ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Trace Adkins has sold more than 10 million copies of his 17 albums. He has had 11 Top 10 singles, four of which went to No. 1.
He’s won many awards since being chosen the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Male Vocalist in 1996, and has had more than 15 years of successful tours. He’s even acted in nearly a dozen films.
But in a telephone interview from Nashville as he is finishing rehearsals for his new Christmas-themed tour, Adkins says he’s nervous.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done, so there’s a little anxiety about it for me,” Adkins says. “I mean, you come up with an idea like this and then you watch it grow and become what you hoped it would become, and then you have to actually go out and put it in front of people and prepare yourself for what may come.”
If the description of the show is accurate, audiences should be charmed.
Based on his new Celtic-themed Christmas album “The King’s Gift” — Adkins’ first holiday disc — the stage show does not feature Adkins singing the hits “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” “Ladies Love Country Boys” or “You’re Gonna Miss This,” but yuletide favorites such as “Away in a Manger” and “We Three Kings.”
In addition, it features Adkins in spoken-word fireside chats that are sometimes historical and sometimes humorous.
That, Adkins says, is inspired by his work with Disney World’s Candlelight Processional, which he has performed several years and will again this year. The annual event at Disney World combines a retelling of the Christmas story with live performances of holiday music by a massed choir, 50-piece orchestra and a dozen celebrity participants
To perform the delicate instrumentation of the songs’ Celtic arrangements, there’s a 12-piece orchestra that includes pipe, penny whistle, violin, viola, cello and harp.
“You have to have some specialized musicians to do this Celtic stuff,” he says. “These are incredibly talented musicians, and there’s a whole herd of ‘em on the stage.
“I want this, musically, to be as close as I can possibly get to reproducing this album live, and it just takes that many musicians to do it. I wasn’t going to shortchange people, man. I wasn’t going to phone this in. Forget about my singing. If you’re a fan of music, you’re going to enjoy this evening, I promise you.”
“The King’s Gift” album was 15 years in the making, Adkins says.
Back then, he was in the studio with guitarist Michael Spriggs, an accomplished guitarist who’s a native of Ireland. In addition to playing on several of Adkins’ records, Spriggs has done instrumental Celtic records.
Adkins says he told Spriggs, “Man, I love those records you make, and I’d like to do a Christmas record with that feel. And he said, ‘Well, let’s do it, man!’ And so he and I, being both the procrastinators that we are, we jumped right on it and 15 years later we got it finished.”