CATCHING UP WITH...DOUG STONE

A happy, healthy and hyperconfident Doug Stone is ready to "shoot the moon" with his new CD.

Doug Stone isn't shy about his ambitions for his new album, In a Different Light. "I'd like to be back on the top of the charts again," he declares. "I want to be the biggest thing out there. You might as well shoot for the moon."

To take that shot, he's come up with a smooth set-due out March 15-that mixes new songs with covers of classics by the likes of Ray Charles, Van Morrison and Aaron Neville. (Doug's take on Ray's "Georgia on My Mind" is the first single.) But he shows no fear of the inevitable comparisons.

"I've never been intimidated by anybody," he says, relaxing in an office at his Nashville record label. "I've never felt like I was in competition. You've got your voice, I've got mine, they've got theirs."

The album also includes, as bonus tracks, two of Doug's favorites among his 15 Top 10s: "Why Didn't I Think of That" and the title cut. They're a reminder of a hot streak that made Doug famous, but nearly killed him. He endured a stroke, a heart attack, bypass surgery and panic attacks-all, he believes, the result of stress.

"I feel a whole lot better than I used to," he says. "I've gotten a lot healthier, lost weight and got on the right pills. Thank God for drugs, is all I can say!" Doug unleashes a loud, hearty cackle-any discussion of his health problems brings out his lively streak of gallows humor.

Now 48, Doug is fit, happy and living in Springfield, Tenn., where he shares a house with wife Beth-well, sort of. "I built my own little house over the garage," he explains. "I can't live with a woman. I've tried it three times, and it don't work for me."

Doug and Beth have been married for eight years, and have a 6-year-old daughter, Baili. "She's the one that keeps me going now," he says. "We play a lot. She's got a great imagination." Doug also has four children from previous marriages-including a son, Daniel, working as a firefighter in Iraq. "He likes the danger, I guess," says Doug, slightly exasperated.

That worry aside, Doug's life is settled now. He has the air of a man who is finally comfortable in his skin. "I've already lived a whole lifetime," he says. "I could die now and be happy."

- CHRIS NEAL

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