Country megastar and All-Star Celebrity Apprentice winner Trace Adkins hits all the right notes
By Tricia Despres, LIVING WELL Magazine cover story
Standing in at over 6 feet and 6 inches tall, donning an ever-present cowboy hat and hair swept into a long but manly ponytail, country music icon Trace Adkins might not seem the emotional type.
“I love hard…there is no doubt about it,” he says during a recent interview with LIVING WELL Magazine. “It’s funny really. Here I am, putting out an album full of love songs right now. It wasn’t my intention and I don’t know what that tells you about where I am standing at this moment. Maybe it’s because I feel like I am staring mortality in the face. I don’t really know how it ended up that way, but it just feels right.”
Indeed, Adkin’s 11th studio album Love Will… seems to give fans quite the insight into where the 51-year-old father of five currently finds himself both personally and professionally. Combine that with his recent high profile, feel-good win on NBC’s All-Star Celebrity Apprentice and his place as one of the most highly regarded country music singers of our time and Adkins just might have finally found himself in the sweet spot in his life.
But as much as he seems to be enjoying right where he is, he sounds even more content and anxious for what just might lie right ahead. “I feel like I’m in the middle of what could be a transitional phase for me,” says Adkins, who was inducted into the famed Grand Ole Opry back in 2003. “I’m at one of those points in my life where I feel like things might change a bit, where I start going in some different directions and start doing some different things. I sense it and it’s exciting for me. I have always believed that if you don’t get outside of your comfort zone, you are bound to become stagnant and bored, so I am constantly challenging myself. It’s all about growing as a human being.”
Granted, Adkins seems hesitant at this point to confirm what he sees behind the next corner. And rest assured, Adkins has never been the type of man willing to waste too much time looking backwards. Yet, in order to truly understand Adkins, one must understand where he has come from.
A former oil rigger from Louisiana who learned to play the guitar at an early age, Adkins spent years playing his music within the famed honkytonks. He secured his first record deal in 1996 with his debut record Dreamin’ Out Loud. Mixing country music with touches of influences from everything from gospel to blues to good ole rock and roll, the baritone quickly gained the love of the county music industry, and it wasn’t long before he began finding himself quite at home on the top of the country music charts.
Yet, as things started looking promising and the singles started succeeding, Adkins was faced with his share of unfortunate personal and professional setbacks. From failed marriages to a devastating injury to a resulting career freefall, there were times when Adkins could have easily thrown in the towel and given up. In his 2007 autobiography, A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions from a Freethinking Roughneck, he looked back on these troubles with an openness and sincerity that made his already adoring fan base love him even more.
And, as with every great success story, each fall ultimately gave Adkins the chance to rise again…and so he has. Selling over 10 million albums to date, Adkins has become quite an icon within the country music industry with a trail of music that goes from the light-hearted and downright ridiculous (“Honky Tonk Badonkadonk) to the heartwarming (“Til The Last Shot’s Fired”) to the downright emotional (“You’re Gonna Miss This”). Add these successes to his work with organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project and the American Red Cross, and you find yourself a man who has been changed for the better.
Of course, everyone knows that behind every great man is a good woman. In Adkins’ case, the thanks go to not one, but six great women. “My wife Rhonda and my five daughters…they have been my driving force,” he says. “I owe them everything.”
“I mean, I am literally surrounded by women,” laughs Adkins. “Heck, we even have two female dogs. I like to believe that I still hold the ultimate veto power around here, but I’m really not sure I do. These women run the show around here.”
Of course, staying lean and mean for the women who love him the most has become a priority for Adkins, who admits to trying his best to maintain a healthy lifestyle despite being out on the road touring most of the year. While he doesn’t consider himself as health conscious per se, he says he is conscious of trying to attempt to make health conscious decisions. “I don’t eat crazy…I eat whatever I want to eat whenever I want to eat,” says Adkins, who has hosted the American Country Awards on FOX for three consecutive years. “But especially now that I’m getting a bit later in life, I try to be sensible. I make a very conscious decision not to eat that, but to eat that instead. For me, if I exercise and drink plenty of water, I’ll look pretty decent. I always tell people to forget about all those diets out there…slam 16 ounces of water on the hour, every hour, you will lose weight.”
And while exercise has always played an important role in his life, Adkins admits that he has had to make a few necessary adjustments as he has gotten older. “I don’t work out every day because that’s not just practical for me right now,” he says. “I can’t run anymore because the joints in my knees just won’t let me do it anymore. I have a steel plate in my left ankle, so the high impact stuff is completely out of the question. I have been rough on my body in my life, so I try to be sensible and know my limitations. I just can’t do the high impact stuff anymore. I once was in a movie where they asked me how much action was within my reach. I basically told them that I wasn’t going to run from anything or chase anything.”
And with each hearty laugh comes the sense that Adkins is a man feeling quite content with not only his life, but also even the idea of getting older. “I guess I am one of those people that do embrace the idea of getting older because I have adorable, beautiful grandchildren,” he says. “I look forward to becoming the old sage that they seek out when they need to ask a question.”
Perhaps it is this album, Love Will… that finally gives his adoring fans a true insight into a man who has often been misunderstood. Featuring collaborations with two-time Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter, Colbie Caillat, the esteemed Harlem Gospel Choir and rock/country veterans, Exile, Adkins seems to be making the music he wants to make for the people he wants to make it for. And rest assured, Adkins has never sounded more sexy, confident, or downright cool.
The first single, “Watch the World End” featuring Colbie Caillat, speaks of the undying commitment between two people who wouldn’t be anywhere else, under any circumstances. Co-written by rising country music star Brett Eldredge, the single is something that touched Adkins’ heart from the very first moment he heard it.
“For my money, ‘Watch the World End’ has the most profound lyric of any love song I have recorded since ‘The Rest of Mine.’ It is the ultimate expression and ultimate profession of love. It just blows me away. Combined with Colbie’s (Caillat) vocal, and well, it’s just one of the most powerful songs I have ever heard,” he says.
And while it remains to be seen if Adkins’ latest in a catalog of songs that have made his fans laugh, cry, and think will succeed on the charts, this one just might not need to do anything in particular in order to have a place forevermore in his heart. In fact, Adkins hints that he can’t help but think of the song as an ode of love to his wife, the Nashville publicist who captured his attention and eventually his heart over 16 sweet years ago.
“That song tells the story of a man faced with an undeniable truth,” he says. “If I knew the world was going to end in the next five minutes, I would literally break my neck to get to you because I would want to stare in your eyes when it ended. That’s the way life is supposed to be. That’s powerful. That’s love. That’s life.”