Editor’s note: Trace Adkins talk about the behind-the-scenes work on his “Muddy Water” video in CMT.com’s Video Replay.
Simply put, Trace Adkins is a hardworking man. He began the year by vying against other celebrities in Donald Trump’s 12-week reality TV series, The Celebrity Apprentice, where his second place finish raised thousands of dollars for the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network in its mission to educate the public and fund research on food allergies.
He then traded the TV screen for the big screen to star in his first feature film, An American Carol. Nevertheless, he found time to perform for a USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour of the Persian Golf, sing the national anthem at the GOP convention, tour with Alan Jackson … and the list continues.
Recently, he nabbed multiple CMA nominations in song, single and video of the year categories for No. 1 hit, “You’re Gonna Miss This.” Since that time, he’s released two more singles, powerful ballads, “Muddy Water,” and his current, “I Can’t Outrun You,” that are featured on his 10th album, X (Ten), due out Tuesday (Nov. 25).
But the road to here hasn’t always been easy. In a recent conversation with CMT.com, he discusses drawing energy from the breakup of his first marriage, never forgetting where he came from and why he believes he’s flourished in the country music business for well over a decade.
CMT: You started in this business back in ’96. Did you ever think, sitting here 12 years later, you’d already be finished with your 10th album?
Probably not. If somebody had forced me to honestly answer that question in ’96, I probably would have said no because the odds are against it. I don’t know if there’s ever been research done on this question, but if you look back and took all the people that have ever gotten a record deal, what is the percentage of those people that have actually made it to 10 albums? I don’t think that number would be very high.
What would you attribute this to?
Determination. I just wouldn’t give up. Even when things looked pretty bleak at times, I didn’t want to do anything else. I wanted to do this.
The first single off the album, “Muddy Water,” is so powerful, it’s almost as though you’re witnessing a baptism just by listening. What was your first reaction when you first heard the song?
That has haunted me — because it just spoke to me. I related to it. That’s the way my life is. To me, it just kind of said, “This is how I was raised.” The first kind of music that I sang was gospel music. I sang bass in a gospel quartet before I began singing in honky-tonks because that was the first door that opened for me, and this was my way of saying I haven’t forgotten that. I know where I come from, and it’s still very important to me. I don’t want that to be lost — and also to say to my mother that the way I turned out’s not her fault.
We’ve all at one time — or a lot of us anyway — have been that prodigal that strayed and went down a different road that led us to a bad place, but that’s what this song says. There’s a place for us to go back to. It’s still there.
You chose actor Stephen Baldwin for the main character in this video. Why him?
When I recorded this song, I thought about Stephen. I thought if this was ever a single, which I didn’t think it would be, by the way … we’re gonna do a video for this because Stephen would be perfect because this song mirrors his life, too, and the road that his life has taken — where you went astray and came back. And the work that he does now and his ministry and all that stuff, I knew that he would like this song. So I sent it to him, and it seemed like providence when I said, “This is the only week I have available to do this video,” and he looked at his calendar and said, “That’s the only week that I could do it.” Yeah, it was meant to be.
The new single, “I Can’t Outrun You,” is very haunting, and I know a lot of people will be able to relate because it talks about not being able to outrun that past love. It’s always there — the ghost.
Right. I made a statement one time at the very beginning of my career, and I said that when I sing a song about heartache, I’m not singing about somebody giving back my senior ring. I’m talking about it from the most devastating, serious point of view. I’ve been through just a horrendous divorce [from his first wife], and I can say this without fear of upsetting my [current] wife. She knows I love her, and everything’s cool. But when my first wife and I got divorced, I was devastated. I mean, I was heartbroken. I mean totally, and I didn’t ever think I’d get past it, really. I mean, there were days when I didn’t think I was simply going to live through that heartache. It manifested itself into physical pain. I could feel it. It hurt that bad, and I just couldn’t get away from it. So when I recorded this song, I just went back there in my head and what that felt like. That’s where this song comes from.
A new song off the album, “Til the Last Shot’s Fired,” is a powerful tribute to the military with lines: “Say a prayer for peace for our daughters and our sons/Set our spirits free, let us lay down our guns/Sweet Mother Mary, we’re so tired/But we can’t come home til the last shot’s fired.” Talk a little bit about this song.
Here again, and I say “again” because “Arlington” was written from the perspective of a soldier that was dead, and this song, too, is written from the same perspective. But this song asked the question, “What if?” What if soldiers are in this kind of — I don’t want to say purgatory — but that’s kind of what it is. What if these soldiers are in a place where they can’t rest until the last shot’s fired, until war doesn’t exist? What if only then they can find peace? I think if we knew that, and if that were true, there probably wouldn’t be wars anymore. So I thought that was a real unique way of looking at it. And it pays tribute to soldiers but, at the same time, asks that question.
I’ve probably heard that song 50 times, and every time I hear it, it still gives me goose bumps on that last a cappella chorus.
You also have songs that are carefree and upbeat like “Sweet,” “Marry for Money” and “Hillbilly Rich.” I can see any number of these in a set alongside “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” or “Swing.”
It’s just fun stuff. You have to try to balance these records. I try to go deep on some, but you’ve got to do some that are just mindless — just stuff you can listen to and turn it up loud and drive fast and just have fun with it and smile and sing along and laugh. You’ve got to have that stuff.