Listen to Aaron Tippin's Lookin' Back At Myself and you'll hear the sounds of a man in love. Now before you yawn and mutter "Isn't that nice?" you should understand that we're not talking about some mildly pleasant feeling of well-being. Nor are we referring to the warm fuzzy glow of congenial companionship. What we're taking about here is earth-shaking, mind-altering, I've-got-to-tell-the-world ecstasy. Lookin' Back At Myself exuberantly celebrates not only the woman in Tippin's life but his art and vision as well.
"There are three love ballads here that I'm dying for people to hear," Tippin exclaims. "I fell in love while I was writing songs for the album, and I think it shows. Folks have never heard that from Aaron Tippin. And we've got some other very cool stuff that is definitely me. Every album I've had has been a learning process."
Lookin' Back At Myself is Tippin's fourth album for RCA. Its predecessor, Call Of The Wild (1993), has been certified gold and is well on its way to platinum -- which is the status now enjoyed by Read Between The Lines (1992), his second album. Tippin made his album debut in 1991 with his hard-hitting You've Got To Stand For Something.
The title cut from this album went Top 10 for Tippin, as did "I Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way," "My Blue Angel," and "Working Man's Ph.D." In 1992, he scored his first No. 1 hit, "There Ain't Nothin' Wrong With The Radio."
A prolific and imaginative writer -- whose songs have been cut by Charley Pride, David Ball, and Mark Collie, among others -- Tippin co-wrote all but one song in his newest collection. To help him shape the new album, he drafted his close friend and master guitarist Steve Gibson as producer. And he's eager to explain why he made this choice. "In the world of production," Tippin contends, "there's God, and, just below him, there's Steve Gibson. I never thought an old hillbilly from South Carolina like me and a boy from a sure-enough Yankeeland -- Illinois -- would ever be able to get together and pull a great record like this.  But we met before we ever realized where the other was from. Of course, I've seen him on the other side of the glass a lot of times when he was playing on my sessions."
There was something about Gibson, Tippin continues, that led him to believe he would be just the kind of producer he needed: "I noticed that he's always had that capability of very coolly working through the rest of the players and producers and engineers. He'll say, 'You know, let me try a little something here.' And he'll pull out some wild guitar that's maybe got taillights on it, and then he'll do something that'll just blow your socks off. Maybe it won't be more than five notes. He's way past what it takes to be be hot. He understands music from a listener's point of view. I think that's his greatest quality. When I approached him about this album, I never felt more wanted and more a part of anything I've ever done. He was genuinely concerned. The favorite saying in the studio is, 'Well, it's your record.' But nobody means it like Steve Gibson."
Without question, the combination of talents worked. Tippin has always been one of the hardest-singing, keenest-eyed performers in the business. But Lookin' Back At Myself stands apart from his other albums because of the extra fervor, intensity and sharpness he brings to every cut -- from hilariously rowdy, "Country Boy's Toolbox" to the rapturous "You Are The Woman." "It took me a long time to write these songs," Tippin explains, "because I don't write anything I don't feel. I try to put together albums that everybody will love. If I'm not interested in doing that, I should just sit on the porch and play in the yard."
All performers rely on their fans for emotional support, but Tippin depends on them for guidance, too. "As a performer, I'm in a room with many, many doors," he says. "If I open one door and they're not applauding, I close it. Then I go back to the door where they were screaming and yelling. This is all about paying attention to the people who love your music."
Tippin continues to draw his stength and inspiration from the working man's life he lived and the values he learned at home before he came to Nashville. "I just bought a 300-acre farm," he says. "I've finally gotten to the point where I could probably afford a real nice house in Brentwood (a ritzy Nashville suburb), but I'm out there on my farm, bulding a little log home. All this summer and winter, I was hanging around, taking transmissions out of bulldozers, digging the foundation for my house and doing all the stuff I used to do as a kid. Let me tell you, that kind of work will knock about 20 years off me for an hour or so. It seems the further I go, the further I go back."