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Feature Article:  An Interview with Aaron Tippin

by Ed Hewitt
December 1998

An Interview With Aaron Tippin

Aaron Tippin has never been one to mince words, or wear his colors quietly.  These days, though, as the father of an 11-month-old son and 20-year-old daughter and husband to the love of his life, Tippin is as likely to wear his heart on his sleeve.

Sure, he still can belt out an anthem, and won't shy away from telling you what he thinks.

Take the title track from his new album, What This Country Needs, which reads like a personal declaration of purpose, as well as a call to arms.  "Yeah, you expect that to be another 'stand for something, in you face' Aaron Tippin song," Tippin laughed.  "But I'm just saying we need a little more country in everything.  Actually, I think this one's kinda funny."

I mention that his co-penned tunes are rough and tumble honky tonks, and wonder if it's hard for him to find his voice on the love songs.  "Well you're right, that's my personality, and those types of songs (honky tonks) come naturally to me," he replied.

"I used to have to work hard to get the juicy love songs right," Tippin said.  "But life's a lot different these days for old Aaron," mentioning his young son Teddy, daughter Charla (from a previous marriage) who lives with Tippin, and his wife Thea, who inspired "For You I Will," and right now life and family are it," Tippin said.  "On the first single, that's what you hear.  Thea has made a big difference in my life."

These days Tippin is touched by a tender humility, and the mellowing effects of family.  Witness "Back When I Knew Everything," which Tippin co-wrote with Mel Besher.  "I'm 40 now, and I'm looking back and thinking, heck man, you could've done some of those things without shoving them down people's throats!" Tippin laughed.  "You know, you shouldn't have told that boss to go to hell, things like that, when I thought I had the world by the tail."

A dose of humility is just more proof that Tippin is still very much in touch with regular folk.  "Somewhere Under The Rainbow," despite the punning title, is a gripping account of what it takes to get by.

"I think that's a classic Aaron Tippin song, "Tippin said.  "Two folks at the grit and the gravel, but as long as they have each other, they're fine.  In my life right now, that's it, that's the whole thing."

"I'm Leaving" is a tough love-gone-wrong song that finds Tippin is superb voice.  "Shoot, man, that's a great song, isn't it?" Tippin yelped.  "That song reminds me of the way country music used to be, just tell it like it is.  These days, you gotta watch out who you might offend -- people feel like there's some things they can't say.  And this song, BAM! it's right in your face."

"You hear so many complaints about country music these days because folks want the real thing -- something you can feel," Tippin said.  "This is what people really want. &nsbp;They're tired of milk."

Tippin's new lease on the recording life comes after his departure from RCA, and signing with Lyric Street, which, despite the prosaic, indie-sounding title, is part of the Disney conglomerate. : Contrary to Disney's heavy hand in other properties, Lyric Street offers Tippin considerable leeway to do things his own way.

The new album is something of a recommitment to his own tastes and values for Tippin.&nsbp; "It was a matter of finding folks who wanted to do what I wanted to do, then doing it," Tippin exclaimed.  "Lyric Street told me to go in, cut a record, and bring it back."

I note that life must be much cozier for the former welder, factory worker, and bodybuilder, since his days behind the welding mask.

"It sure is!" Tippin said with a powerful laugh.  "Aw, life's great now, but I still try to stay in touch with that kind of work.  This morning, I was up at seven, and we're building a retainer wall here on the farm, so I was working the track how, and right now I'm down at the airport helping build a heater for the hangar.  So it's a lot easier, but I ain't forgot what it's like for folks who work an honest eight."

"You can't forget, this is a blessing to do what I do," Tippin continued.  "To write about these folks, you have to have experienced what they experience, and things can get so cushy that you forget what that's all about."

The kinder, mellower Tippin seems to have found his voice.  "This album is just another side of Aaron Tippin, another page that I haven't had the chance to turn over until now," Tippin said.  "I've always showed everything, whether I was serious, patriotic, you name it."

Tippin's wife Thea keeps his down to earth; he hasn't been hunting as much as he'd like, because "I have too many 'honey-do' projects," Tippin laughed.

The album closes with "You're The Only Reason For Me," which Tippin says can be heard three ways:  "You can hear it as a love song, which it definitely is," he said.  "Or you can listen spiritually as well.  And you can also listen for the real reason I could get through some of those dark days, wondering what I was doing running up and down the Row, and that's the fans."

Tippin appreciates the fans for what they are, the most important friends a musician can have.  And those fans still recognize Tippin for who he is.  "The fans recognize me faster in dirty blue jeans and a sweatshirt than in a tuxedo," Tippin laughed.  "They're more likely to recognize me at a truck stop than at the Opry."

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