'90s country icon Travis Tritt plays solo acoustic show at the Nugget
Travis Tritt hit big with his debut album, and part of the reason why is also a good signpost of why he’s still a popular live attraction today: his lived-in, completely sincere singing voice.
“I think one of the things that has kept me going all these years, and has made me recognizable, is that my voice doesn’t sound like anybody else’s,” Tritt said in a recent recorded interview available from his publicist. “I think that from the very beginning, for whatever reason, my voice had a special unique quality to it. As soon as you heard my voice on the radio, I think that people recognized it immediately.”
Tritt, who plays a solo acoustic show on Oct. 21 at the Nugget, added that a bunch of artists that hit big when he did -- Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Vince Gill -- also sounded different from each other, which helped all of them maintain long careers. Tritt’s music also became evocative of a certain time in listeners’ lives.
“I think it brings back really good memories for them, takes them back to a different place in time,” Tritt said. “That’s the really unique thing about music. It should make you feel something and it should speak to you, regardless of what kind of situation you’re dealing with. Whether it’s your love life or how you feel about your job, or how you feel about your country, or any number of things. The music is sort of a backdrop to all that.”
Tritt covers all of those topics and then some in a deep back catalog of hits. He said when he does a full-band show, he tends to stick to the most popular songs, but the solo acoustic shows are a place for not only his biggest tunes but also for songs that show how he reached this point in his life.
“Growing up, I had a lot of influences as a kid,” Tritt said, “Eveyrbody from the Eagles to other rock bands. Obviously there were a lot of country artists, people like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, people like that. Charlie Daniels. A lot of blues was an influence. There was a lot of bluegrass, a lot of gospel. All of that is part of my upbringing and I get an opportunity to bring portions of all of those different things out in the solo acoustic performances.
“Also, it gives me an opportunity to sort of tell some stories about those influences and about how I got involved in music and where the music really comes from. Those shows are always a lot of fun to do.”
An audience who cares
Tritt’s love of country music began when he was very young. Born in Marietta, Georgia, he was performing songs at his elementary school at age 8. After high school, Tritt played in area clubs and was eventually spotted by a producer named Danny Davenport. The pair’s demo caught the ear of Warner Bros., who signed Tritt in 1988.
A year later, his debut album, “Country Club,” spawned four top 10 country singles: the title track, “I’m Gonna Be Somebody,” “Drift Off to Dream,” and a No. 1 country hit called “Help Me Hold On.” The album sold a half-million copies and also made it to the Billboard Country Albums top 10 chart.
Tritt’s next album, “It’s All About to Change” in 1991, did even better. It started a streak of four albums that sold between one million and three million each, including “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” in 1992, “Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof” in 1994 and “The Restless Kind” in 1996. From 1991 to 1992, Tritt had seven straight top 5 country hits, including two No. 1s in “Anymore” and “Can I Trust You With My Heart.” Other hits include “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’,” “Nothing Short of Dying,” and “Lord Have Mercy on the Working Man.”
Then there’s “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares),” which Tritt said he wrote in about 15 minutes. It’s become a country classic, and like many of Tritt’s songs was inspired by real life. In this case, it sprang from when he was served a set of divorce papers from his second wife.
“My wife basically asking me for all of these different things, how we were going to split up the things that we had, which wasn’t very much,” Tritt said. “It was a pots-and-pans divorce. We didn’t have very much to fight over. But, right as I was reading those divorce papers, she called me and she was basically telling me that maybe we’re rushing into this too soon. Maybe we should think about getting back together. And, I sat down and I thought about that, but you know it’s been way too much water that’s gone under the bridge for that to happen.”
If it’s not from his own life, Tritt said that he also writes about things he’s seen his friends go through.
“A lot of love songs, or loss-of-love songs, have come about from either personal experience or from good friends of mine, family members,” he said, adding that “the biggest thing is to be able to write songs and actually people hear them and they think to themselves, ‘Man, this guy must be reading my mail.’ If I can write a song that is true to personal experience, if I know I can move myself, I can move other people. So, that’s always been the sort of guideline that I’ve used to write just about every song I’ve ever written.”
Tritt would have several more colorfully worded country No. 1 singles as he continued his career: “Foolish Pride” in 1994 and “Best of Intentions” in 2000. That last one was featured on his album, “Down the Road I Go,” which marked a commercial comeback with three more top 10 hits, “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive,” “Love of a Woman” and “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde,” and another million-seller for his platinum disc collection. His most recent release, “The Calm After,” came out on indie label Post Oak Records in 2013 and made it to the top 30 on the country charts.