Headed back to the Chicagoland area for a show this Thursday night at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan, I spoke with country music star and unexpected reality TV star Trace Adkins about what fans can expect in the live setting Thursday night at “The Christmas Show” as well as what it is that sets his new holiday themed album The King’s Gift apart from others in the often stale Christmas music genre…
Capping a busy year that saw the release of two albums, an unlikely turn as a reality TV star, a handful of film roles, voiceover work and more, Trace Adkins arrives in Waukegan Thursday night offering fans the rare opportunity to see him perform in a small theatre as opposed to the less intimate environs of the outdoor amphitheatre in which he more frequently performs each summer.
Never afraid to push the envelope musically, Adkins continues to diversify his portfolio this year, most recently in the form of a Celtic influenced, holiday themed album called The King’s Gift. Eschewing the typical Christmas album pitfalls for strength of songwriting and a variety of instrumentation, Adkins is touring in support of that album with the biggest backing band of his career.
I recently spoke with Trace Adkins about the chances he takes professionally to avoid being pigeonholed as a country music artist and what it is exactly that sets The King’s Gift apart from other releases in the holiday music genre…
Q. 2013 was a busy year for you… You won the Celebrity Apprentice and [just released] your second album of the year. With all of these different roles across a variety of entertainment industry fields, I’m guessing that it’s important for you to tackle projects that take you out of your comfort zone a bit?
Trace Adkins: Absolutely. That’s the reason I am always pursuing more of the acting stuff, the television stuff and the movie stuff. You’ve got to get outside of your comfort zone, man. That’s the only way you can stay stimulated. You’ve got to get a shot to that creative core every now and then and the only way to do that is by putting yourself in challenging situations where you have to create.
Q. What made you want to do a Christmas album? I think when people hear the words “Christmas album,” there are some certain preconceived notions that come to mind but yours kind of breaks the mold…
Adkins: It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for years and it kept getting put on the back burner. It just never seemed to find its way into the mix.
And then last year, my musical director Jon Coleman and I were talking one day and he asked me why I’d never done a Christmas record? And I said, “Man, I just haven’t gotten around to it. You know.” And he said, “Well, let’s do it, man. Let me work with you on it. How do you want it to be? How do you want it to sound?” And I told him. I said, “Here’s the guy you need to talk to.” Because I talked to Michael Spriggs probably twelve, thirteen years ago about making this record. Michael is an acoustic player here in Nashville and he’s from the Isle of Man which is an island right off the coast of Ireland. He’s done a few Celtic instrumental records and I talked to him years ago about making a Christmas record with this feel.
So I hooked John and Michael up together and we talked about the vision and the kinds of songs that I wanted to be on the record and I just turned them loose. They took the ball and ran with it and delivered exactly what I wanted.
Q. I’m told “The Christmas Show” tour in support of the album is a lot different than your typical tour – How so?
Adkins: This will be the biggest group that I’ve ever travelled with. To pull this album off live, you’ve got to have twelve pieces. So there’s a string section, you’ve got to have the bagpipes, the whistles and flutes… To pull this stuff off, you’ve got to have a large group of people – the background singers and everything. So this will be the biggest ensemble I’ve ever toured with.
This is not just a straight up concert. It’s more theatrical. There will be a set and there will be narration, dialogue, anecdotes and historical facts about some of these songs.
In doing research for this show and learning about these songs, it’s just fascinating. Some of the stories about some of these songs – how old they are – [There’s] a couple of songs on this album that we can trace the melodies back over 1,200 years. I mean, that’s fascinating to me.
I guarantee you, 1,200 years from now, nobody will be singing the biggest hit of my career. I promise you that.
These melodies are ancient and they’ve been handed down vocally for centuries. We’ve only been recording maybe the last one hundred years or so. The youngest song on this record is “The Little Drummer Boy” and it’s over seventy years old so the rest of these songs are over one hundred and some over one thousand [years old]. So we wanted to do very traditional, old songs.
Yeah, it’s not “Jingle Bells” or “Frosty the Snowman.”
Q. So what’s next?
Adkins: I want to do a crooner record. I’ve been thinking about doing that for years and years and I just haven’t gotten around to it. Someday I’m going to do that too. I’m not just going to limit myself to just Sinatra or Dean Martin or Nat King Cole or any of those cats. It’ll be all of those guys – Mel Torme.
I just love that stuff and would like to do an album of that stuff someday.
*** This interview was conducted by Jim Ryan (@RadioJimRyan)
(Details on Thursday’s Trace Adkins show in Waukegan after the jump)
(Jim Ryan also hosts “The Rock N’ Roll Radio Program” Sundays at 6PM central on WIMS and WHFB – streaming at wimsradio.com and via the free TuneIn Radio app for the smart phone or tablet – Just search “WIMS” to find it on TuneIn)
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Trace Adkins – “The Christmas Show”
Thursday, December 5, 2013
203 North Genesee Street
Waukegan, IL 60085
Click HERE to purchase tickets
(Platinum package upgrades also available)