Sonny LeMaire of ‘Exile’: “Change is not a curse but an opportunity”

There’s not a thing anyone could have said to me that would have deterred my determination to pursue my dream. As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Sonny LeMaire of the band Exile. Exile formed in 1963 looking to play small clubs in Richmond, Kentucky, but […]

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There’s not a thing anyone could have said to me that would have deterred my determination to pursue my dream.

As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Sonny LeMaire of the band Exile.

Exile formed in 1963 looking to play small clubs in Richmond, Kentucky, but managed to top both the pop and country charts during their over 55 year-long career. Their most successful hit, “Kiss You All Over” spent four weeks at the top of Billboard’s pop chart in 1978. In the early 1980’s Exile started to focus on country music. During their run on the country charts Exile has successfully had ten №1 singles including “I Don’t Want To Be A Memory” and “Give Me One More Chance.” The hit song “Kiss You All Over” was used in the 1996Adam Sandlermovie “Happy Gilmore” and in the 2006 film “Employee of the Month.” They have toured with acts including Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac, The Oak Ridge Boys, Kenny Rogers and The Judds. The 5 original Exile members re-formed in 2008 and continue to tour today. Current members of the band include J.P. Pennington, Les Taylor, Sonny LeMaire, Marlon Hargis and Steve Goetzman. 2018 celebrates 55 years for the band and 40th anniversary of the hit song “Kiss You All Over.” For more information, visit

Thank you for joining us! Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

My father was a career Army officer. After living in Europe we came back to the U.S. and settled in Southern Indiana across the Ohio River from Louisville KY. In the early ’60’s there was a vibrant music scene that I eventually wanted to a part of. So I started my first band in 1964, The Sceptors, while in High School.

Like many aspiring musicians of my age, seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in February ’64. I didn’t know how at that moment I would make music my life’s work but I knew I had to somehow follow my heart.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Meeting my music and songwriter heroes! Had the pleasure of meeting the legendary lyricist Hal David, (“Raindrops,” & many more mega hits), when he came to the studio where we were recording in Nashville.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Our drummer got confused during our show and counted off the wrong song on our set list. He started playing that song and the rest of us playing a different song! Train wreck!

The lesson learned was pay attention and always stay in the moment while performing. But always be prepared for the unexpected.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

We have a new Xmas song and video, “Kid At Heart.” We have written more new Xmas songs for a full Xmas project to be recorded sometime in 2021. Also writing new Exile songs for possible new Exile project next year.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Inclusion: Except for indigenous people, we are a nation of immigrants, many races and creeds. Including people of differing ethnicities portraying themselves shines the light of truth in a multicultural society. And this helps lead us to…

Acceptance: And acceptance can help lead us to, “a more perfect union.”

Mentoring: Giving back and being an example to all those with the same aspirations and dreams.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  • They could have said have a plan B. ..I didn’t
  • It’s an impossible dream… it is! But I succeeded.
  • Get a real job…. I got a job I love.
  • You can’t make money writing songs… I did and writing enriched more than my bank account.
  • What someone could have said is that I would have to work harder than I could ever have imagined… True
  • There’s not a thing anyone could have said to me that would have deterred my determination to pursue my dream.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Change is not a curse but an opportunity. Take a breath and enjoy the journey and what you have accomplished.

Play more, laugh more and love more!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

E Pluribus Unum… from many, one! Our differences are our strength!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are several people without whose help, I would not have been able to accomplish my dream. But my band mate and songwriting partner, JP Pennington, is majorly responsible for helping me and pushing me to succeed. I would not be in this band were it not for his belief in me. And my songwriting went to another level with his collaboration.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Nobody asked you to come here!” A young disgruntled musician/songwriter was loudly complaining about his lack of success and how unfair the “business” of songwriting was as he was drinking at a bar in Nashville. To which the legendary Harlan Howard overheard while sitting at the end of the bar and said out loud, “Nobody asked you to come here!”

And that’s the cold hard truth. Complaining won’t lead to your success. Be prepared to work hard and failure is not the end but the beginning!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Perhaps my music and songwriting hero, Paul McCartney .

I’d tell him thank you because in a manner of speaking, he taught me how to play bass and write a song!

How can our readers follow you online?


Facebook: Exile Band Official

Instagram: Exile Official Band

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