For Trace Adkins, this is no holiday badonkadonk

  • Article by: JOHN J. MOSER , McClatchy News Service
  • Updated: December 8, 2013 - 1:24 PM

Trace Adkins set out to make a serious Christmas record, which made him nervous and brings him to Minnesota this week.

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Country music artist Trace Adkins may be more comfortable in arenas and stadiums, but now he’s more interested in challenging himself with projects like his “The King’s Gift” Christmas album.

Photo: Garry Jones • Associated Press file,

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Trace Adkins has sold more than 10 million albums. He has had four No. 1 country singles. He’s even acted in nearly a dozen films.

But in a telephone interview from Nashville as he finished rehearsals for his new Christmas-themed tour, Adkins says he’s nervous.

“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done,” 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.”

He will put it in front of Minnesotans in shows in Rochester and Onamia this week.

Based on his new Celtic-themed Christmas album “The King’s Gift” — Adkins’ first holiday disc — the show will not feature Adkins singing his hits “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” “Ladies Love Country Boys” or “You’re Gonna Miss This,” but instead 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 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, and there’s a whole herd of ’em on the stage,” he said.

“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.”

The disc was actually recorded last winter. “I said … If it’s not cold enough for me to wear an overcoat, I don’t feel like singing Christmas songs,” he says with a laugh.

The recording sessions included some musical luminaries. Renowned Irish band the Chieftains happened to be playing in Nashville — “just a happy accident,” Adkins said — and “came in the studio and spent the whole day with us. It was just an amazing, amazing day.”

Adkins also tapped Nashville-based singer Lily Costner, whom he says he admired but didn’t know was actor Kevin Costner’s daughter until keyboardist Jon Coleman told him while suggesting her for background vocals. “And he said, ‘I bet Kevin would sing on this record.’ And I said, ‘Naah.’ And so she asked him and, yeah, he said yes.” The Costners both sing on “Silent Night,” and Lily Costner is on the tour.

Despite his apprehension, Adkins, 51, says he has been choosing projects that challenge him — like “Celebrity Apprentice,” which he won last March. He’ll also again host Fox TV’s American Country Awards Tuesday, with race car driver Danica Patrick.

“There again, it’s something that gets me outside my comfort zone,” he says. “I just need that in my life. … I am at a beautiful place in my life, in my career, where I can do the things that I want to do and just do things because I enjoy doing them. I don’t have to worry about the money. That’s not what motivates me anymore.”

  • Trace Adkins: The Christmas Show

    Friday: 8 p.m., Mayo Civic Center, Rochester. $48-$58.

    Saturday: 7 p.m., Grand Casino Mille Lacs, Onamia, Minn. $32-$54.

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