Travis Tritt On His 'Gratifying' Legacy and Why He Made His First Album in 14 Years
Country veteran Travis Tritt recounts the meaningful conversations and collaborations that led to his 11th studio album, 'Set in Stone'
Travis Tritt was faced with an almost unfamiliar feeling when the COVID pandemic put the live market on pause in March 2020. After dedicating more than a decade to touring, Tritt—a self-proclaimed "road dog"—went back into the studio for the first time in 13 years.
The timing was a convenient coincidence, as Tritt's manager, Mike "Cheez" Brown, had floated the idea in 2019. "One of the first things [Mike] told me when we started working together was, 'I still think you've got a lot of music left in you,'" Tritt recalls to GRAMMY.com. "The more we started talking about an album, the more I started thinking that was a really good idea. But I had been out of the studio for so long, I still had a little bit of concern about it."
Luckily for Tritt, Brown had just finished working with GRAMMY-winning producer Dave Cobb (Brandi Carlile, Chris Stapleton) on the Dirty Heads' 2019 LP Super Moon. Cobb not only eased Tritt's worries but opened up an entirely new realm of co-writers for the superstar—many of whom reminded Tritt of the legacy he's built. The result is Set in Stone, which dropped May 7 via Big Noise. The album celebrates Tritt's classic outlaw country sound as well as his influence on the genre that is, well, set in stone.
GRAMMY.com caught up with Travis Tritt about Set in Stone and how it served as a reminder of his lasting impact.
It's been nearly 14 years since you last released an album. With all that has changed about music in that time, were you nervous about getting back into the studio?
Prior to sitting down and talking with Dave about his process, I did have a good bit of anxiety and nervousness about it. He records with a live band—no digital sampling going on—and tries to record as many live vocals as possible during that same period. That's the way I've done it since I first started recording back in the '80s. I don't think this album would be what it is if it hadn't been for that opportunity to work together.
Did he bring anything different to the table, since your recording processes were similar?
He set me up with some of his favorite writers, like Brent Cobb, Adam Hood, Wyatt Durette, Channing Wilson, Ashley Monroe, Dillon Carmichael. Pretty much every writer that I worked with told me how much my music had influenced them when they were young. That was humbling and gratifying. It was something that I really didn't expect.
In the first writing session [with Brent], he said, "Man, I was thinking about the kind of influence and impact that you had on so many people, including me. You don't have anything left to prove to anybody. Your legacy is pretty much set in stone." He had the first verse of "Set in Stone" and a couple of lines for the chorus already in his head. I heard it and immediately fell in love with the idea.
That's a pretty big statement! Did any other conversations result in songs for the album?
The first track, "Stand Your Ground," came from getting to know [co-writers] Channing Wilson and Wyatt Durrette. They were asking me about how I got started in Nashville, and I told them about the first time I met Waylon Jennings.
It was at a time when I was getting a good bit of criticism for doing things my own way, and a little bit different than the average country artist at the time. Waylon told me, "Listen, I've been hearing all the things that they've been saying about you. Just remember that [it's] exactly the same things they said about me, and about Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Jr., and David Allan Coe.
The only people you need to be concerned about are your fans, your audience. Those are the only people that matter." I told that story to Channing and Wyatt, and they immediately said, "We've got to write that."
Did any of your co-writers tell you that your less-traditional approach inspired them?
Almost all of them. A lot of those younger artists gave me a lot of credit for being able to stand up to record labels and say, "I think I know my audience better than any of you people, and I'm going to just stick with what I know." Some of them actually said, "You had a lot of balls to be able to do that." [Laughs.]
Had you thought about your legacy before making this album?
I'll be honest with you—prior to meeting all these writers, I never really thought about what my potential legacy would be, and how much my influence would be affecting so many of these young people.
To realize that you've had—not only a successful career—but a positive influence on other people that want to follow their dream the same way that you did is something that I am amazed by. It's something that I am humbled by, and it's something that, quite frankly, I take a lot of pride in.
So many of these younger artists, songwriters, producers and people involved in the industry look up to me the same way that I looked up to some of my heroes, like Johnny Cash and George Jones. To be thought of in that way is an extreme honor. It's kind of like gravy on top of everything else.
