Randy Travis is celebrating his 25 years in country music with the people who made it possible for the legend to have such longevity: His fans. The Grand Ole Opry member is taking his music on the road with stops all across North America. The silver anniversary tour starts Feb. 10 in Grand Ronde , OR and will make at least 30 more stops along the way. (For a complete list of tour dates, visit his website here.)
The tour is the latest part of the party celebrating Travis’ milestone. In June, Warner Bros. Records released of the Anniversary Celebration album. The 17-track album features guest artists who teamed with Travis to cover his classic tracks and some original offerings. The guest singers include Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, Kris Kristofferson, Carrie Underwood, George Jones, Zac Brown Band, Lorrie Morgan, Jamey Johnson and many more.
Travis has had 18 #1 singles and 29 top-10 hits. His lifetime sales are more than 20 million, making him one of country music’s biggest sellers of all time. His honors include seven Grammy Awards, 10 Academy of Country Music statuettes, 10 American Music Awards, two People’s Choice awards, seven Music City News awards, eight Dove Awards and five Country Music Association honors.
You’d think that after 25 years in the business, there wouldn’t be anything new for Travis to experience. Not true. What you’re about to read is from a first for him: His first interview session via conference call! It may have been foreign territory for Travis, but he sounded relaxed as he talked about the upcoming tour, changes in the making of music and if he’s finally embracing technology:
On if the tour is something they had to plan as part of the 25th Anniversary celebration:
With the exception of maybe three-quarters of one year, I’ve been on tour for the last 25 years. It’s just another year of doing the same. I’ve had people ask me about retiring and my answer to that is, “What would I do if I retire?” (Laughs) I think most people in country music, maybe all music, I think we start touring and we keep doing that until we die! (Laughs)
Comparing the emotions he felt heading into his first tour 25 years ago and the one he’s now about to start:
Well, I wanted to be in this business and I wanted to be a writer and a singer. I had been turned down by every label in Nashville for just a little over ten years. So when I finally got signed, things started happening to such a degree I was kinda shocked, to be honest with you. I’m sure I had that deer in the headlights look quite often.
It was kinda hard to keep up with it at that point. I few years had to go by before being able to look at it and see exactly everything that had been going on. I look at it now, as compared to then…I’m always and always have been grateful to be in this business. But at 25 years I’m probably even more thankful than I’ve ever been to have been able to make a living in this business, doing something that I love this much, I’m probably more grateful now than ever.
I’m still shocked at the fact that I can continue doing this at his far into it and have an audience to play for as we go out and tour and still be able to record. I’m just extremely grateful – probably more so than ever.
On if he enjoys playing shows in Canada (where this tour might have up to 10 stops):
Years ago the first trip up through Canada, the guy at Warner Bros. in Nashville said, “You probably won’t get quite the response from an audience in Canada that you might get in the United States. After the first night it was like, “Boy! Y’all missed that a long ways!” (Laughs) We had to do, I believe, it was two encores the first time! We’ve been treated like we’re at home, basically, and I appreciate that.
With so many special guests appearing on the Anniversary album, will any them be making appearances on the Anniversary tour:
Nah! After the recording was over, they all told me to leave them alone! (Laughs) There are dates throughout the year when we are, for instance…Like last year we worked some on some dates with Josh Turner, then a couple of times with Carrie Underwood.
So throughout this year it would be the same. There’s a date here and there with Josh and others. I don’t have my itinerary with me. But it won’t be a nightly thing that’s happening.
On whether it’s tough putting together a set list for his shows with so many great songs in his catalog:
Definitely. I think that for anybody who’s been in recording for any number of years, you come to that point and you realize that you can’t do them all. I try to keep those songs that were the biggest hits that I think people naturally expect to hear – like On The Other Hand, like 1982, like Forever and Ever, Amen, and no doubt Three Wooden Crosses. I try to stick with what would be a “greatest hits” package, I guess would be a good way to put that.
On if he gets the chance to out and visit and experience the towns he plays in:
Obviously in certain areas you’re going to go out and look. For instance, I don’t know why this comes to mind, but when we were out in South Dakota for the first time, you want to go out and see the Black Hills and you want to see Mount Rushmore.
Yeah, you just go out. Sometimes, to be honest with you, I’m just going out to go shopping for something I want to put on the bus. So I’m pretty much out every day and every place that we play. And, yeah, get a flavor for the folks when we’re there. Sometimes they don’t recognize you, sometimes they do. But I always make it a point to get out pretty much daily.
On how the recording songs has changed in the last 25 years:
It’s a different world now, there’s no doubt. Recoding, to begin with, you had to walk in the studio and sing the song. There was no tuning; there was no shifting anything around. You basically walked in and sang the song and that was your record.
Now we’re sitting in the place where you can tune and move it around. All of that’s pretty amazing to me. I know nothing about doing it, but when I watch an engineer in the studio do these kinds of things, it’s like, “Are you kidding me? You just moved that vocal, those two words, from that spot in the track to the next spot? Or you can tune one string on a guitar when you’re hearing eight, ten other instruments and six strings on that guitar. So, yeah, it’s changed a lot.
It used to be this simple: We’d make a record, promotions staff calls radio, “This is your single; play this.” They play it, you have a hit and go out on tour. Now if you don’t get airplay on radio you all the Internet things and ways of advertising and selling. It’s changed so much. At times I feel quite lost.
On whether he’s finally starting to embrace a bit of technology:
Yes and no. (Laughs) I was 50 years old before I owned my first cell phone. I jokingly say to Jeff Davis that my cell phone holds a battery charge longer than any phone I have ever seen! (Laughs)
I won’t say “embraced” it, but I have come to use it a little more. As far as the Internet, no. I still have not sent anything out on a computer or a laptop. And, to be honest with you, I still have not sent a text on phone. So I’m still fighting it as much as I can! (Laughs)