Tracy Lawrence was only 23 years old when his freshman Sticks and Stones album came out. The record, which saw all five singles from the project land in the Top 10 — with the title track as both his debut single and first No. 1 hit — set off a wildly successful career in country music. With Lawrence dominating the charts and airwaves for much of the ’90s, and still releasing music and drawing massive crowds throughout his entire career, the now-53-year-old says the early part of his career seems like one busy blur.
“In some ways, it doesn’t even feel like it’s the same person,” Lawrence admits to Everything Nash. “I feel like it was another life ago. I was talking with a buddy the other night, and this kind of sums the whole thing up to me: there’s life before kids, and there’s life after kids. And the life that I had before kids feels like a complete other existence. And that includes that whole time frame in there when I was having all those hits in the ’90s, because I was wild and free, having success and traveling and doing all these things, and Sticks and Stones was catalyst for all that.
“Life since kids was a completely different existence,” adds the father of two. “And as I look back over that, I have fond memories of it, but it’s not anything that I would like to go back to.”
Lawrence is immensely grateful for the success he has had, as well as the maturity that comes with age. When asked if he knew what he would tell his younger self, Lawrence was both honest and forthright with his answer.
“To have a little bit more patience about things and people and the things you deal with,” reflects the singer. “That’s one of the things that I’ve been forced to acquire with the children, is patience — learning when to shut up and when to walk away. I didn’t know how to do that back then. And a lot of it comes from a youth and an arrogance, and all those things. You come from a little town in the middle of nowhere, and all of a sudden you’ve got a record, you’re on radio, you have hits. Your head starts to get a little bit big, and then another one, and then another one. And then all of a sudden, you’ve got this whole group of people around you.
“They call it ‘the bubble,’ and you get trapped inside this thing,” he continues. “And then all of a sudden, everybody that you ever knew can’t even get in to see you. You’ve got to dig back out of that at some point. So there’s a lot of things that you learn along the way about what’s important and who’s important, and how to kind of maintain those relationships.”
Lawrence rightfully offers himself grace for the mistakes he made, even if he wishes he could change some of them.
“I burned a lot of bridges when I was trying to build them,” he admits. “I was building them in front of me and set them on fire behind them. And some of them, I regret. Some of them I don’t. It’s hard to have good judgment when you’re young.”
Lawrence will release a three-volume project, Hindsight 2020, with the first album, Stairway to Heaven Highway to Hell, out on April 23.