About Trace Adkins
As he has gained autonomy, Trace has proven his ability to cut consistently first-rate country music that is both aesthetically and commercially viable, and the resulting trajectory is unmistakable.
“I’ve never had this much momentum,” he says, relishing the moment even as he looks for ways to build on it. At a time when the Louisiana native’s engine is hitting on all cylinders, it’s no surprise his new CD represents yet another major step forward. Dangerous Man is a collection that proves once again that Trace is a master both of the rowdy-that place where fun, sexy and rocking come together-and of the searingly honest slice of life.
Working with a team that includes producers Frank Rogers and Dann Huff, songwriters Craig Wiseman, Rivers Rutherford, Tony Lane and Racal Flatts’ Jay Demarcus, and a stellar crop of Nashville’s top session players, Trace has strengthened his position as one of country music’s most versatile and powerful artists.
That versatility is once again strongly in evidence. With “Ladies Love Country Boys,” “Swing,” ”Southern Hallelujah” and the title cut, Trace is back in the territory that has made his rowdy take on love and romance a staple of honky-tonks, dance floors and video screens. Then there are songs like “Words Get In The Way” and “I Wanna Feel Something,” in which he explores that place in the male psyche that recognizes and struggles to rise above its own limitations, reaching out in pure need across the chasm that can exist between a man and a woman. “The Stubborn One” and “I Came Here To Live” are Trace at his emotional best, bridging generations to talk about those things we take from and give to each other, and the beautiful bond those interactions build through time. Through it all, Trace proves himself again to be one of the most engaging singers in the industry, with an eye for songs that draw power both from their sweep and from their telling details.
In addition, Trace makes his debut as a producer, teaming in that role with Casey Beathard and Kenny Beard on “I Wanna Feel Something.”
The project’s debut single provided plenty of evidence that Trace has found a way to make his art connect with the public. “Swing,” with its clever use of baseball metaphors in describing the art of romantic pursuit, became an immediate favorite not only with fans but with Major League Baseball, which debuted it on its website, helping kick off a process whereby it became a favorite at baseball stadiums around the country.
All of this, of course, follows in the wake of “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” the kind of no-holds-barred smash most artists can only dream about. Its attraction for a wider audience can be seen in the fact that in a world where 70% of downloaded ring tones are urban and hip/hop tracks, some 75,000 people added “Badonkadonk” to their cell phones in just six weeks. The song helped increase sales of Songs About Me every week for four months, culminating in Christmas week sales of 134,157 albums-double those of the album’s debut week and more than artists like Madonna, U2, Kanye West, Gorillaz, Green Day and Cold Play, all of whom had the added help of Grammy appearances. “Badonkadonk” also became the top-selling country song on iTunes, the year’s #1 Dance Club Single & Video, and the #1 Video on both CMT and GAC, among many other accolades and accomplishments.
It was a fitting breakthrough for a man who has brought a working-class mentality and a true fan’s sensibilities to bear on a career that has built slowly to its present heights. After stints in a gospel group and as a pipefitter on an off-shore drilling rig, Trace made a name for himself in the honky-tonks of Texas and Louisiana. He moved to Nashville in 1992 and did construction work to survive while he sang at night and looked for his break. It came three years after his move when then-Capitol Records president Scott Hendricks spotted him playing in a working man’s bar outside Nashville and signed him. Trace’s one-of-a-kind voice and his knack for putting believability into songs dealing with love, loss, sex, and blue-collar realities did the rest.
As the hits came, Trace remained one of country’s most down-to-earth standard-bearers. People outside the industry took notice, and he became a regular on political talk shows, a spokesman for commercial products and a recurring voice on “King of the Hill.” He appeared on ESPN’s “Cold Pizza”, NBC’s “My Name Is Earl,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” the Food Network’s “Emeril Live,” “Hannity & Colmes,” the “PBS National Memorial Day Concert” and many more. He could also be found taking part in an ABC Radio Veterans Day special and in a tribute to Kris Kristofferson as the legendary writer was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
If there is an accomplishment that gives him particular satisfaction at this point, though, it may be one that goes unnoticed outside the industry—the fulfillment of his long-term contract with Capitol Records..
“There are a lot of artists,’ he says, ‘that can’t say, ‘I made it to the end of my contract.’ I’m proud of the fact that I did that for several reasons. An artist and a label have what amounts to a long-term marriage. They’re in the business of making art together. Times change, singers and styles go out of fashion, and key people at the labels come and go. Staying together for eight albums means we made it work during good times and bad, and it means I’ve made music people have wanted to be a part of for an entire decade. Yeah, I don’t mind saying I’m proud of that.”
Day-to-day, throughout his career, Trace has been most at home on stage, thrilling fans with a career’s worth of hits and enjoying himself thoroughly as he sells out night after night.
“We’ve gone up to that next level production wise,” he says, “and it’s just a beautiful world. It’s very comfortable and the crowds are great, and you cannot ask for more than that. So, touring is easier and we’re just having a blast doing that.”
He is quick to credit the team around him, but the ultimate responsibility for success on stage or on record comes to rest on his big shoulders, something he has never shied away from.
“I think I have a pretty good idea of what they’re going to like and what they’ll enjoy listening to,” he says. “I really do, because I’m just a fan that got really lucky and was in the right place at the right time and met the right people and got this opportunity.”
He is also not shy about aspiring for true greatness. Having earned himself an indelible and unique position in country history, he is looking to attain the stature of his own idols.
“As a country music fan, I enjoy watching the TV shows that talk about country music history,” he says, “and there’s always that elder statesman that they go to. It used to be Waylon would do that stuff, or George Jones, Merle Haggard, those guys that people go to when they want that bit of wisdom that comes from experience and achievement. Some day, I want to be that guy.”
Ten years into his remarkable career, it’s clear that Trace is on the right path.
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