Dish recently sat down with Lawrence to talk with him about his new album, The Rock, a country record with strong Christian influences. For those who remember Lawrence as the singer of such hits in the ’90s as “Sticks And Stones” and “If The World Had A Front Porch,” this new album’s sound isn’t entirely different from his previous ones, but it certainly tackles new themes. He blends inspirational stories with the down-home, guitar-picking sound that made him famous. The result is ten God-fearing, faith-filled songs that deserve their place among those country hits that make you tap your foot and sing along. His new songs are now available for download at www.tracylawrence.com.
Dish: Your new album consists of ten religious songs. This is somewhat of a change for you. You came to fame singing more—for lack of a better word—secular songs…
Lawrence: Yeah, more hardcore country stuff. Love lost and all that. I wanted to make this record for a while, but I’ve kind of been evolving back to this place over the last several years because I got away from the church and ran from it for a while. Having children, we’ve really been getting back into the church. It’s kind of brought me back around to the place where I felt like it was time for me to do the album because I was spiritually and personally in the right place. I didn’t feel like I could do it justice if I wasn’t in the right place.
Dish: What issues of the day do you feel you confronted?
Lawrence: I didn’t really realize what the economy or the country’s state was going to be in when I recorded this album last year, but I think it fits the mood of the country right now, even the new single “Up To Him.” I think it’s something that people can relate to right now because we’re dealing with unemployment on the rise, and it’s not over yet.
Dish: You have a huge fan base. Do you think those fans who aren’t particularly religious will come back to this album and still like it? I mean, I like gospel, but I don’t necessarily have to be a Christian to like that. I think a lot of people can like it.
Lawrence: I do, too. I may be a bit guilty of straddling the fence with a message, but I didn’t want to come across as beating people over the head with scripture and doing all that kind of stuff because that’s really not who I am... I think that pretty much anybody can get a good message out of this album. It’s going to make them feel good and lift them up and give them some hope for tomorrow.
Dish: You said you strayed away from the church for a while. Was that like a Johnny Cash conversion—you know: a wild outlaw in the beginning and a penitent man later on?
Lawrence: It was probably about that bad. I was as wild as they come, and I lived life as hard and fast as I could, and I made a lot of mistakes, and I think that that’s what young men in their twenties do a lot. I was raised in a real strict family, and when I got loose, I ran as loose as I could.... You have to get some of that out before you settle down. That’s pretty normal.
Dish: I’ve heard that being on stage, there’s nothing else like it. So artists often turn to drugs and alcohol to make up for that feeling when they’re not on the stage. Was that true for you?
Lawrence: I surrounded myself with like-minded people, and it was just part of the whole vibe. I think that when you’re young, you have no anticipation of worrying about tomorrow. Get what you can right now: that’s the young man’s mentality. As you get older and start to slow down a little bit more and enjoy the sunrises a little bit more and go to bed a little earlier, I think things start to come into focus a little bit more.
Dish: Now, do you think people will look at this album and say, “He’s switched to a more Christian audience?”
Lawrence: No, I don’t think so. I think this is just going to add a new dimension to my music. I’m not planning on going out and touring churches. I’m going to continue to do what I do. This is just going to add a new element to who I am as an artist and hopefully be a nice piece of my collection for my fans to absorb over the years.
Dish: Are these songs at all autobiographical for you?
Lawrence: Every song on the album meant something to me personally, or I wouldn’t have cut it. I’m one of these guys—I might pray 10, 15, 20 times a day if I have something going on or if something’s heavy on my heart. I say a quick prayer when I’m driving in or whatever... I have a relationship with my maker, and I speak to him quite often with stuff that’s heavy on my heart. Or just being thankful, or if I’m in a good mood. I’m happy a lot.
Dish: Speaking of inspirational songs, I think a lot of your songs are optimistic—even the sad ones. Even when you’re losing the love of your life, you’re thinking about how you’re going to be a “Better Man, Better Off.” Where does that come from? Does it strictly come from your religious beliefs?
Lawrence: I don’t know, man. When I look for songs, I have to record things that move me. I can’t be one of these guys who can just cut fluff songs just because someone tells me it’s a hit. I’ve got to be passionate about it. I’ve got to want to get on the stage and sing that song for 20 years. I think if I would have been one of these artists that just let the labels tell me what to do, I’d be miserable right now.
Dish: Was it refreshing to be back in the studio?
Lawrence: It was, and I enjoyed it because I used my whole road band. That’s something I’ve never done. I felt like it was a great opportunity. We really bonded, a lot of the guys. I really just enjoyed getting to make music with the guys I spend so much time with. I think the album’s got a special flavor to it, and I was really pleased with the way the guys rose to the occasion. I feel the album has got a lot of dynamic, a lot of emotion.
Dish: What else have you been up to in recent years?
Lawrence: We’re running a little label here. I just found a new kid who came in and did some demos with me last week. I’m going to try to get him in the studio. So I’m just enjoying being creative. I’ve written more songs this year than I have in the last four or five years. Since January to right now, I’ve written 20 songs, and I can’t remember a year that I’ve been really writing that much. I really feel like that music’s in me, and I’ve been enjoying the craft of it again.
Dish: Is this young artist you’ve just found going to make it big?
Lawrence: It’s a pretty cool story. Two weeks ago, my wife and I went to P. F. Changs to eat lunch, and this kid was valeting cars. He asked me for my name, like they do, and I said, “Lawrence.” He said, “Oh, my God, you’re Tracy Lawrence.” I said, “Yes,” so I stood there and talked to him for a little bit. He told me that he had moved to town to be a singer and all that stuff. I got the usual question: “Man, what can I do to get my foot in the door?” I’ve never done this before. I said, “Son, I’m doing a demo session in two weeks. Give me your email address, and I’ll send you a couple songs. You show up, and I’ll give you a chance.” He showed up, and he blew me away. Absolutely blew me away.
Dish: And what do you have planned for the future?
Lawrence: I have a pretty heavy tour schedule this year. I’m planning on continuing to write a lot. I expect to be back in the studio in the summer to do my next full studio album, so I have to prepare and be ready to go when I finish this album up. I plan on getting Sam in the studio, writing some songs, cutting a few sides, and shopping him to the major labels, finding him a major deal. Just working. I’d like to get a little lake time.
Dish: And what about the distant future?
Lawrence: I’m just going to keep doing what I do. I don’t have any plans to slow down or change anything at all. I feel like I’ve got a good balance. I spend a lot of time with my kids. I tour as much as I want to. I feel like I’m right where I want to be.