Randy Travis’ Iconic Voice and Storytelling Legacy Honored at 2019 ASCAP Country Awards
Randy Travis received the ASCAP Founders Award on Monday night (Nov. 11). The iconic country artist accepted his trophy during the 2019 American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers' (ASCAP) Country Awards, during which he was honored with a pair of star-studded tribute performances.
Garth Brooks and Carrie Underwood both took the stage to honor Travis, performing "Forever and Ever, Amen" and "Promises," respectively. After their tributes, the two superstars remained onstage to help present the legendary performer with his award.
"This man saved country music singlehandedly," Brooks said, inviting Travis to the stage. "I wouldn't be standing here if it wasn't for Randy Travis."
Many in the country music industry -- from superstars to artists just getting their start -- agree. On the red carpet before the awards show, several of the event's attendees weighed in on the meaning of Travis' legacy, and the ways in which they owe their career and love of country music to his songs.
"I mean, I grew up with "Three Wooden Crosses," "On the Other Hand," "Forever and Ever, Amen,"" Carly Pearce rattled off to The Boot and other outlets. "There are so many iconic songs. I think he has one of the most iconic voices in country music, period. I grew up listening to him with my grandparents. If you know anything about country music, you know Randy Travis, and that's an amazing thing."
Aside from his immense contributions to the genre as a vocalist, Travis is also known for his support of up-and-coming artists, especially since a massive stroke he suffered in 2013 robbed him of his ability to perform. Though he may not spend as much time onstage these days, the country icon has never wavered as a country music fan. Not only does he continue to follow his peers and the artists he himself looks up to, but he's continued to widen his musical expertise, showing up at the shows of comparative newcomers.
Cassadee Pope is just one of the genre's performers who has unknowingly performed for Travis. "My favorite memory of him, I think it was only my second time on the Opry stage. I came offstage and he was just standing there, and I was like ..." she recalls, trailing off into a starstruck laugh. "He was so sweet, and he said hello, and I met his beautiful wife. It was one of those moments where, you know, being at the Opry was crazy enough, but meeting such an icon was just the icing on top."
Rising New York-based singer-songwriter Dylan Brady may still be getting his feet wet in the Nashville country music scene, but he already has a connection to Travis; in fact, he's been able to spend time with him personally.
"I am a Randy Travis fan, and actually, one of my best friends is really close with Randy's family, so I've gotten to hang out with him. He's just the nicest guy," Brady says. "I mean, he's obviously a legend. He's Randy Travis! He can tell a story better than anybody, and to have him honored here tonight, it's such cool thing."
Growing up on Long Island, Brady got his early country music education from his southern grandparents, but pop artists such as Justin Bieber played a formative role in his early musical identity, too. The fact that Travis, a staunch traditionalist, has been such a supporter of genre-blending artists such as Kane Brown encourages Brady to pursue his own unique brand of country music, the singer adds.
"Country is storytelling. It's just telling what's real. So I feel like that's what it always has to come down to," he points out, "but also, pop is so melodically driven. I just love pop, and I love country lyrics, so it's kind of about combining all that."
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Travis himself gave interviews before Monday evening's show, and reflected on his position as one of the genre's most beloved, influential stars. "You think, 'How could you make that kind of impression on the young artists?' And he did," his wife Mary comments, smiling alongside her legendary husband. "I wish I could go into all the stories we've heard [young artists] tell. They're very precious. He's an icon, isn't he?"
Though he supports all kinds of country artists, Mary says, the singer foresees country music taking a turn back toward the traditional in the immediate future. "It's almost like fashion, or anything else: There's an ebb and a flow," she says. "There are so many young artists that study Randy, and they study the traditional [style], and they're singing it. And I really do think it's a turning tide now, where they're attempting to bring that back again."
Travis' Founders Award may, in part, signify a greater number of young artists making music inspired by Travis' legacy; most importantly, though, it speaks to how loved he is within the genre, Mary adds.
"It means that he made a difference," she says. "He touched the hearts of people whether they were in struggles or whether they were celebrating. Tonight is an indication that he did it right, from the start. To me, he's a hero. And I think, to the world, he's a hero."
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