Fans Divided On New AI-Created Randy Travis Single As He Gives A Behind-The-Scenes Look At How It Came To Life

Randy Travis
CBS Sunday Morning

There have been a lot of opinions the past few days on Randy Travis‘ new single, his first since his near-fatal stroke in 2013.

The stroke left Randy largely unable to speak or walk, so fans were shocked when it was announced that he would be releasing a brand new single this week.

Immediately there was speculation that “Where That Came From” was AI-generated, and that was confirmed by an appearance on CBS Sunday Morning that took fans behind the scenes of the making of the new single.

“Where That Came From,” which was written by John Scott Sherrill and Scotty Emerick, isn’t exactly what you think of when you think of an AI-generated song. There are actual songwriters, so it’s not just a Chat GPT-generated song, and an actual singer recorded the original vocals: James Dupre, a former contestant on The Voice who also stands in for Randy on his tour dates.

But when it came to Randy’s distinctive baritone voice, that’s where producer Kyle Lehning turned to AI for help.

Vocals were isolated from over 40 of Randy’s original tracks. After the music was stripped away, leaving only Randy’s voice, it was then overlaid onto the track from Dupre to create the final product.

Lehning says that they had to go “syllable-by-syllable” to get the sound right, admitting that it freaked him out the first time he heard it come together:

“It freaked me out. When I played it back, it was like, ‘Oh my.’ And I immediately though, ‘This might work.’

Then as I listened more and more and more, and could start to dig into the nuance of it, realized that in order to really make it work, it was going to take a little bit more massaging.”

The producer says that the most important thing was to get the feel of the song right, adding that Randy was in the studio and involved in the whole process of making sure the song was done correctly:

“Him being here and him being able to be, you know, a vital part of the decision-making process makes all the difference to me.”

Of course it’s great to hear Randy’s voice on new music again, and I don’t think anybody would deny that. But not everybody’s sold on the use of AI to create a new Randy Travis song, especially because of the implication it could have for music in the future:

But there are, of course, plenty of people who are thrilled that AI was able to give Randy his voice back.

It certainly sets up some interesting questions on the future use of AI in music. And if I had to guess, I’d say part of the controversy surrounding this song had to do with the rollout and being so secretive about the use of AI until after it was released. It might have been a better idea to just be upfront about it from the beginning so listeners didn’t feel like they were being deceived, which is an inherent concern with the rise of AI: Should artists/labels have to disclose that a song contains AI? And what even counts as “AI” at this point versus simply “production?”

You also can’t help but wonder whether, now that it’s been done, we’ll see more AI singles, even from artists who have long since passed away. Randy was able to consent to the use of AI for his new song, so could the estate of, say, Johnny Cash consent to a new AI album from the Man in Black?

Of course in discussing all this it’s important to keep in mind that Randy himself was able to consent to the song, and even help with its production. And it’s not like this was a song that was just put into an AI song generator and released as a new song: It was Randy’s real voice, on a real song written by real songwriters.

Honestly, I’m not even sure how I feel about it yet. I recognize that this is truly an exceptional circumstance, giving Randy Travis his voice back while he still wants to make music but isn’t able to.

But I also hate the thought of AI-generated songs pervading music and being passed off as the real thing.

Maybe this is just a neat experiment that shouldn’t be replicated. But we all know that’s not going to be the case.

And for what it’s worth, Randy’s Twitter account seemed to address some of the critics in a post about the song:

“This song sets the standard for the use of AI in music. Artist’s approval and involvement is paramount.”

One thing’s clear though: AI music is here, whether we want it to be or not.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock