Travis Tritt talks about his upcoming album and DVD combo, A Man and His Guitar.
Travis Tritt has released 12 studio albums, charted more than 40 times on the Hot Country Songs charts, and has released such hits as "Help Me Hold On," "Can I Trust You with My Heart," "Anymore," and the timeless classic "It's a Great Day to Be Alive," On November 18, Tritt will release a new album/DVD combo titled A Man and His Guitar — Live From the Franklin Theatre, showcasing his 25-plus years in the business. The two-disc CD and DVD will focus on his versatile voice and his impressive guitar skills. Recently, C&I got a chance to catch up with Tritt and discuss the upcoming album and we have to say we are beyond excited for it.
Cowboys & Indians: What initially gave you the idea to record A Man and His Guitar? Is it something you always wanted to do?
Travis Tritt: My response was always the same. I said, "Nobody in their right mind is going to come and see a guy like me sit down and play guitar and sing by himself for two hours." But about six years ago, I started doing some of these shows just sporadically throughout the tour season, and the response was always phenomenal, just tremendous. So we decided that we wanted to capture that, both in a live recording and also in a live DVD to let more people know about what these shows are including and the unique atmosphere that these type shows create. The response has just been phenomenal across the board, so we're excited about getting an opportunity to take the intimate, live solo acoustic shows to a whole new audience that maybe has never had a chance to see those shows because we do so very few of them throughout the year.
C&I: So it's not something you always wanted to do. It's because your acoustic shows had such a wonderful response? Thats great!
Tritt: That's exactly right. Our acoustic shows were based off of just that one or two songs that we would do in our live band shows, and the response was just so phenomenal, not only because it gave me an opportunity to be in a much more relaxed, intimate-type setting where it didn't really feel like a show to me. It felt more like sitting in my living room just playing music for a bunch of friends of mine. But it also gave me an opportunity to tell some stories, talk about where the music comes from, talk about some of my influences, talk a little bit about where the songs originated in my head and how they sounded in my head when I wrote them, which can differ a little bit from the way that they sound on a produced album, and just really share a little bit more about the background and history than some people might be aware of. So that in itself created a wonderful response from the audience.
I do about 150 shows a year on the road, and on average I do about only 30 or 35 of these solo acoustic shows spread out throughout the year. So I don't get a chance to do them very often, but whenever I do, I always look forward to them. It's a wonderful, wonderful setting and just a really kind of unique experience for me
C&I: What was the recording processing like, and what was it like recording in the Franklin Theatre in Franklin, Tennessee?
Tritt: We looked around at a lot of different venues that we could have done the show in, and I had never played at the Franklin Theatre prior to these two nights that we did back-to-back. But I went down and checked out the theater a few weeks before we actually decided on it, and it just seemed like a really good place, not only acoustically, but also it's a beautiful theater just visually. It looked great on camera. We listened to several other projects that were done by other artists that had been recorded there, and they all just sounded so great. Plus, it was a great opportunity for me to get back in the Nashville area, which I don't get a chance to do that very often, either, and since Nashville is the place where so much of my recorded music over the years has originated, it gave us an opportunity to kind of go back to where everything — the roots of my career — began. Those were the biggest reasons that we ended up deciding on the Franklin Theatre over and above some of the other places that we looked at at that time.
C&I: As you said before, it's a chance to tell your writing process and your stories, and you include some great storytelling aspects within the video and within the CD between songs and include lyrics that are not in the original recordings. For example, at the end of the song "Country Ain't Country Anymore," you included an ending that was not in the original recording. How did you come up with your set list and were the songs picked deliberately for the storytelling aspect?
Tritt: It's a really good problem to have when you've got so many songs that have been big, big hits for you over the course of your career, and obviously you can't get to all of them, but to be able to highlight the ones that obviously people are so familiar with and the audience makes them new to me every single night. I've been asked numerous times, "Don't you get tired of doing the same songs that you've been doing for 27, 28 years on the road every night?" I say, "No, I never get tired of them because the audience makes them new to me every single night because of their enthusiasm and because of their love for that music."
Once we decided on the set list for the songs that had been some of the biggest staples of my career over the years, then we decided on the biggest challenge, which was trying to figure out what new stuff, new materials, or covers of songs that people had never heard me do before that we wanted to include as well. That's where songs like "Come and Go Blues," which Gregg Allman did back in the '70s and was a huge, huge influence on me. Blues music was as much of an influence on me as any other type of music that I've ever done. So we wanted to include something along those, and once we decided on that song and I'd played it live in front of numerous audiences across the country in these live solo acoustic shows, the response to those songs in particular was overwhelming. So we decided on a few of those we wanted to include. We also wanted to include some new stuff that I'd written that nobody's ever heard before, including the instrumental "Picking at It," which is a song that I wrote not too long ago, and give people an insight into different aspects of my career that they might not be familiar with.
C&I: I actually got a chance to listen to "Picking at It." What was it like performing with Marty Stuart in the two songs, "Picking at It" and "The Whiskey Ain't Working"?