I thought it was awesome that you ended the album with an homage to your home state with "Way Down in Georgia." How have your Georgia roots played a part in your career?
Georgia has influenced me tremendously. Very early on when I was first starting to have success, I had a ton of people that said, "You've got to move to Nashville." I always resisted that. Not because I had anything against Nashville, but because no place felt like home to me the way that Georgia has. It keeps me grounded, it keeps me centered.
The other advantage is that I can still drive by places I went as a young man and have a specific memory come back, and end up writing a song about that. So many of the songs that I've written over the years were triggered by a memory that came from being close to where I grew up. Including songs for this album, like "They Don't Make 'Em Like That No More." I drove by a park where I took a beautiful girl on a date, and all of those memories came back and [inspired the lyric] "She was the prettiest thing this ol' boy had ever seen."
You've been able to play some shows recently. Has the energy felt different, considering your concert has likely been the first post-pandemic live show for many?
Definitely. I've noticed a palatable hunger. It's like a caged animal, you know? You keep an animal in a cage for a long period of time and when they get out, the first thing they're gonna do is sprint and go crazy, just to be enjoying a little bit of that freedom again. I think that's what we're seeing every single night. The excitement is overwhelming.
The sentiment of your hit "It's a Great Day to Be Alive" is all about enjoying life. Does it feel like fans are embracing that even more so now, considering the difficult year we've all endured?
I was doing a show in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and I noticed when I did that particular song, there were a few people running up and down the aisles high-fiving people. That's always been a song about celebration and the celebration of life, but I think you're exactly right. It's even more so now because people are not taking opportunities to enjoy their life for granted any longer.
Now that you've been back in the studio and writing again, it sounds like there probably won't be another 14-year gap before your next album?
No, I don't think so. Now that I've had opportunities to work with these younger songwriters, and some of these producers that are current and relevant today, I think you can anticipate that I will be not having these long hiatuses in the future. I'm definitely going to be writing and recording more, and I'm going to try to bring new music to the table as often as I can. [Dave Cobb], my manager, and these young songwriters all contributed to helping light a fire underneath me.
Is there anything left on your career bucket list?
I have worked with just about everybody that I've ever wanted to work with. I really don't see a whole lot of things that I would look at and say, "That's something I've never done or experienced."
All I ever wanted to do was just make music that moved me. To be able to look back on selling over 30 million albums and having the opportunity to perform in front of millions of people over the years—and still be able to honestly say that I love it just as much now as I ever did—it's an honor, a privilege, and a pleasure.
I've had the blessing of so many great experiences in my life. I just want to keep on doing it. There's an old expression, "Dance with the one that brought you." I just want to keep dancing.
Photo: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images
Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour
El Mal Querer Tour, named after the Spanish pop star's latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances
Rosalía is set to perform at some of the most popular music festivals around the globe, including Primavera Sound in Spain, Lollapalooza (Argentina and Chile) and Coachella, but the Spanish pop star isn't stopping there when she gets to the States. Now, she has announced her first solo North American Tour with a string of dates that will bring her to select cities in the U.S. and Canada.
El Mal Querer Tour, named after her latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances. Then she'll play San Francisco on April 22, New York on April 30 and close out in Toronto on May 2.
"I’m so happy to announce my first solo North American tour dates," the singer tweeted.
Rosalía won Best Alternative Song and Best Fusion/ Urban Interpretation at the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards in November and has been praised for bringing flamenco to the limelight with her hip-hop and pop beats. During her acceptance speech she gave a special shout-out to female artists who came before her, including Lauryn Hill and Bjork.
Rosalía has been getting some love herself lately, most notably from Alicia Keys, who gave the Spanish star a shout-out during an acceptance speech, and Madonna, who featured her on her Spotify International Women's Day Playlist.
Tickets for the tour go on sale March 22. For more tour dates, visit Rosalía's website.
Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures Exhibit Will Showcase The Surf-Rock Icons' Impact On Pop Culture
The exhibit, opening Dec. 7, will feature late band member Mel Taylor's Gretsch snare drum, a 1965 Ventures model Mosrite electric guitar, the original 45 rpm of "Walk Don't Run" and more
Influential instrumental rock band The Ventures are getting their own exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles that will showcase the band's impact on pop culture since the release of their massive hit "Walk, Don't Run" 60 years ago.
