Travis Tritt takes the Casino NB stage

As the world left the 1980s behind and looked forward to the ’90s, a major shift would take place in the world of country music.

While artists such as Steve Earle, Dwight Yoakam and Randy Travis would begin to breathe life and acceptance back into the then practically ignored genre, there were four individuals who can be singled out as the men responsible for bringing country music into the mainstream.

Clint Black’s 1989 debut “Killin’ Time” was a double platinum seller (two million units sold) while Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks would see their respective debut records sell a cool million each that same year, marking the beginning of very fruitful careers for each of these artists. And while Black, Jackson and Brooks held close to country music ideals throughout their careers, it would be Travis Tritt who would prove to be the one of these four who would choose to travel the less contemporary-country music road.

Known for mixing southern, blues-influenced rock with country music, Tritt has earned more than six gold and platinum records over the course of his 10 studio records to date. This has translated to worldwide sales of more than 12 million units sold based upon the strength of hits like Here’s A Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares), More Than You’ll Ever Know, Best Of Intentions and The Whiskey Ain’t Workin.’

Travis Tritt will be performing two shows at Casino NB in Moncton tomorrow and Wednesday.

A member of Nashville’s storied Grand Ole Opry since 1992, Tritt’s biography on the Grand Ole Opry website quotes him as saying: “I’m a firm believer that there is only two kinds of music – good and bad. I like to describe my music as a triangle. On one side is a folk influence from people like James Taylor, Larry Gatlin, and John Denver. On the second side are George Jones and Merle Haggard – that type of music. And then on the third side are the Allman Brothers and the Marshall Tucker Band. They’re all balanced together, all part of what I do.”

Born James Travis Tritt in Marietta, Georgia in 1963, he began writing songs at the age of 14. He secured his first record deal with Warner Brothers who would go on to release his debut record, the platinum-selling “Country Club” in 1990. The record provided Tritt with four Top Ten singles, including the title track and the number one hit “Help Me Hold On.”

Claiming Tritt owed more to the world of rock n roll than to country music, he was not immediately embraced by Nashville’s country music community. With the release of his sophomore record in 1991, it was obvious that the fans could have cared less about how the “establishment” felt about Tritt.

His sophomore record (“It’s All About To Change”) would go on to sell two million copies while subsequent releases such as “T-r-o-u-b-l-e”, “Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof” and “The Restless Kind” would sell no less than one million copies each.

Not only has Tritt earned platinum and multi-platinum awards, he has been recognized by other prestigious organizations for his musical talent: He is a three-time Country Music Association Award winner and has also earned two Grammy Awards for his work. The first Grammy was earned in 1993 for his collaboration with Marty Stuart on “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin'” while his second Grammy Award would come his way in 1998.

Tritt’s upcoming shows in Moncton are the only Atlantic Canadian tour dates on his current schedule. The fact that the first scheduled Casino NB show set for tomorrow sold out so quickly and forced a second concert to be added is testament to the artist’s ongoing popularity.

As for what his future holds, Tritt recently confirmed to Billboard Magazine that he intends to start his own recording company for his future releases after acrimoniously splitting from Category 5 Records who released his most recent record, 2007’s “The Storm.”

While he admits that the label is still in the setup stage, Tritt tells the magazine that he is in the process of getting the imprint off the ground and it is getting closer to becoming a reality. Tritt goes on to tell the magazine that he intends to start working on a new record once the label is up and running.

Tritt confirms that the label will serve as an outlet for him only and has no intentions of looking to sign other musicians as Toby Keith’s Show Dog Records has done.

With his debut record “Country Club” now two decades old, he was asked by Billboard to reflect upon his career to date. Tritt replied: “I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunities to have the career I’ve had. In many ways it seems like it was just yesterday that we started, and then when I think about all the time we spent playing those bars and clubs and bowling alleys and beer joints across the country before we ever got a record deal, it seems like forever. It was all worth it, though, in the end. I wouldn’t trade a minute of it, not one.”

Article published in July 19, 2010 edition of the Times & Transcript