The Career-Changing Advice Waylon Jennings Gave Travis Tritt: “The Hell With The Rest Of Them”

David Abbott

Travis Tritt is a true gem in the world of country music.

He’s managed to stay relevant through decades of a changing landscape in new marketing tactics, social media, and a horrific time in the genre we call “bro country”.

He recently sat down on the Whiskey Riff Raff podcast to talk about what he respects in younger artists, some of his biggest hits like “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive,” and shared some sage advice he got from the one and only Waylon Jennings early in his career.

Travis said he grew up being Waylon’s biggest fan, and eventually got to meet him later as an adult once his own career got going.

Travis mentioned that he started to get grief from his own label, writers, and even radio program directors about some of the southern rock-leaning sound of his music in his early days around the late 80’s and early 90’s.

After he put out his 4th single, “Put Some Drive in Your Country,” people in the industry started to turn on him because the sound wasn’t necessarily considered “mainstream” at the time.

Waylon, who Travis said became like a second father to him, wasn’t having any of it… but I don’t think that should really surprise anyone. Waylon was never afraid to tell a single soul what was on his mind.

Travis said people were bothered by the fact that they thought he was trying to be an “outlaw” or go against the grain simply for the sake of doing it, not because it was what he wanted to do.

The irony in the fact that he actually was being authentic and that’s what bothered the industry at the time is pretty hilarious.

Anyways, Travis started to get down on himself because of what all these people were saying… Until, he met Waylon:

“The first time that I met Waylon, I was doing a show with him in Atlanta, Georgia at the Omni. And I went backstage right before the show to meet him and of course we took pictures and I had a little small group with me, you know, some people that worked for the record label and this that and the other.

And, after we met and shook hands and took pictures, I’m getting ready to leave and I’m the last one to the door. And just as I’m getting ready to walk out the door, I’ve got my hand on the door knob, and Waylon said over my should, he goes:

‘Hey hoss, come here a minute. I wanna talk to you.’ I turned around and looked just to make sure he was talking to me. I was like ‘Me?’, He said ‘Yeah, you. I wanna talk to you for a second.'”

Then, Waylon hits him with some incredible advice and says it in a way that only Waylon Jennings could:

“He said, ‘I’ve been hearing all these things they’re saying about you on the radio stations and some of these people in Nashville and some of these country music magazines. I just want you to remember one thing:

Those people get their music for free. They never pay a dime for music. The only people that you need to care about are the people that work hard. 40, 50, 60 hours a week to put food on the table for their families and put a roof over their heads.

And those people that are willing to spend some of that hard-earned money to go out and buy your music every time you release a new product, or occasionally, they will splurge for a concert ticket to come see you play when you play live somewhere close to them.

Those are the only people that you need to care about. The hell with the rest of them.'”

Damn… Waylon putting the hammer down. And, per the usual, he was spot on.

Not only did it change Travis’ perspective on how he felt about himself and his music at the time, but how he’s managed his career ever since:

“And man, it was just like an epiphany for me. It just lifted all of that BS off of my shoulders, because I realized he was exactly right.

And I’ve never worried about it since. A day since. It’s always been about, your audience will let you know if you’re doing something right or if you’re doing something that they don’t approve of.

Outside of their opinion, who cares.”

Can someone take a megaphone to downtown Nashville and blare this from the rooftops? Good Lord, I only wish more people viewed it the same way and actually took it into account when it comes to making good music.

Travis is obviously an absolute legend, but he has a wealth of knowledge from his career to share and he’s pretty damn funny, too… There’s plenty more where that came from during the rest of the conversation, so make sure you download to listen or watch the entire episode on YouTube.

Download the podcast on Apple Podcasts by searching “Whiskey Riff Raff,” clicking here, or listen on Spotify and wherever else you can listen to podcasts.

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