New Randy Travis Documentary “More Life” Premieres at Country Music Hall of Fame

Travis, wife Mary and Industry Pros Reminisce at Panel Discussion Prior to Screening

Written by Deborah Evans Price
New Randy Travis Documentary “More Life” Premieres at Country Music Hall of Fame
Randy Travis; Photo Credit: Alan Poznier for Randy Travis / WMN

Randy Travis’ incredible life and career are captured in a poignant new documentary, More Life, which premiered last night (Dec. 13th) at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. Travis and his wife Mary participated in a panel discussion just prior to the screening, which was moderated by the Hall of Fame’s Peter Cooper and included Warner Music Nashville Executive VP of A&R Cris Lacy, country music historian Robert K. Oermann, director Shaun Silva and Travis’ longtime producer Kyle Lehning.

   Warner Music Nashville Chairman/CEO John Esposito welcomed attendees to the Hall of Fame’s Ford Theater and began the evening by recounting Travis’ considerable achievements. “This year Randy was named the CMT Artist of a Lifetime. . .He has 23 No. 1 records, 31 top 10 songs to his name and he’s achieved four gold albums, four platinum records, one [double] platinum, one album that is three times platinum and one that was five times platinum. That’s pretty damn good,” Esposito smiled.

   “He’s won seven Grammy awards, 11 ACM awards, 10 American Music Awards, eight Dove awards, five CMA awards, two People’s Choice Awards. . . Country radio has called him the new king of TikTok with nearly 16 million likes and 2.5 million followers. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016 and with 46 appearances across TV and film, Randy has stars in both the Hollywood Walk of Fame and outside at the Music City Walk of Fame.”

   That’s a lot of life to capture on film and Silva does a beautiful job in More Life. “We didn’t set out to make a documentary,” Silva said during the panel discussion. “This was supposed to be a music special for [Travis’ debut album] Storms Of Life, celebrating 25 years so when we started this over 11 years ago, that’s what it was.”

   During the panel discussion, Lehning spoke of his work with Travis over the years. “One of the beauties of working with Randy is how clear he was about who he was and what he wanted to do, so my job was just to stay out of the way,” he said.

   He also shared an anecdote about Travis’ commitment to real musicians. “I had cut a track and he came in to sing it,” he recalled. “He listened to it, and I had programmed the drums on this drum machine. Randy said, ‘That’s the drums on the record?’ I said, ‘Yes,’ and he said, ‘It’s not a person playing those?’ I said, ‘No,’ and he said, ‘That’s a machine?’ I said, ‘Yes,’ and he said, ‘Let’s don’t do that again.’”

Ontourage Management’s Tony Conway, Chairman & CEO WMN John Esposito, EVP, A&R WMN Cris Lacy, Randy Travis, SVP, Creative WMN Shane Tarleton, Kyle Lehning, Mary Travis, 117 Entertainment’s Zach Farnum

   During the panel, participants touched on Travis’ days early days working at the Nashville Palace where he would be in the kitchen frying catfish, then go on stage to sing and then return to his kitchen duties. Panelists reminisced about legendary Warner Bros. A&R executive Martha Sharp signing him to the record label and current A&R chief Lacy spoke of Travis’ enduring impact on the Warner family. When asked what Warner would be today without Randy Travis, she replied, “Closed.

   “I was thinking about Randy, and I was thinking about this documentary,” she continued. “I was listening to his music and It’s A Wonderful Life came on. It hit me. This is a George Bailey moment. A world without Randy Travis would have looked much different. There would be no Garth Brooks in the way that you know Garth and I think he would agree from the things I’ve heard him say about his influence. I would venture to guess all of them wouldn’t be the same if they hadn’t grown up on [Randy’s] music and hadn’t been inspired by him. And for Warner currently we have people on the roster—I mentioned this at the Opry— who wouldn’t have signed to Warner Records if it weren’t for Randy because they wanted to be on the label that Randy was on.  Cole Swindell said, ‘I wanted my dad to see that Warner Brothers emblem because he saw that on Randy Travis’ album.’ He gave so much when he first released those records and he just continues to give to us. . . It’s the house that Randy Travis built. I wouldn’t have a job if it wasn’t for him.”

