Randy Travis is a skilled catfish cook who loves horses and ice cream are a few details people learned about the singer Monday when the music community gathered at the Country Music Hall of Fame to view his new documentary “More Life.”
Those personal morsels came before the showing as friends stood around sharing memories.
“More Life” does a deep dive into Travis’ life that starts in 2012 with the last footage of him singing his hits, including “Deeper Than the Holler,” “Diggin’ Up Bones” and “Three Wooden Crosses” before his 2013 debilitating stroke. The movie hopscotches between the past and present to weave the heartbreaking, inspirational story that’s become his life.
“What he’s achieving right now goes way beyond a career,” said Shaun Silva, who produced “More Life.” “This is the will and strength of a man to get better.”
Viewers meet Travis’ longtime producer Kyle Lehning and former Warner Music Nashville A&R executive Martha Sharp who gave him a record deal.
“When we made the first album, neither of us knew we were going to sell 5 million albums,” Lehning said. “Forty thousand was my target.”
Lehning also shared personal stories. The producer likened him to old western television stars with his quick draw gun skills and recalled how someone tossed a cell phone in the air, and Travis shot a hole in it.
The singer likes pop music less than cell phones. Lehning said when Travis discovered he made the Top 5 on an all-genre music chart, he wanted his song removed. He thought the chart was for pop songs, but when Travis realized it recognized all types of music, he was okay with it.
“Randy Travis would have rather been a traditional country failure than he would have been a success in any other kind of music,” Lehning said.
In the documentary, Travis talked about the therapeutic qualities of his ranch and the joy he finds in riding and training horses. Footage is included from the party where Warner Music Nashville gifted him a horse following a chart success.
“If you look at this music business, it starts with a song,” Travis said. “You’re not going to succeed until you have the caliber of a song that touches people.”
The filming process started about a decade ago when Silva began recording footage of Travis for a made-for-tv music special. Recording halted when Travis suffered his stroke. Because Silva was working on the special, he had cataloged hours of performance and interview recordings in the months leading up to the stroke. Travis’ last unimpaired moments were captured and shared in “More Life.”
The documentary also follows his fight back to health. His wife, Mary Travis, shares that doctors told her to turn off life support. When she asked Travis about it, she said a single tear slid down his face, and he squeezed her hand. She knew he wanted to keep fighting. She also revealed the emotional moment he got back on his horse following his release from the hospital.
“He’s stubborn,” she said. “I don’t know if you know that about him.”
In 2021, Travis celebrated 35 years of mainstream success and 35 years as a Grand Ole Opry member. He was named a CMT Artist of a Lifetime and with 16 million likes and 2.5 million followers, country radio dubbed him the country king of TikTok.
“It went from a TV music special to a documentary about the toughest man I’ve ever met in my life,” Silva said. “That’s the story.”
Distribution for “More Life” will be announced in the coming months.