Hard lessons learned

MIKE ROSS

, Last Updated: 10:26 PM ET

Any discussion of Tracy Lawrence's new album, Lessons Learned, takes on new weight when you know his recent history.

The headline in yesterday's Sun said it all: "Wife-Beater Playing at Jamboree." It was a story about a local ex-fan who's urging people to boycott Lawrence's Sunday appearance at the Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose. In 1997, he was charged with battery against his estranged wife, Stacie Drew Lawrence, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. The singer was convicted and sentenced to pay $500 to a women's shelter. The couple have since divorced.

Although the 32-year-old performer doesn't broach the subject directly in a recent phone interview, some of the lyrics on Lessons Learned are telling.

In The Man I Was, he sings, "I don't know which hurts the worst, losing you or having to see the picture of the man I was before the fool you made of me."

The closing track, Unforgiven, goes through a list of people and their various transgressions - Thomas Jefferson owning slaves, JFK cheating on his wife, Judas betraying Christ and so on - and that they're all "forgiven." Then you get the chorus: "Baby I know I did you wrong/that's why I'm here, that's why you're gone/I don't know just what I've done/to be one of the unforgiven."

It wasn't an easy record to make, Lawrence admits.

"I almost didn't cut this record, because it did hit me so directly in the heart," he says. "Everybody knows that I've been through some tough times and made some mistakes. My personal life has definitely been a topic of conversation with the press. I guess what I was trying to do with this record more than anything else was to let everybody know that we live and learn, we make mistakes, and some of them are very hard, but nobody has a tougher time dealing with them than the person that makes them. There's an old saying somebody told me once: It's not the mistakes you make that people remember. It's the way you recover from them and the person you become after them."

While the hardest thing about the whole episode and the media attention that followed was how "unbearable" it made life for his mother and the rest of his family, Lawrence says he's learned a lot about relationships in the process.

"Sometimes you put yourself in a position trying to live out a fantasy that is doomed before it begins," he says. "And you feel sorry for the people that get hurt on both sides when it's over with. You wish you could go back and take away the pain on both sides, because there is no fantasy in real life. I don't care who you marry, if they're a cheerleader or a movie star or whatever. It takes two people that really want to make things work, and be honest and straight up with each other, and you can't live a phoney life. I can't. I never have been able to. Sometimes two people just don't belong together and it's best to be apart before it gets worse.

"Marriage and relationships are very hard. It takes a great deal of commitment and a great deal of dedication. There's a wonderful woman in my life right now. We've been living together for over two years and it's the most fulfilling relationship that I've ever had in my life. I don't really talk about her a lot in public. Nobody really knows her name, because we made a vow between us that we would keep our private life private. But what we have is peace at home and I guess that comes from getting a little bit older and not sweating the small stuff. I mean, I don't care which side the toilet paper roll falls on any more. And if you leave the cap off the toothpaste, big deal. There's little things that used to be big issues in other relationships, and what's the point?"

He says he's even ready to be a father.

"I don't think I was before. I want kids. I think I'm at a place now where I think that's what I need to make life really fulfilled. As much as I love my career, it's not the only thing in my life any more. It used to be the only thing in my life. Everything else was secondary and everything I did was for my career is some shape, form or fashion. It was all selfish and self-centred and there was an extreme amount of vanity involved in it. I think I've got the best job in the world and that's all it is. It's just a good job."


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