Born in Texas, raised in Arkansas and now comfortably ensconced in Tennessee, Tracy Lawrence is proud to be an American.
That sentiment led him to the title track on his latest album, “Made in America”, which goes on sale Aug. 16.
“It was like the last song we had written for the record. I had another title in mind. I was gonna call it (the album) ‘Chicken Wire’. We had one last write, and Adam (Sanders) and Rick (Huckaby) and I got together,” recalled Lawrence, who lives on a farm between Mt. Juliet and Lebanon.
“I got to thinking that I had never done an Americana song, and I wanted to express some things going on. Not a political song but who we were as people and about craftsmanship and being proud of things that made us America, and two hours later it was done. It really wrote itself.”
The lyrics to the first verse and chorus:
It’s the first assembly line making that Detroit steel,
It's asphalt streets, rows in the fields,
It’s a loving hand out when somebody gets down on their luck,
It’s Friday night lights, 4th-and-goal touchdown,
It’s a walk-off homer, hearing the roar of the crowd,
It’s that go a little deeper when that going gets tough,
Made in America
It’s who we are, it’s what we love, it’s what we do,
It’s a heart full of pride, stars and stripes, red, white and blue,
It’s standing your ground, not backing down and never giving up,
Made in America
What has been the response to the song when he performs it at concerts?
“I’m opening the show with it. It brings the house down. Once they’ve heard the first verse, they’re singing along,” said the singer-songwriter, who has eight No. 1 hits and 22 Top-10 records to his credit. (His chart toppers include “Sticks and Stones,” “Alibis,” “Time Marches On” and “Find Out Who Your Friends Are.”)
Lawrence, 51, who moved to Wilson County in 1993, stated that this could be his most personal album ever.
“Most times I write three or four songs but never have really focused on diving in and writing the bulk of the record. I wrote eight of the 12 songs on the album. So, it does feel a little more personal when you write that many. I was really engaged in every step of the process,” he said.
A neo-traditional country vocalist with a warm baritone twang that lends itself well to honky-tonk sounds, Lawrence noted that country music has moved in a different direction over the past several years. That led him to conclude that if he wanted more traditional songs for this album then he would have to write them himself.
His recordings mesh neatly with the music he spins on his three-hour radio show, “Honky Tonkin With Tracy Lawrence,” which airs noon-3 p.m. Sundays on WSM-AM 650. It began as an idea to play on a satellite platform five years ago. After training on the equipment, he saw the project fall apart before it could take off. Fortunately, he got a second shot at it.
“At the time I felt like there was a void in the marketplace, I was not hearing a lot of old country music. I was hearing it from everybody out on the road. All my fan base wanted to hear classic country. So we launched and I touched out to other friends in syndicated radio. We worked a deal out and started with 24 stations and now we’re close to a hundred stations across the country,” he said.
As for Lawrence’s biggest influences, he said, “Strait and Haggard without a doubt, and I loved Randy Travis. I learned to sing playing guitar to old Merle Haggard songs, and I loved that Texas sound that Strait had.”
And about the country star he most dearly would like to have met but never did, he says that would be “Keith Whitley without a doubt. He passed away a year before I came to town. I’m close friends with his son. I miss somebody who I feel I would be really close to.”
Away from the microphone
Born in Atlanta, Texas, Lawrence was raised in Foreman, Ark., a town of about 1,000 in the southwest corner of the state near the Oklahoma state line. He taught himself to play guitar at 12 and turned pro at 16 in a country music band named Cross Creek.
At one point he planned on becoming a youth minister but ended up selling and delivering furniture, putting in sprinkler systems, performing electrical contracting work and doing other odd jobs.
Arriving in Nashville in September of 1990, Lawrence made his album debut in November 1991 with “Sticks and Stones,” which sold more than a million copies and produced four Top-10 singles.
Two years later he found a piece of ground and a house between Mt. Juliet and Lebanon that suited him fine.
“I just fell in love with the house. It was very country. It was at the end of the road, and I wound up buying the house with 15 acres, and over the next several months I acquired every piece of property I could get at the end of that road,” said Lawrence, who lives there with wife, Becca, and their daughters, Skylar, 18, and Keagan, 16.
During his free time, he enjoys golfing, fishing, kayaking with friends on the Caney Fork and Buffalo rivers and taking an annual hunting trip.
Since 2006, he has captained his annual Mission: Possible Turkey Fry, which has raised over $500,000 for the Nashville Rescue Mission and feeds about 7,000 folks Thanksgiving meals in the Music City area as well as several hundred citizens of Wilson County. And he has expanded the event to missions in Dallas, and Louisville, Ky.
“I went to the Rescue Mission convention in California and got to speak. There are two more cities close to coming onboard. … They (Dallas and Louisville) do it exactly the same time as we do. We have an instruction platform we send out to them that explains everything,” said the country singer, proud of the fact that he gets to help deep fry 500 to 600 turkeys the week of Thanksgiving.
Wilson County resident Tracy Lawrence has sold more than 13 million albums and had 8 Billboard No. 1 hits and 22 Top-10 tunes. His newest album “Made in America” releases Aug. 16. Lawrence also hosts a syndicated radio show, “Honky Tonkin”, that airs noon-3 p.m. Sundays on WSM Radio (650 AM). Since 2006, his Mission: Possible Turkey Fry has raised over $500,000 for Nashville Rescue Mission and cooked more than 5,800 turkeys to provide over 84,000 meals to the homeless and hungry of Middle Tennessee. To pre-order the new album and find more about the singer-songwriter, go to tracylawrence.com.