Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009 | 2 a.m.
IF YOU GO
What: Cowboy Troy
When: Four hourlong sets each evening, beginning at 9 p.m., tonight, Friday and Sunday
Where: Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, inside Harrah’s Las Vegas
Admission: Free (21 and over); 369-5000, www.harrahslasvegas.com
Beyond the Sun
If Cowboy Troy hadn’t existed, some marketing genius would have invented him. A 6-foot-5 black conservative Republican TV-show-hosting 38-year-old father of 2-year-old triplets, Cowboy Troy calls his Big Tent criss-crossover combo platter of country, rap and grunge rock “hick-hop” and “y’allternative,” and hits the sweet spot for multiple pop culture niches.
It’s certainly a natural for the rowdy, revved-up urban/rural mashup that makes up the NASCAR crowd, which is why Cowboy Troy is in town through Sunday for Las Vegas’ NASCAR weekend, playing a bunch of free nighttime shows at Toby Keith’s joint at Harrah’s.
On the phone from his home near Nashville, Tenn., Cowboy Troy sounds quite a bit different from the boisterous, boastful persona he puts on for high-energy hits like “Hick Chick” and “I Play Chicken With the Train.”
“If I sound like I’m whispering, it’s because I’m holding my son and he’s asleep, and I don’t want to wake the little man up,” says Cowboy Troy, aka Troy Coleman, who is on daddy duty, minding slumbering Riley Joseph and brothers John Reagan and Reece Jacob while his wife, Laura, gets some fresh air.
“It’s pretty nuts,” he says of triple dadhood. “They’re all running in different directions. You just do the best you can to keep ’em all corralled.”
Coleman’s transformation from referee-shirted Foot Locker shoe salesman to black-hatted “Nash-villain” Cowboy Troy is not a manufactured novelty act, he insists. His music and career are the natural and inevitable product of the cross-pollinated music scene in his hometown of Dallas.
Growing up, he heard a lot of ZZ Top and Charlie Daniels, Jerry Reed and Roger Miller.
“But whenever I would go into the honky-tonks and they put on Run DMC or Sir Mix-a-Lot, the floor would be packed, with the cowboy hats waving and people having a good time dancing. So it didn’t seem like that big a deal for me that all these things would converge in my music.
“Being able to recite all the lyrics to a bunch of rap songs was a neat party trick,” Coleman says of his high school beginnings. “When I got into college, I started going to clubs and frat parties and hopping up with the DJs, and people were real excited about that. After 15 years of persistence, eventually it paid off.”
That, and some help from such mentors as country moguls Big & Rich and their MuzikMafia.
Most of Coleman’s songs are, as you’d expect, thumping, twanging good-time party songs. But several songs on “Black in the Saddle” reveal a more complex and thoughtful character. In “Man With the Microphone,” for instance, Coleman expresses concern and anger about conditions at home and abroad. And because Coleman was and remains a grunge fan, his music has atmospheric overtones of the more headbanging moments of Nirvana, Motorhead and Temple of the Dog.
Three kids and a fairly constant club-touring schedule mean Coleman had to wrangle and rustle songwriting time at odd moments.
Sometimes a good line will occur to him during the boys’ naptime, or when he’s making their lunches, and he’ll quickly type them into his BlackBerry.
He says he’s considering recording an album that will entertain his sons and their generation.
Coleman supported John McCain’s campaign and performed at last year’s Republican National Convention, but says he’s on board with the new boss.
“Of course, I wanted Sen. McCain to win, that’s who I supported and that’s who I voted for. That said, obviously my family will support President Obama and everything he does, because he is the president of our country. It’s important as a Republican for me to do everything I can to help bridge the gap, maybe using any kind of popularity that I may have to help bridge the gap between the Democrats and the Republicans.”
A fan recently approached Coleman after a show in Denver, and said he worked for the Democratic Party for the state of Colorado.
He told Coleman that there are a lot of Cowboy Troy fans who are Democrats.
“Even though everybody knows that I’m a Republican?” Coleman answered.
“This fan said that people still support me as an artist because I’m respectful of other people’s political views. I mean, I have my own — I’m pro-life, fiscally conservative — I just don’t push them on anyone else.”
Music, Coleman concludes, “has always been one of those things that tends bring people to a happy medium. And you may not vote the same way, but we can all agree that a good time is better than sittin’ around cryin’ about stuff.”