Trace Adkins just wants to have fun. It is a philosophy that he learned from comedian Rodney Carrington, and it has carried him through a quarter century of great music, sold-out concerts, Grand Ole Opry membership and numerous awards.
“That’s what It’s all about in this business – having fun,” says Adkins, who has sold 11 million albums, racked up more than two billion streams, and delighted his fans with hits including “Every Light In The House Is Home,” “Songs About Me,” “Arlington,” “Honky Tonk Bedonkadonk” and “You’re Gonna Miss This.”
“Rodney Carrington said to me one day, we were doing a video together, and he said ‘You and I are pretty much at the same place in life, we can make decisions based on the answer to the question, would that be fun to do? I don’t look at money or logistics, but if the answer to that question is yes, I’m gonna do it.’ I took that to heart and that’s the way I’ve looked at it ever since. I just want to have fun. I’m in a place in life where I can make decisions based on that and that’s what I’m gonna do.”
It’s obvious when listening to Adkin’s just released album (8/27/21) The Way I Wanna Go, he had a lot of fun recording it. With a cast of characters including good friends Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan and Keb Mo, rappers Pitbull and Snoop Dogg, Melissa Etheridge and Stevie Wonder on harmonica, the stage was set for what Adkins says is “the best record I ever made. My voice is strong on this record, more than anything I’ve ever recorded, because I’m rested. We recorded the album throughout the last year and (because of Covid) it’s the first time I’ve not had to come in off the road and record an album. I had time to rest between recordings.”
When Adkins started recording this album, he had not planned for the duets that are on it. “Collaboration never entered my mind. I was going to make another record and then the producers made suggestions. Blake and Luke were no brainers, they are friends. Snoop he owed me one because I sang on one of his records a few years ago. All the collaborations made sense to me except Pitbull. I said, “He won’t do it because I don’t know him at all.’ The producers reached out to him and the fact that he would agree to do it blew my mind.
“I’ve done very few female duets because my voice is so low and Melissa Etheredge’s voice is perfect with my voice. When I got that track back, I thought I should have been singing with her for 20 years. Melissa’s voice is perfect, it blends better than any other woman I have sung with. She killed that song. I think she took it to a different place, and I was appreciative and honored that she did that. It is one of my favorite cuts on this record.
“Keb Mo and I have known each other for years and I finally had the song I thought Keb would be perfect for. My attorney in New York is Stevie Wonder’s attorney and he took the Keb Mo track and played it for Stevie and he wanted to do harmonica on it. They asked me if that was okay and I said yeah, he can sing on it if he wants to! I would never have allowed myself to dream I could record with Stevie Wonder. Blake begged me (laughs) and Luke lives down the road from me and we’re good friends. It’s amazing we got a track that didn’t have laughter on it because we all laughed through the whole thing.”
There are 25 songs on The Way I Wanna Go, but unlike many artists who cut double or triple the number of songs that actually end up on an album, Adkins only cut 27 for this one.
“We recorded 27 songs and that’s it, we didn’t over record, and we used those other two on exclusive things that someone wanted,” Adkins explains. “Over the years I got to where I don’t over cut. I know what I want and I don’t cut it unless it’s a possible single. When Scott Hendricks (label executive) told me every cut should be a single, that’s the way I’ve approached it ever since. When they ask what will the single be, I say write the titles on the wall and throw a dart.”
As for the first single, the Luke Bryan/Pittbull collaboration, Adkins says, “I didn’t know what to expect. We sent the song to Pitbull and he wrote that verse with no input from us. Snoop did the same thing, he wrote his verse with no direction from us, he just wrote it.”
The title track, “The Way I Wanna Go,” was written by Barry Dean, Troy Verges, TJ Osborne and John Osborne (The Brothers Osborne). “TJ and John write most everything they record but every once in a while they write something I want to record. They are too young to sing this song and I am so glad because that’s how it ended up with me. They are 20 years down the road from singing this song and I’m really glad to get the chance to record it. If I never got a chance to record another song, that’s the song I’d want it to be. I’m gonna leave when I’m ready to, and that’s the way I feel.
“When the sent “Big” to me (another song Trace recorded of theirs) TJ said, ‘ I heard your voice on this song.’ He has commented to me that I was a bit of an inspiration to him and that is quite an honor. They almost can’t record everything they write because they write so much and I’m glad they send me their culls every now and then.”
Adkins often gives song ideas to writers to finish. One of the writers who he says “takes up space in my head” is Monty Criswell. “I talk to Monty a lot and Monty wrote a lot of stuff on this record. He knows what I’m thinking and how I feel about stuff. One song on this record that is a true story is ‘Honey Child.’ I didn’t know I’d put it on an album but it is one that Monty wrote.”
Honest as always, Adkins answered “Money” when asked what he missed most during the pandemic. “I wasn’t making any money and my poor guys … I kept them on 75 percent salary, and it was hard on everybody. I felt really bad for everybody. There are a lot of people who depend on me for their livelihood and that came home to me last year — that I had those people I was responsible for hit me pretty hard. I did the best I could.”
Thankfully concert venues have opened up and Adkins has been going out with Shelton as well as headlining his own shows. “The crowds have been great. I haven’t seen this kind of excitement in an audience at one of my shows in a long time. They are excited to be going to the show. You can feel that on stage and it feels great. I always say this is a partnership we have with the audience, and you are going to get what you give. If you give energy, you will get it back.”
One thing Adkins won’t do is sing every song off the new album. “I don’t try to do that, I’m not going to get on stage and do a bunch of new stuff. The audience came to hear the hits and that’s what I’m going to give them. I’ll put two or three off the new album, but I won’t try to force it on them.”
The man who is often larger than life gives fans his 13th studio album with The Way I Wanna Go. Exclusive limited-edition merchandise including a commemorative 25th anniversary personalized platinum plaque, autographed CDs and cowboy hats and virtual Meet & Greet experiences are available to preorder from Trace’s Official Online Store: https://traceadkins.com/collections/store.