The bad news: It’s not a great time to be outdoors. The good news: There’s an entire channel dedicated to doing that for you.
With much of America staying home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Outdoor Channel is the closest many of us can get to hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities. Fortunately for you, the network is in free preview on Sling TV until May 23, so you can enjoy your hobbies vicariously, while learning a few tips along the way.
The Outdoor Channel also just launched a new Friday night music series, Country Outdoors. The show features intimate performances from some of country music’s freshest talents, and is co-hosted by Mary O'Neill Phillips and Nick Hoffman of Nick’s Wild Ride. A self-described “Jack of all trades, master of none (except the fiddle),” Hoffman enjoyed a successful career in the country group The Farm before transitioning into one of the most famous outdoorsmen on television. We were lucky to hop on a video chat with Hoffman and ask him about the challenges of taping his new show, his history with Nick’s Wild Ride, and why it’s so special to see rising stars on the country scene. Note: This conversation has been edited and condensed.
Sling: For someone who hasn’t heard of it, how would you explain the show?
Nick Hoffman: This Country Outdoors live thing is unique in so many different ways. It’s definitely unique for the Outdoor Channel, because we typically don’t have a lot of truly live programming. Musicians are bringing music right from their living rooms to yours. And so it’s literally COVID-based, from my couch to your couch and whoever the country music artist that we’re featuring that week, they’re coming from their couch. And we’re connecting and bringing live music and good stories right into people’s houses. I think it’s just super exciting and totally different from anything that I’ve ever done.
I’m a musician, and I’ve done my own live streams for other people, but I’m consuming them too. Because I think it’s been really inspiring to watch some of the biggest artists in the world kind of humble themselves a little bit, hop on their iPhone, and play some music for people. It’s not polished, it’s raw and I think it’s given everyone a sense, “Hey, we’re all in this together, everybody’s going through the same stuff, whether you’re Garth Brooks or you’re Taylor Swift, or you’re Jordan Davis or you’re me.” We’re all in this together and we just want to do whatever we can to help you get through. And if a little bit of music helps you through and you can have a beer and sit on your couch and hear your favorite artist in a different way than you’re used to, I think that’s really special.
Sling: How did your first show go and what were the challenges of pulling it off?
NH: It went really well, I thought, and it was really well received, but man, it’s a really unique format. Like I said, we’re literally doing this Zoom-style, so there’s three or four people – usually me, Mary my co-host, and the artist – all coming together from three separate places. So that in itself has its own challenges, and then on top of that, you’ve got the people actually running the feed, the people from the network – everybody's all in different places. Usually when you do a television show, everybody’s in one place. So coordinating that, doing a little bit of background and rehearsals and things like that, all those things were challenges. But they were unique challenges that made it fun. I think it was just a blast, honestly.
Sling: Can you talk a little bit about your co-host, Mary O’Neill Phillips, and what it’s like working with her?
NH: Mary is one of the most special people I know. She’s from Australia, first off, so she’s got this fantastic Australian accent, which is always endearing. She’s beautiful, she’s smart, she’s talented. And she’s funny. Even when she’s on a Zoom call with you, she instantly brightens the room up. Every place she goes, she brings nothing but awesome, positive energy and I love working with someone like that because it’s infectious. When she's happy, you get happy and I love that.
Sling: Travis Denning is scheduled on May 15, what do you like about him as an artist and what are you looking forward to from his performance?
NH: Travis is special because he’s kinda got that Nashville story going on that I love. You know, guy comes to town, he’s a good-looking, clean cut guy that, maybe when you see him in person, you might not expect that he’s the singer he is. I like that because when we talk about one of the other artists that we have coming in, Jordan Davis, he looks exactly like a country singer to me. But I like Travis because he’s got a great story, he’s got a great voice, he’s got a great song that’s climbing the charts right now, and I’m really excited about him.
Sling: What about Jordan Davis’ style do you like the most?
NH: With him, you expect a little bit more of a country vibe going on. He’s been killing it out there, touring with all sorts of different people. He won the iHeartRadio Best New Country Artist award. The guy is just lighting it up right now. And it’s really fun to catch these artists at a time in their careers when they’re blowing up, because there’s an electricity that comes from guys like that is really special. You’re catching them at a time in their lives [when], literally, they’re living their dream. They’re exploding onto the scene, they’ve got songs on the radio, they’re doing it. And I love talking to people with that kind of energy.
Sling: Is that something you’re shooting for in this series, catching people on the come-up?
NH: I think that that is what has kind of happened early on here, yeah. It’s fun to catch these people and talk to them about their careers and introduce the Outdoor Channel family to some of these artists. You never know, maybe we’ll start looking for those established artists, those big hitmakers that have years and years and years under their belt. But personally, being one of those guys that has been there – that has the song going up the charts and is just getting a career going – I know what that feels like. And man, it’s really fun to tap in to the energy that these folks have right now. I think that’s special, I love discovering new people and I know in the digital age, so does everybody else.
Sling: Nick’s Wild Ride has been on Outdoor Channel for several seasons now. What have you enjoyed the most about working on that show?
NH: Being a country music artist and then starting this television show, 10 years ago, if you said, “Hey Nick, you’re about to be filming the sixth season of a hit TV show that involves traveling and hunting,” I would have laughed in your face. That wasn’t what I saw coming.
But really, it’s a natural extension for me, because I’ve always been an outdoorsman, and I’ve always been a voracious traveler and history buff. And I love food and beer and bars and music and all this stuff. So when I go somewhere to hunt, I go explore the local beer, the local bar, the local museum. All you’re doing in Nick’s Wild Ride is just watching me systematically check off my bucket list and doing what I’d be doing anyway. It takes me all over the world; It’s taken me from Africa to Alaska and everywhere in between, it’s been amazing.
Sling: Is there any particular episode or place that you’ve visited that stands out in your mind? And anything for people to look forward to as far as upcoming adventures?
NH: There’s a couple of them. In season’s past, going to Africa for the first time was, truly, a life-changing experience. This last season, I got to fly with the Blue Angels in an F/A-18 fighter jet. I mentioned Alaska. I’m a pilot, so I love to fly airplanes and flying a float plane for the first time in Alaska was incredible. And then of course, I’m getting to hunt and fish along the way.
This new season we’re going to Spain, we’re going to British Columbia up in the mountains. We’re going to Florida and searching for gators. We’re doing all sorts of crazy stuff, I’m really excited for the new episodes.
Tune into Country Outdoors on the Outdoor Channel every Friday night in May at 7pm ET