Randy Travis finds inspiration – December 2000
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Randy Travis finds inspiration  Print

By Jeffrey B. Remz, December 2000

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"I had a record down at the court house long as I am tall," says the very lanky Travis. "I was so out of control that it was ridiculous. My mom was a wonderful woman. She really was, but she could not control us."

"My dad was gone a lot," says Travis. "He worked a lot, and he had construction company. He did a lot of things. He raised cows and horses. I dropped out of school at 15. It was actually against the law to, but (my parents) said, 'He wouldn't go. He wouldn't do homework.' I kept getting into trouble."

But he also was singing playing with his brother Ricky. Travis hails from a very musically-inclined family.

At 16, Randy entered a talent show hosted by the Country City USA club in Charlotte as a soloist. After winning, he was invited by the club owner, Lib Hatcher, to play regularly at the night spot. The stint lasted about five years with Travis first performing on weekends and then fulltime.

In the late 1970's, Hatcher took over as Travis' manager. He recorded a few singles for the Paula Records label, "Dreamin'" and "She's My Woman" with Joe Stampley producing.

In 1981, Travis moved to Nashville, while still playing at Country City, USA.

Hatcher moved to Nashville as well, managing The Nashville Palace. Travis cooked catfish and washed dishes, while also singing.

By this time, he called himself Randy Ray.

In 1983, Travis recorded his first album independently, "Randy Ray - Live at the Nashville Palace."

The dream of becoming a singer on a Nashville label was not happening too fast. In fact, he was rejected by about every label in town for years.

Travis said it was "always the same reason - too country. I didn't get discouraged. Never did, and neither did she (Libby). We always felt for some reason this is going to work. So we kept working whatever job it might be."

Warner finally signed Travis in 1985. A soundtrack single was followed by his debut, "Storms of Life," a classic. The first single "On the Other Hand," did not do well, but he was in the top 10 with "1982" in late 1985.

And then the label did something ultra-rare; it re-released a single, "On the Other Hand." This time it climbed to number one. Ditto for "Diggin Up Bones."

In fact, seven of his next eight singles hit the top including "Forever and Ever, Amen," the Country Music Association single of the year, "Too Gone Too Long," "I Told You So" and "Deeper Than the Holler."

The New Traditionalist movement was on with Travis as its leader. The Urban Cowboy boom, which actually killed country music earlier in the decade, was long forgotten.

The hits continued to roll in for the easy going singer, including the Brook Benton hit "It's Just a Matter of Time" and "Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart."

After 12 albums for Warner, the magic seemed to be gone with four straight singles making little headway, and Travis left in 1997.

Travis was the first artist to ink with the newly formed Dreamworks Records label in Nashville. When "Out of My Bones," the first single from the new label's debut album, "You and You Alone" was released in 1998, he delivered the label its first number one country hit.

Travis did fairly well with "A Man Ain't Made of Stone" album, but soon Travis and Dreamworks realized they were on different wavelengths, leaving Travis currently without a label.

Travis says part of the problem was a lack of distribution by Dreamworks. Wife Libby (they married in 1991 amidst earlier rumors Travis was gay) would go into record stores while on tour and many times find only one or two copies of the album. When an artist tours, CD sales increase. But when there are no CDs to be had...

"James Stroud's the head of the label, and James Stroud is a friend of mine, and he always is. He played drums on the first two albums I recorded. James, however, wants to produce a little more modern, a little musically oriented record. They just liked too much music and too little vocals. That's my thought. As a man, I think the world of him. I think he's a good producer. The problem lies in mixing the records. That part, we somehow we lost touch and lost control in there somewhere."

One thing remaining constant is the quality of his voice.

"I just started singing," says Travis. "As I've gotten older and sang more and more, you learn things - breathing techniques, singing from the stomach. It's a gift, one of those gifts you don't have to work for."

"I think it's a gift you're born with - whether writing playing or singing. I think it's something you develop over time."

Travis makes it quite clear that he is not the least bit happy about the state of country music in recent years.

"I'm a country singer. No doubt. I've had a great career. I'm extremely fortunate, but it's almost like doing things backwards. In country radio, you release the single. You get attention for the single, which is coming from the new album, maybe the album by the same tile, and then you got out and play."

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