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Travis Tritt: Rebel With a Cause (2000)

How love tamed Travis Tritt’s wild heart, but not his rowdy soul.

Originally published in the Oct. 17, 2000 issue of Country Weekly featuring Travis on the cover. This story is presented here in its entirety.

Sex, drugs and rock-n-country. That was Travis Tritt’s rowdy, party-time motto when he first hit the charts with “Country Club” back in 1989.

“Living up to my image was never tough,” reveals Travis, “because that’s who I was. I was a rowdy, outlaw, hell-bent-for-leather guy. I’d made my mind up—I was a bachelor for life!”

Then he met the woman who unmade his mind. “I’d tried marriage twice and figured I wasn’t very good at it,” he admits. “Marty Stuart and I even had a ‘pep talk’ about it. We agreed, We’re better off staying single. “ Then I met Theresa—which completely blindsided me.

Travis and Theresa walk hand in hand through a covered bridge on their 75-acre farm in Hiram, Ga., northwest of Atlanta. After three and a half years of marriage, the love-struck Travis can still recall exactly when he met his beautiful wife. “It was February 8, 1995,” he says, “the night before my birthday. Marty had just shot a video with all these beautiful girls in it. Afterwards we were celebrating my birthday at a Nashville restaurant.

There were probably 14 gorgeous women at our table—and Marty and I were sitting next to each other, not paying any attention to anybody else. We were talking about guitars, new Cadillacs, music. “People looking at us probably thought we were crazy—or gay!” He laughs. “But that’s because we’d both sworn off marriage and were just out having a good time.”

That’s when Travis noticed Theresa. “I saw a sincere sweetness in her that stuck out from all the women I had ever met,” he recalls. They started talking. And after the evening’s revelry wound down, she drove him to his hotel—and they kept talking.

“I was no dummy,” Travis declares. “I got her phone number and started calling her. “The phone calls turned into Travis spending time with Theresa every time he came to Nashville for business. “Then it turned into me flying her to Atlanta when I was home,” he confesses. “From that point, I moved her here to Georgia. He and Theresa both smile. “And I haven’t let her gosince.”

Casting a loving glance toward her husband, Theresa adds, “Travis and I are best friends. We do everything together. People ask us, ‘How can you two spend that much time together? Don’t youget sick of each other?’ But we don’t. We’re buddies.”

Travis’ wedded bliss is a sharp contrast to his wild life 10 years ago. He looks up at the overcast sky and reflects on his old lifestyle. “I was performing in some pretty rough places back then,” he says after a pause. “Cocaine flowed like wine. It was nothing for people to come up to me, shake hands and put a gram in my hand. I got into cocaine because of the energy level it gave me.”

Not long after he scored his first No. 1, he faced a major dilemma. “I knew if I kept doing drugs, somebody was going to find out,” he remembers. “I didn’t want to be an embarrassment to the people who had helped me. So I decided, ‘I’m not going to do that anymore.’”

That was a good decision. But he followed it with a bad one—to replace the drugs with groupies. “The sex was really haphazard, with no thought into it and very little emotion,” he confesses with frankness. “I went through about five years of that lifestyle and eventually realized, ‘I’m having No. 1 records, multi-platinum albums, selling out every concert, sleeping with beautiful women—and my life is still not fulfilling.’”

So Travis, in search of something deeper, turned off the switch on his promiscuous lifestyle and never looked back. “Fortunately,” he adds, “I made that decision about eight months before I met Theresa.” With Theresa, Travis says, he found the love he’d always been missing.

Now a father to daughter Tyler, two, and son Tristan, one, he has a completely new outlook on life. “It scares me to think my son or my daughter—even at 25 years old—would be living the partying lifestyle I led in my early days,” he sighs, tears filling his eyes. “I could have easily killed myself, either with AIDS or with an accidental overdose. I’m lucky. The man upstairs was lookingout for me.”

The partying Travis does now is with Tyler and Tristan. “Travis is really good with the kids,” declares Theresa. “He changes diapers and gets up in the middle of the night to feed them. He does everything.”

Travis’ dedication to his family matches his dedication to his music. Walking into his home studio, he explains, “I wrote a lot of my new album here,” referring to the just-released Down The Road I Go. “In fact, I wrote ‘Best Of Intentions,’ the album’s first single, in this very room.”

With the Top 20 hit “Best Of Intentions,” Travis is sending a strong message: He’s back. 20-month hiatus from the road and more than two years off radio, his comeback is dramatic—and being enthusiastically embraced by fans. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy just because I’d had success in the past,” he acknowledges. “I knew we were going to have a battle on our hands.”

Travis marched into battle with a six-week radio tour to re-introduce himself to radio execs. “We hit over 150 stations nationwide,” he declares. “I felt like Michael Jordan in the last two minutes of a game when his team is down by two. It was like, ‘Give me the ball and I can win.’ And it worked.” It sure did. “Best Of Intentions” is one of the fastest-rising singles of his entire career. And The Road I Go presents a new musical perspective for Travis. “There are songs on the album about cheating, being broke and a whole variety of frustrated individuals,” he notes. “I drew from things I’d gone through, or things I’ve seen friends or family go through. It’s an album that’s going to relate to a lot of folks out there—because life is not always upbeat and positive.”

But Travis is upbeat about two songs on the album he wrote with his hero, Southern rocker Charlie Daniels. The two musicians have been friends ever since Travis first arrived on the national scene. “Charlie heard my first song, ‘Country Club,’ on the radio,” recalls Travis. “He didn’t know me from Adam, but he liked the song and picked me to open some of his shows. “That opportunity was a shot in the arm for my career. At the end of my run with him, Charlie said, ‘I like what you do. If there’s anything I can ever do for you, call me.’

Over the last decade, Travis and Charlie developed a close comraderie. “We knew if we’d ever get the chance to write together, it would be something special,” says Travis. And it was, he says. “It was almost like two guys sharing the same brain,” he explains with a chuckle. “I’m very proud of the songs—especially ‘Southbound Train,’ because it has that Charlie Daniels feel all over it.”

Strolling outside to the garage, Travis straddles one of his four Harley-Davidson motorcycles. “The other day I went riding for about 160 miles,” he says with a smile. “It was great!” But Travis admits that even a Harley rush doesn’t hold a candle to his role as a father. “I recently took Tyler on her first ‘date’ with daddy,” he grins. “We went to see Tigger. She came back home and told everybody about it. Things like that are precious. And my son, Tristan, is as sweet as he can be. He has all the signs of being a football player. He’s going to turn out just great.”

So how can this satisfied family man continue to reign as a country badass? “Just because you love your wife and kids doesn’t mean you have to change your views about everything else,” he insists. “Hey, I have the best of both worlds. I put my daughter to bed at night. Then daddy puts on leather britches and runs around on stage for two hours—playing a rough-and-rocking show just like I’ve always played. The only difference nowadays is that instead of finding out where the girls and drugs are going to be after the show, I get back on the bus, get in bed with my wife and watch a movie.”

“And you know what?” he asks, then casts a warm look toward his house. “I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.”