Q&A with Trace Adkins on His Whirlwind Year of Success in 2008

Trace Adkins is winding up his highest profile year ever, with a new movie, a 5-year Opry anniversary and his 10th album . . . his best yet.

Trace Adkins recently sat down with CW’s David Scarlett to talk about the whirlwind year he’s had in 2008—including a runner-up appearance on The Celebrity Apprentice, a well-received book (A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions of a Freethinking Roughneck), a featured role in the political spoof movie An American Carol, a multi-week No. 1 with “You’re Gonna Miss This,” and a great new album called X, his 10th. Just a few days back from his recent USO trip to the Middle East, here's part of what Trace had to say.

CW
Congrats on your 5-year Opry anniversary. How did it feel different walking in the artists’ entrance the first time after you were a member, compared to all the times when you were a guest?
TA
Well, yeah . . . it feels different now. I can still remember when I was going out there as a guest. I always felt welcome . . . they always went out of their way to make me feel at home. But now, it’s just a little different vibe. There’s really that sense of belonging when I go there now. I’m supposed to be here. This is my job. I’m supposed to be here and I’m supposed to show up and do the best I can. And I’m representing something that’s bigger than myself or my career. I have a responsibility to the Grand Ole Opry that I feel. So, along with that sense of belonging, there’s also that sense of responsibility that goes along with it, too. I don’t have a negative memory about the Grand Ole Opry. I don’t know how many times I’ve played it or how many times I’ve been there, but I’ve never been out there when I left with a negative vibe. It’s always been a positive experience for me.
CW
I love the new record. Is it possible for you to sing “All I Ask For Anymore” without thinking of your own kids? It’s one of my two or three favorites on the CD.
TA
Mine, too. What a great song, you know? I had to back the label down at gunpoint because they wanted that to be the first single. And I said, “We can’t do that. I’m sorry, I’m gonna have to pull rank on you here and veto that. We can’t come from ‘You’re Gonna Miss This’ to that. It’s the same sentiment. We can’t do that. Gotta have a little space.’ So we’ll probably go a couple singles into it and then come with that one.
CW
There seem to be more songs on this record than on others that have those spiritual references . . . was that by design . . . or just that the songs came in and you liked them?
TA
Yeah, I just liked the songs. No, it wasn’t by design. As a matter of fact, when we got to the point where . . . I don’t know how many we have on the record now that have that reference . . . three probably . . . it was at that point that I said to Frank, “That’s it. Can’t do any more songs like that on this record. We’ ve got that covered.” And that’s the first time I’ve ever really made a point like that on a record. Usually I just let it be what it is. And whatever I like and whatever I want to cut, I cut. This time it got to that point where, “Ok, that’s enough of that.”
CW
Let’s talk about “I Can’t Outrun You” again. As much as I love the other stuff on this record, I’m not talkin’ so much about the uptempo stuff. I love it, but this [songs like “I Can’t Outrun You] is the stuff I’m drawn to.
TA
Me, too.
CW
I gave that advance to one of my female co-workers about a week ago and said, “Listen to cut 9 [‘I Can’t Outrun You’] when you get a chance.” She came back an hour later, and just looked at me and said, “Oh my God!” She feels, as I do, that it’s just a hugely powerful performance and song. I can’t imagine 3 or 4 other people in town who could’ve pulled something like that off. Just a great performance. I wanted to pass on her reaction to you.
TA
Well, thanks. That was one of the things I said to Frank when we did that . . . and I wasn’t tryin’ to make a point or slam anybody or anything like that, but I’m not afraid to let my vocal be the main instrument in a song. Not scared of that. I’ll sing a capella. I’m not afraid of that. I don’t have to have crutches and gadgets and tools and all that kind of stuff.
As a matter of fact, I’ve got a video of us doin’ that song in the studio. Capitol doesn’t even know anything about it. Frank [Rogers, producer] and I knew what we were gonna do. We saved that song for the very last song of that tracking session, after two days of trackin’ sessions. We saved that for last. All the other pickers left and we kept Gordon [Mote, keyboard player]. I called a video guy and he came on down in about an hour.
We set everything up. Put Gordon’s piano right in the middle of the tracking room, just a grand piano. I got in the vocal booth. And we started rollin’ tape. And the video guy just kinda made his way around and shot everything. We went through the song, probably four or five times, just me and Gordon. He shot every bit of it. And that’s what’s on that record. It was done live. It was done just like that. I don’t go back in at a later date and overdub.
CW
That would’ve been a challenge anyway with the tempo of just you and a piano . . . and the changes in rhythm . . . you have to do it together don’t you?
TA
You have to almost. Because the song has two different patterns in it. It goes from a 6/8 to whatever. It’s just a feel thing and you both have to be right together on it. The cello came in later on it.
CW
Have you done that song live?
TA
No. I think it would have to depend on the venue. It would be tough in an arena type setting to keep their attention. And it is one of those songs that . . . it’s a Bluebird moment. [the Bluebird is a legendary Nashville listening room, where quiet respect from the audience is strongly encouraged].
But this song to me, the lyric of this song . . . I would be offended if I was doin’ it and people weren’t payin’ attention to the lyric. It’s just one of those songs. I owe it that kind of respect. I’m not gonna subject it to a situation where people aren’t gonna listen to it. That’s disrespectful to the song, and I won’t do it.
CW
Were you there when the choir added it’s part to “Till the Last Shot’s Fired”?
TA
No, Frank went to West Point and did that. That’s the Cadet Choir at West Point. I didn’t get to go. I forget what I was doin’ that night. I had a television thing I had to do. I was committed to do this thing. And I wanted so badly to go up there and do that. And didn’t get to. But Frank put ‘em on the phone that night while he held his phone up and let me hear ‘em sing. And then he put the phone to the mic and let me address the choir. I just told ‘em it gave me chills and that I hated that I wasn’t there. I promised ‘em that I would come and meet ‘em. I haven’t don’t that yet, but I’m goin’ to. It was just a heavy moment.
I don’t know how we’re gonna get the word out that that’s who that is on that song. I don’t want people thinkin’ it’s just a choir. That is the West Point Cadet choir.
CW
The lyrics struck a really nice balance between doin’ a job that needs to be done, but not necessarily liking it. We all want to come home . . . after the job’s done.
TA
Yeah, yeah. What I really like about it is that it asks the question, what if? What if soldiers are in this type of purgatory and they don’t get to go home until the last shot’s fired. They don’t get to rest. Their spirit is restless until the last shot’s fired. It just asks that question. Not trying to say that that’s how it is, it just asks the question. Just think about it. What if? And if that were true, would we be as apt to go to war if we knew that? I think the answer’s probably no.

For more on Trace Adkins, check out the Dec. 1, 2008 issue of Country Weekly magazine.

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