Travis Tritt made an appearance on Theo Von’s “This Past Weekend” podcast last week. He and the comedian talked about all manner of things. Topics ranged from Tritt’s beginnings in the music industry to his latest single “Smoke in a Bar,” and just about everything in between. The real high point of the interview came when Tritt discussed one of the most important pieces of advice he had ever received.
It all started back in 1990 when Travis Tritt sat at Duane Allman’s grave and wrote “Put Some Drive In Your Country.” It’s an up-tempo ode to the rock-infused outlaw sound. In the song, he shouts out Hank Jr., Waylon Jennings, and Duane Allman. To a modern country fan, it’s nothing outlandish. In fact, it sounds more like what I would call country than most of the stuff Nashville is pumping out today. However, at the time, critics in Nashville got all bent out of shape about it.
See, Travis Tritt had the audacity, nay, the gall to use distorted guitars in a country single. Music journalists all over Music City took shots at Tritt. All he wanted to do was pay tribute to The Allman Brothers, Skynyrd, and cats like Waylon and Bocephus. What he did was poke an angry and opinionated hornet’s nest.
In the interview, Travis Tritt says everyone from journalists to radio program directors took shots at him. The one thing that stuck in his craw was when they said he was just an outlaw. He said that really did some damage to him mentally. Then, he met Waylon Jennings.
Waylon Jennings Changes Travis Tritt’s Outlook
Travis Tritt and Waylon Jennings were playing a show together in Atlanta. After the show, they had a moment to sit and have a talk. Tritt says that before he ever met Waylon, he was a huge fan. He loved everything about the outlaw legend. From his songwriting to his guitar playing and vocal style, Tritt loved it. His favorite thing about Waylon, though, was that he wasn’t afraid to do things his own way. That night, in his dressing room, Waylon shared a little of that courage with Travis.
The outlaw legend sat him down and said, “Listen, Hoss, I’ve been hearing all the stuff they’ve been saying about you in Nashville and on these radio stations. Let me just remind you that everything they are saying about you now, is exactly what they said about me, and about Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams Jr., and David Allan Coe,” then he posed a couple of questions. First, he asked if Travis Tritt was still selling records. He was. In fact, he was welling millions of records. Then, he asked if people were still coming to shows. He was playing a gig with a legend. It’s safe to say, people were still buying tickets to see TT do his thing.
The Important Lesson
That’s when Waylon set Travis Tritt straight. The legend told him that the people buying his records and coming to his shows should be his concern. They were hardworking people who chose to spend some of their money on Tritt’s music. They were the ones paying his bills and making him successful. Those radio guys and music journalists were getting their music for free and dragging his name through the mud. He didn’t need to worry about those folks.
That conversation was like an epiphany for Travis Tritt. It taught him two important lessons. For one, it taught him that the “outlaw” label wasn’t as big of an insult as he had first imagined. Nashville labels you an outlaw for not conforming to the current formula. More importantly, he learned where his real concern should lie – with the fans. As long as his fans were still buying records and coming to shows, nothing else mattered.
In a way, Travis Tritt was less of an outlaw and more of an Outsider. Do your thing your own way. As long as you’re keeping the right people happy and following your true path, nothing else matters. Stay true to yourself, do the best you can, and ignore the critics who aren’t adding anything to your day-to-day.