The New Randy Travis Single “Where That Came From” Proves That Not All AI Music Is Bad: Opinion

Today, Randy Travis released his first newly recorded single since suffering a stroke in 2013. He and his wife Mary have been open about his struggles with aphasia and the loss of his voice. As a result, the speculation started as soon as he announced the release of “Where That Came From.” Many fans assumed that AI would be used to create Travis’ voice. A newly-released preview of an upcoming CBS News Sunday Morning segment revealed that those fans were correct.

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I’ve been a fan of Randy’s since I was a kid. If you would have asked five-year-old me what my favorite song was I would have told you “Diggin’ Up Bones” without hesitation. I was also one of the many fans who posted something along the lines of “I hope this new song isn’t AI Randy Travis.” After hearing the single, seeing the video clips, and reading what his team has shared, I’ve come around. Who cares if it’s AI? We are living in a world where one of the greatest voices in country music—a voice that we all thought was gone for good—is once again singing new songs.

Randy Travis’ New Single Represents the Best Aspect of AI

The negatives of AI are many, there’s no denying that. There are deepfakes, ethical issues surrounding AI art generation, and so much more. We’ve all seen the Terminator franchise and those who have played Fallout 4 have seen the dangers of people being replaced by artificial intelligence. Hell, those who work in content creation of any kind are familiar with the fear of being replaced by AI as factory laborers were once replaced by robots. The fact is that it’s a scary thing when used unethically.

This isn’t that, though. First and foremost, Travis gave his blessing for this to happen. He also worked with his longtime producer Kyle Lehning to create the song. According to the CBS Sunday Morning report, Lehning used old audio tracks of Randy’s voice as the building blocks for the new track. He took a syllable-by-syllable approach to make sure it sounded and felt as authentic as possible. In short, this is a great example of the benefits of AI when used ethically.

Furthermore, it’s not a fully AI-generated song. Those are real musicians playing real instruments on the track. Jerry Douglas and Kyle Lehning produced it. Real, talented songwriters—John Scott Sherrill and Scotty Emerick—penned the song. Real people are getting paid real money to create this real piece of art.

The fact is, this is likely the only way Randy Travis will ever be able to do something he loves. And the only way we’ll continue to get new music from one of the best in the business.

The Most Important Thing to Consider

With the ethical issues surrounding AI use being a non-issue here, there are more important things to consider. For starters, “Where That Came From” is a good song.

It sounds good because it’s built on Randy Travis’ voice. Maybe more importantly, someone who has worked closely with him since Storms of Life was deeply involved in the process. Lehning and Travis have been a dream team for longer than some of the fans have been alive. As fans, I think that’s all we can ask for at this point.

That’s not the most important consideration though. Watch the videos that Travis posted promoting the track. The one below is especially poignant.

Look at the way the song impacts his family. The tears of happiness that hearing that smooth baritone once again elicits show how special this track is. Most importantly, watch Randy when he plays the track for them and see their reactions. He’s so obviously proud of the finished product and the joy it brings him is contagious.

This is a man who put out a catalog of music that made countless people happy over the years. His songs soundtracked first dances, first dates, intimate moments, heartbreaks, long drives, days on the water, and so much more. He put his heart and soul into that music for nearly thirty years. I think a man who has given us that much deserves to be happy even if it means he’s using AI to create new music.

Featured Image by CBS Sunday Morning

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