The Rock Hall of Fame inductees and Billboard chart-toppers have become especially iconic in the surf-rock world, known for its reverb-loaded guitar sound, for songs like "Wipeout," "Hawaii Five-O" and "Walk, Don't Run." The Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures exhibit opening Dec. 7 will feature late band member Mel Taylor's Gretsch snare drum, a 1965 Ventures model Mosrite electric guitar, the original 45 rpm of "Walk Don't Run," a Fender Limited Edition Ventures Signature guitars, rare photos and other items from their career spanning six decades and 250 albums.
“It’s such an honor to have an exhibit dedicated to The Ventures at the GRAMMY Museum and be recognized for our impact on music history,” said Don Wilson, a founding member of the band, in a statement. "I like to think that, because we ‘Venturized’ the music we recorded and played, we made it instantly recognizable as being The Ventures. We continue to do that, even today."
Don Wilson, Gerry McGee, Bob Spalding, and Leon Taylor are current band members. On Jan. 9, Taylor's widow and former Fiona Taylor, Ventures associated musician Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and others will be in conversation with GRAMMY Museum Artistic Director Scott Goldman about the band's journey into becoming the most successful instrumental rock band in history at the Clive Davis Theater.
"The Ventures have inspired generations of musicians during their storied six-decade career, motivating many artists to follow in their footsteps and start their own projects," said Michael Sticka, GRAMMY Museum President. "As a music museum, we aim to shine a light on music education, and we applaud the Ventures for earning their honorary title of 'the band that launched a thousand bands.' Many thanks to the Ventures and their families for letting us feature items from this important era in music history."
The exhibit will run Dec. 7–Aug. 3, 2020 at the GRAMMY Museum.
Photo by Isabel Infantes/PA Images via Getty Images
Alicia Keys Unveils Dates For New Storytelling Series
The artist will take her upcoming 'More Myself: A Journey' biography on a four-city book tour
After performing her powerhouse piano medley at the 62nd Annual GRAMMYs, R&B superstar, GRAMMY-winning artist and former GRAMMY’s host Alicia Keys has revealed that she will set out on a four-stop book tour next month. The storytelling tour will support her forthcoming book More Myself: A Journey, which is slated for a March 31 release via Flatiron Books and is reported to feature stories and music from the book, told and performed by Alicia and her piano, according to a statement.
Part autobiography, part narrative documentary, Keys' title is dubbed in its description as an "intimate, revealing look at one artist’s journey from self-censorship to full expression." You can pre-order the title here.
The book tour will kick off with a March 31 Brooklyn stop at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. From there, Keys will visit Atlanta’s Symphony Hall on April 5 and Chicago’s Thalia Hall with Chicago Ideas the following day, April 6. The short-run will culminate on April 7 in Los Angeles at the Theatre at Ace Hotel.
Pre-sales for the tour are underway and public on-sale will begin on Friday, March 6 at 12 p.m. Eastern Time. Tickets for the intimate dates and full release dates and times are available here.
Keys won her first five career awards at the 44th Annual GRAMMYs in 2002. On the night, she received awards in the Best New Artists, Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, Best R&B Album and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance categories respectively. She has received a total of 29 nominations and 15 GRAMMYs in her career.
This year, Keys will also embark on a world tour in support of Alicia, the artist’s upcoming seventh studio album and the follow up of 2016’s Here, due out March 20 via RCA Records.
A Tribute In Black To Johnny Cash
A star-studded roster of GRAMMY-winning talent celebrates the music and 80th birthday of Johnny Cash in Austin, Texas
Though Johnny Cash passed away in 2003, he's having a very good year in 2012. The latest in a series of events honoring the man in black — an 80th-birthday tribute titled We Walk The Line: A Celebration Of The Music Of Johnny Cash — drew a slew of GRAMMY-winning performers to Austin, Texas, for a lively Friday-night show on April 20 at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater.
