Although Trace Adkins’ new album, “Proud to be Here,” arrives Aug. 2 through Show Dog Universal, the Louisiana-born singer has other things on his mind.
“It’s really been hard,” says Adkins, whose Brentwood, Tenn. home was destroyed by fire on June 4. “I told my manager the other day, ‘I’m sorry, but my heart and my head are just not in this right now.’ It’s really hard for me to focus, pull my weight and be a team player when my focus is being distracted.”
The timing couldn’t have been worse, as expectations for “Proud to be Here” run high. Since debuting on Capitol Records in 1996, Adkins has sold 8.3 million albums in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. In that span, he has notched 14 top 10 hits on the Hot Country Songs chart, including the No. 1 hits “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing,” “Ladies Love Country Boys” and “You’re Gonna Miss This,” as well as four No. 1 Top Country Albums, including his Show Dog Universal debut and most recent release, 2010’s “Cowboy’s Back in Town.” He’s also increased his visibility moonlighting as an actor — most recently with Matthew McConaughey in “The Lincoln Lawyer” — and as a TV reality star (in 2008, he was runner-up to Piers Morgan on Fox’s “The Celebrity Apprentice”).
Since the fire, Adkins, 49, and his family — his wife, Rhonda, and their three daughters, MacKenzie, 13, Brianna, 9, and Trinity, 6 — have been living at their farm outside Nashville, the location used for his new video, “Just Fishin’,” in which Trinity appears. The single is currently No. 12 on Hot Country Songs. Adkins says the label originally wanted him to put the song on “Cowboy’s Back in Town,” but he refused.
Video: Trace Adkins, “Just Fishin'”
“We recorded it for the last album, and they wanted to put it out as a single. I didn’t want to because it was [so] close to ‘You’re Gonna Miss This,'” says Adkins, referencing his poignant 2008 hit about the fleeting joys of parenthood that topped the chart for three weeks. “I just didn’t want to have those two songs close together.”
The album’s title track was penned by songwriters Ira Dean (former bass player with Trick Pony; Montgomery Gentry’s “One in Every Crowd), Chris Wallin (Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t Blink”) and Aaron Barker (George Strait’s “Love Without End, Amen”), but sounds autobiographical. “It just killed me the first time that I heard it,” Adkins says of the song. “The people that do know me know my story, the near-death experiences and all the craziness, but that really wasn’t what I was looking at. I thought about the fact that I’m still in this business after 15 years, still around and still trying to contribute. That’s really what I was thinking about when I named the album that.”
Adkins says “Proud to be Here” includes some of the strongest material he’s ever recorded. Among the highlights, there’s the raucous “If I Was a Woman,” a duet with Blake Shelton (who Adkins worked with on the Country chart-topping duet “Hillbilly Bone”) and “Semper Fi,” a tribute to the Marine Corps.
“Just Fishin'” is produced by Michael Knox (Jason Aldean), with the remainder of the album helmed by Show Dog Universal president Mark Wright (Brooks & Dunn, Lee Ann Womack, Gary Allan) and Kenny Beard (Jeff Bates). “Proud to be Here” is being released in three versions. “We have a standard package of 10 cuts available every day anywhere in the country for under $10,” says Bill Kennedy, Show Dog-Universal Music VP of marketing, sales and new media. “We also have a deluxe package with 14 cuts, including a brand-new studio cut with Blake Shelton that will only be on Trace’s record. We want to make sure new fans and older fans have their choice. As far as our advance orders, it’s a 50-50 split from retailers.”
The third edition will be exclusive to Target and feature 16 songs, including two live tracks. “Target came to us and said, ‘If you can secure a couple extra tracks, we’ll support you,’ and it’s hard to say no to that,” Kennedy says. “Their level of external ad support, on their dime, is something that no one else offers.” Target will also carry both the standard 10-song package and the 16-song set, Kennedy says.
Adkins is slated to appear on the “Today Show” on street date and will be making other media appearances in New York around the release. The label is also running a contest on Clear Channel radio stations with an 18-foot Explorer fishing boat by Triton set to be the grand prize — “This is a national contest that ties in all Clear Channel country radio stations, not just reporters,” Kennedy says — as well as separate contests with CMT and GAC. Winners of those contests will receive fishing trips to an Arkansas resort.
“Trace offers a very good balance in the marketplace,” says Kennedy, who expects both physical and digital sales of “Proud to be Here” to be strong. “Because of his history, we know there are still physical buyers out there for Trace, and also we’re seeing a consistent stream of that younger generation that embraces country. We have a best-of-all-worlds scenario.”