The Grand Ole Opry stage holds many fond memories for Trace Adkins, beginning with his 1996 debut performance. In 2003, the 6’6″ singer was invited to join the Opry by 4’11” veteran Little Jimmy Dickens, who stood on a stepladder to ask him face to face. Later that same year, one of Adkins’ heroes, fellow Opry member Ronnie Milsap, welcomed him to the family.
A Nashville icon for more than two decades, Trace Adkins has made his mark on the country-music industry. 11 million albums sold. Time-honored hit singles. Momentous, fiery and always memorable live performances. Grammy nominations. Even a slew of movie and TV roles have come the Grand Ole Opry member’s way. Ask Adkins what’s left to prove in his career and the small-town Louisiana native says it’s simple: To continually feel the excitement that comes after whipping up a new song out of thin air and laying it down to tape. “It’s an adrenaline rush and I love it,” says Adkins, who spent much of last year in a Nashville studio writing and recording with some of Nashville’s most respected songwriters including Shane McNally, Tyler Farr and Craig Campbell. The result was Something’s Going On, his 12th studio album and his first release on his new label, BBR Music Group/Wheelhouse Records.
Produced by Mickey Jack Cones, Adkins says Something’s Going On is as much a window into his life as any of his previous albums. “If you really wanted to know who Trace Adkins is, go back and listen to the album cuts on the records I’ve done over my career. Those are the songs that reflect where I was in my head at the time I made that record.” This time lead single “Watered Down” — a slow-burning, emotive rumination on growing older, wiser but never losing your killer instinct and edge — is the track Adkins wholeheartedly believes most accurately expresses his outlook on life and career at this stage in the game. “I’ve never finished a record and said, ‘OK, this is my favorite cut off this album,’” he recalls. “But this time there’s no bones about it. That’s my favorite cut. It just speaks to my soul.”
In his 2007 autobiography, A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions from a Freethinking Roughneck, the towering baritone recounts his rise to fame, brushes with death, and battles with personal demons. Adkins says he’s profoundly touched that he now serves as an inspiration to a younger generation of country artists, much in the way he revered icons like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard when first moving to Nashville. Lest you think however that Adkins has lost any of his trademark passion and killer instinct for his craft, the 55-year-old is as fired up as ever to be back on the road touring behind Something’s Going On.
Adkins has won three Academy of Country Music Awards, including the 2009 Single of the Year Award for “You’re Gonna Miss This” and Vocal Event of the Year with Blake Shelton for “Hillbilly Bone” in 2010. He is also an accomplished actor with roles in several films and television shows, most notably playing a tough-as-nails biker in The Lincoln Lawyer, a desperate father in Deepwater Horizon, and a wise oracle of a tattoo artist in the family friendly film Moms’ Night Out. But he is perhaps most proud of his work supporting U.S. troops and veterans, serving as a spokesman for the Wounded Warrior Project and participating in an astounding 12 USO tours to date.
Ask Adkins where he goes from here and he’ll say it’s simple: keep doing what he knows and love. Performing. Creating. Inspiring. He adores it, and he knows so many of his lifelong fans, and new ones to boot, do too. “I’m gonna go out there and find those people,” he says with a laugh of the coming months. “I’m gonna bring a band and turn it up real loud! And we’re gonna have a good time!”