He doesn’t record as often as he used to — and his last top 40 hit, the Garth Brooks duet ‘Beer Run,’ was released 10 years ago — but George Jones is still going strong. In fact, he kicked off a line dancing craze earlier this year, and recently celebrated his 80th birthday with a special party at the Grand Ole Opry.

The country legend is keeping busy, no doubt, but he still had time to sit down for a chat with Taste of Country recently, reflecting on his life and amazing career.

“I’ve been unbelievably lucky with my music,” Jones said when asked about his record-setting string of 168 charting singles, but he admitted he’d still like more. Talking about ‘I Ain’t Ever Slowing Down,’ the single that sparked a line dance hit earlier this year, he said he was “thrilled about the line dance,” then added, “I still believe if I could get more airplay, I could get a hit. ‘I Ain’t Ever Slowing Down’ would have been a big hit if I had recorded it in my younger days. I’m thrilled that people still respond to my music and that the music is relevant to today’s listeners.”

Jones’ struggles with substance abuse were well known earlier in his career, and those mistakes still haunt him. As he put it, “I feel really bad about all the people I disappointed by not showing up or not performing up to my best ability.” He’s happily settled into sobriety now, adding, “I’m proud of the fact that I finally kicked my demons and that drink and drugs are no longer a part of me. The last 10 years or so have allowed me to be a better husband, father and friend on a personal level than all the years before when I was so messed up.”

Asked to share some of his hard-earned wisdom with younger artists, Jones responded, “All I can say to other artists in terms of a long career is to do the music you love. Singing for me is a way of life — it is something I love to do, but only if I love the music. If you sing songs you love, people know it and know that you are being honest with them. If you compromise too much and sing what you don’t believe, the fans feel betrayed and they know the difference. Be yourself and sing what you love.”

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