20 Questions With Trace Adkins

He Talks About Family, Answers Critics and Recalls the Worst Gig of His Life

Bigger than some hybrid cars, Trace Adkins is a formidable figure in any setting. And his career is enjoying new heights, thanks to the smash, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.” His new CD, Dangerous Man, debuted Tuesday (Aug. 15) and his current video, “Swing,” is on deck as his next big hit. He’ll also be back on the road as the headliner when this year’s CMT on Tour kicks off Oct. 5 in Jacksonville, Fla.

During his recent visit to the CMT offices, Adkins’ candidly answered fans’ questions about his family, his titillating videos and why he’ll never perform at another wedding reception.

Editor’s Note: CMT’s Top Ten Countdown: Trace Adkins premieres Friday (Aug. 18) at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

1. Do any of your daughters have an interest in music? With five daughters, one would think that at least one of them would be blessed with a beautiful voice.

The ones that I’ve heard sing — they can sing. They have pitch, but none of them have shown any interest in pursuing it beyond just singing in the car. So, so far so good. … I’ve been in this business long enough. It’s hard for a guy, but I think it’s harder for a female, so I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

2. With all the focus on the women in your videos, and being the father of five daughters, do you feel that society puts too much pressure on women to be perfect?

Well, yeah. Society puts pressure on us all to be as perfect as we can be and to always strive to a goal that is unrealistic — in all aspects of our life. You know, how successful we are, how we look. … I don’t think we should worry about it too much.

3. How does your wife, Rhonda, handle your videos with all the beautiful women all over you? And what do you have to do to be one of those women?

I don’t really have a hand in choosing the actor and actresses for the videos. I pretty much let the directors handle that sort of stuff. As far as how my wife feels about it, Rhonda was a publicist at Arista Records for about eight years before we got married. She knows how everything works. She knows what the protocol is, how the deal is. She’s ultra cool about it.

4. What was your most cherished memory from your childhood in Louisiana?

From my childhood? Wow, well, how do you pick one? It’s just really hard to pick just one memory. I had a great childhood … a really close family. Both sets of my grandparents lived in the same little town. My parents both grew up in that little town, and it was like one huge in family. … Springhill — population about 1,000 people. So I guess that would be my most cherished memory — growing up in that kind of environment. It was like a very safe cocoon that I grew up in.

5. On a Sunday morning when you are home with your family, do you have a sit-down breakfast with the family, or does everyone eat at their own time and just go about daily business?

Well, very seldom am I there for that Sunday morning breakfast these days. We’re usually finishing a show Saturday night and riding the bus home. I get there as quickly as I can, but sometimes I don’t make it. But that’s about the only meal a week that I’ll actually cook. And then force people to eat it. Just eggs and sausage and biscuits. Nothing really fancy at all.

6. Trace, you dedicated your CD, Dreamin’ Out Loud to your brother, Scott. What happened to him?

He was killed in a truck wreck. He wrecked his truck and it killed him when he was 21. He was a great, great, great kid. He was my first fan.

7. I am curious about why you never show your chest. Is it because of scars from your gunshot wound?

Too many scars. There’s a big ugly scar running from about my collarbone all the way to below my navel. It’s not attractive. Not this one.

8. Have you always had long hair, and would you ever cut your hair?

I had long hair up until, let’s see … when was that … ’89? Then I went back to work in the oilfields, and I thought I’d better cut it before I went back out onto the oil rig. So I did. Then I came up here [to Nashville] in ’92, and I haven’t cut my hair since. Would I? I don’t know. See this is an absolute zero maintenance ‘do. I can shampoo it, condition it, run a brush through it, let it dry, put it in a pony tail and I’m good to go. I will never take a blow dryer or anything like that with me on the road. So, if I cut my hair, it’s going to the GI buzz cut, and that’s ’cause that’s pretty low maintenance, too.

9. My husband is about your size and a Harley rider. Where do you get the cool T-shirts that you wear? I especially like the eagle ones.

I get so many T-shirts. A lot of people just send me shirts and just really cool stuff that I get from fans. And Rhonda finds a lot of that stuff. And my stylist, Lee Moore, he gets a lot of that stuff, too. A lot of those old vintage T-shirts and stuff. Which is really crazy, isn’t it? I mean, these days we’re paying 70 or 80 bucks for a T-shirt somebody’s already worn completely out. What’s up with that?

10. What is the worst place that you have performed at when you started out?

I played some really rough little beer joints and stuff. I think maybe my all-time worst gig was at a wedding reception. We played the song for the bride and groom to dance to, and the next song was going to be grandparents and the parents and all that. So, we started the second song and about half way through, grandma fell dead on the floor. And we were still playing, and finally, the father turned around and yelled, “Stop! For God’s sake, stop playing. My mother’s dead.”

And I looked at the guys and was like, “What do we do now? OK, let’s wait.” And they tried to revive her, bless her heart, and she’s dead. And after they hauled her away, we were all still standing there, because this is unprecedented. So we asked somebody, very politely, “Do you want us to continue to play?” And they’re like, “No, you’re done.”

And then the guys [in the band] go, “We gotta get paid.” I said, “What?” They said, “You’ve got to go ask for our money.” I said, “Why me?” “Because you’re the lead singer. Go get our money.”

