Big Kenny Alphin, half of the multiplatinum country music duo Big & Rich, wants you to meet his family and experience “this crazy life we live.” That’s why he opened his doors to a crew from TLC and captured a week’s worth of mayhem for a brand new television special. Premiering tonight, Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 10 p.m., on TLC, “Big Kenny and Family” is an hour look inside the life of the Alphin family: musician Big Kenny, his wife/professional stylist Christiev and sons Dakota, Lincoln, Christopher and Cameron.
The 51-year-old singer and guitarist has had much success in the music business both as a solo artist and with Big & Rich — known for hits like “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” and “8th of November” — and writing and producing tunes for others, including Gretchen Wilson, Jason Aldean and Tim McGraw. However, the outrageous entertainer is a country boy at heart who simply loves spending time at home with his close-knit family.
According to Big Kenny, one of the reasons he wanted to do this special was to capture his family on film at this moment in time. “When I think back about my childhood, I was so blessed that, somehow, my mother convinced my dad, a farmer, to get an 8-millimeter camera when we were kids,” he told HNGN during an exclusive interview. “She shot two or three times and got me, my brothers and sisters when we were little. It’s just something that we’ve watched every year since and laughed and reminisced about. I always wanted to have something my children could go back and look at. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hold the camera and be there and do it all myself.” So, when TLC came knocking, he signed the family up. “It’s neat for me to have what I call a million-dollar home movie,” he added.
The special was filmed earlier this year in and around the Alphin’s Nashville home during a break in Big & Rich’s tour schedule. Big Kenny calls the family property the University of Creativity. “It’s like you’re walking on this little campus,” he explained. “Everything’s here. My wife told me, when we were first building the place, I was working so much that I didn’t go to church enough — so I built a church in the backyard and put a studio in it. Now, when I’m home, I’m in the church all the time!”
Christiev, his wife, is a stylist for A-list musicians and has her own workspace inside the main house where she designs clothes and jewelry. “She’s the most wonderfully amazing woman ever,” gushed Big Kenny about his “super, super talented” other half. The two first met in 2004 on the set of Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman” music video in which he makes a cameo and she styled. “I had to go out of town, but I was so inspired by her,” recalled Big Kenny. “I had to call [Wilson’s] manager and say, ‘Hey! Is Christiev still on the video shoot today?’ Lo and behold, she was standing right there beside him and he handed her the phone. I invited her out to lunch, and one thing led to another, and nine months later we were married, and a few months later we found out we were going to have our first child. It’s been a blessing to have her in my life. It’ll be cool for people to see some of the talents she has.”
That child he mentioned, Lincoln, is now 9 years old. Then, in 2010, the couple adopted another son, Dakota, who is now 5 years old. Add in Christiev’s sons from a previous marriage, Christopher Carothers, 29, and Cameron Carothers, 25, and you’ve got one full house that’s filled with testosterone! “The younger ones are in the show more, but all of them are in it,” said Big Kenny about the boys. “It’s hard to really get the four together that makes sense [while] trying to keep continuity and meet everyone’s schedules.”
Were Big Kenny and Christiev worried about putting their young children in front of the cameras? “I have to protect what’s best for them and that everybody is conscious of that — and everyone was extremely conscious of that," he said. “The kids actually had a blast. If they weren’t on camera, they were hanging around with [the crew] learning something or playing with them.”
Big Kenny’s boys are all following in his footsteps musically. “The two older boys both play multiple instruments and play in and out of bands in Nashville,” he said. “Both the little boys play drums, but Lincoln is actually playing in a band now. He just performed down by the riverfront in Nashville with the School of Rock. My wife sent me some pictures because I was out of town, but when I got back she showed me video of him onstage. I go, ‘Baby, all those kids on the stage are so much older than Lincoln.’ She goes, ‘Yeah, everybody wants him to play with them!’ Pretty neat to see a kid at 9 years old have more talent on an instrument than I’ve got! It’s just mind-blowing.
“And the little one is playing the piano all the time now,” he continued. “I’m hearing someone playing, I come walking out of the bedroom and go, ‘Who’s that? That’s really cool!’ I walk out there and see the 5-year-old sitting there playing the piano. Well, how in the world did this happen? That’s an amazing thing!”
Another member of the Alphin clan that TLC viewers will get to meet is their dog, Beethoven. After viewing the show for the first time, Big Kenny couldn’t believe just how much he had grown. “We had littered nine German shepherds here last year, and he’s 10 months old now and pushing 100 pounds. He was maybe a third of that size when we shot the show,” he said. “I’m just going, ‘Oh, wow, how quickly things change!’ Beethoven is going to be my movie star dog. He’s a beautiful rascal!”
When asked if he’s watched past reality series about families featuring a big-time musician — such as “The Osbournes” or “Gene Simmons: Family Jewels” — Big Kenny admitted he really doesn’t watch that much television. However, he did reveal that his favorite show growing up was “The Waltons.” “I just always liked how it captured the essence of what their lives were at that time,” he said, adding that, like the Waltons, he was also raised in Virginia (Culpeper to be exact). “I think this is a little different from some reality in that it’s about as real as you can possibly make it and cover some sort of story arc that makes it work as television.”
He was able to get some advice on the reality TV genre from his cohort in Big & Rich, John Rich, though. “Yeah, he gave me some advice. He said, ‘It’s a lot of work, man. I’m praying for you,’” laughed Big Kenny, adding that Rich — who is a veteran of the medium after appearing on reality shows like “Gone Country,” “Nashville Star” and, of course, 2011’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” which he won — comes out in the special. “Now that John and I also run our own record label, when we’re home, we try to have meetings at his house or my house so we can at least be around our families as much as we can when we’re in town. He’s been a tremendous brother to me for a long time and I think the world of him — I’m so happy to have him in the show.”
If “Big Kenny and Family” score high ratings, there may be a chance for it to turn into a regular TLC series. “If people like it and tune in and DVR it and all the crazy things people do with TV shows these days, it might be something fun to do some more of it,” said Big Kenny. “[The special is] a test to see if we could pull it off. It’s a test for me to see, ‘OK, how much time is this actually going to take in my life, and would it be humanly possible to do it all? Is it interesting and entertaining enough that people really want to tune in to it?’ When we were shooting, [I thought] it’s taking so long and was going to be as boring as hell. But then you put the people who really got the talent — the directors and producers and all the crew — to know what they’re catching and know how to get just the right moment and make that whole story all fit together and add up. I learned so much from the experience.”
Catch “Big Kenny and Family” Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 10 p.m. on TLC.