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Music has carried Travis Tritt on a lot of amazing adventures. From helping reunite the legendary Eagles to being mentored by such icons as Waylon Jennings, Kenny Rogers, and Charlie Daniels to becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry, music has opened many doors that the talented Georgia native has boldly walked through and left his own indelible mark. And the adventure is far from over. With the release of Set in Stone, Tritt embarks on the next chapter of his stellar career armed with the distinctive voice, insightful songwriting, and outlaw edge that have served him well for more than three decades.
“When we told people, I was getting ready to go back in and record the first studio album I’d done in 13 years, they said, ‘Well, what kind of album is it going to be?’ The only answer I could come up with is, ‘It’s going to be a Travis Tritt album,’ and a Travis Tritt album to me represents everything I’ve ever done,” says Tritt, who co-wrote eight of the album’s 11 tracks. “I’ve always tried to take all of the influences that I have which are across all different genres. I love straight-ahead country. I love the old stuff, the great storytelling songs, songs that make you feel something with the lyrics that they are relatable. There’s the Southern rock influence that I’ve always tried to showcase in every album, the blues influence that I’ve had all my life, the old Southern gospel stuff, bluegrass, all of those different things.”
On Set in Stone, the Grammy winner has delivered the quintessential Travis Tritt album. Opening with the rowdy “Stand Your Ground” and mixing potent love songs like “Leave This World” with searing country rockers like the first single “Ghost Town Nation,” Set in Stone pays homage to all sides of Tritt’s musical personality. Such versatility and creative passion have always been the hallmarks of Tritt’s artistry. A member of country music’s much-celebrated Class of ’89 that also includes Clint Black, Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson, Tritt populated country radio with such hits as “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares),” “I’m Gonna Be Somebody,” “Help Me Hold On,” “Put Some Drive in Your Country,” “Can I Trust You with My Heart” and “It’s a Great Day to be Alive.”
Tritt has won two Grammy Awards, four CMA Awards, and a Billboard Music Award for Top New Artist. Seven of Tritt’s albums have been certified platinum or higher, earning him more than 30 million in career album sales. He’s scored five number one singles and 20 Top 10 hits. He’s also expanded his creative resume’ into acting with film and TV roles in Rio Diablo (1993), The Cowboy Way (1994), Tales from the Crypt (1995), Sgt. Bilko (1996), Fire Down Below (1997), Outlaw Justice (1999), Touched By An Angel (1999), Blues Brothers (2000), Yes, Dear (2004), Brother’s Keeper (2013), Forever My Girl (2018), and more.
Produced by Dave Cobb, well known for his work with Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, the Oak Ridge Boys, and Brandi Carlile, Set in Stone is a well-crafted collection that spotlights Tritt’s gift as a storyteller. “It was just a great experience all the way around,” Tritt says of working with Cobb, after his manager introduced the two. “Dave understood me and knew my music inside and out. He knew the kind of stuff that I was attracted to, the kind of stuff that I wanted to do and he was just very easy to work with in the studio as well.”
Tritt also credits Cobb with introducing him to co-writers who became a key part of the project, including his cousin, acclaimed singer/songwriter Brent Cobb. “Dave and my manager called him and asked him about writing with me and he was like, ‘Man I’m a Travis Tritt fan! If I had a dollar for every time I rode around listening to Travis Tritt in my pickup truck and having the greatest time in my life, I’d be a very rich man,’ so he was excited about the opportunity,” Tritt says. “Brent just got this idea in his mind thinking about all the concerts that he’d been to where he’d seen me play and he said this one thing kept coming up in my mind he said, ‘Regardless of what happens with this album or anything else that you do, your legacy is pretty much set in stone.’”
That phrase struck like thunder and Cobb and Tritt ran with it. “We wanted to write a song that applies to a hard-working individual that spent their whole life working to provide for their family. They put emphasis on home and family above everything else. We thought about how much a song like that would resonate with people, so that’s where the idea came from for ‘Set In Stone,’ and I’m extremely proud of it. I’m so glad that we wrote that song together. It’s geared toward the hard working, salt of the earth people that I grew up with that are still a vital part of this country. This song was written for them and I think that a lot of people out there are going to be able to relate to it.”
