Randy Travis is continuing to celebrate 25 years on the charts with the release of a new single that pairs him with a very familiar voice — Eagles legend Don Henley.
The new release, “More Life,” is taken from his 25th Anniversary Celebration set, which Travis continues to tour in support of. The veteran performer said he was hooked the minute he first heard it.
“Mike Reid wrote it, and I remember the first time I heard him doing the demo, which was more like a record,” the singer recalls. “I remember listening to it, and wanting to record it right then and there. I went back and listened to it over and over, I don’t know how many times. His writing is just that good.”
As it happened to work out, Henley was in the same studio as Travis. “Don was down the hall. I had never met him, so we talked for a minute. My producer, Kyle Lehning, and the guys from the label said ‘Let’s get him to sing on it,’ and he said he would, but what says a lot about his character was that he said he would sing on the record, but he wouldn’t sing any lead parts, just the harmony.”
What were Travis’s thoughts about collaborating with the iconic singer?
“He’s a great singer – as good as you’d probably ever listen to. He sings it with a believable emotion, and that’s important when you’re hearing this kind of song.”
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The lyrics of the song are very meaningful to the North Carolina native. “It made me look at myself,” he confessed. “I’ve been guilty in years’ past of doing so much work, and not taking any time to spend around the people that I love. I also have watched other people do the same thing. So, those emotions came through. The first time I heard it, I teared up, to be honest with you.”
Henley is one of many artists that appear on the album that marks Randy Travis’s quarter-century as a commercial country force. Carrie Underwood, the Zac Brown Band, and Tim McGraw are just a few of the other performers on the album. However, Henley was the only artist that did his part separate from Travis.
“I wasn’t there when Don did his part with the vocal harmonies,” the singer stated of his new single. “With everybody else, I was there in the studio,” he said, though some traveling was involved. “With Zac Brown, he couldn’t find in his schedule when we could get together here, so I wound up in his bedroom with Kyle at his house in his bedroom recording ‘Forever And Ever, Amen.”
The performance of his 1987 classic is one of the highlights from the disc, as is the cover of his 1989 single “Promises,” recorded this time around as a duet with Shelby Lynne. The original version was just Travis and a guitar — a performance so stark and so different at the time that it barely dented the top-20 upon it’s’ release during his commercial heyday.
“There was a little resistance on it then,” he recalls, saying that his label chief suggested Travis and Lehning contact Lynne about adding her vocals to the album. “John Esposito was the one that brought Shelby up first. I’ve known her for a lot of years, and am in awe of her. She walked in, we put the vocal down, and she could have walked out right then. She’s that good.”
Another powerhouse vocalist on the album is Carrie Underwood, who duets with Travis on “Is It Still Over.” It’s not the first pairing for the two, as Travis joined the superstar for her cover of “I Told You So.” Though Carrie has said in other interviews that she considers him to be an influence, he says “I don’t know how much of an influence I would be vocally on her. She’s so far beyond me that it’s ridiculous,” he says with a laugh. “She’s an incredible singer. If her range is six feet tall, mine would be about a foot. I can’t touch what she can do.”
Another project that the singer would consider tackling at some point is a possible book about his life. “I’ve been approached by a few writers. I do want to do it some day,” he says, allowing that, “There are a lot of stories I could tell about my childhood, working in nightclubs from 14 on. I experienced some things I could have died from. One day, I want to do that.”