Trace Adkins: CMT Hot 20 Countdown Interview

Thankful for His Past Success, He Contemplates the Future

Trace Adkins never has a problem telling anyone what he thinks. It’s a quality that endears him to fans and gains the respect of other country artists and non-music celebrities.

A case in point is his recent win on NBC’s All-Star Celebrity Apprentice, where his tenacity helped him raise more than $1.5 million for the American Red Cross. But the Louisiana native is more than a celebrity. He’s an artist with formidable talent, yet he has a firm grip on reality.

In a recent interview with CMT Hot 20 Countdown producer Terry Bumgarner, he talked about his new album, Love Will. As the conversation progressed, Adkins displayed a sense of genuine gratitude for the success he’s had, but he was also candid in emphasizing that he’s not sure where his career is going.

As you release this album, how are you a different artist now than you were back when your first one was coming out?

Adkins: Well, let me count the ways. That’s a long, long list of how I’m different now. First of all, my expectations are much different now. When I released an album back then I was livin’ in a little bit of a dream world, my first album came and went platinum and I was like this is gonna be easy. And it took me a long time to hit that lick again — have one come out and go platinum or double platinum. My expectations are just not what they used to be to start with. Much more realistic now.

Nobody’s expectations should be what they were before.

That’s right. The world has changed — from stem to stern. I mean, it’s not just the music business. It’s everywhere.

On the positive side, you’ve built a track record. You’ve got a fan base and all these things that give you the confidence that you know what you’re doing and that people like your work. That must take away some of the pressure so you can just focus on music.

I have a number that I pretty much know almost sell a minimum of that many units. And anything past that is gravy. And I know that I have a loyal fan base that are going to turn out and move that many units. They just like what I do, and they trust me at this point. They know that I know what they like to hear me do, and they know they’re gonna get that from me. This is the first time that I’ve done an album that I thought had any kind of a theme to it. This one doesn’t really have a theme. It’s just that all the songs are love songs, you know. That, to me, fit my definition of what a love song is.

That’s a pretty wide range.

Yeah, because “Badonkadonk” is a love song, so you have to keep that in mind with me right off the bat there. Just keep in mind that I classify “Badonkadonk” as a love song so … (laughs)

But it is a collection in that they’ve all got the same subject matter.

Really, all I’m saying with this album, where in the past I’ve tried to really have that roller coaster ride and have good ol’ boy songs and small-town-where-I’m-from songs and maybe a political slanted song or something like that or a redneck anthem. Those kinds of things, that’s not on this record. That’s all I’m saying. Those songs are not on this record.

Does that kind of free you up a little bit — to not be placed in a category?

Well, what it did was, it freed me up … and I don’t know what this says about where my head’s been in the last year and a-half or so, but it freed me up to put my favorite songs on this disc. There was one song that I recorded — I’m not gonna tell you what it was — but there was one song that I recorded, and it broke my heart that I didn’t get to put it on this record because I thought it was one of the funniest songs that I’ve ever recorded. And I actually considered it a love song, but it was just too goofy for everybody else. … But that’s the only one that I regretted not being able to put on here. But I’ll put it on something else. It’s just a funny, funny song. It didn’t fit on this record. But having this themed, kind of love-themed album, freed me up to put some songs on there that, to put more love songs on there than I otherwise would have and maybe to expose myself a little bit and let everybody see that I’m just a total sap, and I’m a sucker for a love song.

People look at you and go, “Oh, he’s a big tough guy, and what does he know about love? What does he care about love?” Obviously, you’ve been thinking about it lately.

Yeah, well, you know, I’ve been blessed in this life to have been loved. You can love and love and love and love and love and love, but you gotta be loved, you know? And I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been loved several times.

Do you find as you get older, that these sorts of things mean more to you now than they did when you were a young guy?

Of course, now you’re goin’ too deep, Terry. You’re goin’ too deep. … Now you’re starting to get into that area where a man starts to face his mortality and he starts to realize what’s really important in his life and what’s bullshit. (laughs)

Which is most of it.

Yeah, most everything else is all bullshit. Yeah, most of it is.

Do you feel any different than you did when you put out the last album or the one before that?

It depends on how honest she [Adkins’ publicist] wants me to be here today as to why I feel about this record and what’s different about it. … Well, I ain’t gonna give you the happy honest version. I mean, I’m a realist. I look at this career that I’ve had, and it’s been fantastic. It’s been more than I ever could have dreamed or hoped for or wished for. And I may be getting to the end of my competitive run at radio. You what I’m sayin’? And this may be it. … If they play this one, maybe I’ll stick around a little while.

I’m not trying to threaten anybody or anything like that. I’m just saying we all have our day. And when it comes to an end, you have to have the grace and the dignity to recognize, it’s time — it’s time to move on, maybe go do something else. I think I’m at that record, you know? I’m just layin’ it out there, dude, I’m not trying to dodge or run from anything, I’m prepared for it, I’m ready for it. It doesn’t terrify me. It doesn’t scare me. I’ll just start on another chapter.

I have a Christmas record coming out this year. … Seventeen years now, I’ve had a record deal. This is the first Christmas record I’ve ever made, and I am so proud of this Christmas record, probably more proud of this than anything that I’ve possibly ever done with the exception of some of those really deep, profound military songs that pay tribute to heroes. But other than that, I think, for my money, this record has more depth than anything — and it’s a Christmas record. I love this record.

But just getting back to the Love Will record, yeah, we’ll see. ’Cause there’s no way, there is no possible way for me to set up a record better than I set this one up. Going to the finals on Celebrity Apprentice and releasing the record the week of the finale, I can’t set it up any better than that. So … if they play the record, great. If they don’t, I’m probably done.

But they may play it over and over and over.

And they may not play it at all.

And you know better than I do, a hit can come out of anywhere.

Yeah, I know that, and I think there’s five or six hits on this record. I’m not saying that I put out some kind of inferior product. This is as good as I can possibly do. And I’ve got songs on this record that some people listen to and go, “Dude, that doesn’t even sound like you.” And I was like, “Well, I thought that song kind of asked for a pop, thinner sounding vocal, and that’s the way I sang it.” And I did some falsetto stuff on here, and people were like, “Whoa!” And I was like, “Man, I’ve been doing that for years. I just don’t put it on records very often, but it’s no secret that I can do that.” And so, I mean, I went to the mat on this one. I didn’t hold anything back. I brought my big guns to bare on this record, and we’ll see what happens.