. It was near the end of the day, and we were going over the leftover songs, one of the studio musicians said ‘Let’s do this one.’ That’s really how that came about,” he said.

Diffie said he took time to make the album, wanting to make sure fans got their money’s worth. “I wanted it to be as good as I could get it. That means surrounding yourself with great people. So, we got Bryan Sutton to put together a band for us, and he picked a bunch of great guys---some A-List players. Then, I wanted some other people who were doing well in the field to assist us on it. I’ve always loved Sonya Issacs’ singing, and we got Bradley Walker, Rhonda Vincent.” He also keeps it in the family. “I had my sister Monica, and my son Parker sing on it. We’re very proud of it.”

What do the holidays hold for the Diffie clan in 2010? He says they are keeping it rather simple. “Well, this Christmas, we’re staying at home. I think my parents are coming to the house to visit, so we’ll have some family over and do a little cooking. We’re kind of kicking around the idea of whether we want to do a traditional Christmas thing or do a theme-type dinner this year, you know.”

All in all, Diffie sounds like he is at a good spot in both his personal life and career. Listen to him talk about Homecoming, and it sounds like he is gearing up for the next phase of his career. It’s been a great run so far for the singer---one that started back in 1990 with the afore-mentioned “Home.” Is it hard to believe it’s been twenty years? “It’s odd, but when you start going over all the memories of all the things in between, it kind of puts it in perspective. It does seem like it was yesterday when we were kicking off this whole thing and see how it works.”