30 years later, Tracy Lawrence and Clay Walker set the record straight on exuberant road stories ahead of co-headlining tour dates
A pair of powerhouse artists hit the road for what is sure to be a nostalgic series of shows down memory lane. On March 3, neo-traditional favorites Tracy Lawrence and Clay Walker will take the stage in Charlotte, North Carolina to kick off a 12-stop tour.
The announcement of this joint tour recalls an iconic photograph of the two enduring artists taken during a 2021 show in Omaha, as part of a short “test”. Facing a sold-out crowd, the image captures the artists’ humble surrender to their fanatical audiences, unraveling in response to their success-laden encore.
“We were making one hit after another, watching this crowd go up in this frenzy,” Walker recalled to American Songwriter.
“And when we got to the end of the night, we did ‘This Woman, This Man’, ‘Paint Me A Birmingham’, ‘What’s It To You’, and the crowd started screaming. I’m not kidding , we couldn’t hear anything else, not even my band. Tracy and I were standing there, and each just raised a hand in the air as a natural reaction. I knew at that moment that this post would be sought.
Lawrence expresses similar confidence derived from a show last year on the same race. It had rained all week in Oklahoma, and as he describes it, the mud was “knee-deep”. After introducing the equipment, he was sure no one would show up. But to his surprise, the show attracted thousands of fans.
“Whether they were wearing their good boots, old boots, work boots, they took the boots off and stood with their bare feet in the mud up to their knees,” says Lawrence. “They stayed and they were so loud. I’m not talking about a few songs, I’m talking about the whole show. That told me we were really on to something special and it was going to be a really good tour.
The co-headliners’ road experience extends beyond their infamous crowd-raising encore sets and their shared appreciation of the stage. Going back 30 years, their sequential success across the industry in the new millennium has shaped the sound of modern country music. Walker’s “What’s It To You” and Lawrence’s “Time Marches On” are just two of countless hits that have helped define an entire generation of country music.
Nearly three decades later, the legendary acts show no signs of slowing down. In fact, Walker’s wife put a tracker on his iPhone before he left home for that run with his old friend. And based on their drive stories, his concern seems reasonable.
Their history on the highway dates back to the 90s when Walker, an up-and-coming band, was invited aboard Lawrence, a rising country star’s tour bus for a few stops. CMT captured a bit of the duo’s debauchery in an episode of their I probably shouldn’t tell you series.
Reflecting on the humorous memoir, Lawrence offers, “I really didn’t mean to scare him to death like that when he came out on the road; that’s how we were.
Walker responded between laughs, offering his side of the story. “Let me correct the record here,” he begins. “CMT didn’t tell the whole story. Tracy didn’t almost kill me, I just thought he almost killed me. There were weapons involved which were unloaded into the floor of the bus.
“I was pointing the gun down,” Lawrence interjects. “That’s why it exploded in the ground!”
“But let me say this,” Walker concludes, “he still has it under control.
Read more about our conversation with Tracy Lawrence and Clay Walker below. For tickets and more information, click HERE or HERE.
American songwriter: What do you like about touring together versus being alone?
Walker: Tracy and I are both veterans and came out around the same time – he was a little before me. I really admired him, and I still do. So it’s great to be able to bring together this kind of show. It’s one thing to have performances, but the content of the songs here are awesome. I love his singing and his song choices. And what makes walking through the stage together better is that it actually takes a lot of the load off of you. There will be no lull in the series; It’s action-packed from start to finish. And we still won’t have time to get all the hits in a two hour show. So those are the things that make it appealing to our fans. And I think Tracy and I love playing so much, and it turns out we’re not ready to give up after two hours.
Lawrence: I can’t wait to get back on the road. I have so much new music to showcase, but just the work between the two of us – there are so many iconic records. And not just records, but things that have impacted the music industry that are staples and recurring targets for radio stations across the country. So it’s going to be great value for the fans to come out and really have a great show.
I know the competition is very tough there; many large groups are on the road again. But I think 90s music shines again. Right now, a lot of people want to go back to those roots; in real songs and real music, with bands coming into the studio and playing together – not just piecemeal stuff. So I think our music is in a really good position right now.
