One thing you can say about Tracy Lawrence: He doesn't hold a grudge. Almost a year to the day since his last visit to Bakersfield -- when thieves stole thousands of dollars in gear necessary for his concert -- the singer is back for two shows at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
"Things happen; it's part of being on the road," said Lawrence, 45, during a phone interview.
"Insurance covers that stuff, but to try and get things replaced in time to pull the show off, we had to beg and borrow and get some stuff shipped in. It looked like they just took anything they could grab. Some of the cables and things that they took had custom fittings for our gear. You can't just go to the music store and get it replaced."
Lawrence's only major complaint besides the theft itself, which occurred in the parking lot at the hotel where he was staying, was the response from law enforcement.
"It took like nine hours before anyone even showed up to take a report. So how are you gonna find anything when no one even responds to your call? They really didn't seem too dang concerned until they found out I knew how to get ahold of the press. When it hit the press and they started hearing about it, they kind of jumped through their tails. We never got any of it back."
What matters most to Lawrence now is making a return to the spotlight in an industry that forgets its stars as quickly as it elevates them.
"I feel like I'm just now hitting my stride. I got a lot of great music left, so I hope the gatekeepers allow me an opportunity to have some more commercial success because I don't feel like I'm out of touch with what's going on."
Lawrence's successful run on the charts through the '90s almost never happened. Just a few months before the 1991 release of his debut, "Sticks and Stones," Lawrence was shot during a mugging that nearly took his life.
Recovered and resilient, Lawrence resumed his career with a string of best-selling releases, including "Alibis," which spawned four singles. The hit parade continued as Lawrence enjoyed all the excesses of a young celebrity.
"It was wonderful, a great time in my life. I overindulged in just about everything from girls to drugs, alcohol and everything else. I lived life hard and fast. I'm just thankful that I came out of it. I'm also glad that Twitter and Facebook weren't around back then," he laughed.
As for his career, Lawrence is confident the time is ripe for a comeback.
Fans have embraced his latest single, "Stop, Drop & Roll," which features an edgier sound the singer said fits in with today's youth-oriented country scene. His next full-length album, "Headlights, Taillights and Radios," is scheduled for release in August.
"I really looked outside for some younger-feeling songs. Our scene has changed. I felt like it was time to grow and get a little more progressive. Not only with the lyric content, but musically, the way we structured the tracks. I cut edgier, heavier guitars. I didn't use traditional steel guitar. I think it fits more with the format. I wanted to stay conscious of not straying too far. I like the format that's going on, the edgier production that's happening. I think country music is healthy right now. I just wanna get in the mix and take the ride again. I wanna have some fun."
Lawrence will preview some of the new tracks from the upcoming record along with the classics when he returns to the Palace on Wednesday.
"I love the Palace. I hung out with Buck over the years, at award shows and stuff, but I tell you what, playing golf was always the best. He knew all the ducks and geese, and used to take a loaf of bread out to the course and feed 'em. It was just cool to be in his presence. He had a lot of great stories, and he actually gave me one of his red, white and blue guitars that I have displayed in my office. He was a cool ol' cat, man."