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"It wasn't an easy decision to make," the King of Country tells CMT. "I've lost a lot of sleep over it, but I feel like I'm not really retiring. I'm just not going to tour. One point I want to get across to everybody is that I'm still going to make records and I may still do some events. It's not the last time I'm onstage. It's been a part of my life for too long to quit everything. I have done it since the '80s, and I think it's time now to maybe see if I can live without that part."
The Country Music Hall of Fame member acknowledges that one of the contributing factors to the decision was the traveling that touring entails.
"It is a lot of hard work and traveling. It gets to you," George notes. "I don't mind traveling that much when I can go somewhere and stay there for a while, but touring is different. You rarely see anything. You get there early in the morning and you're resting all day, and you go in and do a sound check, and you do the show, and then -- bam -- you're gone. So it's not like you're getting to go out and see the sights and all the cities you go to."
Though he clearly had his reasons, the 60-year-old is preparing himself for the wide range of feelings he will experience as he embarks on his final farewell.
"It's going to be an emotional thing doing these two years of dates at all these places we've played for the last 35 years," he concedes. "I'm going to probably do some really fun things during that time as far as the shows go. I'm going to have some great people out there at some of them. Martina [McBride] is going to be out there all the [first] year with me. I love working with her, and we'll have some other special guests throughout the tour. It's going to be pretty special."
The tour, which will kick off on Jan 18 in Lubbock, Texas, will include a few surprises, but for the most part will be similar to the past several sold-out treks. "We haven't planned anything different," the "Drinkin' Man" singer explains. "If it's not broke, don't fix it. We'll certainly try to put on the best show we can, like we always do."
See the first round of dates for the Cowboy Rides Away tour here.
George is heading into the studio later this month to work on the follow-up album to his chart-topping, Grammy-nominated CD, Here for a Good Time.
Read the full CMT interview here.