(CSC) 1. Thank you for your time; it is truly an honor to speak with you! So, you’ve got two brand new records out, an Anniversary Celebration and Randy Travis available through Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores. Please tell us about each respective release!
On the Cracker Barrel album there are a few new cuts, new to people listening I should say, there are actually a couple songs on there that we had recorded quite a while back. Kyle Lehning, the producer, started putting that group of songs together. He actually remembered these songs because they just continued to come up. Every time we would start a new project, it kept coming up, "can we use them?" This time they were usable and I am very proud of that group of songs.
The 25 Anniversary project is a collection of duets. People like Brad Paisley, Jamey Johnson, Josh Turner, Carrie Underwood, Kris Kristopherson, Willie Nelson, Zac Brown, which is probably the funnier one. We actually ended up, Zac couldn't get his schedule and ours to match so we ended up in his house about 9:30 at night starting to record "Forever and Ever, Amen," so it was pretty funny. I am very proud of that album too.
Everybody did a great job! There are some subtle changes, I would say, on a lot of the old songs we have done in years past where we updated them as far as the sounds go. You know, Jamey Johnson and the song with Zac "Forever and Ever, Amen" Jamey and I did "A Few Ole Country Boys." Those are probably the two that changed the most. These guys did such a great job of making it their own, to be honest with you. That's always interesting. When you have gone in and tried to learn something someone else has done it's sometimes hard to get that out of your mind and go a little different direction.
(CSC) 2. The Anniversary Celebration album features an amazing cast of big-name artists such as Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, Don Henley and Josh Turner among others. What was the recording process like with these artists and how did you feel being able to hear your songs recorded in a whole new way?
I enjoyed the whole process. We worked in the studio with everyone on the album, except on "More Life." Don Henley walked in and just sang harmony part on that; I wasn't able to be there. But with everyone else, it was just there in the studio with them and putting the song down and getting the vocals done. In some cases, for instance, Kenny Chesney had to put the music track down first then put his vocal on later. But working in the studio with all of these folks was fun; I mean it was a lot of fun!
Like when we did "Didn't We Shine," we were in there with George Jones, Connie Smith, Lorrie Morgan, Joe Stampley, Gene Watson, and then later on Ray Price came in and put a vocal on there. A lot of those guys are people that have been friends for a lot of years now. We laughed a lot! If you had been in there with us you would probably wonder, I always say this about what Kyle and I do together in the studio, if you were with us a lot you would wonder, do you all ever go to work, because it never really feels like we do. (Laughs) We get in there and we have a lot of fun. We laugh quite a bit. It was a joy; it was a JOY working with all these people! As far as hearing these variations on some of the melodies and some of the tempos changing, it was interesting for me, of course I am there singing along with these changes too, you know. But it felt good. It wasn't something that felt totally foreign to me at all. It just felt really good going down.
(CSC) 3. You’re currently headlining a very special tour this entire year in honor of the anniversary record, have you had the chance to visit old friends and make new ones this time around on the road?
Oh, I don't know about making any "new" friends Christian, but it's hard to say. I have heard one person say this, "If you have five true friends in your life that will about cover it.” We refer to people as friends but I have met some nice folks through the years so far, obviously. All the guys on the road with me, these are guys I do call friends because I have worked with the guys on stage for the shortest amount of time is 10 years and the longest is 33 years, going for 34 years this year; it is wonderful to be able to do that. There is a comfort level with these guys on stage that is hard to explain. You can't find that, in my opinion, with somebody that you are just walking on stage with for the first time, it is just not there. So, it is a real special thing to me. We go out and we have so much fun. I could probably stand a little less travel time, especially flying somewhere. I can't stand getting into the airport and the flying stuff. I don't like that at all. (Laughs) I could probably stand riding on the bus a little more but when we get to the venues, that thing we do on stage, man, that's special, it still is. I love it! These guys and I have so much fun!
(CSC) 4. After many years of performing on the road, what is the one thing you feel is the most memorable experience between you and your fans?
