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Q&A: Randy Travis

Country superstar Randy Travis has given himself an ideal gift to celebrate his 25th year in the music business: a duets album with a stellar cast of collaborators.

Country superstar Randy Travis has given himself an ideal gift to celebrate his 25th year in the music business: a duets album with a stellar cast of collaborators.

Joining him on his "Anniversary Celebration" CD are such members of the Country Music Hall of Fame as Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, George Jones and Ray Price. Current Nashville hit makers Zac Brown Band, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Josh Turner and Brad Paisley also sing with him on the collection. Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame member Don Henley is on board, as are such up-and-comers as country's James Otto and Jamey Johnson, pop's Kristin Chenoweth and Irish tenor Eamonn McCrystal.

Travis' fellow country superstar Alan Jackson has written several songs with him, so his presence is a natural. Revered vocal stylists such as Shelby Lynne, John Anderson, Gene Watson and Joe Stampley participate, as do Travis' fellow Grand Ole Opry cast members Lorrie Morgan and Connie Smith.

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Randy Travis

The album was inspired by the 1986 release of the Travis' LP "Storms of Life." According to a press release, the collection, which sold nearly four million copies, was a cornerstone of the "new traditionalist" movement in Nashville, inspiring the likes of Jackson, Paisley, Chesney, McGraw, Turner and Underwood.

Travis spoke to SoundSpike about "Anniversary Celebration," his greatest successes and his admiration of "American Idol" winner Scotty McCreery.

SoundSpike: tell me about "Anniversary Celebration.

Randy Travis: As you listen to it, there are some new [songs], some old [songs]. On the new songs, we were just sitting and listening to some things as we were finding them, and that is interesting when you're trying to listen to music and say, "OK, this would work for me and whoever it might be." That's exactly what we did. We sat, we listened. [Music Nashville VP of A&R] Cris Lacy, [producer] Kyle Lehning, we go through these songs and just make decisions based on the singers we wanted and just put it together that way. We started talking about this about two years ago. Probably looked through material for the better part of one year. That's the way it always goes. It's a slow process, and you find it as you find it. Sometimes you find it a little quicker than other times. It's a fun process. I enjoyed doing it.

How did you decide which singers you were going to perform with?

That's another interesting thing. We had a wish list, and that wish list could have gone on and on and on. Kyle Lehning, at one point, said, "OK. Stop." We just kept thinking of people. There are so many people in the business you'd love to work with, obviously. Kyle said, "You have to stop now. If you're going to finish the album this year, we have to stop." "All right we're done."

Why did you decide to do a duets album, as opposed to just a retrospective of hits?

We talked about a couple years, trying to decide exactly what to do and who's going to be on it. It took awhile. I don't actually know how it evolved, so I don't know who had the initial idea to do the duets. I don't remember if we truly said we'll do all duets. It just kind of evolved.

Can you believe it's the 25th anniversary of "Storms of Life"?

Gosh, it seems like maybe it should be five years, at the most. It goes so quickly. No, there's no way it's been 25 years.

What do you consider your greatest success so far?

To live this long, I guess. [Laughs] I don't know. I didn't come into this with any great dreams, plans. I just wanted to make a living in the music business. People ask questions like this a lot of times -- "What are your dreams?" For me, it was just to make a living singing and writing songs. I didn't have any great dreams of, "At this point and time I want to accomplish this and this and this." I never have done that. I don't know how really to answer that. I'm just happy to be in the business. There's something so special about music. When you're on stage, that part of it is really incredible to be honest with you. It's hard to describe what that feels like. I always borrow from Barbara Mandrell who said, "It's a wonderful exchange of energy." That's probably the best way I know to describe that. It is ... even on the worst night that you're so tired I had one of those last night. We had no sleep and had to go on last night. But it was just one of those wonderful nights. The audience was like we paid them to be there. There was something so special about that. Once you've done that, you're kind of addicted to it. I've been working for a live audience since I was 9 years old. At 52, I can't remember much of life when I wasn't doing that.

What do you think about the current state of country music?

Well, I'm always going to say this: I want to see more traditional music come along. But you know, when you look at this business now and see people coming out like Brad Paisley, like Josh Turner, like Jamey Johnson, the Zac Brown Band and of course people who have been out there awhile longer like Strait, like Alan Jackson, I think we're in good shape. But I'd always like to say I'd like to see a little more traditional come out.

What did you think about a country singer, Scotty McCreery, winning "American Idol"?

I liked him a lot. I thought he was a very, very good singer. There are a lot of good singers, but a big part of what he seemed to have going for him was the ability to pick music. I know they're limited on what they can pick. They're going to have a pool of songs and you kind of have to go with what you end up with sometimes. You can't change that on that show. I think he has a good ear for hearing songs. I think he's a good vocalist. At his age, he has a lot going on for him.

July 2011
15 - Atlanta, GA - Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
17 - Clarkston, MI - DTE Energy Music Theatre (with Josh Turner)

August 2011
11 - Verona, NY - Turning Stone Resort and Casino
12 - Malone, NY - Franklin County Fairgrounds (Franklin County Fair)
19 - New Brunswick, NJ - State Theatre
25 - Abilene, TX - Abilene Civic Center

September 2011
16 - North Kansas City, MO - VooDoo Lounge/Harrah's North Kansas City
17 - Van Buren, AR - Van Buren Fine Arts Center
24 - Houston, TX - Arena Theatre

October 2011
7 - Greensburg, PA - Palace Theatre
8 - Elkins, WV - Davis and Elkins College Theater


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