Looks like he’s made it! As if securing a No. 1 radio hit, a gold album, an ACM award, and even a new bride isn’t enough, Trace Adkins has finally made the tabloids, too. The “rag” dirt, however, doesn’t soil nor spoil the grin that stretches across this happy guy’s face. Everything down “Adkins Alley” is going way too smoothly.
Like a Fourth of July fireworks show, rockets for Trace Adkins have been firing off almost in sequence. The 35-year-old singer unveiled a string of radio favorites with a voice that nobody could resist. His “This Ain’t No Thinkin’ Thing” must have gotten someone to thinkin’, because Trace sang the song all the way to the No. 1 slot in the country. His Capitol debut album, Dreamin Out Loud was soon certified gold, and then the awards began to fall on this six-and-a-half-foot-tall drink of water like a sweet southern rain shower. Trace took home this year’s Top New Male Vocalist Award from the Academy of Country Music, as well as Country Weekly’s Golden Pick Award for New Male Vocalist. He’s also up for the Star of Tomorrow honor at the TNN Music City News Country Awards in June. The icing on the cake, however, was literally a wedding cake. Trace and dream-girl Rhonda Furlow exchanged their vows recently in a fairytale-like wedding, complete with a penned and performed ballad from the groom and a horse-drawn carriage for the beautiful bride.
But just before the wedding, Adkins discovered that he had made the tabloid headlines. Such an incident can be unpleasant for some celebrities who value their rights to privacy, but Adkins, as he always does, looked at the situation with a positive attitude.
“I take it as a pretty nice compliment,” laughed Adkins about the articles. “What an honor–I guess I know now that I’ve finally made it if the Globe and the Star or those type magazines think I can sell a rag or two for them. I knew there were some little rumors going around and people were talking about things that they really didn’t know the real story behind,” he explained. “They did spell my name right, but that’s about as far as they got in the reality department.”
The reality department for Adkins is that his recent success and happiness between he, his new wife and two daughters (12-year-old Tarah and 8-year-old Sarah), is due to a lot of hard work and years of struggling to make his dreams come true.
“We’ve worked really hard and have even gotten a little frustrated, thinking that things just weren’t moving as fast as they should be,” he explained. “But to me, everything really seems like it’s right on track now, even though there were times that I would think there had to be something that I wasn’t doing to help move things along.”
While Trace is racking up the trophies for several New Male Vocalist categories, the Sarepta, Louisiana native has been performing for years, long before his move to Nashville just a short time ago. Music was always a part of his life, from having learned to play the guitar at an early age to even writing songs. But singing in front of people didn’t take its toll until his teen years. Trace was only playing guitar for a hometown southern gospel trio when he was accidentally heard singing bass. It was only a matter of time before the trio became a new quartet called New Commitment with Adkins singing both bass and lead. The group went on to record two gospel albums and toured locally, along with several of gospel music’s top recording acts.
“I think having sung gospel music was the most valuable thing I ever learned about music,” Adkins admitted. “I learned more about music in the five years that I sang bass in the gospel quartet than any other time. Basically, you’re learning music theory in a hands-on kind of way–without the books. From that, too, I also learned about the sincerity with which you have to approach your songs. Because if you sing gospel music and you don’t really mean what you’re singing about, not only are the people going to see through it, but you’re going to feel bad about yourself, too. You’re going to be hypocritical and just up there mouthing the words.
“That’s something that really carries over for me in country music,” continues Adkins. “I purposely pick songs for projects that, somewhere in that song, something strikes a chord in my heart that really means something. It could either be about an experience that I’ve had or one that I am having. I can sing some of the verses in my songs and know those feelings all too well. Now, in my life, I also know the joys in those positive love songs. But then when I sing a light-hearted, uptempo song, that’s exactly how I feel, too. I may feel like dancing.”
Adkins had to learn to feel the emotions in both his songs and his audiences–especially those from the honky-tonk circuit. But quite often, the crowds weren’t as easy to perform for as they are today. Adkins developed a performing style he described as “combat country.”
“Combat country, to me, means a lot of things. First of all, it can mean going from Merle Haggard to Jimi Hendricks in the same set,” he explains. “It was also an attitude that I would take the stage with in all the clubs. I can always tell the feeling that’s in the room–whether I’m making the contact I need to or not. When I don’t it’s no one’s fault but my own. When you’re a bar band and playing five or six nights a week in one town and then go to another town and do the same thing again, the people coming in there aren’t really coming to see you. It’s their local hang-out, and you just happen to be the band playing there that week. I would always go in there knowing that, along with the feeling of ’Now you’re going to pay attention!’ It was really almost like a combative attitude. I was going in there to fight for their attention. So that gave me the incentive to play as hard as I could and do whatever I could to get their attention.”
No doubt, Adkins’ approach continues to work, as it has with the numbers he’s performed from his Dreaming Out Loud project, including his latest single, “I Left Something Turned On At Home,” as well as the new material from his upcoming sophomore disc.
While Adkins’ “combat country” approach has worked like magic for his music and enormous fan base, no tactic is effective enough for the singer’s daughters, Tarah and Sarah.
“My girls are finally back to the norm now,” concludes Adkins. ” I think they’re just over it and that it’s been a rude awakening for them as to what they thought ’stars’ were. Now, they see the success that I’m having or see me on television or something, but they see that it just hasn’t really changed me. I’m just still the same old guy to them. I think they thought things would be drastically different. But now, they’ll be at school or out somewhere and the other kids will say ’I saw your dad on television last night!’ And they’re like ’Oh yeah, big deal.'”