Tracy Lawrence on 30 Years of Impact, Writer’s Block & Learning a New Language 

On Friday (January 28), country music luminary Tracy Lawrence unveiled his third and final installment of Hindsight 2020 with Volume 3: Angelina. The third album of the project rounds out Lawrence’s celebration of thirty years in country music.

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The rollout began last spring with Volume 1: Stairway to Heaven Highway to Hell in which the veteran artist proved a still-youthful exuberance throughout the fiery collection of mostly new songs. By late summer, Lawrence delivered more of his greatest hits in a shiny new Volume 2 package—including updated versions of “If The World Had a Front Porch” (1995), and “I See It Now” (1994).

Volume 3: Angelina was slated for release in November 2021, COVID-19 swept his camp in September, pushing this final chapter back into 2022. Now, two turbulent years in the making, Hindsight 2020 concludes on a high note, as Lawrence closes the chapter on thirty genre-defining years of country music. 

The title track, “Angelina,” sets a more celebratory tone than Volume 2’s “Price of Fame.” Released in August, Volume 2: Price of Fame focuses on the legacy he hopes to leave behind with his music, considering the steep cost of his career. The title track encompasses the sentiment as a reflection on the road-worn years and the sacrifices made along the way—especially his children, and the milestones he missed while away from home.

Volume 3: Angelina is also retrospective in nature, as the final installment of a mile-marker project. But here, Lawrence finally made space to commemorate his undeniable imprint on the country music genre.

Nestled between the retrospective album opener “Didn’t We,” and the career-defining 1996 No.1 “Time Marches On,” “Angelina” bridges a 30-year career with ease. The buoyant honky tonk tune is one of four new songs on the 10 track collection— comprised mostly of what Lawrence considers his “marquee” hits.

“Angelina” serves as a rightful centerpiece of the album, as Lawrence credits the track for breaking down a considerable bout of writer’s block that bore down on the final leg of this project, procured entirely throughout a global pandemic. 

American Songwriter: What was your song-selection process for this final volume, while leaving space to celebrate your fan favorites?  

Tracy Lawrence: I wrote more in the last two years than I have in years. Just conceptually and the recording process and writing, it was a little bit overwhelming to tell you the truth.

I wrote nine of the 10 songs on the first package, I wrote five new ones on the second package. And as I got down to this last thing, I hit the wall. I was running out of ideas. In the last couple of writing sessions that I had, I didn’t leave feeling like I had anything that I wanted to record. So I started going back to my old catalog, I had some things that I had the publishing on, and some that some friends started sending me. I didn’t really hit the publishing houses, I just kind of stayed within my camp and kind of dug some things out.

But “Angelina” came from Rick Huckaby—one of my buddies, you’ll see his name on tons of songs that I’ve recorded over the years. And it was just really different. I don’t hear a lot of really bouncy Honky Tonk stuff anymore. Nobody really writes this stuff. And I love playing it, these are kind of in my wheelhouse. And it just kind of fit right in there and had a great Louisiana feel to it. And we just thought it was really fun. I’ve never heard anything like it.”

AS: Once you found “Angelina,” how did that song shape the rest of your song selections? How does each of these new tracks fit within the context of your past hits?

TL: Right after I cut “Angelina,” I wrote “Who Needs You” and “Drank Thru It” on the same day with Carson Chamberlain and Wyatt McCubbin. It was just trying to find some things that still fit into that traditional country vision that I wanted to have to wrap this third project up. My hand got forced because I ran out of stuff to write about; that was very frustrating to get to the end of it and then go ‘Crap, man, I’m running out of time, and I just, I can’t get there.’

Another outside song I really loved was “Don’t Drink the Whiskey.” It hit me right between the eyes, then I really sunk my teeth into that one pretty hard, too. And I love that hardcore type of country. That’s the stuff that I grew up on. So I really felt like it was a good addition to the record.

AS: Mixing in new songs with the very best of your old work, what do you feel has changed about your storytelling or artistry in the years between these two tracks?

TL: I wrote “If the World Had A Front Porch,” in 1993—I’ve lived a lot of life since then. I’ve got kids, I’ve been married for 20 something years, I’ve seen the world change. So I mean, really, as you get older, and you see the world through a different lens, your writing does change. I’m more descriptive; I paint better pictures. I had a decent grasp of it, but I think I do a better job at it now.

AS: Looking over all of these hits, is there one or two that felt particularly pivotal to your career? 

TL: “Time Marches On,” without a doubt. Well, and “Paint Me A Birmingham,” too. But at the time when “Time Marches On” came out, I had recorded three albums with James Stroud, and I made the change to Don Cook. And this song came directly because of that change in producer; it’s a song that I wouldn’t have had without that change. And it was the biggest record that I ever had, and made a huge impact that changed the course of my career. I think it will be one of those songs that have been around for a long time. 

“Birmingham” was the same way when it came out in the early 2000s. That record was such a massive impact record. I mean, I never thought I’d be a guy that close the show with a ballad, but I close my show with “Paint Me A Birmingham” and it absolutely brings the house down. They wait for it every night. But you know, I’ve had eight No.1 records, and “Paint Me A Birmingham” is not one of them.

AS: Closing the chapter on your 30th anniversary, what’s next for you?

 TL: I don’t know what that next chapter is, what it is that I want to do, or what the next evolutionary step is. But, I think as an artist, you’re always trying to grow. Going back to what I said about my well running dry as I was wrapping up this stuff last year, I don’t plan on writing a lot this year. 

We’ve got some pretty big trips planned to Europe with my family. I just started taking Italian lessons—I’m learning a new language. There are things that I want to do, life-experience wise, that I think will refill my cup and recharge me in a way that when I do get to the fall in the latter part of this year, I think I’m going to be able to write some really different stuff than I’ve ever been able to write before. I’m hoping that I’m able to get to that place.

Angelina Track List:

1. Didn’t We

2. Angelina

3. Time Marches On

4. Paint Me A Birmingham

5. Don’t Drink Whiskey

6. Sticks and Stones

7. Texas Tornado

8. Drank Thru It

9. Who Needs You

10. Alibis

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