Trace Adkins displayed his softer side with the touching ballad, “Then They Do,” but he does a 180-degree turn with the other new track on his new greatest hits album. How can you ignore a song titled “Welcome to Hell”?
Jim Collins and Sunny Russ co-wrote Adkins’ most recent hit, “Then They Do,” about a father watching his children grow up all too quickly. The song’s power and popularity prompted Nashville’s Rutledge Hill Press to publish a book of stories inspired by the song’s message.
Adkins and Bobby Terry co-wrote “Welcome to Hell,” a song offering the devil’s tongue-in-cheek hospitality to those terrorists responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. With subtle lyrics, you have to listen closely to the song to understand Adkins’ intent.
“It’s a little dark,” Adkins tells CMT.com. “To be honest with you, I wrote that song in January 2002 — following 9/11. Everybody was writing the flag waving, patriotic thing. And that’s great. I’m down with that. That’s cool. But that’s not where I wanted to take it. I wanted to get personal with it and say, ‘I don’t like you,’ to put it mildly.
“What struck me about the whole situation was the idea of these martyrs — these people committing these acts of suicide bombings or flying a plane into a building — and they think that if they give this ultimate sacrifice that they’ll spend eternity in heaven with all these virgins. I just thought that is the most insane, ridiculous thing I think I’ve ever heard. That’s really where the whole song came from. I just wrote it as the devil — in the first person — welcoming these guys to hell.”
Don’t bother looking for “Welcome to Hell” to be released as a single. “Oh, no,” Adkins says with a slight laugh. “Absolutely not. No way. I couldn’t believe they put it on this album. And it wasn’t at my behest. I didn’t go to them and say, ‘Oh, please. I wrote this song and the world needs to hear it.’ … But they just took it upon themselves to put it on this greatest hits record. I’m pleased with that, but it won’t ever be a single. There may be a metal radio station somewhere that will play it. But I can’t see me playing this onstage at the Opry, either.”
Adkins’ Greatest Hits Collection, Volume 1 arrived in stores Tuesday (July 8), along with the book based on “Then They Do.” It’s been an eventful year for the 41-year-old Louisiana native. In June, he hosted and performed at the Chrome 300, a NASCAR race named after his previous album and single. And more recently, he was invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry. In extending the offer, Opry star Little Jimmy Dickens asked him, “Just how bad would you like to become a member of our Grand Ole Opry family?” For a moment, Adkins wasn’t exactly sure that it was a formal invitation to join the Opry.
“At first, I didn’t know if it was a question I was supposed to know the answer to,” he says. “I thought, ‘Oh my God. I didn’t study for this. I don’t know what the right answer is. Do you want me run naked across the stage? Whatever it is, you just tell me and we’ll get it done.’
“I just said, ‘I want it bad.’ And I did … and I do. We’ve made no secret about it. This is something we’ve actively gone after. We’ve courted them. We wanted this. I say ‘we’ because it was a total team effort. … Everybody had really worked toward making this happen.’ I’m just thrilled.”
Adkins says he can’t wait until his Opry induction on Aug. 23, but he has trouble articulating what the membership means to him. “I’m just struggling,” he says. “I sit down and I just literally start sweating trying to think of something to capture how sincere I am about this and what an honor it is. For a kid growing up in Northwest Louisiana idolizing Joe Stampley — because I grew up 10 miles from his house — and now to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Stuff like this doesn’t happen for people that come from where I come from.”
Growing up in the small town of Sarepta, La., Adkins had no idea what awaited him following the 1996 release of his debut album. “I had the same preconceived idea that everybody probably has — that it’s all glamorous and all that stuff,” he says. “Then, of course, I found out that’s not the case. I really didn’t have any idea of what this was going to be like when I got into it. It’s been a learning experience for me from day one. But I think you end up being exactly how you are. If you’re predisposed to being an asshole, then that’s probably what you’ll end up being. If you’re not, you probably won’t be.”
Adkins is convinced that his experience as an oilfield worker prepared him for a career as a recording artist. “I enjoyed that job,” he says. “I really did. I liked the people I worked with, the camaraderie and the teamwork it takes to drill a hole in the ground. It was a good job. I enjoyed it. The money was good, too.
“I think one thing about the oilfield that prepared me for … is that it’s a day-to-day kind of grind out there. The job is never really done, you know. You work as hard as you can today, but tomorrow when you get up, you’ve got to do it again. It’s gonna be there staring you in the face again — the same thing you did the day before.
“And it’s carried over into this career, too. I just wake up every day and do whatever needs doing that day. But I know that no matter what I do today, there’s going to be work to do tomorrow.”