Trace rounded the corner and met all of my expectations in a glance. We had pushed the stubby, plaid couch all the way against the wall so he could stretch his legs without hitting the coffee table. I was told to wait in the tiny, dimly lit room until I heard him come in. How would I know it was him? ďHis voice carries,Ē his publicist told me, a little agitated that I had to ask.
When he leaned into the room, slumping through the doorway so as not to hit his head, he filled it with a very definable presence. Buck Owens once compared Trace to Johnny Cash, saying you didnít have to turn around to know he was there. That claim is not only accurate, but it impresses Trace as much as it did me.
††††††††††† ďI have the utmost respect for Cash. Heís always demanded respect and always gotten it. He has this presence about him, almost like a mystical figure. Heís created this thing that is Johnny Cash, that transcends his music and transcends who he is in his personal life. Heís a monster and a hellion. Heís always done things the way heís wanted to do them, and I just love that about him.Ē
One of the qualities that sets
Adkins apart is the balance he embodies between being a famous Country Music
star and being the son of a hardworking, swing shift employee of International
Paper Company in
††††††††††† ďI donít deserve those kinds of
accolades. I donít know why Buck was that way. Iíll never forget the first time
I met him. I was doing a radio tour and I went in this radio station there in
††††††††††† The most current groundbreaking experience in Adkinsí life is the release of his new album MORE. The title song is written by Thom McHugh and Del Gray and is described by Adkins as a fun song with a positive message about love. ďI like it because itís kind of a mature love song with a groove to it that just makes you feel good. I enjoy performing it.Ē
The first single off the album strikes a more personal chord with Adkins.† Itís called ďDonít LieĒ and was written by Chet Biggers and Frank Rogers.
††††††††††† ďMost everything I sing, in one way or another, Iíve experienced, and Iíve been this guy. Iíve been the guy where sheís telling him she wants to remember him and all that kind of stuff, and he knows sheís leaving him for another man. Iíll never forget, I had a woman one time stop right in the door and as she was leaving she said, ĎYou know Iím always gonna love you.í I mean, as she was leaving me she told me that. And I was like, ĎI donít want to hear that. Thatís the coldest thing you couldíve said to me right now. Are you that cruel? Just leave!í This song hurts me every time I sing it, but thatís what a good song should do.Ē
††††††††††† Throughout the album and throughout his career, Adkins admits to being vulnerable in his music.
††††††††††† ďI am sharing something about myself. If not, thereís no passion, no honesty. I need that to be able to sing a song. To be able to sing with passion or conviction, it has to be something Iíve experienced or Iíve seen somebody else experience. Thereís only one song on this album I had a part in writing. Nobody shoved anything down my throat on this album. Nobody said, 'You need to sing this because itís a radio hit.í There was nothing like that. Thereís nothing that I didnít personally say 'I like this. I want to do this.í Thatís what was totally cool about this album.† They said, ĎHereís the money. Hereís the budget. Make us a good album and bring it to us when youíre done.íĒ
††††††††††† One of the aspects of Traceís personality that carries over into his music is his willingness to be transparent with the audience or with anyone else for that matter. He recognizes the need to make songs enjoyable and to embrace the pleasure that makes songwriting and performing such a sought after, enviable occupation, but he also feels the need to express deep, meaningful summaries about human nature. He keeps a watchful eye on the world around him and studies the way people think and act. Thatís one of the reasons being a Civil War buff isnít an isolated hobby that has nothing to do with his music. It actually carries over into his songs.
††††††††††† ďIf you look back at the Civil War, it makes you realize how much human nature has changed. You donít really realize that unless you study history.Ē
††††††††††† It takes a certain depth of character to appreciate events and people who arenít in the here and now. Still, most of Traceís songs are about tangible joys, pleasures and heartaches that anyone can relate to. When asked to discuss ďCanít I Want Your LoveĒ from MORE, Trace responded, ďItís sex. Itís totally about sex.Ē But more abstract ideals occupy his mind, things that arenít necessarily guaranteed to have mass appeal and are therefore not as likely to show up in his albums.
† ††††††††† ďThereís a balance you have to try to keep. If I didnít care about the longevity of my career, my albums would be much darker. They would be very dark. What would end up happening is that I would get no airplay and sell no albums. Nobody would hear any of it. So what I have to do is try to balance it a little bit so that thereís some stuff in there that I still believe in and still can sink my teeth into, but itís a little more commercial. I can put some deeper, darker stuff in there that people will get to hear anyway. . .† Iím not a giddy, happy person. Thatís just not me. I have to purposely put a little happiness and levity in there.Ē
††††††††††† Maybe giddy isnít a good word to describe Trace, but when he starts talking about his wife, Rhonda, thereís definitely a glow about him.
††††††††††† ďRelationshipĖwise I donít think you can do much better. Iím happier now than Iíve ever been and more secure and whole. The relationship I have with Rhonda is the best relationship Iíve ever had with a woman, ever. Thank God for that. At least that task is finally put to bed. I donít have to worry about that anymore.Ē
††††††††††† Again, thereís always a balance. Sarah and Tarah, his daughters from a previous marriage, are entering their teenage years. Being a father is one of the most fulfilling roles in his life, but making decisions about whatís best for them is a difficult task.
††††††††††† ďI feel guilty and kind of sorry for my first two daughters because I know how to be a father now. Fourteen years ago when my first daughter was born I was just ignorant as hell, pretty much out of control.
††††††††††† ďI have custody of them, but if they didnít want to (live with me) what would I have achieved? You know, I may be doing the wrong thing - I may be. But unfortunately thereís no wise old man who has all the answers that you can go to in this world and say, ĎHey, wise old man, what should I do?í and he gives you a perfect, correct answer. There is nobody to do that, so you have to rely on your own feeble wisdom. So one day I might look back and go, ĎWow, I really screwed that up.íĒ
Trace has the same attitude with his music. There are some things he feels are simply out of his control. He knows his strengths and weaknesses and admits he canít do everything.
††††††††††† ďIím not a musician. Iím not a
songwriter. Iím a singer, and not even a good singer or a great singer. I think
my strong point is on stage. Thatís the take I have on it. Iím my best when Iím
on stage. Iíve written a couple songs and have done okay, but I donít consider
myself a songwriter. A songwriter is one of those guys who goes down there on
††††††††††† So what does Trace Adkins identify as his purpose in life?†
††††††††††† ďAs far as why Iím here and if Iím here for a reason, I have no idea. I donít know. Do I think about it from time to time? Maybe every once in a while, but I donít dwell on it because I donít know. Nobody knows. I think the only reason that I can see is to be a father, and other than that, whatís the point?Ē
††††††††††† One point is to grace the world with good music, to ďget down in that lower registerĒ as he describes himself doing on ďI Can Dig ItĒ from MORE. Heís been granted a mysteriously wonderful talent that must have been given for a reason.
††††††††††† ďItís hard to explain, but Iíd make all the sacrifices that Iíve made in my life trying to become successful in the music industry and go through it all again. Thereís something about that hour or 90 minutes or whatever the show length is that I get to be on stage, that is a place for me. Iím very comfortable on stage; Iím very relaxed there because, for me, itís a sanctuary.Ē