Travis Tritt: Artists Are Portraying “Something They Aren’t”
Travis Tritt was seen as the no frills, Southern rock representative for the now legendary “Class of ’89” contingent of breakout stars in country music; a class that also included Clint Black, Alan Jackson, and Garth Brooks. While his sound leaned heavy on electric guitar and he coined himself as a “No Hat” act early on along with long-time friend Marty Stuart, Travis Tritt also remained in the good graces of many of the greats that in some respects got shoved aside by the Class of ’89, including Waylon Jennings.
Tritt’s undeniable authenticity and straight shooting approach once had Waylon saying about him, “Travis is about my favorite new singer. What a talent, and a writer. He hones his songs, cares about them, and he knows how to work that rock-and-roll hoofbeat so it turns into a stampede. For me, he’s a cross between Hank Williams and Ray Charles…”
In some respects, time has forgotten just how big, and just how true Travis Tritt was back in the 90’s, and that is the crux of a recent Peter Cooper-penned feature on Tritt for The Tennessean. Tritt is recording a “Travis Tritt & Friends Live Acoustic” DVD during the next couple of nights at the Franklin Theater in Nashville’s famous suburb, and the stripped-down approach is a chance for Tritt to showcase his skills as a songwriter and picker, not just a full-tilt country rocker; something that Tritt is better at than some may assume (see below), and something some of Tritt’s country music contemporaries would not be able to pull off.
Tritt told Peter Cooper that artists theses days are being “stifled” by the business of country music that thinks it knows what’s right for artists. But according to Tritt, that’s not always the case.
There’s a mentality in the country music world of Nashville that says, “You don’t know anything, and we know how to do this.” It’s “We know what’s best for you: You get to the microphone, sing what we tell you to sing, play what we tell you to play, and you’ll be fine.” That scares people away from branching out and doing things that creatively are out of the box.
The music business establishment does not have a crystal ball. They do not know everything that they tell you they know. I’d say to any of the new people coming out, ‘Find the courage to step out and try it your way.’ Otherwise, what we get is a cookie-cutter mentality that isn’t good for artists who are having to portray themselves as something they aren’t, or that are capable of doing so much more but are being stifled.
January 13, 2014 @ 10:05 am
Inspiring, smart and poetic.
January 13, 2014 @ 10:08 am
Great short article on Travis Tritt. Having seen him in concert, he is most certainly talented, and a better musician than some give him credit for. While he leaned/leans more towards southern rock, he’s most certainly country. For a long while, it seemed that he would be the heir to the Outlaw Throne, but he’s proven himself to be more than that, in his own quiet, talented way.
And he’s absolutely right. Until younger artists either take a more DIY approach, or stop worrying about what the powers that be want, the “New Country Sound” will stagnate. Granted, both choices are huge risks, as most artists need some sort of infrastructure to support them, but until good numbers of artists start stepping outside the box, what we’re hearing is what we’ll get.
I think it’s also a sad thing to note that Travis Tritt doesn’t get a lot of airplay these days, either. He’s almost lumped into “classic country” territory. He’s not FGL or Luke Bryan, so most country radio (minus those with some variety) doesn’t give a damn about a talented artist that they think isn’t marketable right now. Shame on them.
January 13, 2014 @ 10:10 am
Good for Tritt! He was a gateway artist for me when I was a teen in the 90s as he turned me on to Waylon, Marty Stuart and all the other great artists he’d namedrop in songs. IMO, Tritt had/has one of the most versatile voices – up there with Raul Malo – in terms of his ability to sing just about anything and nail it (old R&B, country, southern rock, soul, etc.). Ten Feet Tall & Bulletproof and The Restless Kind (holy smokes, did Don Was nail the production on that album) are enduring favorites. I always thought he was a few filler ballads away from some classic albums.
Toby in AK
January 13, 2014 @ 10:16 am
Travis and Vince Gill performed this weekend at the opening of the Earl Scruggs center in Shelby, North Carolina.
Though he always had a more southern rock style to his country, Travis has that musicianship of a bluegrass background. He can pick the guitar better than most, and plays the banjo alright too. He’s one of my favorites from the 90s.
January 13, 2014 @ 6:17 pm
Travis picks the guitar better than the lead guitarist in his own band! When I saw him, he outplayed his guitar player by a country mile. While the guitarist was taking shortcuts on some riffs, Travis played what he needed to to perfection. The man has musical chops and can hang with the best of them.