I hated that! I was like, “Look, dude, I really hate to ask this, and if it was just me, I’d let it slide. But the guys …” That was a bad gig. He was fairly surly when he was giving us the money. That was the last reception we did.

11. Is there a classic country song you are dying to remake?

A classic I’d like to remake? No.

12. Do you think you will do a Christmas CD any time soon?

Yeah, I hope so. How soon, I don’t know. But it is something on my “to do” list. I do want to get around to doing that. It will be very traditional. I’m talking about so traditional that it’s going to be really organic, and all the songs that we record are going to be very, very old — like in the old English traditional sense. That’s how I want to do it. … Almost a Celtic, organic sounding thing. That’s how I want to do it.

I’m just really, really old school. And when I think about Christmas, [it's] like A Christmas Carol. That’s the period of time that I think Christmas was the best. It was very simple and it wasn’t so commercialized. So that’s the kind of music I want to do — from that time period.

13. Do you have a say in the final cut of your video, or do you leave it to the behind-the-scenes people?

I usually just leave it up to the directors. They’re better at that stuff than I am. They know what they’re doing. They don’t need me in there holding their hand or nitpicking. But I always get a chance to look at it before it’s given to CMT, and if there’s something I absolutely don’t like, I’ll ask them to take it out. It hardly ever happens.

14. What was your favorite video to shoot — and why? My personal favorite would have to be “Arlington.”

Yeah, that was a very humbling, overwhelming experience, just to be there and taking part in laying the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. That was the most nervous I’ve ever been doing a video because it was so formal and respectful and reverent. I was afraid I was going to fall down the steps or mess it up somehow. I was terrified before we did it. But as far as the most fun, standing on those rocks just up north of San Diego when we did the video for “The Rest of Mine” — which was a love song and somber and all that. But I was standing out on those rocks, and waves were crashing up over me. That was fun.

15. Do you play other instruments in addition to the guitar? If not, is there another instrument you would like to play?

I don’t even play that one very good. When I cut my finger off, they put it back like this. [He shows how the little finger on his left hand is frozen at a 90-degree angle]. There are a lot of chords that I just simply can’t make any more. I simply can’t reach up the neck with it. So I do the best I can, but I’m not a virtuoso at all. No, I can’t play anything else. A few chords on the piano. And I wish I could play the piano, but with that finger, I can’t do it. Piano would be an instrument that I would really want to play well.

16. You do so many great, hot songs like “Scream,” “Baby I’m Home,” “One of Those Nights,” “Then Came the Night,” etc. Why don’t you release those as singles with videos? Many of us would argue that they are the heart of why we find you so irresistible!

I’d like to do some videos for those. The songs that come out as singles — those choices are not just solely made by me. Could they be? Sure. I could absolutely put my foot down and insist this song is going to be a single. But I don’t want to do that. The decisions about singles are made by committee. And I’m a part of that. I sit down with the promotion staff and the folks at Capitol Records and my management company, and we all get together and discuss all this stuff.

I have the ultimate veto power, I guess you could say. But I don’t ever exercise it. And for whatever reason, some of those songs have just not been chosen as singles. I think [it's] because some people are a little afraid of them because they’re pretty nasty — and that’s why I record them. But that’s also why they’re never going to be singles.

17. My wife is totally in love with you. Have you ever had other husbands come up and thank you for your videos? I think they must be an aphrodisiac, because after she watches one, she always comes to bed and asks if I “wanna.” Keep up the good work!

I don’t need that kind of pressure! (laughs). But I’ve had a lot of guys come up and tell me, “Dude, thanks for that Badonkadonk video” or “Hot Mama” or “Chrome” or whatever. So I get a lot of guys that thank me for those. And my performance — like for the ACM awards in Vegas — all the crew guys gave me a round of applause. I mean, like 50 of them just standing back there applauding. And that’s the first time that ever happened. But the other reason, uh, you’re on your own there, buddy.

18. What are your thoughts on the feminists that dislike your videos such as “Hot Mama” and “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”?

Whatever, you know. That is so crazy to me. … I almost take it as an insult to my intelligence. Do they think that I am so incredibly stupid to do something to exploit women when I am the father of five beautiful daughters? I mean, c’mon. Do you think I would do that?

19. Why don’t you go back to songs you started out with instead of trying to have naked girls and silly stuff? I used to love your songs, and now I can’t stand some of them. You are really a good artist. Just do some good old honky-tonk stuff.

You know what? If you go back and listen to my first album, what do you think “I Left Something Turned On at Home” was about? Moron. Next question.

20. What does “slap your grandma” have to do with hot asses anyway? I’d just like to know!

You know, so many people take offense at that line, and it’s just an old Southern expression. All it means is that this woman is so ridiculously hot, and I am so incredibly attracted to her, that it would make me do the unthinkable — which would be slap my grandma, which is the last thing I would ever do. If someone was holding a gun to my head, I wouldn’t slap my grandma. And it’s just a little phrase that’s meant to explain just how completely ridiculous this thing is.

For people to take that literally, it just amazes me. And it kind of goes back to that question you asked me a while ago about people taking offense at some of the songs that I do. … I’ve been doing that stuff for years, and nobody hates it more than my mama.

I grew up going to church every time the doors were open. I know what’s right. I just don’t always do right. And you don’t, either. But stop holding me to a higher standard than you hold yourself. I’m just saying things out loud that you won’t say out loud — but you think them. So give me a medal for bravery, and go about your way.