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Randy Travis Says He Was a ‘Deer in the Headlights’ Early in His Career

Frederick Breedon, Getty Images

When you’ve enjoyed a quarter century of success as illustrious as Randy Travis has, you’ve earned the right to pause and take a look back — and Travis did it in style with this year’s star-studded ‘Anniversary Celebration,’ which united some of music’s biggest stars in celebration of his first 25 years as a recording artist.

Now promoting the release of his Brad Paisley duet, ‘Everything and All’ — his 59th overall single — Travis reflected on his quarter-century milestone in a recent interview, discussing his relationships with a handful of country stars, the enjoyment he still derives from performing live, and some of his most enduring hits.

“I’m sure I had the ‘deer in the headlights look’ pretty often,” Travis jokes about his early success. “I had been turned down by every label for a little over 10 years, but I always thought I could just make a living in this business … You don’t plan for things, or I never did anyway.”

Talking about the impressive lineup of guests he assembled for ‘Anniversary Celebration,’ Travis says, “We had a wish list that I gave to Kyle Lehning, who has produced just about everything that we’ve done in the last 25 years … that wish list could have continued growing. Kyle came to us at one point and said, ‘Look, you have to stop now if you’re gonna finish this album this year.’”

Particularly important to Travis was the posse of country legends he rounded up for the track ‘Didn’t We Shine.’ As he tells it, “Kyle had heard the song before me. Don Schlitz wrote it. He and I had this group of people that we wanted to put on a song — we didn’t know the song until finding it — George Jones, Gene Watson, Joe Stampley, Connie Smith, Lorrie Morgan and Ray Price. It was so much fun. I was in there; I had chills quite often on that day. That was one of the neatest days I have ever spent in the studio, working with all of those at the same time.”

Even after all these years, Travis says he still gets a kick out of playing for the fans. “Just to see people singing with you is a wonderful thing, and I’ve heard that to such a degree,” he says. “Barbara Mandrell would always say it’s a great exchange of energy from the stage to the audience. It’s just being in unlike anything I ever felt anywhere else. It’s kind of hard to describe.”

[Taste of Country]

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