Trace Adkins is leaving his longtime label home, Capitol Nashville, to join Show Dog-Universal, a company headed by Toby Keith. Adkins and Keith signed the contract during a Wednesday afternoon (Jan. 13) press conference at BMI's offices on Nashville's Music Row.
The announcement was made on Adkins' 48th birthday. The artists, label executives and other members of the music industry celebrated the day with a birthday cake and sang him an earnest but ragged version of "Happy Birthday."
Adkins' exit from Capitol Nashville came as a major surprise to Nashville insiders. He has recorded for the label throughout his career and charted his first singles, "There's a Girl in Texas" and "Every Light in the House," in 1996. His first No. 1 came in 1997 with "(This Ain't) No Thinkin' Thing." His No. 1 singles also include "Ladies Love Country Boys" and "You're Gonna Miss This." He has recorded 10 albums, including two greatest hits compilations. His latest album, X (Ten), was released in 2008.
Adkins said he was drawn to working with Keith after watching him perform during their America's Toughest tour in 2009. He said when Keith came offstage, he looked like "an 12-year-old on Christmas morning. ... I knew he wasn't acting because he's not that good an actor. I said to myself, 'I want some of that.'"
Keith launched Show Dog Nashville in 2005 after recording for several imprints, including Mercury, Polydor, A&M and DreamWorks. In December, Keith announced Show Dog's merger with the Universal South label to become Show Dog-Universal Music. Keith will serve as CEO of the new label, and Universal South executive Mark Wright will become president.
"I'm excited and invigorated by this merger and by the energy I've felt since I've been talking to these guys," Adkins said.
Universal South's big contribution to the merger, Keith and Wright agreed, was to bring in an A&R department. The merger involved the loss of two staffers from Show Dog and six or seven from Universal South.
In addition to Keith, the artists involved in the merger include Show Dog's Carter's Chord, Mica Roberts, Mac McAnally and Trailer Choir. They will be combined on the roster with Univeral South's Randy Houser, Phil Vassar, Joe Nichols, Jonathan Singleton & the Grove, the Eli Young Band, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Baylie Brown and Ashley Ray.
Keith said the merged label will release albums this year from Trailer Choir, Carter's Chord, Jonathan Singleton & the Grove and one other artist (possibly Adkins). He characterized the new music he's heard from Adkins as having "a lot of attitude, a lot of smile, a lot of edge."
Wright, who's had a long and successful career as a songwriter and producer, was high in his praise for both Adkins and Keith.
"There are a lot of artist who get in and want to play it totally safe," he said. "But these guys swing for the fence."