Image: Rodney Atkins
Photographer: Mark Tucker  /  Kristin Barlowe
Rodney Atkins encourages people to reach out and help others.
NBC News
updated 12/8/2011 5:55:42 PM ET 2011-12-08T22:55:42

Cause Celeb highlights a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This week, we speak with country singer Rodney Atkins, who will be performing at the first American Giving Awards honoring five charities: Let’s Get Ready, Mathew Shepard Foundation, Move for Hunger, Wish Upon a Heroand To Write Hunger on Her Arm. The American Giving Awards will be broadcast on NBC on Dec. 10 and one of the charities will receive a $1 million grant.     

Atkins has been atop the country charts for over a decade with hits like “It’s America” and “Honesty (Write Me a List).” He is currently on tour supporting his newest release Take a Back Road.  

Interview by: Jesse Strauch

Q: How did you find out about the organization and how did you get involved?

Atkins: The way I heard about The American Giving Awards was from the people that I work with. My publicist and I had a conversation a while back about wanting to really get involved more and more. We’ve been working with the National Council for Adoption with the children’s home that I was adopted from called Holston Home. Working with different charities, this opportunity just came up I guess from working with those different places, and I’m honored to be a part of it. It’s awesome.

Q: The American Giving Awards has a new and more interactive way of raising money for the charities; they are selected based on voting. So I have to ask, who’s getting your vote?

Atkins: Let’s Get Ready, To Write Love on Her Arms, Wish upon a Hero Foundation, Move for Hunger, Matthew Shepard Foundation, they are all different and they are all incredible organizations and I don’t think you could go wrong by helping out any of these situations.

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That’s what’s so great about The American Giving awards; they set it up so everybody’s a winner. I love that they can go to Facebook and the community giving website and everybody’s involved. We get to come and sing songs and bring awareness to it but it’s really all about helping these folks out.

Q: The five charities selected were picked from a pretty large group, which I imagine can be rough. When picking a charity what do you look for?   

Atkins: First and foremost, that it is a real charity that is all about helping folks and it’s important to model to your kids how it affects the future, what you do now. To model for our kids to be involved and reaching out and helping lifting people’s lives up so in the future they find that these things are important also.

Q: It’s always good to be a role model. Have you found any of the charity work you have done translate directly to your song-writing process?

Atkins: Every song you’re trying to find something that going to connect in different ways but for me the songs that I’m really drawn to are inspirational, songs that lift you and that everybody can relate to no matter where you’re from. I think my songs are singing to the rural heart. It’s not whether you’re from a big city or the middle of nowhere in a small town.

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I could be on 52nd and Third in Manhattan up and ask a strange for directions and they will help you, that’s a rural heart. Your car breaks down in the middle of Iowa or somewhere, or Tennessee where I’m from, people want to help each other. Given each opportunity, you see how people come together. It’s a big family really. That’s what we have to keep in mind and that’s what the American Giving Awards are all about.

Q: Anything special planned for the performance?

Atkins: We were talking about what songs to sing and the single we just had out called "Take a Back Road" is very fitting for the situation. That’s one of those songs that I’m talking about, what I’m drawn to. Take a back road can be catchy, with a guitar lick and a kick pattern. It’s funky, you can have the windows down and crank it up and at the same time, I’ve gotten emails and messages from folks going through a tough time.

One email from a lady who was going to chemo treatment and on her way to chemotherapy, she had the song and just cranked it up. She talked about how the song just put her in a good spot and lifted her spirits up and made her feel something inside of herself that made her have a great positive outlook on life.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Atkins: Folks, please become involved. Go online, especially this time of year. It’s a time for thanks and being together, reaching out and helping out and thank you to everybody that does.

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