Walker: We always have fun. And I have to say my first experience on the road was with Tracy and he didn’t lose his passion for the stage. It’s something you see, as artists mature, they lose their passion. Tracy and I did a few shows together to see what they would be like, and he absolutely still has this burning desire to please the audience. He’s energetic, and the two of us together, it’s like the song “Troubador”—i still feel 25I think so.
Tracy: Mentally, yes. The rest of me fights over it sometimes.
American Songwriter: Clay, I understand you were a fan of Tracy before you really broke into the industry. What attracted you to his music in the first place?
Walker: Well, there’s a word that I think means good music: “soulful”. It doesn’t matter what genre you’re into, if you don’t have a soulful voice with a soulful song, it won’t be a classic. The first time I heard “Sticks And Stones” I was like “Oh my God, this is exactly where I want to be”. I wanted to have this kind of song and start my career.
As soon as I could drive, I drove to Best Buy to pick up Tracy’s tape and that song was on the radio. I arrived and it was full; I had to go back a week later. These are memories you will never forget.
And a funny thing happened. It was Tracy’s first single, and mine was “What’s It To You”. I had the second most added debut single in country music history. And the only person who ever beat me was Tracy Lawrence with “Sticks And Stones”.
Lawrence: Clay, do you remember who I beat that number with? The guy who held it before me was Mark Chesnutt.
Walker: The good thing about Tracy is that often guys can’t keep up. But he started with a great song like “Sticks And Stones,” and all he did was follow it. I mean, really one after the other: “Texas Tornado”, “Paint Me A Birmingham”, “Time Marches On”. And there is much more than that. He’s probably better at picking songs and writing songs and anyone else.
Lawrence: Thanks, my friend, I appreciate that. You did pretty well yourself.
American songwriter: What songs are you looking forward to playing for the next dates?
Walker: I don’t think the fans really care about the new music we make, they want to hear the hits. But as artists, we work hard. We have to keep the content coming – new hits or something that people can listen to a whole bunch. But you’re trying to find the one or two songs on a new album that you feel people are already starting to gravitate towards or the ones that you really think you can deliver live.
We have a new song that made its radio debut last week. This system is really hard to get into, but it came out with great ads, so people obviously want to hear it. It’s called “Catching up on an old memory.” I took the title from an old Keith Whitley song, “Between An Old Memory And Me”. So that’s the one I want to play and promote there, but I know people are there to hear the hits.
Lawrence: The one I’m looking forward to playing that we were working on today is “Don’t Drink Whisky”. It’s kind of hardcore, the stuff I get into – the love is gone, I live and I make mistakes. It’s a powerful song. I wasn’t really looking for outside material for this last album. But my guitarist brought me this song, and I was blown away the first time I heard it because it’s not just a song for me. It’s something I experienced; it’s something we deal with on the road and the excess and the indulgence that you experience in the music industry. And so this one hit me pretty hard.
That’s what I look for in outside material, and I think that’s why I’ve been lucky enough to be able to pick out things that made an impact, and sometimes things that people missed. If it hits my heart and cuts me, then I know I can sell it with soul, and I know people will believe it. If I don’t feel it that deeply, then it’s not something for me.
Thursday March 3 | Fours auditorium | Charlotte, North Carolina
Fri 4 March | Berglund Performing Arts Theater | Roanoke, Virginia
Sat 5 March | Bell Auditorium | Augusta, Georgia
Thursday March 10 | Municipal Auditorium| Charleston, West Virginia
Fri 11 March | Tivoli Theater | Chattanooga, TN
Sat 12 March | Mark C. Smith Concert Hall | Huntsville, AL
Thursday March 17 | Wings Event Center | Kalamazoo, Michigan
Fri 18 March | Riverside Theater | Milwaukee, Wis.
Sat 19 March | Owensboro Sports Center | Owensboro, Kentucky
Thursday May 26 | MAD Amphitheater | El Dorado, AR
Fri 27 May | Ozarks Amphitheater | Camdentown, Missouri
Sat 28 May | The Cotillion | Wichita, KS