WHAT: "Heart Behind the Music: Songwriters Showcase"
WHO: Deborah Allen, Darryl Worley and Mo Pitney
WHERE: Mars Theatre, Springfield
WHEN: May 4, 7 p.m.
TICKETS: $50 show; $75 for show and pre-show Meet & Greet; visit marstheatre.com/films-events-concerts/concerts-events/.
RINCON — Darryl Worley sees the big picture a whole lot clearer than he did when his country music career took off two decades ago.
Unfortunately, the current view from his back porch isn’t pretty.
Worley, set to perform at Springfield’s Mars Theatre on May 4, lives in Tennessee’s Hardin County, a sparsely populated area devastated by flooding. The Tennessee River was 25 feet above flood stage when the Effingham Herald interviewed him in late February.
“We’ve got to get as much help as we can because we are so small and there are so few people here that FEMA and groups like that won’t even look at us,” Worley said. “There’s no help so we’ve got to help ourselves.”
Worley established a fund for flood victims. Donations can be made through the Darryl Worley Foundation at darryworleyfoundation.org.
“We’ve got videos of houses floating down the river,” Worley said. “You don’t hear about that everyday. It’s absolute insanity and so many of these people couldn’t get covered with flood insurance.
“It’s just going to be horrendous. We just have to dig in and do what we can to help.”
Worley’s foundation also provides funds to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In addition, it helps maintain the Darryl Worley Cancer Treatment Center in Worley’s hometown of Savannah, Tenn., and aids area families in need through a grant process.
Worley understands and appreciates the power and inspiration that music can offer during trying situations.
“It’s more than just a means to make a living,” he said. “We’ve tried throughout my whole career to make music that would affect people’s lives in a positive way or give someone a little inspiration that they might not otherwise find that day. I’ve always tried to do that.
“That’s not necessarily the Nashville thing. That’s just part of who I am.”
Worley and co-writer Wynn Varble harnessed music’s power with “Have You Forgotten?” It was penned in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“We had no idea what we were doing,” Worley said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that it was a gift. We received an unbelievable blessing that day and the crazy part is that the Lord saw fit to let us deliver the message.
“It just shows you, I think, that you never know what it’s going to do with the population around you if you just speak your heart, speak the truth.”
Worley received some criticism for his biggest hit, which topped the charts for seven weeks in 2003. Cynics dubbed it a “pro-war” song. He performs it annually for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It couldn’t be more simple,” Worley said. “It’s written so that a fifth grader could understand it. People were trying to overcomplicate it and throw me into some political arena.
“We were just blessed that it hit what (most) people were feeling at that time. It was a voice for the people and it was a life changer. I still get a lot of work because of it and I’m thankful for that.”
Worley, 54, churned out more than a dozen chart-busting tunes following “Have You Forgotten?” but he has been relatively quiet since 2012. He is a tad disgruntled with the current state of country music. He called it “watered down.”
“It’s hybridized, generic and vanilla,” he explained. “I grew up at a time when country songs were stories about people’s lives — the good times, the hard times or whatever it was. Even a hardworking grown man might hear something that might just about make him squall, you know?
“Nowadays, it doesn’t say much to me and that’s sad because I knew it was something I could hang my hat on and it would be around forever. Some are saying it’s coming back, but we’ll see.”
Worley invigorated his career recently by recording in Muscle Shoals, Ala. It’s a relaxing place where his career started.
“I’ve started writing with my old buddies down there and I’m just having the time of my life,” he said. “I may go broke but we are having fun.”
Worley’s latest album, “Second Wind: Latest and Greatest,” includes eight of his Nashville hits with seven new songs featuring the soul of Muscle Shoals. It was produced by guitarist Billy Lawson.
“We haven’t released anything in a long time so I thought, ‘Man, let’s make it good for the old fans — the people who have been hanging in there with us — and let’s make it good for newcomers to Darryl Worley who might not have known much about me until now,” Worley said. “We’re pretty excited about it.”
Worley said he veered slightly off his usual musical course but his fans will still identify with his new songs.
“We wanted it to be a little different but it’s still solid,” he said. “It’s got some substance about it. We tried to lighten things up a little bit and the grooves are real contagious.”
One of the new album’s track’s, “Lonely Alone,” was released individually and it performed well on the radio.
“Everywhere we travel to, when we start playing that song, people know it,” Worley said, “so I know we got good coverage.”
Worley will likely play “Lonely Alone” and his other new tunes during his performance with Mo Pitney and Deborah Allen at the Mars Theatre on May 4. The show is called “Heart Behind the Music: Songwriters Showcase.”
It is the kind of show Worley likes the best.
“It has proven to be a positive thing for us because I have a knack for the banter, the communicating with people in kind of a one-on-one level,” Worley said. “There is quite a bit of conversation and stories behind the songs, and people seem to absolutely love that. I think I got from my great-grandfather and both my grandpas the knack for storytelling and we just go with the flow.
“We don’t even have a set list. I let the crowd kind of dictate what comes next and we just have a blast when we do it. I don’t think we’ve ever had a bad one so I am looking forward to it.
“I do this because it’s something that’s fun and I enjoy it. When it gets to where it can’t be that anymore, I’m going to go do something else.”
To obtain tickets to the songwriter showcase, visit marstheatre.com/films-events-concerts/concerts-events/.