Exclusive interview . . . Like most of the country stars participating in the CMA Music Fest, Tracy Lawrence had a lot on his plate during the past few days. But one of the most enjoyable events had to be the time he spent picking tunes with his friends and songwriting buddies Josh Pruno, Flip Anderson, Rick Huckaby and Doug Stokes at Tracy’s fan club party at Jimmy Buffett’s Margarativille. Tracy played fan favorites such as his huge hit “Sticks and Stones,” and teased the audience with samples from his upcoming new album, including a gorgeous, uplifting tune called “Butterfly.” There were also plenty of laughs, none bigger than when Josh commented that he “grew up” loving Tracy’s music, which prompted Tracy to laugh out loud and remove his hat, revealing that his hair just might’ve been a bit thicker back when Josh was a kid. Before the party, Tracy spent a few minutes with Nashville.com on his bus, talking about the status of the new record, the importance of his fans, small-town America and his role in the upcoming movie, L.A. Dirt. Here’s some of what Tracy had to say.
Nash: Let’s talk about the CMA Music Fest for a minute. Every artist has highs and lows in their career, no matter who you are. But your fans have been there to support you through every phase of your career and keep coming back to your fan club party every year. Talk a little about your fans and their loyalty through the years.
Tracy: I think I have a pretty good relationship with my fan base. I have a lot of hard core fans. And I know the names of a lot of the folks who come to the fan club party. It’s really good that they’ve continued to support me. I don’t know why they keep coming. They’ve heard the same songs over and over again (laughs). I don’t get it. But I’m glad they keep coming!
Nash: I understand you’re going to be involved in making a movie called L.A. Dirt. Is that something that’s been in the back of your mind to do for a while, or was it a total surprise that you were approached to be in a movie?
Tracy: This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and I think this is a really good place for me to start. I actually got a chance to do a small part in the Maverick movie years ago, and I wound up on the cutting room floor. So being able to start with something on this level that, in my mind, I’m kind of relating it to a video shoot, but with dialogue . . . so I think it’s going to be a good place for me to start developing. And maybe it’ll open up a door for me to do some other things. So I’m going into it with a positive attitude that it’s a new artistic direction that I have to develop.
Nash: Do you have any training; have you been to an acting coach since, unlike a music video, you’ll have lines to say? Or are you just going to be yourself on camera?
Tracy: I’m just gonna be me. And they gave me an opportunity as I read through the script to kind of pick the character I wanted. So the uncle I’m playing in the movie owns a telephone pole plant, just a good old country boy. He’s about my age, so I think it’s going to be something that’s pretty natural for me.
Nash: I know the movie is set is in a small town and has a plot that revolves around racing. You see a lot of small-town America as your travel the country. What’s your take on how small-town America is doing these days? Are you seeing some hard times there? What’s the mood like in those towns?
Tracy: I think there are some hard times out there. I don’t know if it affects small-town America as much. Because people there are factory workers, they’re laborers, construction workers, farmers or whatever. Those things don’t really change that much. I think the people who are really being impacted the most by the downturn in the economy are people with college educations who can’t find a good-paying job. They’ve probably done their share of scratching out a living, but they don’t want to go back to that. I did my share of that when I was growing up and cutting my teeth and trying to find my path in my career. But small-town America is surviving. Those people are hard core and will make a living come what may.
Nash: I know you’ve spent a little time behind the wheel of a race car. Are you any good?
Tracy: I’m okay. I used to do a bunch of the Legend car stuff years ago when Mark Collie was doing that. I used to race those when there were celebrity race events. Never won, but I had a great time. And I’ve been in a Cup car three or four times over the years. I’ve never actually gotten out there and raced in it, but I’ve pushed it up to 170 or so.
Nash: You have bigger cojones than I have, and I’m not ashamed to say it!
Tracy: I was much younger then! (laughs) And I had no children then. That does change everything.
Nash: Tell me about the new record. All the songs picked?
Tracy: We’re just finishing it up. We’ve been in the studio the last couple of weeks. The tracks are all done and I just finished the last vocal track yesterday. So we’re going into overdub land, starting background vocals next week. Then we should be mixing by the end of the month.
Nash: Do you have a first single picked yet?
Tracy: I’ve got about five things on the album that I think have strong single potential, so I’ll wait until we get mixed to decide. I’ve got an idea what I think it’s gonna be. There’s a song called “Blacktop” that is very young, very fresh. Its’ about kids cruising around on the weekends and is very contemporary and will fit very well with what our format sounds like these days. So I think we may swing that one out there.
Nash: Is it too soon to know an album name yet?
Tracy: I don’t have one yet. There’s nothing in terms of single titles on the record that’s jumping out at me. So this will probably be the first time I’ve pulled an album title from within the lyrics of something. Nothing’s speaking to me that encompasses what this album is about yet. I haven’t found it.
Nash: Tell me about the rest of the summer. What’s your shooting schedule for the movie going to be like?
Tracy: They’re actually working with me to structure my shoots in between my weekend tour dates. So I’m going down next week and will be there four or five days and then we’ll go from there. I don’t know how much more they’re going to require from me. I’m going into Mobile Saturday, then we’ll get together in the conference room on Sunday reading through the script and working out parts and that sort of stuff.
Nash: Let me ask you just one more. Have they told you how many nude scenes you’ll be doing in the movie?
Tracy: No, not really. I figure one ought to be enough! (huge laugh)
Nash: Yeah, if one doesn’t clear the theater, there’s no need for more!
Tracy: That’s right! (laughs) I appreciate you buddy. Thanks.
Photos: David Scarlett