   The panelists spoke at length about Travis’ music and his ability to craft compelling albums. “All of Randy’s albums, when you listen to them there’s one great song after the other. There’s not a throw away song on any of them because each one of them will speak to you,” his wife Mary told the crowd.  “Somebody will say, ‘What is your favorite Randy Travis song?’ And the answer is, ‘The last one I heard because there’s so many great ones.’ It’s what makes Randy Travis, Randy Travis.”

   Following the screening of the documentary in the Ford Theater, the crowd moved upstairs into the Hall of Fame rotunda where Randy and Mary visited with attendees at a private reception. Mary told SLN they had seen bits and pieces of the documentary as it was coming together, but the Hall of Fame screening was the first time they had seen the completed film.

   The most heart wrenching parts of the documentary chronicle Travis’ health crisis and recovery. He was hospitalized in 2013 with cardiomyopathy and then had a near fatal stroke. “It was an eye opener for us to understand that God really does have a plan and a direction for us,” Mary told SLN. “As much as I questioned him, ‘Why? How could you do this? What he has is a voice and you’re gonna take it away?’  It wasn’t God who took it away. It was the cardiomyopathy. It was the stroke. It was everything that happened. You can get bitter or better. Randy chose and I chose, we’re gonna be better.”

   Mary and Randy have known each other 31 years, became a couple in 2010 and married in 2015. She has been by Randy’s side during every step of his illness and recovery and has seen the impact his strength and faith have had on people. “We loved the road. We loved getting in the bus and going from one venue to the next,” she says of their life before his health deteriorated. “It was a wonderful life, but now to get to go somewhere and inspire somebody not just with your music, but through living—because that was the best therapy we found was living life—if you can walk in a room and inspire somebody and be a point of life, that’s Randy Travis.”

   The documentary includes concert footage filmed before his illness that features Travis singing some of his best hits, including “Diggin’ Up Bones,” “Forever and Ever, Amen” and “Three Wooden Crosses.” Josh Turner performs with Travis on “T.I.M.E.” The documentary also features interviews with Lehning, Sharp, Turner and Travis’ longtime tour manager Jeff Davis.

   When asked what he thought viewers would learn about Travis in the documentary, Lehning told SLN, “How truly seriously he took the music that he made, how important it was to him, and it wasn’t a job. It was really a calling for him. He was unshakable in his approach to what he wanted to do and that’s part of what was really attractive about him to people. They sensed that he was the real deal. He wasn’t just posing as a country singer. That was who he was and who he is. His voice has a timeless quality.”

   Mary says the documentary will also show viewers the depth of his faith. “I hope that they learn he had a lot more faith than they even knew through his songs,” she said. “A Randy song was like opening up the Bible just the day you needed to read something or know something or get an answer. It spoke to you.”

   Silva, who co-produced the project, first began working on the documentary over a decade ago. Travis’ performances were filmed in 2012.  “There was a big pause, waiting to see how things were gonna play out,” he says of Travis health crisis. “Fortunately, they went the right way. That was a blessing. Then, for me, the pressure was honoring him and honoring his story, honoring his courage and honoring the relationship he and Mary have, which is so special. I witnessed it before and after he got sick, and it’s been unwavering throughout.”

   At press time, plans had yet to be finalized for the film’s distribution. Travis’ publicist, Zach Farnum, said there will be an announcement coming in 2022 letting fans know where they can see More Life.

   The documentary does a beautiful job in celebrating Travis’ considerable musical legacy and honoring his strength and perseverance in the face of adversity. It also shows his passion for horses and the cowboy lifestyle. “I feel like his music elevated country music. I loved it,” Silva says. “But when I was growing up, what appealed to me as well about Randy is that he was a real cowboy. It was not pretend. We all love to put the hat on, but we don’t all live it. He lives it. It is true to his lifestyle. Real cowboys are real tough. He’s always been tough, but we’ve seen his toughness on a whole other level and I think that it is something we can all learn from and admire—his faith, his strength, his courage, and the love he has for the industry, for Mary and for his life. There’s a lot to say and I’m just proud to be associated with this. It’s a dream come true for me to be able to tell this story.”