| Headliner

Tracy Lawrence

Saturday, November 18 at 8 p.m.

The Northern Lights Theater 1721 W Canal Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53233
Price: $40/$35/$30

By nearly every metric, Tracy Lawrence is a mega-watt success story. Thirteen million albums sold. A collection of number one singles. Twenty-two songs on the Billboard Top 10 charts. A slew of CMA and ACM awards. Even a Grammy nomination. Yes, the small-town Arkansas-bred teenager who arrived in Nashville nearly three decades ago with a guitar and $700 in his pocket has done himself proud.

“I still see myself as that kid that came to town and idolized Merle Haggard and George Strait,” Lawrence says with a sense of wonder in his voice. “If you’re a lawyer you put your suit on every day and you go to work. I go to work. I put my uniform on and I go do my job. I’ve been blessed.”

In recent years, his syndicated country-music radio show, Honky Tonkin’ With Tracy Lawrence, has fast become one the genre’s most cherished—Lawrence was recently even nominated for National On-Air Personality of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Radio Awards. The three-hour weekly program was born out of Lawrence sensing a lack of attention being paid to ’80s, ’90s and early-2000s country music. “I just felt there was such a void in the market because there really wasn’t anybody focusing on the music from my era,” he explains. “The industry had missed the fact that so many people—and not just the people that had grown up with us, but their kids and younger people too—are getting into it now.”

The Sticks and Stones icon has always felt it important to maintain a steadfast workmanlike approach to and sheer reverence for his craft. He admits that during his legendary musical performances he’s in some ways inhabiting a character. “When I put my clothes on and my cowboy hat and walk out on that stage, I think I walk different and I carry myself different,” he says. “I actually transcend into something else. It’s this persona I’ve created.” But when he’s hosting his radio show, he notes, it’s 100-percent Tracy. “When I leave the stage I take that person off,” he says. “I don’t carry him into the radio station with me.”

Of course, Lawrence is nothing if not a never-ending creative mind. He’s constantly drumming up new musical material. “As a creative person you have to continue to grow,” he says “You have to exercise your mind. I enjoy that process.”

Ask Lawrence and he’ll tell you there’s never been a better time for pushing the creative boundaries in country music. “I feel really good about the new stuff,” he says of his forthcoming new LP. “I’m really excited about getting it out there.” Still, the singer-songwriter knows if he stopped today, he’d already have cemented his place in the pantheon of country-music greats. “To realize that I’m older now and being looked at by younger kids in the same light as I looked at guys like Strait and Haggard, it’s very flattering,” he notes. “To know that I’ve made music that’s had that kind of impact on people, well, it’s pretty cool.”