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Any lack of interest in strategic planning never hampered Randy's career in the slightest. His laid back Southern charm combined with one of the most compelling voices in the history of the genre have made Randy a country music icon.
He's won nine Academy of Country Music Awards, seven Grammys, five Country Music Association Awards and numerous other accolades. He's become an actor and a Grand Ole Opry member. Along the way, Randy has become a pivotal figure in country music's history, ushering in the neo-traditionalist movement with his 1986 debut album, 'Storms of Life.'
"I was like a deer in the headlights quite often," Randy says with a laugh, "because it went so fast and got so much bigger than anybody could of thought it would have."
"My gosh that was a fun day," Randy says. "It was all done together with the exception of Ray Price. Ray couldn't be there on the day. He had to come in later ... I love to hear Joe Stampley and George obviously. George has always been one of my favorites. It was quite a treat to be there with them. We laughed a lot in making this record."
Randy and Alan Jackson team up for a medley of Randy's hit 'Better Class of Losers' and Alan's 'She's Got the Rhythm.' "With Alan and I in there doing the two together, I'm obviously remembering when he and I sat and wrote 'Better Class' and 'She's Got the Rhythm,'" Randy says. "Doing this project was a lot of fun. I truly enjoyed being there with these people and in some cases, like Joe, Jean and John, I've known these people for almost 30 years. That's really hard to believe!"
He and John Anderson duet on 'Diggin' Up Bones. "I love him! That guy is such a unique stylist," Randy says. "He's in that category with people like George Jones and Ray Price. There's not that many who fall into that kind of category as vocalists and on top of that he's just a likeable guy."
Randy recalls John's unassuming demeanor the very first time they met. "I saw him in Hiawassee, Ga., and they rode up in a Winnebago. I was there because I knew a lady who worked with the promotions staff at Warner Bros. When it was time for him to go on, there's nothing. There's no [introduction like] 'ladies and gentlemen Warner Brothers recording artist ...' Nothing! His guys are out there on stage tuning some instruments and John walks on stage. I'm sitting there thinking, 'these people don't even know that's John. They don't even know it's him.' He walks out and picks up his guitar, turns his back to the audience and walks over to the tuner and tunes for a minute and then turns around and starts singing. It was so funny. That's just John. There's no airs about him. I love the guy."
When Randy and longtime producer Kyle Lehning were planning the album, they discussed song selection with their specials guests and asked if they'd rather cut a new song or a hit. "Zac Brown chose 'Forever and Ever, Amen,'" says Randy. "We ended up at Zac's house and we started recording that about 9:30 at night in one of his bedrooms. He has a nice place. I like Zac's place. I like him. He's a sweet guy. He treated me so wonderfully and he had a clear cut vision of what he wanted to do with 'Forever and Ever, Amen.' He knew exactly how he wanted to do this, picking up the tempo, playing it like bluegrass almost at times. He knew who he wanted to play on it, and what the harmonies should be. He did a great job!"
Carrie Underwood duets with Randy's on 'Is It Still Over?' "When she [said] 'I'd like to do 'Is It Still Over,'' I was thinking, 'Are you sure?' But once we were in the studio putting it down, standing beside her, she was just singing the heck out of it. She is such a sweet girl. You can throw any piece of music in front of her. She can sing it. Her ability as a vocalist is remarkable, how strong she sings and the range she has."
Though Randy has known some of the country guests on his album for years, he met Don Henley while working on this album. "We were over at [producer] Garth Fundis' studio working on something else one day and that's how Don Henley ended up on 'More Life,'" Randy says. "He was over there working on a country record and he came over and said hello."
Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts, Randy didn't get to record in the studio with Don. (Don, Ray Price and Brad Paisley are the only ones Randy didn't record with in person.) Unlike the other tracks, which are duets, 'More Life' features Don on harmony vocals. "He listened to the song and when he came into the studio he said, 'this is a one person song. It makes no sense absolutely for me to sing a verse.' This was his request: 'just let me sing a harmony part.'"
'Everything and All' is the first single from the album. There are two versions of the song on 'Anniversary Celebration' -- one with Randy solo and the other is a duet with Brad Paisley. "The label is putting out 'Everything and All' with just me singing," Randy says. "It's a goofy song, but it's just fun."
Randy recalls meeting Brad when they were in Washington, D.C. at the Kennedy Center Honors to pay tribute to George Jones. "It was me, Brad, Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks and Shelby singing Jones songs. We were back in the green room talking and he was talking about having gone in and done an instrumental album," Randy says. When Randy commented on how difficult that would be, Brad replied, "Oh no, it was pretty easy. You just go in and play."
"I said, 'Yeah, pretty easy for you,'" Randy recalls with a laugh. "It would be a long, long time before Alan and I could turn in an instrumental album. No telling how long it would take us to put down an instrumental album. Alan and I sat there and talked with him. He's a likable fella."
During his 25 years in the business, Randy has obviously seen a lot of changes, especially when it comes to technology, but he admits all the latest gadgets and social networking opportunities don't hold any appeal for him. In fact, he never had a cell phone until he turned 51 last year. "Eventually I just gave into the pressure of [people saying] 'you have to have this,'" he says.
When asked if he ever plans to get on Twitter or Facebook, he busts our laughing and says "Come on! What do you think? I can only give in so much. Give me another 25 years, maybe. We have our standards. Hey, we lived without all that stuff for a lot of years and got by just fine."
On a more serious note, the conversation turns to the biggest change in Randy's life, the breakup of his marriage to longtime mentor and manager Elizabeth Hatcher Travis. He admits the tabloid stories in the wake of the split were hard to take. "Obviously I have read some of that," he says. "I read it and wondered, 'who the heck were you talking to to get this story?' because so much of that was lies."
Randy says the strain of working together and trying to maintain a marriage became too difficult. "Lib and I came to the point we just could not get along and continue the personal life and continue the business and find a happy medium between the two," he explains. "We came to a place there where there was no answer anymore other than 'fine, if you insist on having your way, I'm insisting on having mine and there is no happy medium here.' It just came to be such an argument, there was no other thing to do ... We are continuing to work together, but there has to be more in a relationship than just working together."
These days, Randy has a home outside Dallas where he enjoys riding his horses when he's not on the road. "They call it horse country," he says of his new home. "I'm really enjoying it. It's beautiful over here. I'm just enjoying everything. When we're out touring, everything is going really well. I'm amazed at that actually because of the economics right now, but all the shows are just going so well. I'm very, very happy."