TUCSON, Ariz -- A new record label, a new album and a new baby in the house are a lot to deal with, but that isn't why Aaron Tippin answers the phone out of breath.
"I was in the middle of my weightlifting," the buff country singer said from his home in rural DeKalb County, Tenn.
He was enjoying a few days at home shortly before a Christmas show to benefit underprivileged Nashville children, and before he and his family leave for a vacation to Great Falls, Mont., to visit his wife's family.
Everything's "goin' great," says Tippin.
"Shoot, I'm as happy as a fat hog in the sunshine," he drawls.
Tippin, 40, began as a honky-tonk singer in the '70s in his native South Carolina.
After competing on the old TNN show You Can Be a Star in 1986, he landed a publishing deal and moved to Nashville.
Between competitive weightlifting (he boasts of having a 47-in. chest and 16-in. biceps) and working a graveyard shift in a Kentucky factory, Tippin crafted songs that were recorded by the likes of Charley Pride, David Ball and The Kingsmen.
In 1990, RCA gave Tippin a recording contract after seeing him perform in Nashville clubs. Soon, he was pumping out hit songs such as Working Man's Ph.D, That's as Close as I'll Get to Loving You and I Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way.
A couple of years ago, Tippin resigned from RCA over dissatisfaction with the impersonal style of making records that he'd experienced there.
"I didn't think I wanted to cut records the way I've done in the past," he says.
He was impressed with the new Lyric Street label, which signed him earlier this year. Tippin co-produced his recently released album, What This Country Needs, with Pat McMakin.
The first single, For You I Will, has entered Billboard's top 20 country singles chart.
"Golly, they want to do Aaron Tippin music. They want to do the music I want to do. What they did was, they handed reins over, said, 'Do your record and hurry back.'
"They've encouraged me. They've carried the torch for me. They' re doin' what I thought they were supposed to do in this business."