Tracy Lawrence is a country singer riding the comeback trail, and he isn't afraid to admit it.
The last several years often found Lawrence fighting his private battles including a divorce in the public's view, so he took the last two years off from recording, and then he re-emerged earlier this year with a new album, "Lessons Learned."
" To take that time off is potentially dangerous," Lawrence said. "There is so much tough competition and I knew I needed to cut a strong record. And at the same time I needed to make it personal."
In a contemporary country scene that finds superstars like Faith Hill and Shania Twain courting the pop scene with crossover tunes, Lawrence was determined to top the charts again with his decidedly old-style country sound.
His album accomplished two goals for the tall, lanky singer. It put him right back into the country music foray, while also allowing him to respond to a lifetime of sometimes hard life lessons.
Lawrence was in the area last week to perform at Sandstone Amphitheatre in Bonner Springs.
The singer hit a home run when "Lessons Learned" received strong critical reviews. The first single, also called "Lessons Learned," hit the top five and spent a whopping 29 weeks on the Billboard chart.
The tune, about a man's reflections on how his father raised him, struck a highly personal chord with Lawrence's audience.
"I think, particularly if you grew up in the country, that you can relate to its imagery. Even if someone doesn't have the exact experience, it still helps conjure up images they understand," he said.
The album sums up his life so far, Lawrence added.
"I was looking for songs to reflect on the last several years, and I'm older so I have more life experience to draw on," Lawrence said. "Each song can stand on its own, but collectively they make a statement."
Lawrence is no stranger to the business side of music. He co-produces his albums so he can keep creative control, while also having collaborators he trusts in the booth with him, so he can remain objective about a tune.
The technique definitely works. During the past decade Lawrence has had 16 of his 21 singles reach the No. 1 position on the charts.
His past hits include "Time Marches On," "Texas Tornado" and "If The World Had A Front Porch."
Despite his success, Lawrence doesn't think he's got the music business all figured out, yet.
"I wish there was a magic formula for recording hit country music that people would gravitate to, ...(then) I'd write a bunch of songs and retire," Lawrence said with a laugh.
"So I just try to write songs I believe in."
Lawrence is playing about 150 dates annually, while mixing in charity work and benefit concerts. He also played a USO tour that included stops in Germany, England and Iceland. The USO concert footage ended up being aired as a special on CMT.
And he's also got a song featured on a new computer simulation game. Sierra Sports' professional bull-riding CD-ROM includes Lawrence's hit "Up All Night." It's the first time a country music performer and an interactive video game have been linked together.
Playing for the fans, though, remains a highlight for Lawrence.
"Mostly I'm there to help you escape from your day for awhile. It's entertainment," Lawrence said.