Trace AdkinsTrace Adkins has a new label and new enthusiasm for his music. The singer just signed with ShowDog Universal, the merger between Toby Keith's ShowDog Nashville and Universal South Records. He says he has been in the studio with producer Michael Knox and is excited about the songs they've recorded so far.

"The new material is not a huge departure from stuff I've been doing," Trace tells The Boot. "This album is 'up,' whereas some of the other stuff I've done has gone pretty deep and pretty dark."

The Louisiana native went on to say that deep and dark is not what the new record is about. "The new stuff is a reflection of where I am right now. I feel good, I feel upbeat, I feel healthy and happy and that is reflected in the stuff that I've cut."

Trace said one of the things that made him feel good about joining ShowDog Universal is that when he asked Toby if he wanted to hear what he had recorded, Toby said there was no need -- he had complete trust in him and the music he chose. Toby says that now he has heard some of the new tunes and, "they are fantastic. Trace is at a point where he knows what he wants and he's going after it. There's a lot of attitude, lots of edge, and it's really good."

Toby and Trace have known of each other since the '80s, when both were playing the same club circuit. "We grew up in the same world, a world that doesn't even exist today, and come from the same type of stock and the same background; oilfields and playing those nightclubs," Toby reports. "Our mothers even came from the same little town in Arkansas!"

While Toby and Trace haven't written together yet, Toby's songwriting prowess has rubbed off on his friend. "I have written a couple of things," Trace comments. "I think that's another thing about me signing with ShowDog Universal; this has really spurred me creatively. It's really made me want to bare down on that part of my career again. I've gotten lax and let the songwriting go for awhile, so I'm excited about that part of it too."

ShowDog Universal has not set a date for any new music from Trace yet, although the company's president, Mark Wright, did say there would be new releases sometime this year. Trace is in the midst of the Shine All Night tour with Martina McBride and Sarah Buxton. Click here for tour dates.