PAYSON — Today, Billy Dean is a lot more conversant with Mormon culture than when he bumped into his friend and fellow musician Marvin Goldstein at an airport a few years ago.
He asked Goldstein how he was doing, and Goldstein replied, "I'm fine. I'm LDS now." Dean told him, "That's all right, I'm ADD!"
Dean knows now — since he's played for audiences all over Utah over the years — that LDS people are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that the state has quite a few.
"Some of my best friends are in the LDS Church," Dean said in a interview with The Deseret News. "When I come here, I get a chance to reconnect with them and with my Utah audience, which has always been good to me.
"We've kind of claimed Utah."
Dean is in Utah doing concerts in Sandy, Ogden and, on Sept. 1, in Payson for Onion Days. He'll be in Vernal on Sept. 16.
He's trying to revive his previously successful singing career which was interrupted by an eight-year hiatus while he focused on his family.
"I'm just kinda cranking it up. I just sent my son off to college, so it's time for Dad to get back to work," said the 49-year-old country artist, who gained national attention when he won TV's "Star Search" talent competition in 1990.
His single "Somewhere in my Broken Heart" was the Academy of Country Music's Song of the Year in 1991. He was also the ACM New Male Vocalist of the Year and won Broadcast Music, Inc., Pop Awards, BMI Song Awards, BMI Million Air Plays Award, the Country Music Television Rising Star Award, Nashville Songwriter Association International's Song of The Year, and a Grammy for a Country Tribute "Amazing Grace."
After 12 albums and 11 top 10 singles spanning a period of 18 years, Dean founded his own publishing company, the Billy Dean Music Group, where he continued to make contributions to the country music world by building brands with music and empowering children.
In 2004, he released an album inspired by his then-young children, "Let Them Be Little," and, in 2005, a sacred album called "Christ (A Song for Joseph)."
He was recently honored by the Tennessee House of Representatives with a day in his name and a proclamation noting his accomplishments.
He has a number of projects in the works, including a couple of albums available on iTunes.
He's been touring with his band throughout 2009 and 2010, reintroducing himself to his fans in story and song. (He tells more stories on stage now and does a few solo acoustic pieces.)
He's also advertising his new venture, "Dean Acres," a farm outside of Nashville that offers a family getaway experience with kayaking, fly-fishing and adventure.
His newest album, "The Seed," talks about a little seed that assumes he can't do much because he's so little and only one seed. The seed finds out differently.
"He's not too small to do amazing things," Dean said.
Ryan White, director of communications for Mountain View Hospital, said Dean is a popular artist with Utah audiences, and since Dean loves to come to Utah, he seemed a natural choice for the Onion Days kickoff concert.
"I try to be positive (in my songs)," Dean said. "They're generally on a positive note, family-friendly songs."
If you go:
What: Billy Dean Onion Days concert
When: 6:30 p.m. Sept. 1
Where: Peteetneet Outdoor Amphitheatre, 10 N. 600 East, Payson
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 30 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.