Tracy Lawrence Interview
He’s had 16 Number One Singles and sold more than 7 million albums.
He was voted the “Top New Male Vocalist” in 1992 by Billboard Magazine.
In 1993, the Academy of Country Music also voted him the “Top New Male Vocalist”.
In 2006, he launched Rocky Comfort Records, his own record label in partnership with his Manager /Brother Laney Lawrence.
His first single “Find out Who Your Friends Are” was released August 21 st 2006. His first studio album will be released in early 2007.
His name is Tracy Lawrence and in between a grueling concert schedule, he took some time off to sit down and talk with us about his career.
Q – How are there enough hours in the day for you
to run a record label and be creative with your own career? When do you have
the time to sit down and write songs?
A – I try to put 3 or 4 songs either out of my publishing catalog or that I’ve written on every album. To tell you the truth, I’ve learned over the years to kind of stretch some things in appropriate places. So, right now in all honesty there is no creativity. I mean it just does not fit into the program. My wife and I are building a new house and we are right here at the tail end of it and that thing has been all consuming. I’m on the road constantly. I’ve got 18 show dates in the month of September (2006). I had 17 in June. We had 12 in July. 10 or 11 in August. So between all the show dates, coming in, trying to run to the office and if you’ve ever built a house, it’s a custom house, everything has to be picked out. Every time I come in my wife’s’ got a list of things we have to pick out. As soon as I can get that closed off and get done with this house, we hope we’re gonna be in, in about 3 weeks that’s gonna take a huge burden off of me and free up time. Not only are we running a record label, I’m real close to signing 2 other acts right now. I’m going to be going back into the studio in the fall of this year after we get this single launched. I’ve got to start my A and R process for songs and get these acts ready to go into the studio. In all honesty there are days that I cannot get all the stuff done that I need to do because with my tour schedule as heavy as it’s been, I’m getting one or two days in town, max. I just feel so overloaded. If I didn’t go to the gym and work-out as much as I did, I would absolutely crash and burn. I don’t know if it’s like this in your world, but doesn’t it seem like everything is moving ridiculously fast?
Q – Yes it does!
A – You’ve got all these electronic conveniences, the cell phone, the blackberry’s, and all this internet. Our laptops on the bus are smoking all the time. We’re running wireless and satellites. You would think that it would make life more convenient, but all it does is make you more accessible and consume more of your time realistically.
Q – You’re in charge of A and R at your new
A – My brother and I sat down and started really laying out the business model of this co. He and I have been running TMA Management for years. He runs day to day operations and I’ve always been really the one who makes the decisions and says yeah or neah. For all these years it’s pretty much been myself that’s the hub. Everything has been about Tracy Lawrence, the artist. All the decisions were made for my career. He and I have communicated really well in the past several years. I think we’ve managed to do pretty well with just he and I running this small co. without having to pay some big, high-powered management co. I work as much as I want. I’ve had hits. So, when we started putting our business model together for this label we really just tried to make it be an extension of what we’ve been doing as a management co. Realistically, for the last 5 or 6 years, we’ve done 90% of the work anyway. Decisions were made. It was like going to the labels and saying we want to do, we want to do that. The only things we haven’t done have been involved in sales and distribution. I’ve actually been controlling the field promotion team. I’ve always gone out and done the radio tours and worked hand-in-hand with the regional promotion people but they still belong to the label and service several other artists. So, basically the only two elements that have come in that have added a little bit more of a workload to what we do as a label, that, and understanding the legalities of what you have to do as a label as far as licensing songs, clearances from other artists and guests that are on the record, making sure that all the t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted, so to speak. As we looked at what we were already doing in the big scheme of things it just seemed to be more appropriate that my brother would carry the title of President of the label. He’s the one that’s in town all the time. He’s the one that runs day-to-day operations. I’m the one that’s out on the road. I’m the one that’s looking for new acts. I’m the one that sifts through the barrage of songs on a regular basis looking for hit songs not only for myself but for artists that we’re going to be signing. I’m the one that’s gonna spend the time in the studio. He’s the nuts and bolts guy. He’s the guy that looks at the bottom line. He’s the one that makes sure all the legalities are taken care of. I do all the creative. So, that’s the gist of kind of how we put our business together.
Q – Did you watch last season’s “American
Idol” and see Carrie Underwood?
A – You know, I didn’t see a lot of last season! I really got turned onto it this season. It was the first time I had watched it from start to finish. So, I missed a lot of it. We watched it a couple of times, but not like we did this season.
Q – I’m so impressed with Carrie Underwood. Here’s a girl
from a small town in Oklahoma, who only sang in her bedroom. She didn’t
play bars. Yet, she’s headlining the show at the 17,000 seat grandstand
at the New York State Fair in Syracuse. She’s the kind of person you’re
looking to sign to your label, right?
