by Tamela Meredith-Partridge
at the Little Nashville Opry
Randy Travis has rekindled the fire and passion of the Nashville, Tennessee, sound with his unflinching honesty, extraordinary song craftsmanship and fierce dedication to carry the country and gospel music torch to those who sought its illumination.
“I have to like the songs,” Travis said. “I don’t know any other way to make a record. Whether I’m looking for a country song or a gospel song or something in between, the writing just has to be good all the way through. I might listen to two hundred songs before I find one I can’t really live without.”
His unmistakable backwoods baritone, soft-spoken charm, and ability to tell a story through song has garnered the multi-platinum selling recording artist with over twenty No. 1 country singles including, “Diggin’ Up Bones,” “Forever and Ever Amen,” “It’s Just A Matter of Time,” “Hard Rock Bottom Of Your Heart” and “Out Of My Bones.”
“If you are telling stories,” Travis said, “then people don’t feel as much like you’re talking down to them. It’s a good way to get a point across. Especially when you’re talking about eternal things. People can relate to a well-told story. Gospel and country music both have that in common. They’re both about what we live through in everyday life.”
In conjunction with his musical career, Travis has also cultivated a highly respected television and film acting career. Dramatic television roles include “Matlock,” “Touched By An Angel” and Aaron Spelling’s mini-series, “Texas.” Numerous movie appearances include “Frank and Jessie,” “Fire Down Below,” “Black Dog,” “The Rainmaker” and “White River Kid.”
“Acting was a way for me to learn something new,” Travis said. “Learning keeps you young. If you do the same thing over and over you can get burned out.”
Travis, whose own life mirrors that of a Hollywood screenplay, achieved his career success by overcoming a troubled North Carolina past of teenage rebellious behavior.
“I was out of control as a teenager,” Randy said. “You take a kid who’s somewhat crazy anyway and load him up with drugs and alcohol on a daily basis and you get an interesting specimen. I was always getting into fights and scrapes with the law. I was caught breaking and entering one time, stealing a van another. I totaled four cars, a couple of motorcycles, even a horse and buggy, and I always walked away from it. I have no idea why I wasn’t killed, except that I know God was looking out for me.”
Lib Hatcher, a former North Carolina nightclub owner and his present day wife and manager, helped Travis turn his life around by providing employment, singing opportunities and career direction.
“In her I discovered someone who was constantly going out of their way to do good things for other people,” Travis said. “She wasn’t absorbed in the selfish, reckless kind of life that I was. I couldn’t help but notice the contrast and it was pretty amazing to me. I started to realize that I wasn’t making much of myself as far as human beings go.”
After spending five years paying his dues in Lib’s North Carolina nightclub, they finally moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in ’81. He spent the next four years at The Nashville Palace nightclub as a dishwasher, short-order cook and occasional performer before finally acquiring his recording contract in ’85.
“Nashville was the Big City,” Travis said. “It was kind of scary to me. I didn’t know if I belonged there or not. I didn’t know that much about the music business, or that many people in Nashville either.”
And today - with 16 albums, 21 million record sales and numerous industry awards and nominations to his creditTravis has become one of the most popular artists in country music history.
“I’ve known some very financially successful people who were also some of the most unhappy people I have ever met in my life,” Travis said. “To me, true success in life has come to mean peace and contentment. I’d take contentment over a million dollars any day of the week.”
Current recording projects for the ’86 Grand Ole Opry inductee include the late summer 2001 release of a live album, DVD and video, “Randy Travis LiveIt Was Just A Matter Of Time” and the 2000 released gospel album, “Inspirational Journey.”
“Back in my younger, wilder days, I thought I was having fun,” Travis said. “But most of the time I was actually miserable. I looked at religion as a prison. When I finally turned towards God, though, I started finding a freedom to enjoy my life without all that guilt and misery I used to carry. These songs reflect where I am right now, but they also reflect some parts of the road that got me here.”
Even though country music has moved into a new millennium, Randy Travis continues to lead those with an appreciation for meaningful songs into a shining future.
“To be honest,” Travis said, “everything happened so fast in the early days, that I didn’t have time to enjoy it. Early on, I was scared to death. I’m happy to still be here competing. I believe in every single song that I record, and I’m still going for the best.”
Randy Travis is scheduled to perform at The Little Nashville Opry on Saturday, September 8 at 6:00 pm and 9:30 pm.