Tritt: Marty and I consider ourselves brothers from different mothers and we always have. Every time I get an opportunity to work with Marty — of course, we had such a wonderful run of hits back in the early '90s, and also had a couple of tremendous tours that we did together that were extremely successful. So any time that we have an opportunity to work with each other, I think it gives the audience a chance to see us both on stage together, which is something that people have clamored for ever since we did "Whiskey Ain't Working" together for the very first time in the studio, and then, of course, the No Hats Tour and tours that came after that. Any time we have an opportunity to work together, there's a magic and a chemistry that happens between us that is so unique and so exciting not only for us, but also for the audience, I think, as well. So it's really a pleasure and a privilege for me to be able to include Marty on this particular project, and I was so glad that he agreed to be a part of it with me.
C&I: I think you guys sound amazing together and the balance of it really comes through in the CD as well. Not only do you have Marty Stuart, you have James Otto performing with you in the song "Lord Have Mercy on the Working Man." What was that like working with him?
Tritt: You know, I met James a few years ago for the first time, and he made it very clear to me and to everyone that I had been a huge inspiration to him when he was first getting started in music. So any time that you hear something like that, I mean it's obviously extremely flattering, it's one more example of the fact that in the music that I've done and that I've created over the years, it's always nice to realize that not only has it been music that other fans have enjoyed, but it's been music that other artists, newer artists that are just coming on the scene, look back to as inspiration for the music that they're doing. And it's always a tremendous, tremendous honor and very flattering to have any artist that's coming on the scene now, as I've had numerous new artists that have come up to me and said, "You were one of the biggest inspirations that I ever had when I was first thinking about getting into the music business." That's the thrill. You never get tired of hearing that.
C&I: I think it really adds to the CD and you can really feel that come through as well.
Tritt: There's so many of the new artists. I look back on my career and I look back on all the people that influenced me — everybody from Johnny Cash to Merle Haggard to Waylon Jennings to George Jones — and I always wondered when I was younger any time I would mention those people, I wondered what they thought about somebody like me. I thought it might sound corny to them or it might sound strange to them to hear somebody new talking about what kind of an influence they were. But as I started experiencing that myself, I realized that my music and a lot of other people from my generation have been obviously a tremendous influence on so many of the newer, younger artists that are coming out nowadays that we have become sort of like what Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings and George Jones and Merle Haggard were to our generation. We've kind of become that to a newer, younger generation. And it's extremely humbling and exciting all at the same time.
C&I: Going back to the recording process, did you have to do any practice sets before doing the whole performance, or was it all the way through?
Tritt: Fortunately, I've been doing these live solo acoustic performances for about six years now, so we pretty much had our set list in mind. We knew what worked, we knew what the audience had come to expect from those shows, and so it was basically a situation of just go out there, relax, not a whole lot of practice or preparation or changing things at the last minute. We basically just went out there and did the acoustic show at the Franklin Theatre the same way that we were doing the acoustic shows for the five or six years prior because we knew that we had a formula together that seemed to be working. Once you get that down, that's the hard part, is the early days of trying to put all that together and figuring out how you're going to make a show like that work. Then once you get the formula together, it's just a matter of just going out there and having fun with the audience and doing it. Having them react and you reacting to their enthusiasm, and you just get this big ball of energy that kind of goes back and forth between the stage and the audience and that's always very gratifying for anybody, I think.
C&I: What do you think sets this CD/DVD pairing apart from the rest of your work?
Tritt: Well, over the years I've never done a live album in the whole history of my career. I did a couple of live DVD performances in the past, but they were always with my band. So this gives people kind of a unique perspective. Since I don't do very many of those solo acoustic shows throughout the year, there's a very limited number of people that get an opportunity to see it up to this point, and I think it just gives a different perspective of all of the influences that I've had over the years, and it gives people an opportunity to see me in a setting that most people probably would never have had an opportunity to see before. And it also gives them a little bit more of an insight into all of the backgrounds that I've had.
I've always said that my music comes primarily from my love for traditional country music, but also I've had other influences in there as well that I've mixed into the recorded music that I've done over the years, and that goes everywhere from country to bluegrass to Southern rock to blues to gospel, all kind of mixed in together. I think that these live solo acoustic shows give me an opportunity to really showcase all of those different aspects more than just one or two. That's why I'm so excited about getting this project out and letting people see a little bit more into what makes me tick and what makes me create the music that I create and give them a little bit more of a background about me as a person and what my personality is. And the fact is, I think that when people leave these shows or when people watch this DVD or listen to this CD of A Man and His Guitar, I think they'll have a lot more insight into my background and my history than they ever did before. They'll know a whole lot more about me than they ever probably wanted to know when it's all said and done. That's always exciting. Any time you get a chance to show something new to an audience that's been following you for a long, long time, that's always a thrill, and that's one of the reasons that I'm so thrilled about getting this project out in front of the public.
A Man and His Guitar – Live From The Franklin Theatre will be released on November 18. The two-disc CD set will be available for purchase through major retailers and the artist's website, while the DVD will only be available online and on tour.