Top billing went to Cash's surviving Highwaymen brethren, GRAMMY winners Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, who teamed with Shooter Jennings (son of late GRAMMY-winning Highwayman Waylon Jennings) and Jamey Johnson in a reunion of sorts on the song "Highwayman." Under a large banner bearing an image of Cash strumming a guitar, flanked by two silhouettes, Nelson also teamed with GRAMMY winner Sheryl Crow on "If I Were A Carpenter."
Crow sounded almost as if she were addressing Cash when she joked to Nelson, "I would definitely have your baby — if I could. If I didn't have two others of my own. And if you weren't married. And if I wasn't friends with your wife."
Audience members cheered lustily in approval, as they did throughout most of the show, a taped-for-DVD benefit for the childhood muscular dystrophy foundation Charley's Fund. Just hours earlier, many of them had watched as Nelson helped unveil his new statue in front of the theater, which sits on a street also named after him.
The event was produced by Keith Wortman with GRAMMY-winning producer Don Was serving as musical director. Was recruited Buddy Miller, Greg Leisz, Kenny Aronoff, and new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Ian McLagan of the Faces as the house band. The handpicked all-star roster of performers ranged from Iron & Wine's Sam Beam, Brandi Carlile, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Andy Grammer, Amy Lee of Evanescence, and Pat Monahan of Train to Ronnie Dunn, Shelby Lynne, Old 97's lead singer Rhett Miller, Lucinda Williams, and even Austin-based actor Matthew McConaughey, who, in addition to emceeing, sang "The Man Comes Around."
"We wanted a real broad, diverse group of artists," Wortman said backstage. "With Cash, you're as likely to find his music in a punk rock music fan, a heavy metal fan and a Nashville music fan, so he's not just a country music guy."
GRAMMY winner Monahan, who sang Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through The Night," commented before the show, "I think of Johnny Cash as a style, as you would think of clothing, or music or whatever. He was his own thing. No can can really describe Johnny Cash entirely.
"And no one could deliver a song quite like him," continued Monahan. "He sang hundreds of other songwriters' songs and he made those songwriters important because of the way he delivered what they were saying. There's not much that I don't respect about him, and I told his son [John Carter Cash] earlier that I'm almost more inspired by the love for his family than his music."
Lynne, who won the Best New Artist GRAMMY in 2000, sang "Why Me Lord," another song penned by Kristofferson, and delivered a spirited duet with Monahan on "It Ain't Me Babe," said Cash has influenced "all of us."
"We appreciate the majestic rebellion that Johnny gave us all in the music business. And he's also one of the great American icons of all time," she added.
Among the acts who earned the loudest applause in a night full of high-volume appreciation was the GRAMMY-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, the bluegrass quartet re-exposing the genre's African-American roots. Their rendition of "Jackson" was among many highlights. Earlier, co-founder Dom Flemons revealed the personal inspiration of Cash's catalog.
"Johnny Cash's music has had an impact on me as a rock and roll singer, a country singer, as a folk music performer and great interpreter of song. I just love everything that he's done," said Flemons.
Bandmate Hubby Jenkins added, "Johnny Cash was really great about putting emotional investment into every song that he sang."
Co-founder Rhiannon Giddens said Cash’s core was his voice and his subject matter, and no matter how much production was added, it never diluted his message.
Miller, who named his band after "Wreck Of The Old '97," a song popularized by Cash, said their intent was to sound like "Johnny Cash meets the Clash." He also recalled always picking "Ring Of Fire," a classic inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 1999, on the tabletop jukebox during childhood visits to a Dallas diner.
"I didn't know what it was about, but I knew that the guy who was singing it was singing it with everything he had," said Miller, dressed in black in homage to "one of my all-time heroes." "And there was so much heart behind it, and so much conviction. And nobody could sell a song like Johnny Cash. He meant every word he said, and if he didn't mean it, he made it sound like he meant it."
(Austin-based journalist Lynne Margolis currently contributes to American Songwriter, NPR's Song of the Day and newspapers nationwide, as well as several regional magazines and NPR-affiliate KUT-FM's "Texas Music Matters." A contributing editor to The Ties That Bind: Bruce Springsteen from A To E To Z, she has also previously written for Rollingstone.com and Paste magazine.)