Country Music Hall of Fame member Randy Travis has heard many stories over the years on how his music has influenced the lives of his fans. As it turns out, one of his own hits had a major impact on him — although it took over two decades for the singer to realize this.
In 1995, Travis released the emotional “The Box,” a song that he penned with Buck Moore. While the song peaked at No. 7 on the Hot Country Songs chart, the full impact of the song wasn’t felt until after the 2016 passing of his father Harold Traywick. In going through his father’s belongings, Travis found a collection of newspaper clippings detailing his career. For the singer, who had a sometimes strained relationship with Traywick, it was a moment that reflected a side of his father that he didn’t often see.
“Daddy was like a soft boiled egg—soft on the inside with a shell to crack and peel away to get to it!” Travis tells Billboard via email. “He loved us the best he knew how to, and he definitely never told us he loved us.”
Travis shares that memory and more in his forthcoming memoir, Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life, which he wrote with Ken Abraham. He says he’s glad the book will soon be in the hands of his fans.
“It will be a great relief. I wrote the book by living it—it took me 58 years to live it and two years to get it on paper,” the 60-year-old says. “I got to share my stories my way. When it was all said and done, there were still volumes of stories and people in my life that still need to be covered.”
Travis’ wife, Mary, had nothing but praise for Abraham’s work on the book – which posed somewhat of a challenge with the singer still recuperating from a variety of health issues that began with a stroke in July 2013.
“Ken was a master in recreating Randy’s life and getting it to book form. It was a very unique challenge that Ken tenaciously took on,” Mary says. “He spent countless hours with Randy, combing through articles, chronicles, charts and data. He interviewed countless individuals involved with Randy’s career from the very early days forward. Ken brought his heart and soul to the table.”
Inside the pages of the book, readers will learn of the many career triumphs of the North Carolina native, which began to accumulate following the release of his 1986 debut Storms of Life. It was important to Travis to also detail some of his struggles over the years, including alcohol abuse and a tumultuous teenage period that put him in court with the judge giving him one last chance to set his life straight. He hopes fans will be inspired by his honesty and find encouragement that they, too, can make it through to the other side.
“We all have mountains to climb and battles to fight—I’m no different. It’s my hope that someone may read my story, and either be inspired to keep up the fight and/or detour off the roads that are dead-ends,” he says. “I have always been transparent in the mistakes I’ve made—the book is no different.”
One interesting aspect of the memoir is how sharp Travis’ memory is concerning the period he was in a coma after his stroke in 2013. Doctors would come into his room and tell Mary there was little to no hope for recovery. Fellow artists Josh Turner and John Anderson would visit and sing to him over his bed. Though he was unable to respond vocally to what was going on around him, he remained aware. Does that surprise him?
“Not really,” he admits. “The human body is a fascinating work of art divinely designed by our Creator. A stroke is unique in its aftermath—each one different and we have no way of comprehending the body’s ability to heal.”
Once the singer began to heal and returned to his home in Texas, he remained faithful to a rehab regimen. Just as important to him was reconnecting with music. He and Mary started going to concerts including Turner, Cody Jinks, Neal McCoy, and Kane Brown. Mary says she noticed those moments ignited Travis’ inner fire.
“Music is the fiber that Randy’s knit from and that doesn’t fray. Once we were ready to go into rehab, I suggested going back to Nashville because I knew that that’s where the music, his band, and his friends were,” Mary explains. “I knew that music was going to be an integral part of the rehab.”
Travis also looks at supporting the newer generation of artists and attending their concerts as paying it forward. After all, when his career began with “1982,” he was instantly welcomed by many of his influences including Conway Twitty, George Jones and Merle Haggard.
“Those guys were certainly heroes to me — each of whom I had crafted my own work after. To have and to hear their praises was always a ‘pinch me’ moment,” he admits. “I was so shy and learning how to contain myself in their presence was a whole new art form.”
It’s Travis’ character that continues to connect with country fans. Though he’s not actively performing, Travis remains a fixture within the genre and his influence spans all ages.
“Children that are six years old will come up to Randy in an airport and ask him for an autograph. A little boy in a cowboy hat the other day said, ‘Can I shake your hand, Mr. Travis?’ That just speaks volumes because you have people from eight to 80 knowing Randy Travis,” Mary marvels. “He wasn’t a flash in the pan, he wasn’t a one-song wonder. He spoke to lots and lots of hearts and he still is. Even though he’s not out there making music, the songs that he sang will live on, they’ll echo through generations. That’s a gift from God to him and from him to us.”
Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life will be released May 14.