Tracy Lawrence Wouldn’t Sign a Record Deal As a New Artist In 2019
Tracy Lawrence sees far too many ways to "make it" in 2019 to say he'd sign with a record label if he were a new artist all over again. The '90s country hitmaker doesn't go as far as to warn young artists, but he does speak glowingly of a few solo artists out of Texas making a mint doing it as independent artists.
Lawrence, whose Made In America album dropped Aug. 16, tells Taste of Country that knowing what he knows now, and understanding (if not applying) ways social media can boost a career, means that he'd fly solo if he were a young kid just getting started like he was when "Sticks and Stones" became his debut single in 1991.
“I think I could make my own path,” he says. “I think there’s a better way to do it. You see these kids that come in here and are giving 30 percent of their career away and not just from the record side of it, they’re (record labels) getting 30 percent of your road and your merchandise and everything else. You pay back the bills, you pay back for every video shoot, you pay for the album and they take theirs off the top and then they hold all your money in what they call the pipeline forever. They hold you hostage forever."
Because what does the cowboy stand for? He stands for what’s right and he fights for justice and pushes back on injustice ... That was the cowboy that I grew up with in the old days.
The "Alibis" singer is describing modern recording contracts and what are called 360 deals, where an artist agrees to share profits from all aspects of his or her career.
"Knowing what I know now I don’t know that I would," he says of signing.
At 51 years old Lawrence is a man of strong opinions, political and non-political. He won't get into politics publicly as he hates how his opinion has eroded of those who've been divisive with arguments. Made In America is an album filled with messages, however.
“I’ve always felt like country music was a social barometer in a way of what’s going on out in the world. That’s the way that I looked at country music growing up,” he shares. “If you really wanted to know what was going on or get a feel for the everyday person and their struggles and things that made ‘em happy … country music is where I went for that.”
"Forgive Yourself," "Running Out of People to Blame" and especially "When the Cowboy's Gone" are pointed statements wrapped in comfortable melodies. Some, he says, are personal ("Running Out of ..." is a message to a family member who won't take responsibility for his or her actions) while others target society at large. The cowboy metaphor looms large on an album filled with clean, '90s country guitar licks and ideals.
“This is a metaphor about where we’re at in this country," he says referring to "When the Cowboy's Gone." "It’s about when we lose the honesty and the integrity and the values that have built this country we’re in a bad spot.”
“Because what does the cowboy stand for? He stands for what’s right and he fights for justice and pushes back on injustice ... That was the cowboy that I grew up with in the old days.”
Lawrence very much sees the world through the eyes of a man with two teenaged daughters. His oldest starts college on the day his album drops, while his youngest was pulled over by police the morning of his interview with Taste of Country and Taste of Country Nights. Exasperation is all over his face as he relates these stories and openly wonders where in the world he's headed. It's an anxiety only cut when he admits the youngest is most like him and that his parents likely had similar worries about what he describes as a sense of entitlement tainting today's youth culture.
Watch Lawrence share the story of his daughter getting pulled over in the video above. There you'll also learn which of today's new crop of singers he's most excited about. The answer may surprise you.