A Conversation with Randy Travis
H&K: We’re so glad you will be playing America’s Fair on Sunday, Aug. 12.
TRAVIS: Well I’m looking forward to it.
H&K: In the year 2000, you released your first religious theme album, “Inspirational Journey.” How many religious/ gospel theme albums have you released to date?
TRAVIS: That’s a good question. And you guys even knew the year it was released. Easily five or six. “Inspirational Journey” was the first.
H&K: What made you decide to record an album of this type of music?
TRAVIS: It was just something I wanted to do. I went to the head of the country label at Warner Brothers and told him I wanted to make a gospel album and he said, “Sure, go ahead and start it.” But it took four years from starting the project to finishing it because something was always getting in the way… finishing a country album, things like that. But there was no planning whatsoever… in other words it turned into a second career in that of recording gospel material and then having a music ministry as well as having the country recording and performances.
H&K: How did your fans react to you recording “Inspirational Journey?" Were they receptive to the change?
TRAVIS: Yeah! It’s been wonderful! (laughs) I’ll tell you the story. When we finished recording and started to go out and play shows we wanted to do maybe two or three of the gospel songs in our country show. The first time for me to try to attempt that would have had to be in a casino of all places.
H&K: (laughs) Oh, no!
TRAVIS: (laughs) I was a nervous wreck! When it came to that part of the show… well I don’t know if you know the song “Doctor Jesus,” but after we did the first gospel song, someone in the audience that night yelled, “Do ‘Doctor Jesus!” And I said, “Well, alright.” I felt a little better after that. (laughs)
H&K: Are you working on an album now, Randy?
TRAVIS: You know what, this has been the most chaotic time for me. Since, I’d say, the last three months of last year, we’ve recorded, mixed and mastered a country album and recorded a Christmas album, which Kyle is mixing and mastering now.
H&K: Who is Kyle?
TRAVIS: Kyle Lehning is my long time friend and producer. He has been my producer on all but maybe three of my over 22 albums. He’s been in this business for 30 years and he said he has never finished an album on a Friday and started a new one on Monday (laughs), and he said, “I don’t think I want to ever do it again!” (laughs)
H&K: Every song writer has their own way of writing… setting a block of time aside, anywhere anytime the thought comes or jotting down notes, for example. What is your way of writing?
TRAVIS: Well, I’ve done those too. I’ve set up appointments, to be honest, to go in and write with Don Schlitz, Paul Overstreet and several other people in and around Nashville. Because you’re writers yourselves you’ll understand this… with me it’s on, it’s working or I might as well go home. (laughs)
H&K: (laughs) Yeah, you are exactly right. Do you try new songs out on your wife, and, who has the final say?
TRAVIS: You know, I have the final say. She no doubt helps in picking material, there’s no doubt about that. For instance Kyle and I and a couple other people from Warner Brothers took a year to pick songs for the new album. Then when we come down to a group of 20 songs, then my wife gets involved in listening at that point. There’s this one song… (laughs) on the album she said… (laughs) “you have to do this one,” and it’s called “Everything I Own Has Got A Dent.” (laughs)
H&K: (laughs) And why did you have to do that song? There must be a story.
TRAVIS: (laughs) Because at that point and time… this is so funny… in a film I did last year, we were filming a fight scene and I misjudged. You know when you’re doing that for five or six hours, fatigue does set in. So I misjudged the depth of throwing a punch and I tore my metacarpel in my right hand.
TRAVIS: So the beginning of this song goes “right down the hall there’s a hole in the wall that’s hard to miss, it’s about the size and shape of my right busted fist.” (laughs)
TRAVIS: So she said, “Oh you got to do that one!” (laughs) And we did.
H&K: What is your favorite song to sing live?
TRAVIS: Now that’s a tough question! Oh man… what would that be. I don’t know. I honestly couldn’t tell you that. Well, I can tell you one that’s fun to do. This is one of the gospel songs called “Raise Him Up.” When we come to that point of the show, the response is like this is the number one record at the moment.
H&K: Are you as laid back as people think you are or appear to be?
TRAVIS: I’m pretty even keeled (hardy laugh). What you see is kinda what you get. I’m pretty much like this all the time.
H&K: Well, that’s a good thing.
TRAVIS: I’ve done many interviews in the past, but I’ve been honest with the press all these years. I came out of a background of a lot of drugs and alcohol and my life back then was just a constant fight. Shouting and screaming and physically fighting ,too. I was locked up many times. I think I genetically inherited an explosive kind of temper, and when that happens it’s like I’m gonna get a whippin’ or somebody else is. (laughs) So I try not to go there anymore. I’ve come a long way in trying to get rid of those situations and you realize that sometimes it just hurts a lot worse when you get older. (laughs)
H&K: What is the one thing that people would find surprising about you?
TRAVIS: Well… I don’t know. There are different things people find surprising. There was one interview I did a while back, and as I talked to you a little while ago about being so low tech, reminds me about this. This interview I did about two years ago now, well the interviewer said something about me using a computer and whatever, typing and stuff. I said, “I can’t use a computer. I don’t know anything about them.” I went on to say, “I couldn’t even turn one on, much less type on one.” So he said, “Well how do you write your songs?” I said, “With a pencil!” (laughs)
H&K: (laughs) That’s funny!
TRAVIS: (laughs) So, I don’t know what else would surprise people.
H&K: The answer to our next question might surprise people. Are you a romantic?
TRAVIS: (laughs a long time)
H&K: (laughs) Be careful what you say. Just kidding.
TRAVIS: (still laughing while fumbling to find the answer) Uh… I try.
H&K: (laughs) What would your wife’s answer be if we asked her the question if you are a romantic?
TRAVIS: (still laughing) Well…uh… (now Travis is very amused and fumbling for the answer) uh… he does the best he can! (laughs) I do the best I can, but it doesn’t work really. Uh… umm (still laughing) maybe there’s a genetic thing passed down there as well. I didn’t come from a big background in that area. (laughs) I’ve had to work on that too! Seriously… I do truly enjoy time with just my wife and I… spending time together whether it’s going out to a movie or to dinner. Just spending time alone.
H&K: We have to ask this question before we go… was there an age when your voice changed or did you always have the voice you have today?
TRAVIS: (laughs) It came pretty early. And it probably had something to do with my lifestyle when I first started out, way back when I was 14. And let me say, I certainly don’t recommend my early lifestyle on any young singer starting out.
H&K: At this stage in your life and career, are you where you want to be?
TRAVIS: I’m very happy with where I am, yeah. It seems with the passing of every year, if you can try anyway to do this, you seem to learn more and more of where you need to go and what you should be doing with your life… with the rest of your life. And hopefully a little more wisdom comes with the passing of years.
H&K: You can only hope.
TRAVIS: Yeah… a hope and a prayer.
H&K: Well Randy, we are going to let you go, but regretfully so. We could talk to you all day. It’s been such fun.
TRAVIS: Well, you all make it easy… you all make it easy.
H&K: Good! Thank you!
TRAVIS: It’s been a pleasure. You all take care. I’ll see you at the Fair!