Most artists as tenured as veteran, platinum-selling country singer Tracy Lawrence dust off their best hits at this point and compile them on a late-career retrospective.
Lawrence, who's clocked nearly 30 years in Nashville, decided to do things a little different with his forthcoming CD "Good Old Days."
The singer, who returns to Desert Diamond Casino's Diamond Center on Wednesday, Aug. 2, invited a few of his best friends — including Tim McGraw and 3 Doors Down frontman Brad Arnold — a couple young artists whose careers he partly inspired — Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan — and refashioned nine of his biggest hits — including “Time Marches On,” “Stars Over Texas,” “If the World Had a Front Porch” — as duets. He added in a couple new songs — “Finally Home,” a duet with Craig Morgan; and the title track “Good Old Days,” with Arnold and Big & Rich — to round out the album, which he hopes to release in October.
“There’s a lot of stars on this project,” Lawrence said in a phone interview Tuesday morning. "We've been working on this since fall last year. Tim McGraw was the first to come in and lend his voice to it. Tim and I have been friends for 25 years. He was the first call that I made. And then a lot of the younger artists, it’s been fascinating to see what impact my career has had on them and how big of a fan a lot of those kids were when they were coming up and learning to play music.”
One of those young fans was Aldean, who, Lawrence said, told him that he had the star's posters on his walls growing up.
Yes, the 49-year-old father of two admitted, that makes him feel a bit old.
“It makes me feel very old," he clarified. "But hey, I’m still here. They haven’t run me off yet.”
Lawrence, whose career goes back to 1991, is a country music elder statesman, which he takes a lot of pride in.
“The industry has changed a lot,” he said. “A lot of these kids are doing a lot and having success. In country music, there were only a few people doing stuff at that level 20 or 30 years ago, so it’s really grown a lot. It’s amazing to see all that happen. But I think the same set of pitfalls still apply. It’s young people learning how to manage their lives and manage their money. I think everybody needs a little guidance along the way.”
Lawrence has fallen into those pitfalls, but he’s also recovered including launching his own record company in 2006 with his brother/manager Laney. Three years ago, he pulled away from the indie route and hired a manager to free him up.
"Good Old Days" is Lawrence's gift to younger fans, the ones who have grown tired of the latest Nashville trend of bro-country — the infusion of hip-hop from artists like Florida Georgia Line and Sam Hunt.
"We really wanted to kind of capture a lot of the excitement from the younger people who grew up being fans of mine," Lawrence said. “I think they still hold up after all these years, songs like ‘Sticks and Stones’ and ‘Alibis’
are still big crowd favorites. There seems to be a resurgence of the music of the ‘90s. They don’t hear it on the radio and I think there’s a hunger for it. I’ve seen the crowds increase the last two or three years. I really feel that resurgence pushing back and it’s fascinating to watch because you can tell that when you talk to (fans) on the road, they miss that old stuff. They are very nostalgic about it.”
Lawrence, who has steadfastly held onto his neo-traditional country roots and style, said he feels traditionalism coming back even as the industry fights against it in deference to big arena acts.
“But I think the fan base dictates to a large degree what the industry can push on them," he explained. "They will take it for awhile, but I think the bro-country movement has come to an end. I think traditional country music is swinging back. Who knows how long it will stay. I think we’ll get three or four years of it.”
Lawrence's show at Desert Diamond is an encore to his early 2016 show. Over the past six or seven years, Lawrence has been a regular to Tucson, pulling his tour bus into Desert Diamond every year or so.
“We play this casino every 12 or 18 months and it’s always packed out,” he said. “They are great fans.”