Trace Adkins has been receiving some of the best reviews of his career as of late, due to his new Christmas release "The King’s Gift." A traditional collection of Yuletide tunes with a heavy emphasis on Celtic and Irish sounds, the singer tells Billboard he’s wanted to do such a project for a long time.
“It was something that I had thought about doing for a long time,” he said. “It was probably about 1998 when I first thought about doing it. But we got busy doing other stuff, so it fell on the back burner and we shelved it. Now, we finally got around to it. It’s just really classic-based, old hymns done with a Celtic/Irish approach. It was just a lot of fun. I enjoy a lot of music, and was inspired by a couple of instrumental records that a guy who is playing on my records had given me. I thought ‘I’d like to make a Christmas record with that kind of feel.’ He said ‘Let me know when you want to do it,’ so we eventually got around to it.”
"The King’s Gift" was released on Caliburn Records, Adkins’ first project not on a major label -- something he is very excited about. “We found Sony RED, who said they would distribute the record. With a specialty kind of record like this, I thought that my name is kind of known a little bit, so if we just had someone to distribute the record, I could probably get it in most of the stores," Adkins said. "There wasn’t any need to have a major label involved.”
Putting the track list together was definitely a team effort. “It was really Michael Spriggs and Jon Coleman, the producers, who would come to me with songs and ideas about how they were going to approach the arrangements," the country star explained. "I’d say either ‘Yeah, l like that, or No, I don’t particularly like that. We just kind of weaved our way through all the ancient old songs until we settled on the ten we wanted to do.”
Adkins launched a Christmas tour to promote the album Nov. 15 in Effingham, Ill., and it’s not like any tour he has ever been on. “The Christmas Show” is both a one-man theatrical show as well as full-scale musical production that includes performances from Lily Costner and Andrea Zonn. "It’s more of a theatrical production than anything I’ve ever done," he said. “It’s about a third narration, so it’s not just a straight-up concert, like the stuff I’ve done throughout my career.”
Though Adkins is no stranger to the stage, having appeared in films such as “The Lincoln Lawyer” and “The Virginian,” he says some of his other work helped him with his role on the tour. “More than anything, the experience I’ve had doing voiceover stuff and commercials have probably prepared me for this as much, or maybe more than the acting roles I’ve done," he said.
The album and tour represent a departure from Adkins’ normal work, but the singer has no worries about taking risks. In fact, there just might be a few more steps away from his usual path.
“I’m not too concerned about what the industry will let me do anymore,” the singer said. “I’m not in that political competitive game right now, so I can pretty much do whatever I want to do. I’m looking at making a couple of other records in some different directions. I’m at a real good spot right now in my life and my career where I can make decisions on what I do next based on what I want to do.”
As far as the holidays are concerned for Adkins, he says it’s ties around two traditions: family and pigskin. “We celebrate Christmas a very traditional way, just like hundreds of millions of other families in this country. For me, it’s a holiday season from Thanksgiving on through to the Super Bowl. It’s my favorite time of the year.”
Stay tuned for a review of Adkins' Christmas show on the 615 in a few days.
TRACE ADKINS “The Christmas Show” Tour
Nov. 30 - Wallingford, Conn. - Toyota Presents the Oakdale Theatre
Dec. 1 - Westbury, N.Y. - Theatre at Westbury
Dec. 3 - Troy, Ohio - Hobart Arena
Dec. 4 - Youngstown, Ohio - Coveli Center
Dec. 5 - Waukegan, Ill. - Genesee Theatre
Dec. 13 - Rochester, Minn. - Mayo Civic
Dec. 14 - Onamia, Minn. - Grand Casino Mille Lacs
Dec. 15 - Carmel, Ind. - Palladium @ Carmel Center
Dec. 17 - Hollywood, Fla. - Hard Rock Live at Seminole
Dec. 18 - Clearwater, Fla. - Ruth Eckhert Hall