Last fall, Grammy-winning country artist Randy Travis released Inspirational Journey, a gospel album produced by Kyle Lehning. The Gospel Music Association has nominated the set for two Dove Awards: Country Recorded Song of the Year, for “Baptism,” and Bluegrass album of the year. In December, Wedge Productions captured Travis in concert in Anaheim, Calif., for a DVD scheduled for release in early summer. The newly formed record label Relentless/Nashville announced that Travis has signed a new record deal. An album combining six to eight new Travis songs and four or five classic songs from film and TV projects will come out in the fall, also produced by Lehning.
Travis called CMT.com from his home in Santa Fe, N.M., to answer 20 questions sent in by fans. He talked about a lot of things including how he chooses the songs he records, his tastes in home decorating and whether or not he’ll retire someday.
1. I like your music very much. Do you pick the music you record or does someone do it for you?
Several people [have been] involved in picking these songs over the last 15 years — myself and Kyle Lehning, who’s produced all the records I’ve been doing, for the most part. Then there’s been a couple of different people, as far as A&R people at the labels: Martha Sharp [former Warner-Reprise executive] and Alison Jones at DreamWorks, where I was for a couple of albums. But I make the ultimate decision.
2. What criteria does a song have to meet for you to consider recording it?
To be honest, it seems like a simple [answer], but I just have to like it. I obviously like all different kinds of songs, from real story songs to almost novelty-type songs, sort of left-of-center, as Kyle likes to refer to them as being. Those can be songs like “Diggin’ Up Bones,” of course, or “Is It Still Over?” But I just have to like them.
3. I love your new album, Inspirational Journey. What’s the story behind the title?
Thank you. To be honest with you, my wife thought of that title and I liked that. So that’s pretty much why it’s on there. It does apply, no doubt. I’ve certainly made a lot of changes in my life over the last 15 years, so you could definitely call it an inspirational journey.
4. Why have you stopped closing your shows with “American Trilogy”?
That lets me know somebody’s been to some shows going back several years. I did that just because I was looking for something different to do. From time to time I will still do the “American Trilogy,” but it has been a while. Thanks for asking. Maybe I’ll put it back in one of these days.
5. My daughter was probably 8 or 9 when she saw the video of “Forever and Ever, Amen” on CMT. She fell in love with it. She will be 23 in March and still loves to watch it. She is getting married in June and the song will be played at their wedding. Other country songs come and go in popularity for weddings. Why do you think this one is so timeless?
It’s hard to imagine I’ve been singing that song for that long! Thank you again … it makes me feel good when someone tells me they’re using that at their wedding. It’s happened quite a few times over the years. When people tell you a song has touched them in that way, and that song continues to hold up after this many years, you know you’ve recorded a good piece of material. To start with, it was one of those that was fun for me to listen to the first time I heard it and easy to remember because of that. I think it hits people the same way for the most part. I think it says a lot of things that we as men tend to have a problem saying. Maybe those are a couple of the reasons for it.
6. Are you going to be reopening your fan club this year?
I don’t think we will reopen the fan club and do it all from our office as we used to. Course, all the information is now on the Internet at randytravis.com. Unfortunately I can’t even turn on a computer! I guess that’s the way it’s gonna stay for a while.
7. As you look back on your career, are there any particular “fan moments” that stick with you?
There are a lot of moments that will stick with me forever, some funny, some very touching. I got to spend quite a bit of time with a little lady named Katie Beth Watson over the course of several years. She was a little girl who had a heart transplant. They knew she wasn’t going to live that long, but she was very strong spiritually. She knew she was going to die. They asked her if she wanted to have another heart transplant and she said no, because she knew she was going to heaven. I got to spend time around her and talk with her off and on quite a few times; she was with us for shooting Touched by an Angel on one of the episodes. I wouldn’t take anything for the time I was able to spend with her.
8. Have you ever lost your voice for a length of time at a really bad time?
Yeah, I have. Not for a long period of time, but in the first year of recording and touring, I did about 200 show dates, two shows most of those days. Then interviews almost every day and also trying to record and write a few songs here and there. The worst I remember was doing a show somewhere in Texas and about every third word, nothing would come out. That was one of the worst nights. I was supposed to do two shows that night (and I did), but the guy who booked us at this fair came and said, ‘Just forget the second show.’ I said, ‘No, we’ll do it,’ and the second show was better than the first. I only lost about every fifth word.
9. I’ve enjoyed seeing you in movies and would like to know: Do you like acting, and are you going to be in any movies coming out soon?
Yeah, I do like acting. I’m a singer first, but I really do enjoy the acting. Later on, somewhere between March and May, we will be doing another episode of Touched by an Angel. They’ll be making the story based around one of the songs from the Inspirational Journey album. I think they’ll use more than one song, but the main focus will be on “Baptism.” I’m holding three scripts right now and probably will do one of those but don’t know which at this point in time.
