Holed up on a 400-acre farm, Tracy Lawrence and his family are isolated in their private alcove just 30 minutes East of Downtown Nashville, and he can’t help but feel extremely fortunate, even after COVID-19 hit and shut everything down.
“We’re pretty blessed out here,” Lawrence tells American Songwriter. “Things really haven’t changed a lot. Most of the places that I frequent—the grocery store, the home improvement stores, or the farm stores—are still open for business. But it’s the waitresses and the bartenders that work in the restaurants of your favorite restaurants. They operate on a very small profit margin and don’t have a lot of money in reserve. They rely on their customers, and a lot of these people live week to week.”
Lawrence can’t help but emphasize with everyone who is struggling in a time when America is suffering this stagnation, fragmentation, loneliness, and countless tribulations. Unbeknownst to him at the time of writing his latest album, Made in America, Lawrence had already started penning his own love song to the country during what would be one of the most tumultuous times in its history.
“I feel such a tremendous political divide, and it frustrates me,” says Lawrence. “I have a lot of friends that are more liberal and Democrat, and I love them dearly. We’ve had to stop talking politics over the last few years, because of the intensity of it. I don’t want to ruin friendships over it, and I wish we would find more ways to focus on the things we have in common and not all the hostility.”
As Lawrence was writing the remainder of the album with co-writers, including Carson Chamerlain, Rick Huckaby, Mark Nesler, and Christ Stapleton, he was adamant about not being polarizing or playing one side against the other. “It’s gotten completely out of control” he says. “If we would stop dwelling on the things that we don’t have in common and really try to find common ground, I think we can get so much more accomplished.”
Theres’s no divide on Made in America, just a collection of songs, fused in Lawrence’s fluid honky tonk, old country with a bit more rock and blues to round things out. Throughout the years, Lawrence had a handful of songs filed away, including “First Step to Leaving” and “Chicken Wire”—and was going to call the album by the latter track before Made in America. “I had a great visual in my mind that was like the The Blues Brothers [Rawhide scene] standing in bottles on the stage, and that was what I envisioned the album cover being like,” laughs Lawrence. “I was thinking about staging the whole thing with the band and me on stage with people throwing beer bottles.”
Written in nearly two hours, once “Made in America” was set, the entire direction, and meaning, of the album completely shifted. After scheduling in some writing appointments and fleshing out ideas, Made in America fell into place.
“It changed everything about the way that I viewed what the content of this record was and it everything it spelled out after that,” says Lawrence. “I was going to mix it up with traditional little Southern rock, but as we went through this whole process, the very last song that was written was ‘Made in America.’ As I looked at it and started working out the sequencing and everything, I knew where I was going. It needed to be a kind of American Anthem, and proud of all the things that we hold dear from small town America. It doesn’t need to be political at all.”
“When the Cowboys Gone” is no different in sentiment. It reminisces about America’s great outdoors and some of those everyday events that have been halted for the unforeseeable future. “There’s something nostalgic about high school football games, and the places that we grew up, and going to the parks and the history of your family and where you come from and all those things are really what makes America special and make us all very unique,” says Lawrence. “It’s our own journey and our whole walk.”
It harkens back to a time when just the persona of what the cowboy stood for was really big,” says Lawrence. “It’s going back to John Wayne or somebody with that strength and fortitude that could come in and right the wrong, save the day, and get the girl,” he says. “We captured that with the lyrics of this song, and I think it’s a message that resonates now. People need to hear that. They need to believe that a cowboy can still come in and save the day. All this gloom and gloom and everything else that’s going on, we need to give people hope again.
Right now, Lawrence wants to get back on tour and says he’s ready to pull things back and go back to his roots a bit by playing more intimate venues once things start to open up. In the meantime, he feels blessed. He’s just taking in life, working on his farm and “playing” in his garden, and waiting to see what lies ahead.
“Life is pretty fascinating,” he says. “Everybody doesn’t have the same journey but every bit of it is very unique to each one of us, and we have so much more in common if you get down to real, true essence of what most of us are about. We want to give our children a better life than what we had. We want to be proud of what we do. We want to be proud of our country and proud of our town and proud of our local community.”
He adds, “You’ll always have the negative Nancy that sees the glass half full no matter where they go, but there’s so much better stuff out there.”