Tritt on Screen: From Disabled Vet to Maniac (Part 2 of 2)

He Discusses New Movie Role, His Musical History and the "Tritt Triangle"

Travis Tritt undoubtedly has made a name for himself in Nashville, but throughout his career, he’s also scored a few points in Hollywood, as well. In the second part of this two-part interview, he talks about his numerous roles, including a down-home bad guy, a disabled veteran and a well-known country star who’s been around the block.

What can you tell us about the movie you’ll be in next year, 2001 Maniacs?

Do you remember the movie Cabin Fever a few years ago? It was one of those B-movie horror flicks that got a lot of attention, especially with teenagers. The same people that produced that film produced this one. … I get to play a gas station attendant who is the foreteller of doom. If you notice in most horror films, there is at least one character who says, “Don’t go down to Crystal Lake. That’s where Jason lives” or “Stay away from this place.” Well, I’m that guy, and I’m warning these young people who are about to go off on this adventure of their impending doom.

But I get to come back later on and do a dream sequence that one of these kids has. I get to be a vicious, evil, dirty rotten, just the most despicable character you could ever imagine. Those are the most fun. When you hear actors talk about how the bad guys are the most fun to play, they really are. You get to reach down and go to a place inside your own psyche where you dig up all the sludge that’s on the bottom and raise it up to the top. You get to get by with all kinds of things you could never get by with in society. It’s fun. It’s almost therapeutic to do that sort of thing.

Plus, you can ask for a retake and do it all again.

Absolutely! Absolutely! (laughs) “One more time! More blood please!”

What made you want to take up acting?

I became an accidental actor because of the success of the music industry. I never aspired to be an actor growing up. The first role that came to me was the movie I did with Kenny Rogers, Rio Diablo. That came to me strictly as a result of acting in the video for “Anymore.” That opportunity came my way. We took it, had fun with it, enjoyed it and decided from time to time we’ll do more of it.

I’m glad you mentioned the video for “Anymore,” because I feel like that was one of the great videos from the 1990s.

“Anymore” was a great avenue for me personally because it opened up a lot of avenues. It was the first video that I’d ever done that had that much of a dramatic requirement to it. It was the first one I really had to act in. It also really, by accident, created a character that people cared about, the Mac Singleton character. And it spawned two more videos that told the rest of that story.

But the thing that is the closest to my heart about that particular video was it opened up an opportunity for me to get involved with a great group of people, the Disabled American Veterans Association. We actually shot that video in a veterans’ clinic in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and everybody with the exception of myself, and I think two or three other actors, were all either staff members or patients at that hospital.

We went back three weeks after we finished it and debuted it there. I never even looked at the screen. I just looked at the faces of the men and women in the audience. I saw the tears rolling down their cheeks, and I saw the emotional effect that it had, and it endeared me to this group. I thought, “This is a group of people that obviously needs a voice.” It got me involved with veterans and veterans’ issues. I got an opportunity to serve as the chairman and spokesperson for the Disabled American Veterans Association for three years. I traveled all over this country getting an opportunity to visit and make friends with people who, if you looked up the word “hero” in the dictionary, you would see their picture. Without a doubt, these are the honest-to-God real thing, and I just felt honored to be a part of that and to experience some very personal stories from the heart from some of these people who were also looking for somebody to tell their story.

I had an opportunity to testify before Congress about fund appropriation for better hospitals and better care for our veterans. Especially now, when we find so many men and women in harm’s way, regardless of whether you agree with the war, those people are over there serving, and they should be in our prayers and in our hearts with 100 percent of the support we can give them, 100 percent of the time. I’m very proud to be associated with that group. And the video for “Anymore” is the gateway that got that started for me.

Do you ever worry that your wild and rowdy music might overshadow your ballads and love songs?

You know, I don’t. Guys like Waylon Jennings, for example. Every time I think of the word “outlaw” in country music, I think of Waylon. Even though he had that side to him, he was never scared of doing a ballad. He was never scared of doing a love song. It was part of who he was. If you go back and listen to old, old Waylon Jennings albums, like live performances from when he was at J.D.’s [nightclub] in Phoenix, Arizona, there are a lot of ballads. A lot of love songs. He was never scared to get up and show that side of himself.

I’ve always looked at my career as having three distinct sides that make up what I refer to as the Travis Tritt triangle. There’s a side that is straight ahead country, like George Jones country. Songs like “Circus Leaving Town” on the new album or in the past, songs like “Here’s a Quarter” or even “Country Club.” That’s about as straight ahead country as you can get. And then there’s a side that is the love ballads. Songs like “Anymore,” “Tell Me I Was Dreaming,” “Foolish Pride,” “Best of Intentions.” And then there’s the side that is that rockin’ rebel side that makes up songs like “Put Some Drive in Your Country” or “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” or “Homesick.” All three of those things make up my career. If you take one side away, it’s not really me anymore. They are all very distinct sides, but yet they all make up a part of me.

Do you feel like an elder statesman these days?

This year is a milestone for me because July marked 15 years since I released the song “Country Club.” It’s really flown by. In some ways, I don’t feel any different. It’s like, “That can’t be right. Somebody better go back and check the birthday.” Because I feel as good as I did then. But you do look back over the history and — especially with a new album out called Honky Tonk History — you tend to look back over the history you’ve had. There’s no question about it: We’ve been around for a long time. I think that carries with it a certain amount of responsibility to continue to try to set the bar a little bit higher and continue to try and move forward. Sometimes that’s a tough thing to do, especially if you’ve been in the business for a long time.

But it’s still fun for me. I still consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world because I still do get the chance to do what I love to do for a living, and it doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of stopping — at least at this point, knock on wood. I’m very comfortable with being a person that’s had some experience and been around for a few years. If there’s anything I can do to offer any help or advice or direction to new people that I see coming on the scene, that’s a benefit, and it’s nice to be able to do that. It’s nice to be able to have people come to you and ask you for advice.

Being an elder statesman, if that’s the role I’m starting to play — and notice I said starting to play — then I accept it graciously. It’s a compliment to the fact that we’ve been able to hang in there through all the controversy and all the stuff that’s gone on for all these years. We’re still in there hanging in like a tick on a hound. We’re going to be around for a little while longer.

Craig Shelburne has been writing for since 2002. He is also a producer for CMT Edge, Concrete Country and Live @ CMT.