Country music fans from the 1990s through early 2000s know the name Tracy Lawrence. (It was the “hat” era of male country music artists, which was replaced by the “cap” era.)
He’s won a slew of CMA and ACM awards, a Grammy nomination, had 22 songs on the Billboard Top 10 charts including “Time Marches On,” “Alibis,” “Can’t Break It to My Heart,” “If the World Had a Front Porch,” “Texas Tornado” and his first No. 1 song (25 years ago), “Sticks and Stones.”
The 1980s and ’90s were “such a great era for country music,” said Lawrence in a recent phone interview. “It was the era of Randy Travis, George Strait … country music still had that traditional sound but was a little bit progressive. I was really a fan of it.”
Lawrence will bring his neo-traditional country music to the Weinberg Center for the Arts, 20 W. Patrick St., Frederick, for one show at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22. Tickets are $40 to $55.
That era of music is also the focus of his radio show, Honky Tonkin’ with Tracy Lawrence, syndicated in 80 markets around the country. “It’s a way to stay connected to that music,” he said. The show sometimes includes interviews with artists, like Reba McEntire and John Anderson. It’s produced by Silverfish and distributed by Compass Media Networks, and is taped on Tuesdays in the same studios as Big D and Bubba.
A new album, “Good Ole Days,” is slated for a Nov. 10 release and it relives the good ole hits of Lawrence re-recorded as duets. He sees this project as an “opportunity to bridge the gap between neo-traditional and today’s country music fans.” Joining Lawrence in duets are long-time friend Tim McGraw on “Time Marches On,” Jason Aldean on “Can’t Break It To My Heart,” Justin Moore on “Alibis,” and Chris Young featured on “If The Good Die Young.” New country artist Luke Combs is featured on “If The World Had a Front Porch.” Kellie Pickler is the only female artist on the album because, as Lawrence explained, he felt he had only one song suited for a woman’s voice, “Stars Over Texas.”
“It was a long process to make this album,” Lawrence said of scheduling all the artists for the studio. “I was there for every tracking session and vocal. It took well over a year. The first recording was with Tim in the summer of 2016.”
The album has two new songs, “Good Ole Days,” featuring 3 Doors Down’s Brad Arnold and Big & Rich, and “Finally Home,” with pal Craig Morgan. “Craig is the celebrity spokesman for Finally Home,” a nonprofit organization that provides mortgage-free, custom-built homes to wounded, ill and injured veterans or widows of the fallen, through a network of builders, suppliers and supporters. A portion of the proceeds from “Finally Home” will be donated to the organization.
Lawrence is well-known for his humanitarian work. In 2016 the no-frills Lawrence was honored by the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals as its Philanthropist of the Year for his work on behalf of Nashville Rescue Mission. Funds raised through his annual Mission: Possible Turkey Fry and benefit concert have helped provide more than 75,000 meals to those in need.
“The first year, it was just me and some friends from church,” Lawrence recalled. “We wanted to do something for the community. And since some of my family had been helped the Rescue Mission we thought it would be a great thing to do (to help them).”
The first Turkey Fry was about a dozen years ago and the crew showed up with propane tanks and fryers. “We cooked 100 turkeys. Now we have sponsorships and a concert that raised $145,000. Last year we fried 600 turkeys and served 7,000 plates of food,” Lawrence said. “It’s probably the biggest day of my life.”
And, of course, he’s still creating music, keeping a notebook of song ideas, lyrics and writing new songs. “I enjoy that process. It’s very healthy for me,” Lawrence says. “Writing is so therapeutic. I jokingly say writing a song is kind of like going to a shrink, only you don’t have to pay for it!”
I asked Lawrence to share his thoughts on the recent Las Vegas shooting at the Route 91 outdoor concert.
“The last three weeks before that event have been tough,” he said. “Troy Gentry (of the duo Montgomery Gentry) was killed in a helicopter crash. Then there was the church shooting outside of Nashville; I have personal friends who attend that church and told me what happened. Then the Las Vegas shooting. I have several friends that were there,” including Jason Aldean and Chris Young. And the fella I co-wrote ‘Front Porch’ with, we laid him to rest last week.
“It’s hard to comprehend, it’s a painful time for country music as a whole,” he said. “We will heal and carry on. All of us will be more careful on stage, especially outside stages. We’ll get through and we’re not going to stop doing what we do.”