A – Without a doubt. But, there are some big differences with what they did with Carrie and what I’m going to be able to do as independent label. You got to be realistic about where you’re at. They actually took somebody and brought a mass following through the television medium. For me to take a young act and break ‘em everything that I do has to strictly be done through radio, through video imaging as we can afford it and through creative media marketing, as much as we can. We obviously don’t have the pockets or the resources a huge television show like that (has). So, they’ve really capitalized on the fan base that was already established. And the other things that you really got to take into consideration that are involved in making that transition into headlining if you look at how Kenny Chesney’s career progressed it was a lot different then the way things had been done over the last several years. They really took a kid; I mean he and McGraw and myself all started about the same time. I hit harder and faster and had a really huge run through the 90’s. Tim McGraw has excelled in it. Kenny studied all of us. He spent all kinds of time at my house. He was with McGraw. He started off…..he got on a show package and never really worked the club scene. He didn’t do the bar scene at all. He started off with Alabama then went to McGraw and progressed up through those ranks and there is nothing like getting in front of the big crowds and developing your style, and developing a show and learning how to be consistent in how you’re gonna entertain that crowd. Every time you go through a tour as an opening act, with a caliber headliner and you take that and progress to the next level, you take everything that they had and carry it to the next artist. You combine it with that you kind of progress through the ranks. That’s exactly what they’re doing with Carrie. She got out there; she did great on that television show. She had a mass following. She’s pretty too. That didn’t hurt at all. Then you get out with Chesney and you go out there and sing and they’ve continued to keep her on those television shows; it’s all about marketing and placement. Every bit of it.
Q – How did you know you had what it takes to become
successful in Country Music?
A – You know, I dreamed about it since I was a little kid. I’ve always had just a natural understanding of this business. I’m very passionate about it, not just about the music. I love the politics of this business. I love the relationships and the business friends that I have in town. I always believed that I was gonna be successful. Even growing up from the time I was 12, 13, 14 years old I always knew. I just knew. I didn’t know how I was gonna get there, but there was something in me that was resolved to the fact that I was gonna be successful in the music business. Whatever it took, however long it took I was gonna make it in this business.
Q – But, you could write songs and that’s
a rare ability. Where did that talent come from?
A – I wrote my first song when I was 4 years old. I couldn’t even write. I wanted to write a song. I had a crush on a 16 year old girl that lived up the street from me. I came in and asked my mom and dad to help me. They actually sat down and they wrote down the words I wanted to say. My mother has kept that original lyric sheet all these years.
Q – Maybe one day you’ll record that song!
A – (Laughs). No. I’ve seen it. It’s pretty bad.
Q – Why did you call your label Rocky Comfort?
What does that mean?
A – Rocky Comfort was the name of the town I grew up in originally. I grew up in a little town called Foreman, Arkansas. To my understanding in the early 1900’s, late 1800’s, early 1900’s, before it was actually made into a town, it was called on paper, Rocky Comfort Township. So, that was the original name of the town. I thought it was such a great name. Such a great play on words. It almost in those two words talks about the struggle of the journey and how even though it make look smooth and paved on the outside, it’s still a rocky path. That was the way I always took it. I’ve loved the name for a long time. My farm is actually named that. I’ve got a publishing co. named after that. I wrote a song several years ago titled ‘Rocky Comfort’. There’s just something; a name, that I’ve been connected to for a long time.
Q – You were “discovered” for lack of a better word, at
The Bluebird Café. Your then manager Wayne Edwards was in the club.
Was he looking for talent that night?
A – You know that’s actually not true. I was discovered at a place called ‘Live at Libby’s’ in Daysville, Kentucky. When I first got to town I started playing the clubs around Nashville and actually got connected with the people that did this ‘live’ radio show, over in Kentucky. It was a steakhouse. They had like Opry style show every Saturday night. There was a radio station called WBBR that broadcast the show ‘live’ every Saturday night back into Nashville. I started playing that show every weekend. I made friends and was doing well. People liked me and I was playing with the house band. Some executives from Atlantic Records had come to the place that night to see a young girl they were interested in that was on the show. At the end of the night, I blew ‘em away. They were interested in me and didn’t want anything to do with her. I actually met one of the guys who became my manager that night. This encounter happened in December. That led us to put a showcase together at the Bluebird Café in January of the following year. And that’s where Atlantic executives came and really pushed this thing through. So, that initial meeting actually happened in Kentucky. The Bluebird was a showcase.
Q – How popular would you say Country Music is
A – I think it’s huge. I think Country as a format has a very, very large fan base, and it rivals any other genre of music in this country. There are still pockets of places or perceptions that stigmatize us just a little bit. A lot of us try real hard to break past that. We’ve done pretty well at it. There will always be somewhat of a hillbilly stigma attached to it in people’s minds that don’t really know anything about Country Music. You know this term Country ‘n’ Western? Man, this hasn’t been a Western format in years. I don’t even know what Country ‘n’ Western is. This is a progressive contemporary format with some of the most prolific songwriters in the United States that are capable of writing intellectual material and jazzy music, and strong, structurally sound artistic music. Some of the most talented people in any genre of music are right here in Nashville that are making these records. I believe we’re a caliber that can rival anything else in this country.