Tracy Lawrence first arrived on the Country Music scene in 1991 with his chart-topping debut single “Sticks and Stones. He then went on to become one of the most popular male Country artists of the nineties with modern standards such as “Alibis,” “Can’t Break it to My Heart,” and “Time Marches On.” In 2007, Lawrence won his first CMA and ACM Awards with his number one hit “Find Out Who Your Friends Are,” a collaboration with Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, which took Vocal Event of the Year honors at both the CMAs and ACMs. Now Tracy Lawrence is back with a toe-tapping new single “Stop Drop and Roll,” and a new album scheduled for release later this year.
In addition, Lawrence is on board as one of the over fifty special guests set to join the legendary George Jones at his final Nashville concert at Bridgestone Arena on November 22. Needless to say, I felt quite privileged to be able to sit down with the talented Country star at Country Radio Seminar as he chatted about his past career accomplished as well as his current musical projects.
Let’s talk about some of your new music. What can you tell us about your new single “Stop Drop and Roll”?
The new single is the first full production record that I’ve had in about five years. The album is a little bit more progressive than anything I’ve done in the past – much more contemporary. The new single is kind of a sassy love song. It’s just about having fun with your partner and rolling around in the hay, I guess. It’s an up-tempo, really edgy kind of a fun contemporary thing. So far it’s doing really well, starting to make some inroads on the charts. Looking forward to getting it released out to mainstream radio in March, so we’re clipping along.
How does your new record Headlights, Taillights and Rodeos fit in with your previous efforts? In what ways is it similar or different?
You know, I really changed my production approach. I wanted it to be edgier. We wanted it to be, like I said, more contemporary with what’s going on on the charts. I chose some different musicians in the studio this time. Used Kenny Greenburg on lead guitar that I hadn’t used the past. The whole album is much more guitar-based. Got a great drummer that I’ve never worked with before, a guy named Nir Z that actually played on the first couple John Mayer records – a guy from New York who’s actually originally from Israel, but he had been in New York for a long time, just now integrating into Nashville. It really brought a fresh sound to my music that I’ve never had before. It’s very urban rock – a much different foundation than what I’ve had in the past. There’s no steel guitar on this album. It’s got some fiddle on it, but it’s definitely more rockin’ than anything, as far as an entire compilation, than anything I’ve done in the past. I thought I’d grow a little bit. It’s good to challenge yourself.
Do you have a favorite song or lyric on this album?
There’s several on it. I’ve challenged myself to do things that were more range-y, more dynamic. There’s a lot more modulations and things on this album. I really picked some higher keys from what I typically do. I really wanted to grow as an artist so there’s a lot of things that are really different. A couple of really big power ballads that I love. There’s a song called “Good Girl” that’s just really powerful emotional, just range-y. And I love power ballads like that. I love things that I can really sink my teeth into and sing really hard. But that’s just overall. There’s not really any one thing that stands out. I think overall as a compilation, it’s just really powerful.
I see one milestone you’ve reached is the twenty-year anniversary of your hit “Alibis.” How would you describe what that song has meant for your career?
You know, it was a big cornerstone for my career. It was the lead single off my second album, and it’s just hard to believe that’s been that long. Twenty years has gone by really fast, and I’ve seen the music industry change a lot. I think that song still stands up. I think it stands the test of time. It’s still getting a lot of radio play around the country, and it’s still a fan favorite as far as the live show when I play it every night. It gets just a huge response every night.
One recent hit of yours that just about everybody knows is “Find Out Who Your Friends Are.” How did it feel to win the Vocal Event of the Year awards from the ACM and CMA?
Very gratifying. That was my first solo on my own record label, something I had wanted to do for a long time. It was quite challenging. We hit some obstacles along the way, and I hadn’t really had a lot of chart success in the last several years, so to come out with a new label and something that was my very own, and to be able to take a record all the way to the top of the charts and to win a CMA and an ACM off of it was very gratifying for me. It was a wonderful time. Of all the things I’ve had happen to me in my career, to me it’s one of my proudest achievements.
Do you feel like you have a signature song?
I think I’ve got a few. I think “Time Marches On” is definitely one of those signature songs. “Paint Me a Birmingham” was a signature song. “Alibis,” “Sticks and Stones”… There’s been a handful of them that I really think that if I ever did a show without doing those songs, people would get very upset.
Would you like to talk about some of the changes and shifts that you’ve observed in the country music industry in your years as a recording artist?
Everything’s different now than what it was twenty years ago, from the way that we make records with the technology in the studios, and then we were still making records on tape back then. I was at the end of the vinyl era just as we were moving into cassettes and really right before CDs were just really breaking ground. They were just moving to CDs, so I was on the front end of that, and now we live in a digital world where everything we record goes to a hard drive and you can download music. Even the way the distribute records; the physical distribution is much more streamlined now than it’s ever been before. I think it’s an exciting time from the business standpoint because we have so many great tools to be able to reach our fans, and to be able to get our music in their hands. But the labels years ago had a stronghold on us because we didn’t have the tools and resources to do the things that we have now, so I think we live in a very exciting time.
What artists do you enjoy listening to nowadays?
I’m a big Jason Aldean fan. I still like a lot of the old traditional country. I’ve been digging Eric Church’s new record – it’s one that I listen to quite a bit. Love Miranda’s new stuff. Actually her single that’s out right now, “Mama’s Broken Heart,” is one of my favorite current things that’s out on the radio. I checked out the lyric video the other day. I think they did a great job with it. I just think it’s very well written, and I love her style. I’m a big fan of hers.
Is there anything you’d like to say to fans who might be discovering your music for the first time?
Anybody who’s getting turned on by some of the new stuff you hear out there, make sure you go back and check out the old stuff. There’s an amazing history of music. I came from the school where I tried to make records that you could plug in and listen to from top to bottom. A lot of people in this young generation are buying individual songs at a time, but don’t miss the whole relevance of plugging an album in and hearing what the artist is trying to convey, so go back and find those old records and kind of get into our heads a little bit.