I've watched over the years, an interesting thing, the country music listener and those that come out to the show are the most loyal people; it amazes me, especially at 25 years of doing this. Still, to see a lot of the same faces come year after year and have met a lot of these people, some who have been to 30, 40, 50, 60, and 80 up to 200 shows or even up to 300 plus shows!! I am amazed by that; that kind of loyal listener is something really special. For me, I want to get there and, on that stage, and I wish that I could be 100% every night, nobody can, it's just not possible. But that's another thing that I am amazed at. They don't care. They truly do not care. I have sang shows where I was so sick that there was a whole line at times where nothing was coming out but air, but again, they don't care, as long as you are there and you are trying. It is like they love you for it. It amazes me. It always has. I always want to feel like I have given it a 100%, it doesn't sound like 100%, but I will always give everything that I can. I love it when you have an audience there and they are laughing some, they're enjoying the songs. If they have requests, I will sure do those, or try or what I can remember of the request I will do half the song if I can remember it; it’s special. In my heart of hearts, I always want to feel like; when I walk off stage everyone had a good time with us; that is the most important thing for me.
(CSC) 5. How did you initially become involved in acting and what can you tell us about the transition from artist to actor?
If you go back 25 years if someone had asked me if I wanted to act, I probably would have said, "Are you kidding me?" As a few years went by in the music business, I was thinking I would love to work in a western because I grew up on a farm and have been on a horse my whole life. Then what happened was, a lot of troops were coming home from the Persian Gulf and there was a party, it was a televised thing, but Andy Griffith was there and I met him and he said something about doing Matlock and he loves music, Andy loves to play and sing. He and I got along really well and ended up doing two episodes of Matlock and then it just went into Touched By An Angel, seven episodes of that. It just continued to grow. I enjoy the acting. It's an interesting thing; I finally got to work in some westerns I should say. You really turn into nothing but a bunch of kids running around on a western set. You are riding horses and wearing the old wardrobe that would be out at that period and wearing guns and shoot, we all turn into kids. It is something I enjoy doing and hope I can do more as the years go by.
(CSC) Do you feel comfortable in the roles that you choose to play?
(Randy Travis) Well yeah, I am not stretching out too far you know. (Laughs) There are certain kinds of things that obviously somebody like a Duvall, De Niro or Jon Voight could do, I mean, there are certain things I am not going to do and people wouldn't consider me doing but it is something that I can do comfortably, yes.
(CSC) 6. When did you know that you wanted to be a country music superstar and what memories do you treasure from your father’s musical influence on you?
My dad was a big influence. He was not a musician, but he enjoyed singing and just had a love for music. My Gosh, he had a great love for music. So much so that when I was eight years old, he bought a guitar, handed it to me and said, "You start taking lessons on a Monday or Tuesday,” or whatever the day was. It was not a question, do you want to learn to play guitar, it was a demand, he loved it that much. My older brother, Ricky, had already been taking lessons for a year. So, he and I had bands together from the time I was 9 until I was about 16. My mom and dad would take us to fiddler’s conventions, like a band competition. We did those; we played at square dances and private parties for other people too. By the time I was 14 we were playing in clubs. So, my dad was a big influence. He loved the music. He is the reason I ended up doing this, I'm sure.
(CSC) 7. Upon dealing with the rejection of every major label in the early days, what were your feelings at that moment and did you find yourself second guessing the probability of becoming signed?
I just keep going along. I got turned down by every label in Nashville. This was back 30 years ago now. They would say things like, "It sounds okay, and it’s just that it's too country or that kind of music won't sell tickets or records." So yeah, I heard all kind of things like that and was rejected by everybody. This is my take on that. I think what happened was, eventually we saw people like George Strait, Reba McEntire and of course you have to look at too there was Willie Nelson out there, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Haggard, Tammy, Loretta. There was that group of truly traditional country artists and those people were selling a bulk of the records. There was an exception to the rule every once in awhile, no doubt. There was an Eddie Rabbit every now and then, there was a Crystal Gayle now and then, and there was a Kenny Rogers, who by the way his biggest country, his biggest success was a country song, country as it gets, “The Gambler.” But I think they were slow to see this, but when they did and considered the facts, then Martha Sharp came out and listened to us play at the Nashville Palace and then signed me because I wanted to do traditional country music after I had been turned down all those years. I’ll say this, Christian; I am glad that I got turned down for as long as I did. This is an interesting business and if I had been there as a teenager signed and put on the road, I'm not sure I could've been, hey, I was having a hard time dealing with it in my middle 20's and into 30-years-old, so as a teenager I'm not sure I could have dealt with that much going on.
(CSC) 8. What does your membership in the Grand Ole Opry mean to you as an artist and what fascinates you most about its legendary history?
