Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

Randy Travis spent years preparing for the release of his first Christian album, "Inspirational Journey," in 2000. The project fulfilled a long-held personal goal. Now having taken the plunge, he's back with "Rise & Shine." Due Oct. 15, the project marks his Word Records debut.

"We had so many years to prepare for 'Inspirational Journey,'" he says. "Then with this one there was a time limit kind of thing, so there was a little pressure there."

For "Inspirational Journey," Travis; his wife/manager, Elizabeth Hatcher Travis; and producer Kyle Lehning spent years gathering songs. When it came time to record "Rise & Shine," they not only launched an aggressive search for material, but the artist also worked with such co-writers as Ron Avis, Mike Curtis, and Lance Dary. "It was one of those amazing times for writing," he says. "It seemed like everything we were writing, we were feeling good about."

Among the cuts Travis co-wrote are "That's Jesus," a tune he and Curtis completed after hearing one of pastor John Haggee's sermons. Travis says they used so much of the sermon that they gave Haggee a writer's credit. "I'm Ready" is a cut Travis wrote with friend/bus driver Avis while they were on the road.

Though he didn't write it, Travis admits that "When Mama Prayed" has an autobiographical ring to it. "That one got to me, especially when you get into the second verse," he says of the lyric that reads: "Seventeen and wild I hit the bottle/Doin' any dang thing I well please/Burnin' down life's highway at full throttle/While Mama burned a candle on her knees."

"That one hit home real hard," says Travis, who spent many of his teen years drinking, doing drugs, and driving recklessly. "I wanted to record that song from the first time I heard it."

After years of working as a very successful country artist, singing songs about his faith obviously agrees with Travis, whose "Inspirational Journey" picked up two Gospel Music Association Dove Awards in 2001 (bluegrass album of the year and country recorded song "Baptism"). "Rise & Shine" seems likely to be equally accepted, as the songs fit Travis' resonant baritone like the worn leather cover of a well-read Bible.

The first 100,000 copies of the album will be special-edition packages that include a DVD with behind-the-scenes footage of the recording process, interviews, and shots of Travis' New Mexico ranch.

Travis tour this fall, and although he's currently not signed to a country label, between acting projects (including a new movie called West Town) and touring, he says he's too busy to be worried about it.

"In the Bible it says, 'The Lord will order footsteps of a righteous man.' So you have to be aware of that and try to make those decisions as they come along," he says. "We do what feels right at that point in time. Through the years, we've done OK by doing that."

Excerpted from the Sept.28, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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