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Published: Sunday, 8/22/2004

Former 'bad boy' Travis Tritt changes his life, but not his music

BY BRIAN DUGGER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Travis Tritt says his career is still important to him, but it has now taken a back seat to his family. Travis Tritt says his career is still important to him, but it has now taken a back seat to his family.
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In 1992, Travis Tritt found his little slice of heaven - a cabin in the mountains of Georgia. That little cabin became an occasional retreat, a place to go to walk along the lake or maybe write a few songs.

A couple years later, he'd bring his soon-to-be-wife, Theresa, to dream about the future.

"I started taking her there, and we'd talk about kids, about what a great place this would be to bring them to," Tritt says from his main home, a 75-acre farm near Atlanta.

Nine years of marriage and three children later, the giddiness is evident in his voice as he talks about taking Theresa; his daughter, Tyler, 6; and sons, Tristan, 5, and Tarian, 8 months, to the cabin a couple of weeks ago.

Travis Tritt usually goes two years between albums. "We try to record quality, not quantity,'' says the veteran recording artist. Travis Tritt usually goes two years between albums. "We try to record quality, not quantity,'' says the veteran recording artist.
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"Every other time we'd bring them, they'd be too small to do anything," Tritt says. "We hadn't seen the place in about 18 months, but this time it was a red-letter day for me, man. I got them up on kneeboards, out on an inner tube, even taught them to skip rocks."

Could it be? Travis Tritt, the former bad boy of country music whose past included "drugs, alcohol, all the excesses that being a successful musician and celebrity bring," is now 41 years old and spends time skipping stones and going to dance recitals?

Yep.

"A few years ago, career was my number one priority. I still like to be in the studio and record, definitely love to perform live, but those things have taken a back seat to my family," he says. "Everyone grows up eventually. Everyone is going to have that time where they sow their wild oats, find out what life's all about. Someone asked me the other day if I regret anything. I look back over my life, and I made mistakes, but I don't regret anything. It's part of growing up.

I've changed my personal life, but I haven't changed my taste in music."

His taste in music will be on display in the area twice this summer. He will be playing at the Allen County Fair on Saturday, then at the Sandusky State Theatre on Sept. 24.

Travis Tritt is all about southern-rocking country, and that style has never been more evident than in his current album, "My Honky Tonk History," which was released Tuesday.

"Most of the time when I finish an album, I'll sit down and listen, but often I'll wish I had a barn-burner song like 'T-R-O-U-B-L-E.'

"That's usually the hardest thing for me to find. But the first three or four songs I got were all uptempo. I started seeing the direction this thing was going, so I said let's let the river run," he says.

What that decision meant was that Tritt, a prolific songwriter, put all but one of the songs that he had written back on the shelf. The only song on the album that he penned is "We've Had It All."

"What I'd done wasn't fitting the flow of the album. This turned out to be the most uptempo, country-rock sound of my career."

It's also an album notable for the people who collaborated with Tritt in making it.

The second track, "Too Far to Turn Around," was co-written by Gretchen Wilson. Long before Wilson became an international hit, she was a struggling songwriter and demo singer who had done some work with Tritt's producer, Billy Joe Walker, Jr. The first time Tritt heard "Too Far to Turn Around," it was on a demo with a male voice.

Wilson's publishing house sent over a copy with her voice on it.

"She has this incredible bluesy voice. I said we have to bring her in on this album," Tritt says, so Wilson's vocals provide the background on the track.

"She was talking to Billy Joe, telling him how close she was to leaving. Within a few days, she gets signed to a record deal, I'm recording her song, and she finds out that I want her to come in and sing on the album. It reminds me of when I was a young artist.

"Someone told me that a musical career is a rocket ride. If you hit, it's going to be like a rocket. It's amazing how fast things can change."

Track four, "What Say You," is a duet with John Mellencamp. It's a song about listening to opposing views, and the pairing couldn't fulfill the message more perfectly. Tritt is an ardent supporter of President Bush and will be appearing at the Republican National Convention in New York City later this month. Mellencamp has joined a long list of artists who are putting on concerts to raise money in support of John Kerry.

"I've done so many duets, most with country artists. I wanted to do something outside of country. When we studied a list of names, John's came up, and I thought it was perfect. Our voices melded well, and we're about as far apart politically as you could get. I sent the song to him, and he saw the same thing."

For Tritt, this is album No. 11. The first 10 have sold more than 20 million copies and spawned a string of hits, including "Country Club," "T-R-O-U-B-L-E," "Here's a Quarter," "Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde," "It's a Great Day to Be Alive," and "Best of Intentions."

"If I don't love a song, I don't record it. It has to move me. I've stuck by that philosophy my whole career," he says.

Tritt is atypical in Nashville in that he usually takes at least two years between albums. Many of today's artists go two or three songs deep on an album, then put out another one to maximize sales.

"I'm not a one-album-a-year type of a guy. We try to record quality, not quantity. I go in with the intention of getting four singles off an album. I've always recorded albums with the approach that every song can be a single," Tritt says. "It's not about the money to me or the need to have my name in front of people constantly. I've actually found that if you take time away, peopl etend to miss you, and it creates a buzz when you come back."

At his upcoming shows, Tritt plans to show off the songs on the new album but he'll also pull out the oldies.

"The good news about being a 15-year vet is that you have a ton of hits to go back to. No one does a more energetic show that reaches a broader demographic than we do," Tritt says. "I have more fun on stage than I do any other place in my career. Every day I'm on the road, I look forward to getting on stage for those two hours. I get the same goose bumps and excitement level backstage when the lights go down and I hear the roar of the crowd as I did 20 years ago."

Travis Tritt will be playing at the Allen County Fair, 2750 State Rt. 309, Lima, with Chris LeDoux on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 or $25 and can be purchased at the fair, by phone at 419-228-7141, or online at www.allencountyfair.org. He will be at the Sandusky State Theatre, 107 Columbus Ave., Sandusky, at 8 p.m. on Sept. 24. Tickets are $45 or $48 and can be ordered by phone at 419-626-1950.

Contact Brian Dugger at: bdugger@theblade.com or 419-724-6183.


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