It's no coincidence that Aaron Tippin's latest CD, Stars And Stripes, arrives in record stores one year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Aaron cut the title track, "Where The Stars And Stripes And The Eagle Fly," immediately following the tragedy and donated proceeds from the single, which zoomed to No. 2 on the Billboard chart, for the American Red Cross to distribute to the victims.
"The song was written two years before 9/11," Aaron says. "It seemed very appropriate to release it at the time. Originally this song was supposed to go on the People Like Us album and it didn't make it. I was a little disappointed at the time. Now I realize exactly why it didn't make that album -- the song had a bigger purpose. The most important thing about it is that country fans went out and bought the record to help other Americans who needed help at the time. That's common of what real country fans are like."
Aaron's career was launched under a banner of patriotism when his debut single, "You've Got To Stand For Something," reached the Top Ten in 1991 and became an anthem for a nation embroiled in the conflict of Desert Storm. Aaron quickly became a voice of patriotism, a badge he wears proudly and has carried with him throughout his career, a career where he sings what he knows about most -- strong family ties and hard work. Aaron's wife Thea, daughter Charla, and sons Teddy and Thomas are the focus of his life.
"It's important to me to concentrate on my family," Aaron says. "When I'm at home, there's two places you're going to see me. At lunchtime, I'm going to be up at my little outdoor store having lunch with my wife and kids. The rest of the time, I'm going to be home with my wife and kids. It's precious and important and life is too fragile to live any other way."
Family has always been important to Aaron, who cites his father as his biggest hero. Aaron was raised on a farm in South Carolina; his chief influences included Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Thompson and Lefty Frizzell. He began playing guitar and performing when he was ten. By the time Aaron was 20, he was working as a commerical pilot. In 1986, he moved to Nashville, where he evetually became a staff writer at Acuff-Rose. He signed his first recording contract with RCA in 1990.
Aaron's hard-edged twang is one of the more distinctive sounds in today's country music. Hits like "There Ain't Nothin' Wrong With The Radio," "Working Man's PhD," "That's As Close As I'll Get To Loving You," and "Kiss This," have earned him a solid following and have established Aaron's identity in an ever-changing country scene. Stars And Stripes continues that tradition.
"I don't try to write a book when I'm cutting records," Aaron says. "I just try to find a lot of great songs and cut them. Each album creates itself. There are a lot of great writers that I like to keep up with, but I'm always looking for that next guy in town that ain't had a hit yet. I never turn my nose up at anything. It doesn't matter to me who wrote it if it's a great song."
Stars And Stripes stretches from the soaring patriotic title cut to the entertaining "Honky Tonk If You Love Country," "If Her Lovin' Don't Kill Me," and "We Can't Get Any Higher Than This," which was co-written by one of Aaron's favorite songwriters.
"I'm Jeffrey Steele's biggest fan. It happens that he writes a lot of songs I can relate to," Aaron says. "Ever since two or three albums ago, I get out my metal detector and go Jeffrey Steele searching." Steele also wrote "I Believed." "That's a great philosophy song," Aaron says. "Surely on every album you have to have one of those deep thinkers and that's it on this album."
Aaron also co-wrote several cuts on Stars And Stripes, inlcuding the beautiful duet he wrote and recorded with Thea, "Love Like There's No Tomorrow." "That's something that's become a standard for an Aaron Tippin album, I get the opportunity to sing one with my wife and it's always a great pleasure," Aaron says. "We try to write something that really touches us."
While writing, recording and touring keep Aaron busy, he manages to find time to share a quiet life with his family.
Aaron and Thea have expanded their gun shop to a complete outdoor supply store in their hometown of Smithville, Tennessee. Aaron still pilots his own small airplane and loves taking toddlers Teddy and Thomas flying. Charla is married and living in South Carolina. "We're closer now than we've ever been," Aaron says.
One of Aaron's favorite hobbies is making wine. "Wine is a different drink," Aaron says. "Every single glass, even out of the same bottle, is different depending on the oxidation. The more oxidized it becomes the more the flavor comes out to a certain time -- then it starts to deteriorate. You can have a sip from the top of a bottle, a sip in the middle and a sip off the bottom of the bottle and they will all three be different."
And like a good wine, Aaron Tippin has mellowed with age.
"I've changed since the beginning of my career," Aaron says. "I've learned to relax and quit thinking that everything's gotta happen right now. I was probably sometimes a little overbearing to people. I was from a world of aviation where pilots bark orders across the cockpit at each other and there's nothing wrong with that, it's how it goes. You don't have time to say please much. When you tell somebody to put the landing gear down you mean right now. It's a different world. Now I try to relax about things that are out of my control. I appreciate what has happened and appreciate the things that are most important to me in life."
One thing that hasn't changed in Aaron's life is the consistent support of his fans.
"The fans are my mainstay," Aaron says. "If I have hits, don't have hits, or ain't had a record in three years, they appreciate me anyhow. When I'm in town and they come out to see me play, I know that's why I do it...for those folks...who have remained with me through all of it.