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Trace Adkins talks puppets, politics and bit parts

By Denise Quan, CNN
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Trace Adkins co-stars with puppets
  • "This song is suggestive, and I know that," he said
  • Adkins said he's a lifetime member of the NRA, but doesn't always see eye to eye with them
  • He arranged for his two daughters to meet Bieber in Nashville

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Newhall, California (CNN) -- Trace Adkins is having a diva moment.

"I'm feeling a little neglected, because my hairdresser's spending more time doing the puppet's hair than mine," grumbles the 6-foot-6 country star, his trademark mane tumbling halfway down his back. Then he breaks into a crooked grin.

The 49-year-old singer-actor is standing in the middle of a field at Golden Oak Ranch, just north of Los Angeles. His puppet double is 50 feet away, discreetly getting a make-over by the glam squad behind a big red barn. In just a few minutes, both Adkins and his two-foot doppelganger will step in front of the cameras to shoot the video for his latest single, "Brown Chicken Brown Cow," off his current album, "Cowboy's Back in Town."

The words "brown chicken, brown cow" are a play on "boom chicka wow wow" -- or as Adkins explains, "That old guitar lick that was predominant in every porno done in the seventies."

The song may be sexually suggestive, but the video needs to pass muster on CMT and GAC if it wants to see airplay. "We wanted to do a video that kept the innuendo, but at the same time is G-rated so that kids can watch it, and their parents don't have to worry about them seeing something -- so we're using puppets," he says.

Over in puppet wardrobe, designers are laying out a doll-sized negligee and bra. So clearly, something's goin' down somewhere -- probably in that big red barn.

CNN spoke with Adkins between takes at the video shoot, where he eyed his puppet with suspicion. "It's kind of creepy," he muttered under his breath. "I hope he doesn't look like me."

CNN: You've become quite the sex symbol lately -- people want to see you in videos. Then you go and take a backseat to puppets.

Trace Adkins: I'm not in it very much, so I feel certain it's going to probably be the best video I've ever done. (Chuckles) I don't know how smart it was, but there was a reason that I had for going with the puppets. This song is suggestive, and I know that -- even though there aren't any bad words in the song. We're already getting some resistance, and some blowback at radio. Some stations are not wanting to play the song because they think it might offend somebody.

CNN: Don't you like the controversy a little bit?

Adkins: I found that over my career, that polarizing songs sell more records because they create passion, and that's what you want to do with music. You have to create passion. If you put out songs that people just go, "Oh, that's nice," you're not creating any passion.

CNN: Are you still pretty passionate about what you're doing?

Adkins: Yeah, I love it. I'm still having fun. I still enjoy doing it. We're already into the next album, and we're already back in the studio.

CNN: You're starring in a new movie, too.

Adkins: "Starring" may be a little heavy. I'm appearing in a new movie that's coming out in March called "The Lincoln Lawyer," with Matthew McConaughey and Marisa Tomei and some other famous people that I can't remember right now.

CNN: What's Matthew McConaughey like? Is he as kooky as people think he is?

Adkins: I didn't get that from him. I got to spend some time with Matthew, and he's a good old East Texas boy, you know. When he started playing the bongos naked, I left. I went and played guitar naked in my trailer. We never did that together.

CNN: Have you guys played music together?

Adkins: No. I actually gave Matthew a copy of my new album, because there's a song on this album called, "Hell, I Can Do That," and he's mentioned in the song. And he heard it, and his only comment was, "You mispronounced my name." I said, "That's the only way it rhymed. I took artistic liberties, and what are you going to do about it?!"

CNN: Your career has been on an upward trajectory.

Adkins: I'm glad that it looks that way on the outside. We work hard, we do. I've gotten to a beautiful place in my life and my career where I can look at something and say, "Is that gonna be fun to do?" And I can make decisions in my career based on that one simple question.

CNN: Do politics sound like fun?

Adkins: Wow. Politics and fun, I don't ever really think of together. But at some point, it may become necessary.

CNN: Don't you sometimes look at those clowns on TV and say, "You're doing it all wrong. I can do this?"

Adkins: Yeah, of course. I mean, we can all armchair quarterback, and look at other people, and criticize, and pick 'em apart and say, "I can do better than that." But none of us that aren't in the fray actually know all the things that they're probably dealing with -- and how could we? But, you know -- yeah, I could probably do a better job than most of the politicians, absolutely.

CNN: Who, specifically? What about Sarah Palin?

Adkins: Well, I could go from the mayor of my town, to the President of the United States! I'd probably do a better job than all of those guys.

CNN: Would you repeal health care?

Adkins: Not all of it, no. Certain parts of it, yes. Not all of it.

CNN: The shooting that happened in Arizona a couple of weeks ago really caused people to think about gun control. Do you have any thoughts on it?

Adkins: I'm a lifetime member of the NRA, but from time to time, may not see eye to eye with them on certain issues. This situation is just -- I mean, the guy was nuts. Absolutely. I think the failures in this particular instance were -- I still haven't learned anything about his family, and all that, so I don't know, but somebody dropped the ball. This kid should have never been able to own a gun. Ever. He's just bat-s**t crazy, and he shouldn't have been able to own a weapon of any kind. He should have only been able to eat with plastic spoons.

CNN: Do you think the answer is to make guns more readily available, so people can defend themselves better, as some are saying?

Adkins: I think our access to firearms is good where it is. I can see people's viewpoints on those high-capacity magazines, those high-capacity clips. I don't think there's a real need for a clip that holds 31 rounds. If we keep it to an eight-round clip, then you have to carry six guns, and that's hard to do without people noticing. I mean, this is not a funny situation, but I could almost concede that maybe we should do away with 30-round clips.

CNN: Let's talk Grammys. You're nominated again (for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals for "Hillbilly Bone," his duet with Blake Shelton). You gonna come?

Adkins: Probably not. I've been before. I went once.

CNN: You weren't impressed?

Adkins: I was nominated, I went, and it seemed to me to be a competition of who has the biggest bodyguard. That's all it was.

CNN: Do you have a bodyguard?

Adkins: No. And I was bigger than most of their bodyguards.

CNN: Do you know any Justin Bieber songs?

Adkins: Oh God, yes! I know all of Justin Bieber's songs because I have three little girls, I have to listen to that all the time.

CNN: Do you find that music kind of grating on your ears?

Adkins: No, it's not grating. It's just -- you've heard "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall?" About the time you get to the end of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall," that melody, you're sick of it, right? Same way with Justin Bieber. He just sings "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall," and I'm over it. (Laughs)

CNN: Have they ever said, "Hey, Dad, will you introduce us?"

Adkins: They have met Justin Bieber. My kids love me because I introduced them to Justin Bieber. I was beginning to wonder if they did. He came and played Nashville, and I was fortunate enough to be able to arrange for my two little girls to meet Justin Bieber. So far, I guess it's the highlight of their lives.

CNN: Of course, they've been to your shows.

Adkins: They're not impressed.