Beats & Bites 2024
Riverwind Beats & Bites Festival is back! Join us on June 22 to enjoy live music by Tracy Lawrence & Neal McCoy, as well as various food trucks and retail vendors.
Gate Time: 5:00 PM
Show Time: 6:00 PM
“This chapter of my career is much more comfortable than I thought it would be,” says Tracy Lawrence. “The transition from being a commercial radio artist, with the chart game, the politics and all of it—the decompression from that was a little bit difficult. But what I’ve found is that it gives you an opportunity to reflect back, see the high and low spots and all that, because you’re not running on the treadmill all the time.”
Not that Lawrence has slowed down as he passes thirty years as a country music icon. With 13 million albums sold and 18 Number One singles, he continues to release music and tour, but has also diversified into numerous media and charity projects. He started the decade with the ambitious Hindsight 2020 Vol 1, 2, and 3 albums, commemorating his three decades of work with recordings of 30 songs that included classic hits and new music.
The series marked something of a reset for multiple CMA and ACM award-winner Lawrence. “The 30th anniversary project was really big in closing a book for me,” he says. “Reliving a lot of the older material and writing new material was an opportunity to really wrap all that up.”
In recent years, much of Lawrence’s focus has gone into his role hosting the radio show Honky Tonkin’ with Tracy Lawrence, which now airs in almost 170 markets. “When we started it eight-plus years ago,” he says, “we were in the throes of the bro-country period, and I felt like the music from our era had gotten left behind. I was hearing from people how frustrated they by not hearing those classic songs on the radio, because, in my heart, I really believe that ‘90s country was on the track to be what Classic Rock was, that staple that people lean back to for a long time.”
But even the outlet of a radio show has its limitations, and Lawrence was interested in working with younger artists, reaching a different audience, and being able to explore different kinds of topics. The result was the TL’s Road House podcast, run out of his tour bus, which has featured such red-hot guests as HARDY, Jason Aldean, Jelly Roll, and Lainey Wilson.
“I needed something a little bit deeper,” says Lawrence, “and moving into the podcast allowed me to have more artistic control and more freedom to discuss things that are happening in the world right now. I didn’t see anybody with my kind of seniority really trying to have these conversations.”
Meantime, the most important part of Lawrence’s work has become the
Mission:Possible non-profit benefitting the homeless. Eighteen years ago, touched by a family member who was struggling with being unhoused, Lawrence and some friends set up a couple of turkey fryers at the Nashville Rescue Mission to cook a fresh Thanksgiving dinner for the community. Since then, his efforts have raised more than $2.5 million for this essential cause.
“I’ve always been called to give back as much as I could,” says Lawrence. “My family did a lot of this stuff growing up and my managers instilled it in me early on, doing food drives and different things. Sometimes just adding a little bit of dignity—a hot shower with a door that locks, somebody washing your clothes periodically, that service for your pet that you dearly love—little things like that show compassion for your fellow man. That’s really what the whole thing is about.”
Lawrence’s work with Mission:Possible was honored with the 2023 CRS Humanitarian Award, which recognizes a country artist whose philanthropic efforts have significantly improved the effectiveness and impact of the causes they support. (Past recipients include Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, and Carrie Underwood.) But Lawrence is looking to the future, hoping to continue expanding the group’s reach, maybe adding a benefit concert to the annual turkey fry and golf tournament.
“We’ve just let it evolve and it’s grown into this massive organization,” he says. “I think we had 250 volunteers last year and tons of sponsors, and we’ve made a tremendous amount of money that we’ve been able to spread around to a lot of different organizations in Nashville. At this point, I think it’s probably as big a piece of my legacy as anything else—I know locally, when I’m out and about, more people comment to me about that work than anything that I’ve done musically in my career.”
Lawrence recently released the Live from Billy Bob’s album and is headed out on a 2023 co-headlining tour with Gary Allan. Coming off the Hindsight albums, he’s gearing up to return to the studio (“I wrote so much music that by the end of the third album, I’d literally run out of songs, but I really want to get back to the creative part”). There’s also a docu-series in the works, looking back on his remarkable career. “A lot of wonderful stuff happened through the ‘90s,” he says, “but a lot of it’s a blur, so I’m curious to see what they found out and what they’ve dug up that other people remember.”
As his own career advances, Lawrence is proud of serving as a role model and guide for younger musicians. “Artists are very guarded a lot of times, and they cut themselves off,” he says, “so I really work hard at building those relationships and creating those bonds. This is a business filled with mistakes and traps and failures and I’ve had my share of them, and there’s really no handbook. There’s not a lot of mentorship, and you hope somewhere along the way that they have somebody to turn to that can give them straight-up advice who doesn’t have a financial stake in their career.”
As he looks out from the stage, Tracy Lawrence sees an audience that demonstrates the impact and legacy of his three-decade-plus journey. “It’s amazing,” he says, “it spans the gamut from seniors my mom’s age all the way to young teenagers and even little kids. And it’s very humbling. As a creative person, whether you’re a painter or a poet or an artist or whatever, you want to leave an indelible mark behind you that people are going to remember in a positive light.
“So I feel very blessed that I’ve been able to sustain this kind of respect from my audience and from my peers. It solidifies the fact that my music’s gonna be around for a long time.”
Neal McCoy has released fifteen studio albums. In 1993, Neal McCoy broke through with the back-to-back number 1 singles No Doubt About It and Wink from his platinum-certified album No Doubt About It. His commercial success continued into the late 1990s with two more platinum albums and a gold album, as well as six more Top Ten hits. A seventh Top Ten hit, Billy’s Got His Beer Goggles On, came in 2005 from his self-released That’s Life.
A new studio album, XII, arrived in 2012 Co Produced by Blake Shelton & Miranda Lambert. In 2013 he released Pride: A Tribute to Charley Pride, Neal’s longtime friend and mentor. 2015 brought the Big Band Standards CD You Don’t Know Me. 2017 brought Neal McCoy’s Favorite Hit’s. 10 Hits with 2 new songs.
Neal has been on 17 USO Tours around the world and continues to say it’s one of the achievements he’s most proud of. He is also the recipient of multiple Humanitarian awards from The Academy of Country Music, The Country Radio Broadcasters and The Masonic Grand Lodge. In 2016 Neal has again made a move to continue his patriotic values by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance “Live” on his Facebook page every morning. He’s reached millions of viewers all over the country and around the world. Currently he is closing in on 2000 days in a row and going strong. Neal still maintains a very busy touring schedule all through the year. Make sure to catch a show when he’s near because as Neal says “No two shows are the same!”
Neal also supports his own charity organization: East Texas Angel Network which is committed to the enhancement of the lives of children of East Texas who are living with terminal or life-threatening diseases. He hosts a yearly golf tournament, auction/dinner & concert over two days in the Fall.
The foundation has been going strong since 1995 and to date has raised over 9 million dollars for approximately 500 hundred East Texas families.
Beats & Bites
For its eighth year strong, Riverwind Beats & Bites Festival is back and bringing you some of Oklahoma’s best fun, fare, and festivities.