Keith Anderson, whose single "I Still Miss You" currently sits at #4 on the Billboard Country Charts, will be the headline entertainment during Fall Festival Starnight on Saturday, Sept. 20. "We are just so excited to have an up-and-coming star," says Fall Festival Board member Lee Ann Peugh. "Plus, he's just really, really cute."

Starnight performer is enjoying the biggest hit of his career

By TERRY MATHEWS, News-Telegram Arts Editor

Sept. 5, 2008 - Keith Anderson is coming to town. Get your ticket now.

According to the girls at Echo Publishing Co., that's all we need to know.

"He's so down to earth," said Karrie Harmon, who works in Echo's commercial printing division. "He's just a good 'ole country boy. It doesn't hurt that he's so easy on the eyes, either."

Jodi Wood, also in commercial printing, is taking her 15-year-old daughter, Elexa, to the show.

"She loves Keith Anderson," Wood said. "She's watched every country music television show he's done. Even if it's homework time, she's watching. My husband and I are excited to be taking her because she's so excited."

Lee Ann Peugh, a member of the Fall Festival board, is thrilled Anderson's going to be headlining the festival's Starnight.

"Being on the Fall Festival board, we are just so excited to have an up and coming star," Peugh said. "Watching him on Country Music Television, he seems so passionate about what he does. Plus, he's just really, really cute."

And after spending about 30 minutes on the phone with him Thursday afternoon, it was good to find out that his mama and daddy raised him right. He's a nice guy, warm and funny and quick to laugh. He loves what he's doing and I don't think he's going to ever forget his small-town roots.

Raised in Miami, Okla., Anderson hit the country scene in 2005 with "Three Chord Country and American Rock and Roll," his debut CD. The record spawned two hits, "Pickin' Wildflowers" and "Every Time I Hear Your Name" and went gold.

Anderson turned out to be just about one of the best things to ever happen to a form-fitting Western shirt and a pair of tight blue jeans. People Magazine named him one of their "50 Hottest Bachelors."

Since the release of his second CD, "C'MON," last month, Anderson, 40, has been riding a rocket. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Anderson tours radio stations, promoting the CD. From Thursday through late Saturday night, he's playing before thousands of fans.

"I'm loving it," Anderson said. "After working so hard for so long, I've got the biggest hit of my career."

That hit, "I Still Miss You," sits at #4 on the Billboard Country Charts and the video is currently ranked #11 on CMT's Top 20 Countdown.

The song, written 2 1/2 years ago after a bad breakup, took on new meaning this summer when his mother Janice, 63, died of brain cancer.

"It's been a tough one," Anderson said from his home in Nashville. "It was just a little over a year ago that Mom was diagnosed with cancer. It's been a completely different song for me. It's a universal song about loss. I think that's why it touches a lot of people."

Having the hit and a busy schedule has helped Anderson and his father LeRoy deal with his mother's death. When he can, LeRoy spends time on the tour.

"It's been good to get him out of the house," Anderson said. "We didn't travel a whole lot when I was growing up. Most of the traveling we did was with my all-star baseball teams in the summer, so it's really cool to get him out to see this big, beautiful country."

LeRoy has become quite popular on the tour, too.

"We need a separate meet and greet (where fans come backstage to see the stars) just for him," Anderson said. "He's got more fans than I do."

Anderson's ties to his family and hometown are strong.

"Podunk," one of the videos from his first CD, was shot in Miami.

"We put on a big show right on Main Street," he said. "Ten thousand people showed up. We didn't use any actors, just hometown people."

Anderson's country career came after a shoulder injury knocked out his dream of being a big-league baseball player. He received a degree in engineering from Oklahoma State University and competed in the Mr. Oklahoma body building competition.

"My baseball career was over. I was in the gym anyway, rehabbing the shoulder," Anderson said. "There was no way of competing in anything, so bodybuilding gave me something to focus on."

During this time, Anderson also earned certification at the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas.

He sang some on the "opry" circuit in and around Dallas before moving to Nashville in 1998.

It was there that Anderson forged a lasting friendship with Jeffery Steele, a singer and songwriter ("What Hurts the Most") who served as a judge on this season's "Nashville Star."

In describing their friendship, Anderson said, "It's not the same kind of friendship like when you're living in a town and working a job and going out every day."

Writing songs together and working on a CD for several months is "very emotional, especially since we've both been through so much in the past couple of years."

Steele lost his 13-year-old son, Alex, in a 4-wheeler accident in early 2007

Steele also advises Anderson on the ups and downs of the music business.

"He's toured all his life," Anderson said. "He understands what I'm going through. Even though we don't talk face to face every day, we're on the phone or e-mailing all the time."

Being on the road is cause for a lot of frustration, Anderson says, but the one thing he doesn't worry about is his band.

"I have the coolest guys in the world," he says. "I love to showcase their talent every night."

When fans attend an Anderson show, he wants them to hear the same sound they got from the CD.

"The worst thing is when you go see somebody and nobody's singing harmony and it's real dry," he explains. "If I didn't have the right guys on the road, it just wouldn't be the same. When they're that good, you don't want to keep them hidden. They get an awesome reaction from the fans."

Anderson says he and the band "try to go out there and have a big old party. We get rowdy. We try to make sure everyone's on their feet, singing from the first song to the last."

Anderson and the boys will bring the crowd to its feet at the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center on Saturday, Sept. 20, as part of Fall Festival's Starnight. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Ticket sales have been brisk, but good seats are still available. Opening the show for Anderson will be Exit 101, a band from Cumby. Call 903-885-8071.

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