HE'S PEOPLE LIKE YOU

Feature and Photos by Neil Haislop

Before he released his new album called People Like Us in July, Aaron Tippin had sold just over 5 million albums in all throughout his career that began 10 years ago next month, when he charted for the first time with "You've Got To Stand for Something" (11/3/90). But, thanks to the smashing success of the lead-off single "Kiss This," he's sold over half a million copies of the new one to earn another Gold album. "It's the fastest selling album of my career," says Aaron of People Like Us that is rapidly closing in on million-selling platinum status. But, the great thing about Aaron Tippin is that no matter how successful he becomes, when you meet him you find out that he's just people like you and me.

I was reminded of that last month in Los Angeles when I hooked up with Aaron on the set of the video for the title-song, "People Like Us." Shot mostly on location driving around the streets of L.A. and Hollywood, and in a vacant lot in downtown Los Angeles with the city as a backdrop, Aaron says it is his 9th music video to date. And, in a town where it is almost expected that artists will get above their raisin' and do the "star" trip, when the camera wasn't on him you could find Aaron pouring his own coffee at the catering table. Between scenes, instead of rushing back to his trailer, Aaron preferred to hang out with the extras, the band or video crew to chat and joke about pretty ordinary stuff. We ended up talking as much about the improvements he wants to make to his home near Nashville that he practically built himself by hand, as we did about the music business. "I'm looking into adding solar power to the house, or maybe even these new windmill things they have to make power for the house," he told me.

VIDEO SEQUEL

When we did get around to talking about the music business, Tippin told me that the new video, "People Like Us," is a kind of sequel to his successful "Kiss This" video that featured Aaron driving a vintage Barracuda. "In the 'Kiss This' video I rescue a damsel. At the start of this video I'm dropping her off and saying goodbye. In this video I'm driving through town and driving too fast and having a good time and end up here (the vacant lot in downtown Los Angeles that had a stage set up and a bar scene off to the side) and do a performance to end the video," he explained.

They wanted to do a kind of sequel to tie the two videos together since the "Kiss This" video is one his most popular ever. "'Honky Tonk Superman' is the most popular of my videos, but 'Kiss This' is right up there with it," he calculates.

ENJOYING SUCCESS

Aaron Tippin is enjoying this new success, gathering it in and savoring it like a man hungry for a treat that's available at just certain times of the year. One of the things that keeps Aaron humble and very realistic about a life in show business is the up and down nature of his career for the last decade. While always popular on the concert trail, his track record on the charts was marked by big hits with certain records like "There Ain't Nothing Wrong With the Radio (his first #1 in '92), only to have a run of songs in-between that didn't quite measure up. For instance, between his top 7 hit "Working Man's Ph.D." in 1993, he chalked up 5 mediocre chart records before he hit #1 in '95 with "Thatís as Close as I'll Get to Loving You." Eventually, that inconsistency caused Aaron and RCA Records to agree to part ways.

NEW LEASE ON ARTISTIC LIFE

Part of the reason Aaron departed RCA was his frustration at being made to try different singing styles to fit what the company thought radio would accept from Aaron Tippin. So it was ironic that the bunch of former RCA executives who are now the core of the new Lyric Street records called Aaron and invited him to anchor the label. "I felt very lucky, one more time that I've washed up on shore," Aaron quips. Lyric Street told us they realized that they needed to leave Aaron Tippin alone to create his music and give them great songs. So far it has paid off for both.

SHARING THE SPOTLIGHT WITH HIS WIFE

What Aaron is most gleeful about is the family affair the People Like Us album became. "That Thea (his wife) finally gets her chance to shine is so wonderful," he says with real joy in his eyes. "She was studying music at Belmont University and has worked at this as long as I have. Now she gets a chance to shine. And I get to enjoy watching her do it, like seeing her face when she told me about hearing 'Kiss This' on the radio for the first time. No matter what this record does in terms of the history of country music," he says earnestly, "this is the one I'll always enjoy because it's full of the important things in my history -- my music and my family." (left: Thea Tippin)

Two of the project's songs -- "Kiss This" and "The Best Love We Ever Made" -- were co-written by Aaron and Thea, and two songs feature vocals by family members. Thea does a moving duet with Aaron on "The Best Love We Ever Made," and Teddy ends a rollicking "Big Boy Toys" -- his favorite on the album -- by saying the title in his two-and-a-half-year-old voice close enough to a microphone to make the cut. There's even a picture on the album of Aaron and his daughter (by a previous marriage) Charla, and it all adds up he says, "To this being my favorite album ever."

GRATITUDE TO GO AROUND

Aaron Tippin is back on top again and he's quick to pass around the gratitude.

If you notice that Aaron is singing a little better with a stronger voice, it's because he needed to change the technical way he was singing.

"I have to thank the Vanderbilt University Voice Clinic for the longevity of my career," he declares. "Before I was being told I was too nasal, too country sounding. So I had started singing down lower in my throat to give it a deeper quality. But they told me that was hurting my voice. They said the sound has to come from the mouth and nasal passages. I just had to learn to stop forcing it."

PERSONAL LIFE COMPLETES THE PICTURE

To complete this picture of a successful and happy man, Aaron Tippin's personal life adds the final brush strokes. After one miscarriage last year, Aaron and Thea found out they were expecting their second child. "We've found out that he is a boy," says Aaron. "He's due December 14th, which is Teddy's birthday, and we're going to call him Thomas Aaron. I finally have a namesake," he says with pride.

Aaron Tippin can take pride in a lot of things these days. He's back at the top of the music business and stronger than ever, thanks to the success of his new album People Like Us and its first single "Kiss This" that reminded everybody who almost counted him out of what a great performer he is. Best of all is the knowledge that if you ever get the chance to meet Aaron Tippin on the street and chat with him, you'll find out he's just good people like you.


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