Trace Adkins has admitted that fun was a definite factor in his move to the Show Dog-Universal label, but he now says the opportunity to join Toby Keith's venture came at exactly the same time he was negotiating his future with Capitol Records.

"It's a really simple story," Trace tells The Boot of the move to the new label. "We were at an option period in my contract, and to exercise the option they were gonna have to cut me a big check. And they didn't have the money. We tried to work and negotiate out some different ways to work the thing out, and I was willing to do that, but then I heard that Show Dog had merged with Universal."

It wasn't long before Trace had become Show Dog-Universal Music's newest recruit.

"I felt myself feeling envious of Toby last year when I toured with him and I saw the relationship he had with all the people at his record label," Trace continues. "I saw the mindset that they had. It seemed to me there was a big focus placed on having fun. This is the music business for God's sake; that's why we got in it in the first place, because it's fun. So I felt a little jealous of that.

One has to wonder how the scene would have played out had Trace not toured with Toby last year, on a trek that was both successful and obviously revealing for the Louisiana native. When the two men talked, they realized they had a lot of the same philosophies about the way the music business was going. In addition to fun, they both agreed that the music they record has to be geared to their live show, so that it's a marketing tool as well as a means to sell tickets. The end result being that once tickets are sold and fans are in the building, they'll buy the records and other merchandise because of their enthusiasm for the show they've just seen.

"It has been fun," Trace acknowledges of his association with Toby and the new label. "The approach at Show Dog-Universal is we're gonna take care of business, we're gonna do what needs to be done, but we're still not gonna forget that we should be having fun while we do it. It's refreshing to have a guy at the head of a record label who knows what a record label is for. The labels as we've known them are dinosaurs, and everybody in the business knows it, but they won't admit it. Toby knows the record label is a tool for marketing, a vessel that we use to get our product to the marketplace. None of us depend on making a living based on record sales; we all know we've got to tour to make a living because that's how we're gonna put bread on the table. Everyone will get in that mental place at some point, that the record label is not to make money but to get product in the market. They're basically giving the stuff away. The Red Hot Chili Peppers knew that ten years ago, before the rest of us finally woke up to it. They were maligned for saying it, but it was true."

Trace and Toby are developing a friendship through touring and their new business association. "When I first called Toby about joining Show Dog-Universal, I offered to play him the songs I had already recorded, but he told me that he trusted me and felt I knew myself well enough to know what I needed to record. When it was finished, I sent it to him out of courtesy, of course, but he didn't say you have to do this or do that."

'Cowboy's Back in Town' is now in stores and online. Trace continues on Toby's American Ride tour with special guest James Otto. The tour hits Darien Lake (Buffalo) N.Y. on Friday night, August 20, then Camden, N.J., on August 21 and Burgettstown, Pa., on August 22.