With nearly two dozen hit songs under his belt, TG Sheppard doesn't have anything to prove. The country star rose to mainstream success in the mid-1970s with hits such as "Devil in the Bottle," but it's been more than two decades since he released a new album.

"The reason I'm doing this now is that I really didn't know where I fit in," Sheppard explains to The Boot. "I didn't really know what direction I wanted to go ... and I finally just sat down and said, 'I don't need a direction. I just need great songs, and they will dictate the direction I go in.'"

The first of those new songs, "I Wanna Live Like Elvis," is a lighthearted tribute to the King of Rock and Roll himself, who was also a long-time friend of Sheppard's. The country singer says he wanted to record the song not only because of his own personal connection to Elvis Presley, but also because of how accurately the song's writers captured the spirit of the iconic performer. Plus, Sheppard adds, he's freer now to make the kind of music he wants to make than he ever has been before.

"It's the first time in my career that I am able to make my own decisions," the country star points out. "I'm producing it myself. I don't have to listen to a record label telling me that I should be doing this or should be doing that."

When he was finally able to record exactly the kind of songs he wanted, Sheppard realized that he wanted to make a song like "I Wanna Live Like Elvis." "I never would have cut that song on a record label," he admits. "They probably wouldn't have wanted me to, because it would appear that I was riding his coattails. And I wouldn't have done it years ago, either."

Now that time has passed, Sheppard is making music on his own terms, and he doesn't care whether or not anyone thinks he's using Presley's name for his own purposes. He came by his perspectives honestly: "It's okay to do that song because I lived that life. I was there with him during a lot of those stories," Sheppard notes; in fact, Priscilla Presley herself has given the song her blessing.

Even more importantly, the song is simply a lot of fun, and fun-loving music, Sheppard adds, is desperately needed in today's cultural climate. "We're living in an age now where there's so much anger, so much fear, so much sadness in the world. I think people want a good laugh," he relates. "A good funny song now and again is good for the psyche."

The proof lies in the fan response: "What people are saying is, 'God, I heard your new song, and it is so funny. I laughed so hard. I really enjoy the energy of it and it makes me feel good when I hear it,'" Sheppard goes on to say. "That's what I'm getting."

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In his return to the studio, Sheppard can't help but notice how both music and the recording process have changed since he cut his first hits. Sure, the technology of recording itself has changed, he says, but the most noticeable difference is how fans receive new music today.

"I mean, what would have happened to us in the '80s if we had social media? Wow!" Sheppard says with a laugh. "Over and above technology -- that is, records being made better by technology -- we have avenues now to where airplay is important, but you can reach people yourself through your own social media and play them your music. So it's an exciting time for any genre of music, because we have new platforms to get out there and expose it to people."

Sheppard is excited to apply that process to his new music, most of which is brand-new material.

"There is an array of songs on this album that have never been heard, and I can't wait for people to hear them," he relates, adding that even if social media changes the way artists interact with fans, his music itself never really changes that much: "I am known to be a type of artist where I'm big on story songs. What country music has been missing for the last few years, it's lost its melody and it's lost its story. And that's coming full circle again this year. Some of these songs tell great stories, and I'm eager for people to hear that again."

No matter what the album does after its release, however, Sheppard is excited to have gone through the experience of making it.

"I'm in total control for the first time in my career. It's fun to be in control of your destiny," he says. "If it does well, great. If it doesn't, that's okay. I'm having a great time doing it."

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