The lead single from Tritt’s new album, “Ghost Town Nation,” is another potent anthem sure to strike a chord both with Tritt’s longtime audience and new fans who are just discovering the veteran hitmaker. Written by Aaron Raitiere and JB Strauss, the fiery tune encourages the listener to make the best of a challenging situation. “I love the beat and the melody of it. It’s got a great groove, but what really caught my ear was the lyric because it was describing exactly what was going on with the pandemic,” Tritt says of the timely song. “Around April so many people that I knew were locked down in their houses for days on end and finally after a while they started realizing, ‘I can go outside in the woods with just my family or people I know that haven’t been out and about doing anything other than going to the grocery store. I can get out with those people, in the great outdoors and get away from all this craziness of being locked down in my house and feel pretty safe and comfortable about it.’ I knew a lot of people that were doing that and to me that’s what the song was talking about. It just seemed like not only was it a great song, but it was a great song for the time that we’re living.”
“Smoke in a Bar” is another standout cut on the album. Tritt really sinks his teeth into the nostalgic lyric that takes listeners back to a simpler time. “There seems to be a renewed interest in the music of the ’90s, the stuff that told more of a story,” Tritt says. “For so many years country music told the greatest stories of any kind of music genre out there and we’ve gotten away from that. People are nostalgic not only for that kind of music, but also for that way of life. You could make a deal on a handshake and a person’s word meant something. It’s all nostalgia. This is a song that is talking about longing for a time gone by when you could sit on your front porch and talk, go to bed without locking the front door and just simple things like that. Those days seem to be gone forever. Songs like this are songs that people can relate to that yearn for those simpler times and good ole days.”
“Stand Your Ground” is a rowdy uptempo that was inspired by a conversation Tritt had with the legendary Waylon Jennings. “I wrote that with Channing Wilson and Wyatt Durrette. The first time I had met either one of these guys I was telling them a story about Waylon Jennings. He gave me a lot of encouragement. He said, ‘I’ve been hearing all the things that they’ve been saying about you, how you’re an outlaw and you’re kind of different and maybe a little bit hard to deal with. I just want you to know that the same people that said that about you said the same thing about me, Willie, Johnny Cash and David Allan Coe. Don’t pay any attention to what those people say. They’re not the ones that buy your tickets to your shows. They don’t know your audience the way that you do, so you just stick with your program.’ It really was a great uplifting piece of advice that came just at a time when I really needed it. We were talking about that story and that’s how we wrote ‘Stand Your Ground.’ You have to have the intestinal fortitude to be able to stand up for what you believe in.”
Tritt has always displayed the courage of his convictions and has determinedly made the music he’s wanted to make. He’s also never been afraid to reach out and take a chance and that swing for the fences optimism has served him well. One example in particular stands out. When Tritt recorded the song “Take It Easy” for the CMA Award winning Common Thread: Songs of the Eagles, he asked the Eagles’ Don Henley and Glenn Frey to be in the video. The band had acrimoniously parted ways more than a decade before. Surprisingly, they accepted Tritt’s request and then other band members at that time Don Felder, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit came onboard. “It was just magic,” Tritt recalls. “The first time that the Eagles got together again after that long hiatus was in this little cantina where we were shooting the video. I got to be an Eagle for a day and it was an absolute thrill for me. Every time I went to see the Eagles after they got back together when the Hell Freezes Over Tour started, when I was in the audience, Glenn Frey would step up to the mic and give me credit for helping put that together. It wasn’t my intention. It wasn’t something I planned and I can’t take a lot of credit for it other than the fact that I just wanted to do a really cool video. As it turned out it was that and a lot more.”
It would be easy for Tritt to rest on his laurels, to kick back and revel in some very cool memories, but he has too much drive to sit idle. His voice has never sounded stronger and his songwriting has rarely been more poignant or pointed. Set in Stone reveals an artist who has never been more passionate about the craft he loves. “I remember what made me fall in love with music in the first place when I was just a little kid, walking around singing Roger Miller songs when I was five-years-old, singing gospel music in church and going to bluegrass festivals with my uncle,” he smiles. “I honestly believe I was put on this earth to create music and to move myself. Hopefully if I can move myself, I can move other people as well and for me, that’s exciting. I’m just so thrilled and honored to have a career that has lasted this long and still be able to put new music out that moves people and still do what I’ve always loved to do.”