The most countrified of country-music performers is back with his own record label, NIPPIT Records, his own album Now & Then, a new single written by Aaron about his father titled "He Believed," and a new video starring his son Teddy as 'young Aaron.' He made his reputation with such hard-core honky-tonk performances as "Working Man's Ph.D.," "Kiss This," "You've Got to Stand for Something" and "There Ain't Nothing Wrong with the Radio," and he's continuing the hits and great music in his own rockin' way.
Don't worry. He's still Aaron Tippin, and he'll always be a country singer, he's just doing things a little differently now. "I feel like there's still great music in me," says the multi-million selling entertainer. "The only evolution is that I'm putting more of the roots where I came from -- the Carolinas -- into the sound. It has the southern-rock influence, with that rockin' guitar sound from The Marshall Tucker Band and Charlie Daniels. I'm cross-breeding that with the steel and fiddle. And you'll still hear me yodeling on the new stuff.
"It's just what I call 'cranking it up to 11.' I want to draw new ears to Aaron Tippin. I also think the fans who originally liked Aaron Tippin are still out there. And I think this will bring them back to life and bring my music back to life for them."
Thus, the new single has the perfectly self-descriptive title "Ready to Rock (In a Country Kind of Way)." It does indeed rock his sound with new energy. Yet it is also undeniably and unmistakably "country."
The sound isn't the only thing Tippin is changing. He and wife Thea are now co-managing his career. The Corlew Music Group is now publishing his songs. In 2005, he closed his 10-year-old Tennessee firearms store, Aaron Tippin Outdoors, and converted it into an office and recording studio. Later that year, he re-launched his internet website and made it a highly interactive thing with streamed video and audio, fan chats, frequent updates and direct consumer contact.
Perhaps most significant of all, "Ready to Rock" will be the first track marketed by his own record company. NIPPIT Records (Tippin spelled backwards) marks a complete departure from the way he has marketed his music previously.
"I really don't want to be tied to a major record label anymore," he says. "What usually happens is that you pick a song that you think is a great single, and the label doesn't agree. Or you get excited about something, but you have to get in line behind somebody else who is on the label's roster. Then you end up like me, waiting four years to put an album out. I have no hard feelings. I've come far enough in this business to know when it's time to shake hands and part ways.
"From now on, I'm going to do the music that I want to do, uninterrupted. And more than anything else, I'm just glad to be in the music-business again. I spent the entire past year doing what I call 'putting the train back on the track.' There were a lot of problems that needed fixing. Then I spent the first part of this year putting together new music.
"Getting the opportunity to deliver this from the stage is going to be the icing on the cake. I love to see people responding to what I do, live."
When he was a kid in the mountains of South Carolina, Aaron Tippin had a country-music "conversion" experience. While his peers were listening to rock bands, he became passionate about traditional country sounds. Tippin began performing in local honky-tonks in the 1970s. When his teenage marriage fizzled, he decided to pursue music with a vengeance.
He competed on The Nashville Network's You Can Be a Star TV talent contest in 1986, landed a song-publishing contract and moved to Music City in 1987. Always a focused and purposeful man, Tippin created a work routine that was Spartan in its intensity. He worked the midnight-to-dawn shift at a factory in Kentucky, commuted to Music Row to write songs, lifted weights late every afternoon, went to bed, got up and did the whole routine over again, day after day.
The dedication paid off. He began winning body-building competitions. David Ball, The Kingsmen, The Mid-South Boys, Mark Collie, Billy Parker, Josh Logan, Diamond Rio and others began to record his songs.
Tippin performed his first Nashville nightclub show in 1990. It earned him a recording contract with RCA Records. Hits for the company led to concert dates with such superstars as Brooks & Dunn, Reba McEntire and Hank Williams Jr. Tippin became one of the most memorable country personalities of the '90s. For five consecutive years he performed before more than a million people annually. In concert, he invariably communicated the heart of a poet, the zeal of an evangelist, the humor of the class clown and the soul of a gladiator.
Enthusiastic fans wore hard hats and overalls to the shows, sang along with gusto and cheered his stone-country crusade. His hits sounded like no one else -- "My Blue Angel," "That's As Close As I'll Get to Loving You," "I Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way" and the like formed a body of work that is totally individual and in direct contrast to the sound-alike records that characterized the era.
Five of his RCA albums became Gold Records. One is Platinum. Between 1990 and 1997, he scored six top-10 hits, had two No. 1 records and created such memorable moments as "The Call of the Wild," "I Got it Honest" and "Whole Lotta Love on the Line." He appeared on the soundtracks of such films as The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) and Fire Down Below (1997) and became the commercial spokesman for ChannelLock Tools. Success as a songwriter for others also continued, as Garth Brooks, Charley Pride, Kenny Chesney and others recorded Tippin tunes.
Aaron and Thea Tippin married in 1995. In 1997, they welcomed baby Teddy into their lives. Son Tommy came along in 2000. Aaron Tippin also has a grown daughter, Charla, from his first marriage.
He signed with Disney's Lyric Street Records in 1998 and immediately scored back-to-back hits with "For You I Will" and "I'm Leaving." Aaron Tippin's popularity spiked again in the new millennium thanks to the chart-topping "Kiss This" (2000) and "Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly" (2002), as well as his sixth Gold Record and first Academy of Country Music awards nomination. Another high-profile appearance was on 2003's tribute CD The Songs of Hank Williams Jr.: A Bocephus Celebration, singing the anthemic "Family Tradition."
During the first Gulf War in 1990, Aaron Tippin had become the first singer to go to Saudi Arabia to entertain the troops. In 2002 he went to Afghanistan. Since 2003, he has been making annual visits to our forces in Iraq and become the spokesman for the Paralyzed Veterans of America. In 2005 he became the first country artist to donate funds to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
"When I'd sing 'Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly,' I started sending five-gallon buckets out into the crowd that said, 'Katrina' on them. People just poured out of the stands. I get all choked up watching that. I recorded the song right after 9-11, but it's not about 9-11. It's about Katrina. And the next time it will be about whatever catastrophe we Americans have to deal with. I wrote it to represent a feeling that we can always come back to. Be proud to be an American. That's what's most important when the chips are down.
"The fans are truly amazing. They're the reason I still have a job. I'm a very lucky man. I've been fortunate enough to have written some songs that have had an impact on some people. After all the years of doing this, what means most of all to me is to have written a song and hearing people say, 'Hey man, that's neat.'
"I had a reporter talking to me one day who said, 'Aaron, I remember the country-music 'graduating class' of the early 1990s. You are one of the only ones left.' He was right. I looked around, and they were almost all gone. How did I dodge that bullet? I kind of wanted to stand up and cheer. It's been 15 years, and I'm still here, still making music and now more than ever doing what I want to do.
"I am in the music business now more than I've ever been before. I'm like a six-year-old on a bicycle on my first down-hill run. I don't know what's at the bottom of the hill, but I am excited and unafraid. So it's scary and fun and all these emotions at once."