published Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Tritt finding new life via solo shows - Nov. 16

IF YOU GO

* What: A Solo Acoustic Evening with Travis Tritt.

* When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16.

* Where: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.

* Admission: $25.50-$43.50.

* Phone: 423-642-TIXS.

* Website: www.ChattanoogaOnStage.com.

For years, fans and industry people told Travis Tritt -- he of the giant stage shows that included flash pots, big bands and bigger sounds -- that he should consider doing solo acoustic shows. He resisted for one simple reason.

"I didn't think anyone would show up to watch," he says. "I thought they'd be bored."

He also was convinced that if Garth Brooks was spending $1 million on staging, lighting and crew, he needed to as well to compete.

It took the death of Porter Wagoner in 2007 to convince him an acoustic performance might work. Friend and fellow musician Marty Stuart was doing shows with Wagner at the time. When the legendary performer died, Stuart asked Tritt to join him for a tribute. It was just the two of them.

"We did some Porter stuff and some of Marty's stuff and some of mine, anything else we could think of. I was quite frankly pretty nervous," Tritt says. "We were supposed to do 90 minutes and ended up being onstage for about two hours and could have played longer.

"It was a real eye opener for me."

He's been doing solo acoustic shows ever since and is looking forward to his show Saturday, Nov. 16, at the Tivoli Theatre.

He says the shows have given him new energy and that he has been overjoyed at the reactions of fans who invariably say they didn't know that he could play like that, or sing like that, or that he had written so many familiar songs.

He jokingly says he is considering having T-shirts printed up that say "I didn't know Travis Tritt ..." with a series of phrases such as "could play the banjo like that," "had that many hits" and "could sing like that."

He also shares the stories behind the songs, and he talks about his relationships with some of country music's legendary performers such as George Jones, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings.

"People are surprised to learn that Waylon and I spoke on the phone two or three times a week every week until he died.

"I have a stack of letters an inch thick from Johnny Cash. They all helped me so much," Tritt says.

Tritt freely admits that fronting the bigger shows became a crutch for him as an artist.

"I think it does for a lot of people," he says. "Standing or sitting behind a microphone where it is just you is scary. You are kind of naked. Our shows were so high-energy, I just didn't think anybody would enjoy seeing me in an intimate-type setting."

Tritt says like a lot of artists, his original goal was to have a long career like his idols. Jones, Cash, Haggard and Jennings performed for multiple decades, and fans had pretty well seen all they could do. Tritt, though, has found something new to offer with these solo acoustic sets.

"Some artists feel the need to reinvent themselves over and over, and others are comfortable in their own skin," he says. "George Jones just kept on being George Jones. This is something new for me and people who come to see me. It's been very fulfilling."

On "The Calm After ...," which was reissued on his own label after a dispute with his former label, contains a version of "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough." He wrote it years ago and had planned to record it as a duet with one of three female artists he had in mind. All had just released duets, though, so the timing wasn't right.

While driving with his then 15-year-old daughter, Reese, he plugged in his iPod and the demo came on. She started singing along -- well enough to impress Tritt. They recorded it together.

"I knew my daughter could sing, but I was shocked by how it came out. She is very talented."

The two even sang the song live at a few shows over the summer and planned to do it live in Atlanta this past weekend.

"I was thrilled to get that opportunity," he says.

Just like he's thrilled to be doing these acoustic shows.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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