Photography: Courtesy Adkins Publicity

C&I talks with Marty Raybon about Shenandoah’s first album in 20 years, RELOADED, available March 16.

What started as a small band from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, grew into a worldwide phenomenon with 10 albums, an Academy of Country Music Award, a Country Music Association Award, a Grammy Award, and No. 1 hits that include “The Church on Cumberland Road,” “Two Dozen Roses,” and “Next to You, Next to Me.” Now, after 20 years of silence, country music band Shenandoah is poised to make a big comeback and reach an even wider audience with their upcoming album, RELOADED, available March 16.

RELOADED combines Shenandoah’s greatest hits and new original songs. The result is a hybrid album that reminds audiences what made Shenandoah one of the most memorable country bands in the ’90s at the same time it reinvigorates their presence on the new music scene with contemporary country tunes. Some highlights include “Noise,” a new track that introduces RELOADED with a new style; and one of their earlier hits, “I Want to Be Loved Like That,” a track not previously available on iTunes.

C&I recently caught up with lead singer Marty Raybon to talk about the album, the tour, and why the band decided to reunite after 20 years.

Cowboys & Indians: Your latest album, RELOADED, celebrates your career in music. What are you most proud of in the album and what do you hope your fans will get out of it?
Marty Raybon: The proudest thing I truly feel about it is to realize that literally after 30 years of trying to record music and trying to bring music to people that moves them and hopefully make a place in the business, I really honestly and truly think we did it on this record. One of the good things about being in this business for 30 years, it’s truly helped to be able to locate your audience. It’s really good to know them. It’s good to be able to read an audience and to find out what they like when you do a stage show. Well, when you go into a record, you’ve got to take that same method in with you — you kind of know what people are expecting from you. ... It’s a whole lot easier for the process of recording to really believe in what you’re doing to be able to make the best record that you absolutely can.

C&I: This is the first album you guys have done in 20 years. Through those years, you’ve all gone through many different changes. Some band members left, and then you guys rejoined. How did it feel to bring everyone together again and how does it feel to play together?
Raybon: There’s a lot of things that you learn that you do and a lot of things that you don’t do. I think time is the only way that you can ever get to a place where you feel comfortable in doing something. ... We wanted to make sure that we brought the effort that we truly felt like we could offer. It’s the very reason why we got back together — because we truly felt that we still had a lot to say, we still have a lot to offer, and there was a lot of things that we actually wanted to do together that we just never finished out. I think the absence — you know I was gone 17 years — everybody goes back in with a better understanding of what you’re trying to do and how you want to go about it. Through that process, that was the great thing about being in the studio and trying to make things [the] best we absolutely could, knowing the things we had learned through the years. Being able to do it with guys that you had not only known but had lived with on the road for years — there were a few years we stayed on the road more than we did at home — knowing each other as well as we did and realizing where everybody’s heart was as far as trying to do this, I think was a big asset to what we were able to pull off.

C&I: When you all were choosing the songs for the album, which consists of both new music and greatest hits, how did you decide? Are there any songs that you wish were on the album but didn’t end up making it?
Raybon: That was a quest because there were a lot of tunes that we felt we had recorded in the past on different albums that were hits. ... When it came down to this particular album, we did five studio tracks with [record producer and bass-playing member of Rascal Flatts] Jay DeMarcus [and we picked songs like] “I Want to Be Loved Like That” — you can’t even download that on iTunes. You can’t get it. ... so there were two tunes from the past that we knew good and well going into it we were going to do them.

C&I: You all became known for writing about the importance of faith and family and keeping the integrity of small-town life. Do you think your new songs rise to the standards you had for the old songs?
Raybon: I really do. Before we put everything together, we started a conversation about going to a few folks in town, critics, writers and letting them listen to it. What we continued to hear was, “This sounds like Shenandoah.” Mike and I had a conversation Jay DeMarcus before we went in to cut; we told him what we really wanted to do was keep the integrity of the lyric content of what we sang and what we sang about, realizing that he, being so sonically minded, could bring it to the point where it sounded fresh. It was still that same approach, still the same lead singer, and what we’re hearing from those critics and those folks that listen to music a great deal that makes the divide between what goes and what doesn’t go, we heard, “This sounds like Shenandoah up-to-date.” That is definitely a plus.

C&I: Is there a specific new song that you’re most excited for fans to hear?
Raybon: “Noise,” the new single. The first time we heard that when we were going through tunes, Jay, Mike, and myself ... probably listened to 200 tunes knowing that we were going to narrow it down to five. When the final list came about, it was way more than five, but what we heard was tunes like “Noise.” We felt strong about it. We felt like this could possibly be the first single right here. Then we did a tune called “Where I Grew Up,” and I honestly and truly believe with my whole heart that it’s a tremendous ballad. It tells a great story. It talks about the events and the seasons of life, how a person changes and how they grow up ... .

C&I: You’re going to be on the road a lot this year. What is your favorite part about touring and what is your least favorite part?
Raybon: I would have to say first and foremost, it’s the camaraderie of the guys in the band. You travel so much together, you’re on the road so much together, that you really get to know one another more than just somebody that just plays in a band together. Everybody out here is family. There’s a great deal of respect in that. The only thing that used to bother me that doesn’t bother me anymore as much — because my boys have gotten older — but the one thing that I would have to say without a doubt that always seemed to be sticky wicket for me was missing ballgames, missing school plays, things that you were not at home for. Those were the kinds of things that really bothered me. ... Other than that, I don’t have anything so negative in my life, nor does anybody else out here. In fact, the guys in the band keep saying, “Man, let’s book more.” ... It’s kind of like you leave one family and you go into a band of family that you ride the road with, and although it seems like a different life, it really isn’t. It’s just what you do from week to week.

C&I: That actually brings me to my last question. Throughout the years of touring and being in the band, do any memorable moments stand out from the rest?
Raybon: Yes. It was probably the first gold album that we received. As far as the award shows, the plaques, and all the nice things that people would say about you and all the accolades that would come along with that, it was the first gold album that we got where we kind of realized that what you were willing to negotiate for in your life, it was kind of like a proving a point. This has gone gold, it’s on its way to platinum, and what we’re doing is not in vain. I think just the feeling of realizing that there’s an acceptance and that you’re able to get out and do something that you love and people accepting you for that. And most of the way that people recognize that is not only through airplay with No. 1 records and that kind of stuff — all that stuff is special. The first one was special [and] the 14th was special. When you’re handed a plaque from the record label and they go, “This is what you’re certified you sold,” and to realize that we did it in the length of time in which we did it, you felt like there was a worth about you and that people understood what you were trying to do.

For more information on Shenandoah, their upcoming tour, and to preorder their upcoming album, RELOADED, visit their website.