Well-known actor and country singer John Schneider released his first gospel album after almost 40 years of being in the spotlight and says God was present during his recording process, which followed what he calls a five-year divorce battle "from Hell."
The “Dukes of Hazards” star married his longtime partner, Alicia Allain, earlier this week at a Louisiana courthouse. The two were initially wed back in July in a non-legal ceremony that was held in his home barn, “before God” and friends because, at the time, Schneider was still in a longtime battle to land a divorce settlement with his estranged second wife.
Schneider released Recycling Grace this month on the heels of his divorce settlement and remarriage. He said the record came about after he and his new bride heard the song “'Amazing Grace' to the tune of 'House of the Rising Sun'” at a friend's funeral.
"We were at a friend's funeral and who comes up to sing 'Amazing Grace' to the tune of 'House of the Rising Sun' but the lead singer of the Blind Boys of Alabama. And he does that because my friend, the guitar player whose funeral we were at, played on that song. So Alicia and I looked at each other and it's like, 'Well, this appears to be a sign,'” Schneider told The Christian Post, explaining why he felt led to release a gospel album at this stage in his life.
He received further confirmation at the funeral when pop-country singer BJ Thomas asked him if he was ever going to make a gospel album.
Schneider recalled advice he received while living with legendary icon Johnny Cash and the topic of recording a gospel album came up.
"I said to Johnny, 'What should I do about that?' And he said, 'Well, you should do a gospel album but not until you're supposed to.' I said, 'How will I know?' And he said, 'you'll know because you won't be able to not do it,’” he recalled.
"So at that funeral that day I just kept hearing Johnny Cash saying, 'I told you,'” Schneider added. “We couldn't not do it.”
The past few years have been difficult for Schneider as he lost two of his properties to historic floods in Louisiana and underwent a five-year-long divorce battle which made frequent tabloid headlines.
“The divorce from hell,” Schneider told CP. “I believe it was the divorce from hell, but [now] I got the ball. Alicia and I have the ball and we're doing something positive with it and the devil doesn't like it.
“I'm not saying my ex-wife is the devil, but I do believe that the devil deceives, and I do believe that one of the reasons why that [battle] lasted so long was deception,” he said.
"You can't sing the blues until you live them, and I had no idea how true that was until the last couple of years and I've never sounded better. I've never sounded more true than this music. That doesn't come out of a life easily lived, that comes out of struggle and brings with it an appreciation for the music now.”
Schneider believes the entire project was God-ordained and inspired, especially now that he and Alicia "are joined at the hip" without hindrance.
"There is no way I could have done this on my own. It is unquestionably touched by the finger of God," he testified.
The country musician includes a collection of songs he really loves for Recycling Grace, such as “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down.”
When asked how he avoids getting caught up in the “devil's playground,” a term sometimes used to describe Hollywood, Schneider admitted that "it's easy" to get thrown off course in the entertainment industry.
"Here's the main difference. I look at opposition and trials and tribulations and bad stuff, as a good sign. I look at all of that as my primary indicator that I am on the right track because, I don't play sports but if you have the ball and nobody's on you right away, you're not a good player. So people in sports look at it like, 'bring it, bring it on, bring on the opposition,’” Schneider illustrated.
The 59-year-old continued, "I don't know why people lament opposition when it's really our only indicator that we're headed in the right direction, that we're using the right tools, that we've just done the right album called Recycling Grace. It would never occur to me to stop. As I fall, my final time and hit the ground smiling, I will be doing something.”
Schneider said the album was named after a women’s shelter owned by a friend of his called Recycling Grace. He shared what the phrase means to him personally.
"To me, recycling grace is about, we've all been given grace, God gives us grace. It's free! We don't earn it, we don't deserve it, there's nothing we've done for it but if you're anything like me, you're an idiot and you throw it away,” he explained.
"One of the great things about God is He doesn't take it away. He's like, 'Well, OK, it's still there when you need it.' So we keep going back to it time and time again and it never diminishes. There's not any less grace, there's not any more grace, there's not any better grace, there's not any worse. Grace is always there for us; that gives me great peace.”
He said he would never be careless and purposely throw it away but said humans sometimes make mistakes.
Schneider said the album “speaks of all the things that I believe and I have gleaned over the last 59 years and currently believe to be true.”
Now with over 20 albums to his credit and four No. 1 Billboard singles, the “The Haves and the Have Nots” lead actor said after all these years in Hollywood he has learned “to keep going with my gut, my instincts are right. God has a plan, certainly, but God also designs us to be part of it.”
"Now that Alicia and I are married, now that Alicia and I are together and joined at the hip, we call ourselves the team to beat which is indicative of, ‘So come on. We've got the ball and we're running with it.’
"So if someone is living a life of drudgery, and they can't wait for Friday, then I believe they're in the wrong business, they're doing the wrong thing because God does not want us to be miserable, He wants us to be effective.”
Adding director and writer to his filming catalog, Schneider and wife Alicia, who is a film producer, recently released the movie “Christmas Cars.” He said the politically incorrect picture is “autobiographical.”
"If you are a 'Dukes' fan at all, you'll love it. It's so much fun. And it's autobiographical and we have several of the Recycling Grace songs in it,” he said.