January 13, 2014 @ 10:32 am
Country is 3 chords and the truth. Pop is a bunch of abstract bs, fake stories, dreams, etc. There’s a lot of cookie-cutter posing going on these days.
January 13, 2014 @ 11:01 am
Hot damn! I had almost forgotten what he sounds like. There is a lot of music pollution goin on these days so thanks for reminding us now and then what real country music sounds like Triggerman. I don’t always agree with your definition of success, talent and other issues, but then you come back and give me something good!
Tom the Polack
January 13, 2014 @ 11:29 am
He couldn’t expressed it better. As Bob Everhart sings:
‘You play the latest hot stuff called pop – country
You fool a lot of people, You don’t fool me’
January 13, 2014 @ 11:43 am
I play “Whiskey Aint Workin” just about everytime I step up to the jukebox… Tritts voice is crazy good…
January 13, 2014 @ 12:08 pm
Here is another great cover by Travis Tritt:
The guy has so much soul in his voice.
January 13, 2014 @ 12:18 pm
He’s the second big name to mention this “cookie cutter” approach that newer Nashville artists have taken to. Charlie Daniels made the same sort of comment at the George Jones tribute awhile back and really laid into mainstream country. Good for both of them.
January 13, 2014 @ 12:42 pm
Thanks for the link. As Canuck said above, Travis Tritt has some timeless songs that really should get more airplay than they do.
I liked the anecdote in the article about Louise Scruggs telling Travis to play “Where the Corn Don’t Grow.” That’s a great song that shows how you don’t need to be belligerent or have a laundry list to demonstrate that you’re “country.”
January 13, 2014 @ 12:43 pm
“Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares”. Random 20 year old: “what the heck does a quarter have to do with a phone call?”
January 13, 2014 @ 2:09 pm
Tritt and all these artists commenting on the downside of doing business in Nashville need to be careful because they are forgetting a time when they were benefiting from the very thing they are criticizing. For every ‘Country Club’ album, Patty Loveless collaboration, or “Great Day to be Alive” single, there was a song or act of treason so grievous that an artist such as Tritt could never be taken serious. In this case, Tritt’s single “The Girl’s Gone Wild”…..
Tritt released this song shortly after we thought he revived his career with the traditionally leaning (and very successful) release of “Down the Road I Go.” If he chose this calculated, desperate career shift or it was chosen for him, it was his brand that suffered and turned me away for good. Tritt will have to do more than release a live DVD or conduct these kinds of interviews before I even pay attention to another re-branding.
January 14, 2014 @ 6:50 am
If you let one mis-step ‘turn you away for good’, then maybe you aren’t much of a fan in the first place.
Don’t you think an artist with a catalog like TT’s deserves to be cut a break now and then?
January 14, 2014 @ 10:35 am
I tend to agree. We all have done dumb things in our past, and should be allowed to grow and learn and evolve and change our opinions and perspectives. If someone doesn’t like Travis Tritt’s music that’s fine, but to damn all his stuff until kingdom come because of one song or album or public action seems like putting an unnecessary limitation on your musical experience. Someone on Facebook said they hated Tritt’s music because he heard from someone that Tritt cussed out someone in a wheelchair who just wanted an autograph. I wonder if there are two sides to that story? Like Tritt makes a habit of cussing out his handicapped fans. Jamey Johnson’s “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” was terrible, but at some point you simply have to move on and judge all music on its individual merit.
January 13, 2014 @ 2:55 pm
History repeating itself. This generation needs a Willie or Waylon to fix the problem.
January 13, 2014 @ 3:35 pm
I remember being disappointed by this song after how great Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde was. However, I don’t see how it is that much of a departure from his general style.
Yes, the lyrics are stupid, but please tell me one artist who never recorded a silly song.
January 13, 2014 @ 7:18 pm
Ralph Stanley. Serious as a rattlesnake.
January 14, 2014 @ 8:08 am
Still Trying to Get to Little Rock?
