Aaron Tracy has literally been making music most of his life. Raised and educated in East Tennessee, he’s pursued his craft since the age of 8, and now, at a still relatively youthful 29, he draws his songs from personal experience and shares them on stage and in the studio.Having grown up in a musical family — he was taught to play guitar by his mother — he found himself surrounded by music early on.
“I didn’t really discover how much it meant to me until I was 16 or so,” he said. “That’s around the time I decided to try and pursue a professional career.”
Over the course of that career, Tracy, who performs Friday, Sept. 16 in the Beer Garden of Blackhorse Pub & Brewery in Alcoa, said he’s gained valuable lessons that have served him well along the way.
“I’ve learned that while timing is everything, it’s important not to lose yourself,” he said. “It’s easy to get caught up in trying to be what people want you to be for the sake of ‘going viral’ and getting five minutes of fame, rather than doing what the music wants you to do. In the past couple of years, I’ve felt I’ve honed in on who I am and who I’m becoming, and as a result, I feel I’m more authentic than I’ve ever been.”
That, he said, has allowed him to mature as both an artist and as an individual.
“I was 19 years old 10 years ago,” he said. “I’ve moved from ‘high school’ rock to pop country, and now I’ve moved more into the blues/rock side of things. Rather than penning things that fit the stereotype of the genre, I’m penning lyrics and melodies that resonate with my soul.”
He credits the music scene in East Tennessee for helping to nurture his growth, and he readily sings the praises of a community that’s always supportive of its artists.
“I think East Tennessee is the best place for live music in the entire state,” Tracy said. “More and more authentic and talented artists are coming out of the woodwork every day and ‘joining the band,’ so to speak. I think that the main thing that allows this to happen is the fact that a lot of the musicians and artists in this area don’t feel like strangers to one another. We’re all friends, colleagues or acquaintances in some form or another, and I think that it’s that close-knit bond that helps us all excel. We’re here for each other. “
Tracy can certainly claim a fair amount of success all on his own. Even while he was still in school, he was able to perform before massive crowds as part of an early outfit called The Deep End. He also placed among the Top 16 finalists of CMT’s 2009 Music City Madness Competition event, even though he was only a freshman at Alcoa High School.
His current outfit, the Aaron Tracy Band was formed in the fall of 2012 while Aaron was attending Maryville College as a music major. The band frequently performed in and around Maryville, and eventually signed a management contract with Houla Entertainment in Knoxville. It found them making frequent trips to Nashville where they were offered an opportunity to meet acclaimed producer/engineer Pat Holt, a man who had sat behind the boards for the likes of James Taylor, Johnny Cash, June Carter, and Keith Whitley, among others.
In 2013, the band performed at the CMA Music Fest, and subsequently began work with Holt on their debut album. Released in April 2014, it spawned several songs that have since become fan favorites, among them, ”Cinnamon Sun,” “Whiskey River,” “Pawn Shop Guitar (Sami Jo),” and “Southern Lights.” It also earned them the nickname, “The Zac Brown Band of East Tennessee.”
A single titled “You & Me” followed in 2015, but a short time later, the band broke up and Tracy opted to pursue possibilities as a solo artist. A song called “Chillbilly,” which was culled from the ATB album, was released as a single for country radio, leading to a tour that took him through Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas during the spring and summer of 2016. The song eventually climbed to number 25 on the American charts and reached number eleven in the U.K., courtesy of being one of country radio’s most downloaded new songs. Another single, ”Timeless,” soon followed and gained even more success by reaching the top 20 in the U.S. and the top 10 in the U.K., where it repeated the distinction of again becoming one of country radio’s most downloaded songs.
The success of those singles led to increased country radio airplay and live appearances that found him opening concerts for such superstars as Trace Adkins, Sara Evans, John Michael Montgomery, Frankie Ballard, and William Michael Morgan. A new EP, also titled “Timeless,” followed. Released in late 2016, it paved the way for a subsequent single “Stay Home Tonight,” which also became the subject of his first music video. Then, in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Tracy shared a song called “We Sing About Love,” which he had written in 2016 but had also remained unreleased. Its theme, revolving around political and emotional upheaval, suddenly seemed timely.
Four years later, Tracy has a new album on the horizon, one which, he said, he’s excited to share.
“We’ve put a lot of work into it,” he said.” It’s a change from my previous work. The new album leans more into Americana/blues/rock than anything I’ve done before, and it tells a very personal story about the last several years of my life. I think it’s something a lot of people will be able to relate to. My hope is that it helps somebody get through whatever hard times they may be going through.”
As for what audiences might expect from his upcoming performance at Blackhorse Pub & Brewery, Tracy said he’ll be debuting a new single from the upcoming album, “You’re Not Mine,” as well as sharing some of the more familiar material from his earlier catalog and even a few covers. “It’ll be high energy and soulful,” he said. “My hope is that folks will come away from the show feeling better than they did when they arrived.”