www.fortwayne.com - The Journal Gazette home page
Monday, Jan 27, 2003

Posted on Fri, Jan. 24, 2003

Tippin comfortable with his roots, music
The Journal Gazette

When he first hit the scene 12 years ago, Aaron Tippin was known as one of the New Traditionalists, guys who were bringing country back to its roots.

Of course, nobody knew then how rootsy it was going to get or how divisive such rootsiness could be.

These days, country music is like a Junior High school dance: purists and hipsters on one side of the gymnasium, the chosen people and assorted opportunists on the other.

As a guy who has worked both sides of the room, Tippin is alternately polite and pointed about all this.

He thinks some of the slicker forms of country may be on the way out.

"Pop has had its run," Tippin says. "And it's still going on, but there's this other side of the coin. We're going back to the roots and I think it's neat. If it wakes up one executive in Nashville who's been so hellbent on making a buck that he's been driving things in the wrong direction..."

Tippin trails off here. As a species, music executives seem slow to wake up and quick to pretend they're asleep.

"It probably won't happen that way," he continues. "The biggest record in country music ("O Brother Where Art Thou") is not being played by country radio. And the sad thing is, they don't see any shame in it."

Not that Tippin blames country radio.

"If there's anything I've learned, it's to not beat up on radio too hard. The music business made that monster. If they don't like it, tough.

"The first person who took a program director out for lunch for free made a mistake, I guess."

Tippin, 44, laughs at his own candidness.

"I don't know why, but I'm in the mood for truth today."

Tippin will perform two shows at the Ramada Wagon Wheel Theatre in Warsaw Saturday night.

If a someone wanted to hear expert testimony on the state of country music, they could hardly find a witness more credible than Tippin.

He grew up on the family farm in South Carolina, listening to Jimmie Rodgers, Lefty Frizzell and - especially - Hank Williams.

For five years in the early nineties, Tippin made beautiful music with RCA Records, until Tippin grew tired of the label's tactics and the label turned its attentions to younger artists.

It hasn't been easy since, but Tippin has largely regained lost commercial ground thanks to the modest but honorable Lyric Street label.

"They're very open minded to creativity," Tippin says of the Lyric Street staff. "They're into the music, really into the music."

During the last year and a half, music fans stunned by the events of 9/11 returned in droves to artists of Tippin's ilk: men known for their patriotism, simple values, self-deprecating humor, southern hospitality and unrehearsed accents.

Tippin scored a huge hit with the song "Where The Stars And Stripes And The Eagle Fly."

It was actually written before 9-11, and had been rejected numerous times by industry pros before it shot to number 2 on the Billboard country chart.

Its success surprised everyone but Tippin.

"I'm the proverbial hair in the biscuit of country music," he says. "I just won't go away."

Tippin and Lyric Street donated all the proceeds from the single to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

Having a hit did not ease Tippin's reservations about touring. The road had been lean for a while and Tippin didn't think the nation's increased familiarity with its enemies would help matters any.

"I thought we were going to suffer because people would be scared to go out to large gatherings. But nothing could scare those rednecks."

And Tippen proved pretty steely himself, touring Afghanistan in the midst of the Taliban's ouster and entertaining the troops.

With his concerts selling out again, Tippin is in a fine position to reflect on everything he's seen and everywhere he's been.

He says he still peers at songs for glints of hit potential, a practice he picked up at RCA and hasn't shaken.

"I still do that even though I once said to myself it was OK if I never got back on the charts. I never seem to pick songs that work that way. It's only when I let go and let the wheel spin that something happens."

He doesn't resent the major labels' obsession with younger artists and revolving doors, because he sees it for what it is.

Far from trying to find the next Faith Hill, the labels are actually trying to avoid creating superstars, Tippin believes.

"They don't want another Faith or Shania (Twain) or Alan (Jackson) because they can't control them.

"Since Garth (Brooks), they don't want another superstar. They can't stop it when it gets to that level."

Tippin says he's glad to have that part of his career behind him. And while he is enjoying this unexpected surge in his commercial fortunes, he says the two toddling sons he shares with wife and duet partner Thea are the source of his truest joy these days.

He says he loves being a father to Teddy and Thomas at this somewhat more seasoned stage of his life.

"It's delicious. It's wonderful. They're wide open. There's never a dull moment. We just went sledding the other day and it was great.

"I get to relive my childhood which isn't much of a stretch because I'm at the age when I'm going into my second childhood."

The interview concludes and Tippin seems surprised about the looseness of his lips.

"This interview may be the end of me," he says, sounding not the least bit upset about it. "Some mornings I wake up and I just have to confess."

"After talking with you" - Tippin takes on the tones of a televangelist - "I feel I am healed!"

Who: Aaron Tippin

Where: Ramada Wagon Wheel Theatre, Warsaw

When: 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday

Admission: $38. Call (866) 823-2618.

©Copyright 2002, Knight Ridder.
All rights reserved.

This story is available online at:


* Return to Articles Links *
* Return to Homepage *

Jan 27, 2003

Copyright @1999-2003, JParsons. All Rights Reserved.
Site Created by JParsons.