January 14, 2014 @ 9:12 am
Actually, I’ve always really liked that song. Maybe even love it. Maybe you know this, but the original version by Charlie Daniels Band was on the 1974 Fire on the Mountain album. One of my favorite albums of all time, with CDB’s next album Nightrider close behind it. This was defintely the most country sounding music I was listening to in my late teens/early twenties. Charlie’s original version had a kind of laid back hippie redneck vibe to it, sort of the way Uneasy Rider did. While I like Tritt’s version here for the most part, there’s a stridency that’s not in the original. Once he sang “I used to get stoned in the morning” instead of “I get stoned in the morning” (even Charlie doesn’t sing that anymore), I was wondering he would handle the last line, which is “I don’t want much of nothing at all, but I will take another toke.” The answer was shoehorning in some fist shaking at Osama bin Laden . Nothing wrong with that in a general sense (I’ve felt it myself many times), but it took away from the song (of course, I’m watching this many years after the actual performance and Bin Laden’s dead). That and replacing the Charlie’s cynical “a politician wants a vote” with the uber patriotism of “the pledge of allegiance needs another vote”. Not exactly sure what that means. Clumsy, though.
January 14, 2014 @ 10:41 am
I was a little bothered by that too, and almost didn’t want to include this video here because of it, but it was a good acoustic performance, and reinforced the theme Peter Cooper had spoken about in his original Tritt piece so I thought it was more topical than some other random Tritt video. Reading the video details, it was shot in 2002, which means it was shortly after 9/11 and probably during a big push in Afghanistan, so the reference is certainly understandable at that time and in that context, more so than it is now at least.
Strait Country 81
January 13, 2014 @ 4:21 pm
Triit was my favorite 90s mainstream Country artist.
Fun Fact – i only live 10 miles from his house
January 13, 2014 @ 7:08 pm
If anyone wants to know how good Tritt really is:
At Waylons memorial:
January 14, 2014 @ 8:20 am
My goodness, thank you for those clips. Tritt is an artist in a different league. I won’t name that whole league, but when you see guys like Church or Blake Shelton or Luke Bryan today…they think they are leaving a mark??? They are amateurs compared to guys like Tritt. Complete amateurs.
Watching Tritt sing Corn Don’t Grow with Waylon is something. No doubt Tritt is honored but Waylon looks just as excited to be singing with Travis. That is some respect both ways!
And the Waylon Memorial clips, what a treasure. I might start a debate here, but “Outlaws Reward” maybe a top 3 country song. In no particular order:
He Stopped Loving Her Today, That Lonesome Song, Outlaws Reward
January 14, 2014 @ 8:22 am
great links! I’d never heard the “Outlaw Rewards” song before. tHANKS!!
January 13, 2014 @ 7:33 pm
Love Travis Tritt and think he has an all time voice. I know he tried to make a last grasp to stay relevant to the mainstream with “Girl gone wild”, but almost every artist has done that once, when they feel it slipping away. Waylon and most artists did the same thing and then if they have greatness in them, I think they realize the new path they must take and compromising isn’t worth it, even if they know the new path will never put them truly back in the spotlight again. Travis has had some great country songs and I don’t let a bad one or two change that or how great of a singer I think he is. Great musician also, he is a truly gifted picker.
January 14, 2014 @ 5:18 am
Always been a big Travis Tritt fan. In fact look at the video you posted. I’m the guy in the white t-shirt & black cowboy hat. The video was filmed at the Tivoli Theater in Chattanooga, Tn.
January 14, 2014 @ 8:37 am
GREAT POST TRIGGERMAN! Why buy into Trashvilles Radio Hype when the real talent is suckin’ Big Buisness’ hind teet? Todays POP CRAPTRY RADIO just makes me appreciate what I’ve already bought that much more.
January 16, 2014 @ 6:18 am
One of the things I always respected about Tritt was even in his heyday of Arena shows he always did an acoustic set of three or four songs, just him and his guitar, in the middle of his shows. And he always sang Waylon, Merle, Willie and Charlie songs for it. He said it was paying tribute to his heroes. I bet he got a lot of people interested in those guys who had never heard of them before
January 17, 2014 @ 11:57 am
Read this article and made me think about my dad. When Tritt performed on the CMAs back in the day my dad rolled his eyes and lamented what ever happened to country. Dad said he wouldn’t watch some long haired faggot with an earring make noise. He hasn’t watched a CMA since. I wonder what he’d say now about the state of country music? I should ask him. Tritt makes some really good points about the industry.
Can’t imagine where Jamey Johnson would be now if he’d given in to the machine.