With ‘Good Ole Days,’ Tracy Lawrence Finds Friends, Fights and the Future
There's something appropriate about Jason Aldean singing "Can't Break It to My Heart" on Tracy Lawrence's new Good Ole Days album. Here you find one modern country outlaw joining a '90s great on his most controversial song.
In fairness, few people know of the internal squabbling the song caused. Publicly "Can't Break It to My Heart" was just one of the top songs of 1993 and one of Lawrence's many No. 1 hits. He remembers it as a song that defined who he was at that time: a 25-year-old Arkansas kid full of ambition and pride who wasn't going to stand for being told what kind of artist he was.
"I love John Michael (Montgomery)," Lawrence tells Taste of Country. "John Michael and I have been dear friends for a long time. We were labelmates, but a lot of the stuff that John Michael had huge success with they tried to shove it on me, and it just wasn't me. Can you hear me singing 'I Swear?'"
"I really had to fight to prove that point, because they wanted me to be that big ballad singer, that big love song guy — and I hated it," he adds.
At the time, "Can't Break It to My Heart" (from Lawrence's second studio album Alibis) was a progressive addition to this traditionalist's catalog, and his record label was adamantly against him recording it. "And I cut it anyway," Lawrence says.
"And (the head of the label) came to the studio and it got pretty tense," the 49-year-old recalls, smiling. "I thought we were gonna come to blows. It wound up being ASCAP’s No. 2 airplay song of the year. It was a massive, massive hit. After that they pretty much trusted my judgement and left me alone."
Find six of Lawrence's No. 1 songs plus a handful of his other hits and two new songs on Good Ole Days, a collaborative project with modern hitmakers like Aldean, Luke Bryan, Tim McGraw and Dustin Lynch. Chris Young sings "If the Good Die Young" with Lawrence. Kellie Pickler joins him for "Stars Over Texas." Dustin Lynch sings "Texas Tornado" and Justin Moore and Lawrence try "Alibis." That proved to be humbling.
“He told me he was so nervous when he came in studio," Lawrence says of Moore. "He said, ‘You don’t understand — you were my Elvis.'"
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McGraw is the first voice you hear on this 11-song album, which is also fitting because it all came together after the two friends agreed to give "Time Marches On" a shot. Lawrence will tell stories of cutting up with Bryan on his way down to the beach for a family vacation. Longtime friend John Rich and Big & Rich joined him in studio, something the country staple says he always wanted to try. New friends like Luke Combs ("If the World Had a Front Porch") impressed him.
"It’s not only an album of me with a bunch of friends, it’s an introduction of me to this whole new era of country music," Lawrence assures.
Indeed that's what comes across during new, but true versions of songs you likely heard on the radio but perhaps never associated with Lawrence, one of the biggest hitmakers of the '90s. After he finishes promoting this project he's eager to jump back into the studio to write and record the next.
"There’s a lot of social issues, a lot of things going on in our society — it’s about finding a way to tap into the nerve of what’s going on socially and economically," Lawrence says. "And being able to do it in an artistic way."
These days Lawrence is his own record label president, so the process promises to go a little bit smoother than it did 25 years ago.
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