Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

During his career in country music, Travis Tritt has ruffled more feathers than a pack of coyotes in a chicken coop -- just ask him.

But the always plain spoken Tritt isn't going to start catering to the powers-that-be on Music Row, even though he believes that's what it will take to achieve superstar status in the industry. Instead, his latest release, "Strong Enough," is an appeal to his numerous fans, who already know what he brings to the table.

With seven platinum-plus-selling albums in his 12-year career, as well as TV guest spots and movie roles, it seems disingenuous to think of Tritt as anything but a star. But the artist maintains that he has labored with a lack of respect and acknowledgement, and he believes he's been held back by "the Nashville establishment [and] awards shows. After I won the [Country Music Association] Horizon Award in 1991, I realized I wasn't getting nominated a whole lot [or] recognized a whole lot."

Ultimately, Tritt says he wants to make music his own way and be respected for it. In his opinion, doing exactly that brought his relationship with Warner Bros. to an end following 1998's "No More Looking Over My Shoulder," and it led him to take a two-year hiatus from the industry. After his break, Tritt returned in 2000 with his debut for Columbia, "Down the Road I Go." It was a hugely successful comeback.

"Strong Enough," Tritt's second Columbia project, is due Sept. 24, although the title of its first cut, "You Can't Count Me out Yet," would seem more appropriate for his previous album.

"It took going through that [comeback] and having it be successful to write that song," he says. "I had a lot of nail-biting, a lot of fear and trepidation in releasing that album. I had been away so long and was with a brand-new label. It was a lot of stuff I had not experienced before. I was concerned, wondering if we would have a shot again."

Relaxing into his recent success, Tritt maintains that "Strong Enough" is a quintessential Tritt project. He either wrote or co-wrote nine of the 12 songs, including first single "Strong Enough To Be Your Man," which is No. 27 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.

Tritt says, "Most of this album was pretty much along the lines of all the different types of music that I've tried to venture into at one point or another."

But venturing out can be difficult for him. "For years, I've heard people talk about the outlaw image, [calling me a] rough-around-the-edges country rocker. Then the last album came out, and they are calling me a traditionalist. People like to try and put a label on things, put you in a box. I hate those boxes. It limits you if you're trying to do different things and experiment with music."

Tritt will tape a "CMT Crossroads" show Ray Charles on Sept. 10 that will air in December, and a "CMT Most Wanted Live" special that will air Sept. 29. He'll also provide a voice to a character in Disney's animated bluegrass musical, "My Peoples," due out in 2005.





Excerpted from the Sept.14, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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