Trace Adkins released his first single in 1996, and he's celebrating 25 years in the music business with a brand-new album, The Way I Wanna Go. Released on Aug. 27, the project features 25 songs to celebrate Adkins' 25 years, ranging from up-tempo party starters to reflective ballads, with a juxtaposition of sounds that Adkins has always aimed for.
"This album, content-wise, is no different from anything else that I've done," he told PopCulture.com. "I've went from one end of the spectrum to the other, and I did everything that I wanted to do. And I've always done that." The Louisiana native cited fellow country singer Ronnie Milsap's albums as major inspirations when it comes to the way he makes his own music, pointing out Milsap's wide range of sonic directions.
"I've always thought, going in, that I want to make a Ronnie Milsap record," Adkins mused. "That's the way I've always approached it. I love the way Ronnie Milsap made records. You never knew from one to one cut to the next, what you were going to get. It might be a collaboration with the Pointer Sisters or something that sounds like it's out of the fifties, or a rock song or a gospel song, you just never knew. And I love that freedom that he seemed to have and the way he made records. I've made no secret about it, I came to Nashville to make Ronnie Milsap records."
Adkins is now feeling that freedom himself, noting, "There are a couple of songs on this record that I've been wanting to record for 20 years." The Way I Wanna Go features a number of collaborations including features by Luke Bryan and Pitbull, Keb' Mo' and Stevie Wonder, Blake Shelton, Snoop Dogg and Melissa Etheridge, the latter of whom is one of the few female artists whose voices can blend with Adkins' deep bass-baritone. The 59-year-old's voice has been his signature for over two decades, and he called The Way I Wanna Go "the best vocal record that I've ever made," thanks in large part to the rest he was afforded due to the pandemic.
"I wasn't going out on the road and then coming back in and rested for a couple of days, and then going in the studio," he explained. "I was singing these songs with weeks of vocal rest, and I've never had that opportunity before, ever. Even on my very first record, I was still gigging while I was doing that record. So this is the first time that I've ever had to record a record with absolute vocal rest."
Over the past two-and-a-half decades, Adkins has sold over 11 million albums, charted over 20 singles on the Billboard country charts and become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, among other accomplishments, cementing a longevity he never expected when he released that first single back in 1996.
"I was hoping I could just get a couple of singles when I first started out," he recalled. "I didn't dream I would still be here 25 years later, I wouldn't have allowed myself to dream that big. It was incomprehensible. I'm so blessed and fortunate to be here today... I've gone the way I wanted to go and I've done what I wanted to do, and fortunately, I've had fans that have gone along for the ride. And I'm just blessed to still be here." You can stream The Way I Wanna Go here.