When Aaron Tippin looks out at the audience and tells his fans he knows what its like to be where they are, he isnt just talking.
Tippin has worked as a farm hand, a factory worker, heavy equipment operator, airplane pilot, a welder and a truck driver. But singing and writing songs is what he likes most and does best. Tippin, one of the most recognizable voices in country music today, is scheduled to perform at the 2003 Merced County Fair on Thursday, July 17 at 8 and 10 p.m.
Tippin has sold more than 5 million albums, including four Top 10 singles, one Top 5 single and two No. 1 hit songs. He manages to fit in about 100 live performances a year. His latest single, "Love Like Theres No Tomorrow," was released just before Christmas. He co-wrote the song with his wife, Thea, and she also sings the duet.
The newly-released song is from his latest album, "When the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly." The title cut was Tippins way to express his feelings about the Sept. 11 tragedy. But he isnt a singer/songwriter who just talks the talk; he also walks the walk. To support US troops fighting the war on terrorism, he and his band recently performed with a USO tour in Afghanistan.
Tippin began singing as a child while baling hay, running combines and plowing the soil on the family farm back in his rural South Carolina hometown. To hear himself over the tractors diesel engine he developed some pretty strong vocal chords.
He went on to play football and run track while attending high school in Greer, S.C. By then he also was hanging out at the airport with his father, a commercial pilot. He learned to fly and work on planes and seemed destined to follow in his fathers footsteps.
Tippin became a commercial pilot, but while studying to move up as a pilot for a major air carrier, a national fuel shortage and major airlines furloughing pilots convinced him to seek another career path.
Thats when he started pursuing a music career. Tippin took naturally to country music -- while his friends were listening to rock, he was playing the honky-tonks. After his teenage marriage ended, he moved to Nashville in 1986 and threw himself into music.
He competed on the Nashville Networks "You Can Be A Star," landed a publishing deal, and took up an incredible regime working the midnight shift in a Kentucky factory, writing songs on Music Row during the day, and indulging in a passion for weight-lifting in the afternoons.
As he began winning weight-lifting competitions, artists including Charley Pride, David Ball and Mark Collie recorded his songs. His first nightclub show in Nashville earned him a recording contract with RCA in 1990 and he toured with Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn and Hank Williams Jr., to launch his career. Hes gone on to release one platinum and four gold albums.
Weight lifting is still a part of the workout regimen he maintains with his wife and his musical tastes remain very similar. "Musically Im still about the same guy," he said. "Im still about classic country, Im still a big fan of the big bands and I still love bluegrass."
Tippin continues to perform at about 90 tour engagements each year from fairs and festivals to big arena concerts. "Then every once in a while we get to go back to do a little honky-tonk playing," he said. "I still enjoy that because thats where I came from and on a Friday night when theyre out there having a good time, there isnt a much better place to be."
The singer/songwriter has a lot of interests in his life from turkey and deer hunting to flying, and he even did all the driving for a 90-mile-per-hour chase scene that appears in his "Kiss This" video. Although hes a man with a lot of talents and interests, hes got two passions love of performing his music and his family.
"I still love playing for the folks. I love to see people loving the old songs and to hear them roar when we've done a good job," he said. And he thrives on his family wife, Thea, sons Teddy and Tommy and daughter, Charla.
"After all is said and done, I depend on my family. Thats the most wonderful part of my life, and the real saving grace to me."
Tippin and his wife have written and recorded several songs together, including "The Best Love We Ever Made." The song, which is on the "People Like Us" album, is all about how loves most treasured outcome is the children it produces and Tippin is pretty proud of the song and the children who inspired it.
During the familys downtime they live on a 300-acre farm outside Nashville in a log cabin Tippin built. The country life is where Tippin is happiest. "When Im frustrated I can go to the house and grill some chicken and look out over the Tennessee hills and see if I can hear any turkeys gobbling out there."
This artists music has always been a mixture of tough and tender, romantic and philosophical. His first hit, "Youve Got to Stand for Something," established him as an artist with something to say and he showed he has a pure country voice to say it with. That first hit went to the Top Five charts and helped establish his loyal fan base.
The hits kept coming including, "There Aint Nothing Wrong With The Radio," a song about a car that became a country anthem and soared to No. 1, cementing his relationship with rowdy fans everywhere.
"My Blue Angel" was classic country that established Tippin as a vocalist with an achingly personal style. Songs like "Working Mans Ph.D.," "I Wouldnt Have It Any Other Way," and "Thats as Close as Ill Get to Loving You" expanded his fan base and his reputation.
But he was dissatisfied with the old record label that wasnt interested in turning out his kind of music, so he went on to a second record label, Lyric Street Records, owned by Disney. "One thing they really wanted was for my writing to be a bigger part of my career," he said. "I thought, Maybe these guys really do want Aaron music. "
The artist calls his songs, "Aaron music" and all his fans understand what that means. From his blue-collar anthems to the softer material, he possesses one of the most recognizable voices in country music. "I used to want every record to read like a novel, to follow a theme. Now, I just want to put together the greatest songs I can find."
He recently recorded his third album with the new label, "When the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly." The album also contains hits including "Ill Take Love Over Money," and "If Her Lovin Dont Kill Me."
He admits its been a lot of work to get where he is today, but Tippin said, "Not every song is going to be a hit, and you learn that what youve got to do is keep moving on. When the record isnt going so well, I can still write another new song or have a great day on the tractor out on the farm. You learn to make good out of what you can."
One part of show business that doesnt get old for him is knowing the success of a performance is in his hands. "No matter what when I go out there on the stage I can be absolutely in control of what goes on for that hour and when we get to the end and Ive really got em -- boy thats when I prove to myself Ive still got what it takes to entertain people," he said, adding, "And thats very fulfilling."
The Merced County Fair will soon announce the five other entertainment acts to perform at the fair, July 15-20.
For information, call the fair office at 722-1507 or email to Info@MercedCountyFair.com or fax at 722-3773.