Tracy Lawrence on 30 Years of Impact, Writer’s Block and Learning a New Language
On Friday, January 28, country music star Tracy Lawrence unveiled her third and final installment of Retrospective 2020 with Volume 3: Angelina. The project’s third album completes Lawrence’s celebration of thirty years in country music.
Deployment began last spring with Volume 1: Stairway to Heaven Highway to Hell in which the veteran artist proved a still-youthful exuberance throughout the feisty collection of mostly new songs. Late in the summer, Lawrence delivered more of his greatest hits in a shiny new Volume 2 package, including updated versions of “If The World Had a Front Porch” (1995) and “I See It Now” (1994).
Volume 3: Angelina was due out in November 2021, COVID-19 swept through its camp in September, pushing that final chapter back into 2022. Now two turbulent years are brewing, Retrospective 2020 ends on a high note, as Lawrence closes the chapter on three years of genre-defining country music.
The title track, “Angelina”, sets a more festive tone than 2nd volume‘s “Award of Fame”. Released in August Volume 2: The Price of Fame focuses on the legacy he hopes to leave with his music, given the high cost of his career. The title track encompasses the sentiment as a reflection on the years on the road and the sacrifices made along the way, especially his children, and the milestones he missed while away from home.
Volume 3: Angelina is also retrospective in nature, as the final installment of a landmark project. But here Lawrence finally made space to commemorate his undeniable mark on the country music genre.
Tucked between the retrospective album opener “Didn’t We” and 1996’s No. 1 “Time Marches On,” “Angelina” bridges a 30-year career with ease. The honky tonk dynamic tune is one of four new songs in the 10-track collection – made up mostly of what Lawrence considers his “trademark” hits.
“Angelina” is a legitimate centerpiece of the album, as Lawrence credits the track with breaking through a considerable bout of writer’s block that carried over to the final stage of this project, bought entirely throughout. a global pandemic.
American composer: What was your process for selecting songs for this final volume, while leaving space to celebrate your fan favorites?
Tracy Lawrence: I’ve written more in the past two years than I’ve written in years. Just conceptually and the recording and writing process, it was kind of overwhelming to tell you the truth.
I wrote nine of the 10 songs on the first package, I wrote five new ones on the second package. And as I got to this last thing, I hit the wall. I ran out of ideas. In the last two writing sessions I had, I didn’t walk away feeling like I had something I wanted to record. So I started going back to my old catalog, I had some stuff I had the post on, and some stuff that friends started sending me. I didn’t really hit the publishing houses, I just kind of stayed in my camp and kind of dug some things.
But “Angelina” comes from Rick Huckaby, a friend of mine, you’ll see his name on tons of songs I’ve recorded over the years. And it was really different. I don’t hear a lot of really bouncy Honky Tonk stuff anymore. Nobody really writes this stuff. And I love playing it, it’s kind of in my wheelhouse. And it fit right in there and had a great Louisiana feel. And we just thought that was really fun. I’ve never heard of anything like it.”
AS: Once you found “Angelina”, how did that song shape the rest of your song selections? How do each of these new tracks fit into the context of your past successes?
LT: Right after cutting “Angelina”, I wrote “Who Needs You” and “Drank Thru It” on the same day with Carson Chamberlain and Wyatt McCubbin. I was just trying to find things that still fit into this traditional view of the country that I wanted to have to wrap up this third project. My hand was forced because I had no more things to write; it was very frustrating to get to the end and then say, ‘Damn, man, I’m out of time, and I can’t make it.’
Another outside song that I really loved was “Don’t Drink the Whiskey”. It hit me between the eyes and then I really sank my teeth into that one too. And I like this kind of hardcore country. It’s what I grew up on. So I really felt it was a good addition to the record.
AS: Mixing new songs with the best of your old work, what do you think has changed in your storytelling or artistry over the years between these two tracks?
LT: I wrote “If the World Had a Porch” in 1993 – I’ve lived a lot of life since then. I have children, I have been married for 20 years, I have seen the world change. So, I mean, really, as you get older and see the world through a different lens, your writing changes. I am more descriptive; I paint better pictures. I understood that, but I think I’m doing a better job now.
LIKE: Looking at all these hits, are there one or two that have been particularly pivotal to your career?
LT: “Time flies”, no doubt. Well, and “Paint Me A Birmingham” too. But by the time “Time Marches On” came out, I had recorded three albums with James Stroud, and I made the switch to Don Cook. And this song came directly because of this change of producer; it’s a song that I wouldn’t have had without this change. And it was the biggest record I ever had, and it had a huge impact that changed the course of my career. I think it will be one of those songs that have been around for a long time.
“Birmingham” was the same way when it was released in the early 2000s. This record was such a massive impact record. I mean, I never thought I’d be a guy who would end the show with a ballad, but I end my show with “Paint Me In Birmingham” and it totally rocks the house. They wait for him every night. But you know, I’ve had eight No. 1 records, and “Paint Me A Birmingham” isn’t one of them.
AS: Closing the chapter on your 30th birthday, what’s next for you?
LT: I don’t know what this next chapter is, what I want to do, or what the next stage of evolution is. But, I think as an artist you always try to grow. Going back to what I said about my drying up as I finished this stuff last year, I don’t plan on writing much this year.
We have planned big trips to Europe with my family. I just started taking Italian lessons, I’m learning a new language. There are things I want to do, from a life experience perspective, that I think will fill my cup and recharge me in a way that when I come to fall in the latter part of this year, I think I’m going to be able to write really different things than I’ve been able to write before. I hope I can get to this place.
Angelina List of tracks:
1. Don’t we have
3. Time flies
4. Paint Me A Birmingham
5. Don’t drink whiskey
6. Sticks and stones
7. Texas Tornado
8. I drank
9. Who Needs You