10. Where do you and your wife live? Do you have a home in the mountains of North Carolina?
No, we don’t have a home in North Carolina. We moved away from there over 20 years ago. I go visit my family once a year. We now live in Santa Fe, even sold the house in Nashville just a few weeks ago.
11. I took a virtual tour of your home for sale and saw many Mexican artifacts. Will your next home be filled with the same, or will your interior decorating be changed a bit?
It will be very much the same. We’ve been collecting all kind of Southwestern art, from bronzes to paintings. I like that look, that décor. It’s very comfortable for me. So it will be a lot the same.
12. Do you ever plan on moving back to your home turf or anywhere nearby?
I’ve not made any plans to move back to North Carolina, although I wouldn’t mind having a small place to go down and spend several weeks at. It’s only been about a week [off] for the last several years. Maybe one of these days.
13. What do you do for fun in your spare time?
My hobbies would be shooting — I’ve been a gun collector for many years. I love to get out and target shoot. I love to ride horses. I’ve also been breeding and raising horses for quite a few years and grew up doing that. Those would be my main hobbies.
14. How did you get started in country music and what other jobs did you try?
I’ve tried a lot of other jobs. I’ve worked with cows, horses and turkeys too. I’ve done construction work, from framing to finishing, hanging and finishing sheet rock, painting, a little bricklaying, a little plumbing. Then I cooked for a few years. Thanks to my dad, I got into music. He bought a guitar for me and said I was going to take guitar lessons. There was no discussion about that, it was just what I was going to do. I have to thank him first. Then I met my now-wife and manager for many years, and I could not have done this without her. I’m not a business person whatsoever. I owe a big thanks to Lib. A lady named Martha Sharp who signed me to Warner Bros., I have to say thanks to her. Also Kyle Lehning, who I’ve worked with off and on quite a while now.
15. When you changed your last name from Traywick to Travis, did your family get mad? How long did it take you to get used to the change?
It took a while to get used to it. I guess anybody would go through that in changing their name. I didn’t change it legally for almost 15 years. My family didn’t have a problem with it when I told them what was happening as far as Traywick, my real name, goes. I was being called Tirewick, Treadways, Trailways, and everything but Traywick. It didn’t work, and Martha thought of Travis. So I said, well, I guess I can live with that.
16. What do you do when nature calls in the middle of a show? Do you finish your show or do you have an instrumental break? I often wonder.
I’ve never had a problem there — not ever — and I’ve been singing since I was 8 years old. It just never has come up.
17. Do you ever think there will be a time when you just stop and say, ‘That’s it, the end of the road,’ and walk away?
That’s a good question. I don’t think there will ever be a time that I totally stop. I did quit touring a little over a year. That may or may not happen again, I don’t know. As far as completely giving music up, no, I don’t think I could ever do that. I couldn’t quit; I have to sit down and sing even if I’m just singing for my own entertainment. I certainly enjoy writing, too, and the recording part of the music business. I couldn’t give it up.
18. Of all the awards you’ve won, movies you’ve made and tours you’ve been on, what is the most personally satisfying moment of your career?
That would be the same all the time, and that’s standing before a live audience and singing. There is nothing like that. You just don’t feel that anywhere else in life that I know of. Just working for a live audience is one of the most rewarding things about this business. I have really enjoyed meeting a lot of people, people I grew up with — Andy Griffith being one. Another that’s really at the top of my list was meeting and being able to work with Roy Rogers. Both those things are great about this business.
19. How do you balance your music and acting careers with staying healthy, physically and spiritually?
The balancing act is tough between music and acting. When you look at music, you have to consider writing, playing shows on the road and recording, and trying to find new material. There’s a lot going on there. Acting-wise, you’re reading a lot of scripts and going to do the reading. Sometimes you don’t get the job — a lot of times, I should say (laughing), you don’t get the job. It’s a lot to balance. For me, staying in shape is real important, so I just insist on about an hour and 10 minutes every morning, first thing, and that keeps me physically in shape. I also know a lot about nutrition, so I concentrate on that a lot and try to eat a healthy diet. Spiritually, I find that I have to find enough time during the course of the days to pray enough and also to read the Bible enough, or to hear someone, whether it be in church on Sundays or Wednesday night, or hearing someone on television. I make sure I have enough time for that also.
20. What are you plans for the future?
I can’t say that I have ever made a lot of plans. Well, broad plans, like I’m going to continue singing, hopefully continuing recording, acting and playing shows. That’s about as much of a plan as I can make. I leave that more to my wife and our promoter and those kinds of people. We just finished recording a live show the last part of last year, so we’ve been working on that lately, a DVD. We’ll have that coming out.