What Made Randy Travis’ Debut Album ‘Storms of Life’ a Hit

by Clayton Edwards

After years of trying to make it in the music business, Randy Travis released his debut album Storms of Life in June of 1986. The album introduced listeners across the nation to Travis’ smooth baritone voice and his brand of traditional country music. Before long, the record went to the top of the Billboard Country Albums chart. Additionally, it went Platinum the next year and kept selling. Currently, the multi-Platinum album sits in heavy rotation for many country fans and we can all agree that it is a collection of great songs.

Have you ever wondered why Randy Travis’ debut album was such a big hit? If you have, you’re in luck. Randy and those close to him discussed what made Storms of Life so popular during the documentary More Life.

Storms of Life Stood Out

Producer and music historian Robert Oermann spoke a little about what the country music landscape looked like when Randy Travis hit the scene with Storms of Life. “Country music was in a very different place than it is now. He came to Nashville in 1982 and that was at the height of what we used to call the ‘Urban Cowboy’ era. Things were very pop and Randy came along with a style that was a throwback, in a way, to an earlier period of country music when country music was a little bit more pure.”

Randy Travis’ longtime producer and collaborator Kyle Lehning expanded on that. “Randy came at a time when nobody expected a traditional country artist to mean much or anything. Merle Haggard and George Jones were not selling a lot of records. That music had somehow slipped through the cracks.”

Later in the documentary, Oermann said, “That Storms of Life album was a watershed moment in the history of country music.”

Authenticity and Timing Helped Randy Travis Succeed

Randy Travis had a top-shelf voice and knew how to pick and write great songs. However, there was more to the young country singer than that. Lehning explained what grabbed him the first time he heard Randy sing. “The thing that I found really attractive about him, as an artist, was this immediate sort of sense of integrity. When he sang something, there was no way not to believe it.”

Lehning admitted that Randy Travis wasn’t the only artist like that. However, Randy’s timing allowed him to truly shine. “I think there are a lot of artists like that, but they don’t connect with that perfect sort of unknown piece of timing where that artist can deliver something that an audience didn’t even know that they were looking for.”

Storms of Life Had Great Songs

Randy Travis knew that success in the music business starts with good songs. Luckily, he had plenty of great songs to choose from when gearing up to record Storms of Life. About this, Randy said, “We kept finding all these great country songs in publishing houses and I’m thinking why has someone not recorded these songs?”

Again, Randy Travis’ timing helped him out. “Most people who were doing traditional music then were writing most of what they did. So, we just kept finding one great song after another.”

That all changed after Storms of Life became such a huge hit. Kyle Lehning explained, “What Randy was looking for song-wise, nobody was looking for those kinds of songs… By the time his second album hit, everybody was looking for those songs.”