Video Feature & Web-Exclusive Interview


Song: “Fool’s Love Affair”


Randy Travis debuts his first never-before-heard single since his 2013 stroke, “Fool’s Love Affair.” It’s been 35 years since he recorded his first number one single, “On the Other Hand,” and even though his health is not as it once was—to this day he feels life is still good.

Travis’ impact on country music has been long lasting. Countless artists credit him as an influence and inspiration in their music and career. He has 22 No. 1 singles, 31 Top-10 smashes and more than 40 appearances in feature films and television shows. His honors include seven Grammy Awards, 11 Academy of Country Music statuettes, 10 American Music Awards, eight Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association and Song of the Year honors for “On the Other Hand” (1986), “Forever and Ever Amen” (1987) and “Three Wooden Crosses” (2002).

Randy Travis-03 - photo credit Robert Tractenberg

Randy Travis, photo credit: Robert Tractenberg

The previously unreleased “Fool’s Love Affair” was written by Keith Stegall, Charlie Monk and Milton Brown in the early 80s. Travis recorded it as a demo. Monk, fondly known as “The Mayor of Music Row,” is also the long-time host of SiriusXM’s “Prime Country” format. Three years ago, he approached Travis and wife Mary Travis about releasing the demo, but they only had a cassette version of the song.

As Monk recalls, “Randy had a huge career—the greatest career I’ve ever been involved with. I went to Kyle Lehning [Travis’ producer] and played him the cassette. Lehning said, ‘Charlie, it sounds like a demo and it sounds like a cassette. I don’t know if I can help it. Where’s the multitrack?’ I said, hell, I don’t know. I then spent years looking all over Nashville for a multitrack of this song. Couple of years ago, I was focusing more on my radio side, and I put my building on Music Row for sale. I’d had the building for over 25 years and my wife wanted me to clean it out. I made it real homey and trashy, like any hillbilly publisher would. I brought some boxes back home. My daughter Capucine said, ‘With all this junk you have—the Country Music Hall of Fame might be interested in some of it.’ They came out, assessed it and they were sending a truck for it. 50 years of my life was getting ready to walk out the door.”

Monk continues, “I was fumbling with one of the boxes that Capucine had brought to the house. It fell over and I looked down there and on the big 4-inch box—the title ‘Fool’s Love Affair’ was on it. It wasn’t a Randy Travis box because we’d done other demos of a couple of girls that day. As Mary and I recently talked about it, we felt it was God putting a hand on that box. Because the next day it was about to walk out of my house to the Hall of Fame, and I would have never seen it again. That was the multitrack of ‘Fool’s Love Affair.’ I called Kyle and he said, ‘Charlie, don’t mess with it much. You’ve got to bake it. If you do anything else with it, all the sound will tear off.’ I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. But Kyle took it some place and baked it.”

Randy Travis

Kyle Lehning has produced virtually every album released by Randy Travis. He said, “Charlie brought me the multitrack. I took it over to [multi-Grammy award-winning] Reid Shippen, a buddy of mine who has a great studio in the neighborhood I live in. He’s a great engineer and producer who has worked with Dierks Bentley and many others. He has a restoration company too. Anyone who’s worked with old tapes knows if you don’t bake the old tapes, the oxide will come off. So, they baked the tape and transferred it to Pro Tools. That was the first time I’d heard the multitrack.”

Lehning was definitely impressed with the recording: “It was recorded very well. All the instruments were recorded clearly and it even had background vocals, which is rare for a demo. I just added Randy’s longtime steel player, Steven Henson, who also played electric guitar, and Larry Franklin who played fiddle. That’s really all I did to take the song from a demo to a more complete, finished record. I mixed it and we mastered it. Randy’s trademark vocal was real good.”

We asked Monk, how the idea of the song came to the songwriters. He said, “It literally was something that somebody said. I don’t remember the exact words but he were rendezvousing with this hot chick at some motel in town. People talk about the right and wrong but back in those days they didn’t talk about doing it often—they talked about doing it just the one time. In the song, a man meets a woman, or a woman meets a man, at a hotel. They are both guilty, if there is guilt to be had. The guy who said he had the rendezvous was of course cutesy about it and cool about it. He turned around and said, ‘I kinda wished I didn’t do this some time.’ But we didn’t use that in the song.”

We asked Kyle Lehning, what was unique about the way Randy interpreted songs and the amazing way he delivered his vocals. Lehning said “That was the great joy of getting to work with Randy—he’s always been a natural. We never had to have conversations about phrasing. I can count on one hand the number of times I said to him, ‘why don’t you try it like this’—instead of the way he approached it. In our business, that’s rare. Randy was the same artist on the inside as he was on the outside. There was no pretense. Nobody was pulling the wool over anybody’s eyes about who and what Randy was about.”

Randy Travis

Lehning continued, “Martha Sharp [Sr. VP of Warner Music Nashville’s A&R] was a huge part of the success early on. She came to us with great songs. She had a great sense of material and knew and understood what Randy was about. So we had a really good resource with Martha. I was listening to a lot. Randy was listening to a lot and writing a lot. We had an agreement—a benefit of the doubt clause. If he had a strong sense of a song he wanted to do, and I wasn’t convinced or wasn’t crazy about it, we’d try it. We’d go in the studio with musicians and it would be one of the songs we’d try. Literally, within about 10 minutes of messing around with it, we could tell if it was going to be a fit—if it was going to work.

Lehning and team worked hard to make sure they recorded the best songs. He recalls, “Randy was a songwriter, but he was competing with the best songwriters in the world. So, for him to get one of his songs through the gauntlet between Martha, Elizabeth and me was not an easy thing to do. If he came to the table with a tune, we’d say ‘yeah, but is that really better than something Don Schlitz or Paul Overstreet or one of the great songwriters in town had. We were only going to have 10 or 11 songs on the album, and we’re not talking about B sides. We were just trying to make the best record. It was real interesting to note the demo of “I Told You So” was also on this same tape box.”

With this previously unreleased track “Fool’s Love Affair,” Mary Travis is hopeful this song will be another number one for Randy Travis. She said, “Life is still good.” To which Randy smiled and interjected, “Yes, it is.” Mary continued saying, “He’s still singing. We just sing a different song now. We feel so blessed.”

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