Louisiana-born Trace Adkins, a tree-like bear of a man with a deep, resonant voice, is a former college football player, a former oil-rigging roughneck, and a current country music star.
Adkins performs Friday at Donovan Field at the U.S. Army base in Fort Stewart, part of the Worth Fighting For Independence Day Weekend Celebration. The concert is free and open to the (non-military) public.
He's on a weekend furlough from his ongoing cross-country tour with Toby Keith. Both artists share a tough-guy, macho sensibility, a penchant for flag-waving patriotism, and a wicked - sometimes even a tad sophomoric - sense of humor.
(Check out the videos for Adkins' songs "Honky Tonk Badonankadonk," "I Got My Game On" and "Marry For Money," among others, to get the picture.)
Keith's not on the bill at the Fort Stewart show - perhaps oddly, it's the R&B/hip hop performer Ashanti ("Foolish," the Biggie Smalls duet "Unfoolish," the Ja Rule duet "Always on Time") that'll preceded Adkins onstage.
Adkins' singles "You're Gonna Miss This," "Ladies Love Country Boys" and "No Thinking Thing" all went to No. 1; his biggest-selling album, 2005's Songs About Me, scored double platinum. He has released two Greatest Hits collections - not bad, considering he cut his debut record just 12 years ago.
In early 2008, Adkins expanded his fan base - unwittingly - by appearing as a contestant on Donald Trump's TV tomfoolery Celebrity Apprentice (he ended the season as first runner-up).
Adkins donated his winnings to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, a charity that is - as you're about to see - near and dear to his heart.
For all his songs about hot women and honky tonks, oil rigs and gridiron plays, Trace Adkins is a family man.
How many kids do you have?
Trace Adkins: I have five daughters and a granddaughter, and four of them live with us. My 24-year-old is married, my 20-year-old is in college here at Middle Tennessee, and then I've got an 11-year-old, a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old.
I bet they help you keep everything in perspective.
Trace Adkins: They certainly keep you grounded, keep your ego in check, because you're just Dad. If you want to impress them, you need to kick the soccer ball over the house or something like that. Being on television's just not a big deal.
Have they stopped asking to go to awards shows? Have they stopped caring?
Trace Adkins: They don't stop caring, but it just gets to be old hat to them. Which is really weird; I can't even imagine growing up as a kid and seeing my old man on television all the time.
They do still enjoy going to events and going out on the road with me sometimes.
I was surprised to see you on Celebrity Apprentice. It didn't like the kind of thing you'd normally do.
Trace Adkins: No, it's not something that I would normally do. In fact, I turned them down twice. But the guy that books Apprentice is a very old friend of mine, and he knew how to get me to do it: He went to my wife, and explained to her what an opportunity it was to raise awareness for the charity that he knew we were passionate about. Something that we'd been working on for years.
My 7-year-old is allergic to all nuts, dairy and eggs. So it's something that we have to deal with every day, and so do three million other fathers in this country - that's the estimate of how many school-age children deal with food allergies.
Your album 10 is out now. Did you ever think it would last this long?
Trace Adkins: Somebody told me once upon a time that they'd done some kind of study and had figured out that, between the one-hit wonders and the guys that have 30-year careers, the average lifespan of an artist is about five years. So everything's just gravy at this point. I'm just really fortunate that my career is continuing to be relevant.
I thought your video for "Marry For Money" was really funny, with you cow-towing to an old lady while you flirted with her cute young maid.
Trace Adkins: Well, thanks. Radio told us that some people might find the song offensive. I think if you saw the video, it brought the whole song into context: The joke was on me, instead of it looking like I was taking advantage of some rich lady. But radio, they keep you in check. The song got up to 14, I think, and to me that's not a hit. I know there are people out there who would kill for a song that got to 14 on the charts, but to me, that's a disaster.
You've said that you have a ‘roughneck work ethic' from working the oil rigs in Louisiana for so long. Do you think this has helped you survive and navigate the music business?
Trace Adkins: Yeah. Working 10 years in an oil field, you were confronted with setbacks fairly regularly. Unexpected things would happen, especially Down Hole, and you just had to roll with the flow and deal with it. And do what needed to be done to correct the situation, and make things better tomorrow.
I bring that work ethic with me in the music business. Yesterday was great, but I've got to get up and put my nose back to the grindstone again today. You can't ever rest on your laurels, until you decide that you just don't want to do it any more.
As long as you want to continue to do it, you gotta get up and work.
I know you've performed for soldiers overseas, and I suspect you have a strong fan base in the military. Is that a great audience to play for?
Trace Adkins: It's been my experience that you're never gonna play in front of a more responsive or appreciative crowd than the military crowd. Whether it's bases stateside, or whether you're doing a USO thing or a tour overseas, they're just so appreciative. And it just warms your heart, I gotta tell you, without sounding too mushy about it.
They just really fill you with pride, and at the same time humble you because of their dedication and their character. It's a humbling experience.
Opening act: Ashanti
When: 7 p.m. Friday, July 3 (doors open at 5:30)
Where: Donovan Field, Fort Stewart