FOR THE LOVE OF FAMILY

Billy Dean scores a Top 20 hit for the first time in nearly a decade with "Let Them Be Little," a song that reaffirms his commitment to his children - and to himself.

See below to click on Billy Dean's listening party for his new album!

I was just kind of livin' on faith the last couple years or so, because, honest to God, I didn't know where the next dollar was gonna come from," declares Billy Dean during a recent break from putting the finishing touches on his new CD, Let Them Be Little, set for a March 29 release. "All I knew," he confesses, "was I had a phenomenal relationship with my kids."

And for Billy-who skyrocketed to stardom in the early '90s with such hits as "Billy the Kid," "Only the Wind" and "Somewhere in My Broken Heart"-that relationship with his son and daughter was really all that mattered. In fact, it mattered so much he stepped away from his lucrative career in the late '90s when it was cruising along in high gear, just so he could spend more time with Eli and Hannah, now 11 and 10, respectively.

Now enjoying his first Top 20 hit in almost 10 years with the new album's title cut, Billy has confirmation that putting his family first was the right thing to do. "This is my year, man!" he exclaims as he revels in the good feeling not only of signing a new record deal long after many artists his age- 42-are given up for dead when they've been away from radio as long as Billy has, but of having a hit record, too. Life is so sweet.

But, as Billy recalls, that wasn't the case before he decided to sit back a few years ago and take stock of the way he was living his life. "I'd gone through a divorce in 1997. My kids weren't doing really well with the divorce and with me being gone on the road performing. And I wasn't all that enchanted about being gone either.

"Leaving the road was really a hard decision, but I basically walked away from a stellar career," he confides. "I was nervous as a cat, but I kept thinking, 'I'm a much better recording artist and traveler than I am a father.' So I stayed home and I ended up investing in my children instead of my career.

" 'Let Them Be Little' is an end result of an experiment on choices of living for me. I made the choice to go from being a catered-to recording artist-a relatively famous person at the top of his game-to being a guy who went down to livin' in a much smaller house and a guy who was a dad every day. And what happened was . . . my kids parented me. I didn't really know how to raise kids, but we worked it out."

Billy pauses. "What made it even scarier was that one of my biggest fears in life was to go back to living the way I lived when I first got to Nashville, which was not having a penny to my name and starvin'. And I started seeing that as a possibility.

"It's amazing, you can be really famous and successful and all that stuff, but if nobody wants to sign you to a record deal and nobody wants to book you in concert, what are you gonna do to make a living?" That's where Billy's belief in himself and his family came in.

"You've just gotta have faith," declares Billy. "Write songs . . . just write. Just write and raise your kids. And that's what I did."

A chance encounter with singer/songwriter Richie McDonald of Lonestar, who'd already started writing "Little," led to Billy helping him finish it and to Billy recording the song that's giving him his second run at the top of the charts. And while he had some success last year with his independently produced "Thank God I'm a Country Boy"-a remake of John Denver's 1975 hit-Billy couldn't be happier that, with the help of his new label, Curb Records, "Little" is the tune that's brought him back. It's the quality of song Billy wants to be remembered by.

"Every song now that I put out, I think, 'This may be my last. And if it is my last record, I'm willing to go out on this one.' And that's the way it was with 'Let Them Be Little.' It has meaning, and it reflects the love of children I have.

"And if, down the line, nobody wants to hear me and radio doesn't want to play me, I can personally walk away saying, 'I offered something of value and something important.' I can live with that."

- DAVID SCARLETT

***Click below to listen to Billy Dean's new album "Let Them Be Little"!***

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Let Them Be Little

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Let Them Be Little

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