I love the Opry! I have been a member for quite a few years. I will tell you a story, the first time I ever walked onto the Opry stage, it has been close to 30 years, Little Jimmy Dickens used to come into the Palace where I was cooking and washing dishes and singing some too. So, I got to know him so he took me over one night and he introduced me on the Opry and I walked out and sang “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry.” It was so funny thinking back; I was a nervous wreck. I mean I was nervous to the point that I had a hand-held microphone, I was just shaking. It was hard to hold the microphone still, I was that nervous. So, I'm singing “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry” and Jimmy Dickens didn't walk more than three feet away from me just watching me and I was thinking I wish you would go somewhere else. (Laughs) It was something. Every time you walk on the Opry stage is a special feeling that I wish I knew how to describe that. There is just a wonderful energy on that stage. The audience is always like that audience is paid to be there. It's incredible; especially as the years have gone by and I get to go over once in awhile and do a performance on the old Ryman stage also. That one is really special. I am very proud to be a member of the Opry.
I think that is a big part of what feels so special on that stage; if you're somebody like me who grew up with nothing but country music. You know, those guys are it: Ernest Tubb, Patsy Cline, Hank Williams Sr., and Roy Acuff. For me, that is the kind of music I listened to my whole life. So, I think that is what's so special about it. This is the place where all these guys were members of the Opry. They were on that stage. Somehow that seems to affect whatever is going on, on that stage. It's a special thing, it really is.
(CSC) 9. You’ve also had a very successful career in Gospel music, being a Christian, was this something that you always wanted to do and what does this side of Randy Travis tell us about you from a spiritual standpoint?
Growing up I've been always honest about that and pressed where I came from as a kid, which was heavy duty drugs and alcohol. Looking down the road from that point in life and considering doing Gospel music I would have thought, "I doubt that is going to happen." But you know, as you get older, we all have to come to that point of knowing there is a lot going on here, this is not some random chance this earth existing as it does. In my case, in my early to mid 20's, to be honest with you, I just started reading the bible. That is all it took. I just started doing that every night and I noticed that I felt better, I slept better and felt more at peace, and I didn't know a lot of peace in my life. So, then I continued doing that then start with the television growing as it had and you have all these gospel channels now and the years go by and I continued listening. I came to this realization one time, as strange as it sounds, because of what I grew up around it was like I had no fears of anything, anybody. The only fear I had was to consider this, if I died now, I would go to hell. That was a sobering thought some would say and a scary thought.
As the years went by, I ended up in church and this was in Nashville now. I was at the Church of Christ and Pastor Dan. He gave an altar call at the end of the service that day and I didn't go forward. I walked outside that day after church and walked up to Dan and I said, "Dan, I think it's time I need to get baptized." It was so funny; I wish I had a camera hidden. He looked at me and said, "Oh, okay." (Laughs) It was like he didn't know how to respond. (Laugh) So he and his wife, Jane, came over to the house and talked to his son and that night I was baptized. There are so many times in life since, I will be 53 this coming May (2012), I've observed and been part of watching and knowing what prayer has done. It is an awesome thing we have available to us. Just the power of prayer and watching it change things as drastic as changing someone's health basically overnight. It is an amazing thing to see, it really is. It's an awesome gift. I am obviously not a preacher, but I do have my beliefs and my walk with God is extremely real to me.
(CSC) 10. Having dealt with and overcome many struggles in your life, what is it about your faith that keeps you stable and what would be your personal testimony to those seeking redemption?
For anybody who is truly considering, is it real for instance? Is that forgiveness real? According to the Word of God, yeah, it is very real. I don't care what you've done. You asked for forgiveness this is the way it is explained to you. You ask for forgiveness with a true repentant heart, with true intent to turn away from those things that you know are wrong, then you are forgiven. Again, it doesn't matter what it is. So, ask for forgiveness, except Christ and enjoy life. I think we are all supposed to enjoy this life and the life to come after this also.
(CSC) 11. At this stage in your life, what would you like to accomplish in the next chapter of your career and where do you see yourself professionally speaking?
Man, I want to continue doing what I have been doing. I want to keep writing; I want to write more. To be honest with you, I have been sort of neglecting that for about a year and a half to two years now. I want to write more; I want to continue playing shows; I want to continue working in the studio. I think once you have ever done that you want to continue just to see what else or what new you might be able to create. I want to have more jobs as an actor also. Maybe try a few different things I haven't done as far as an actor goes. I am happy with continuing down this road.
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