Trace AdkinsIn a move that has jaws dropping on Nashville's Music Row today, Trace Adkins has announced he's leaving his longtime label home, Capitol Nashville, to be the first new artist signed to the newly-formed Show Dog Universal. Trace's new label is the result of a merger last month between Toby Keith's Show Dog Nashville and Universal South Records.

The idea for Trace's big move sparked on last summer's America's Toughest Tour, featuring Trace and Toby. "Getting Trace out on tour last year ... he saw what we do, we saw what he does, and everything was obvious," Toby, who acts as Principal of Show Dog Universal, tells The Boot. "When the opportunity came, he called me and said 'I want to do this.'"

"I want to start by saying I've had 15 wonderful years at Capitol Records, and I respect and appreciate those folks there," Trace said in at a Nashville press conference announcing his move on Wednesday. "I am very excited and invigorated by this merger and the energy I felt since I've been talking to these guys.

"When I toured with Toby this past year I saw something out there that I longed for," Trace continued. "I'd stand on the side of the stage at night, and I saw Toby Keith with this grin from ear to ear -- he'd come bounding offstage and he'd be so fired up, like a 12-year-old kid at Christmas. That joy I'd see from him was real, and I want me some of that!"

Trace saw the opportunity to work with Toby when the Show Dog and Universal South merger was announced. He says when he heard about it, he called his touring buddy. "I told him my producer, Michael Knox, and I have been in the studio and I've got eight songs done. I'll fly out to Oklahoma City to play it for you. Toby told me he didn't need to hear it. I think that's the trust he has in me ... He knows I'm not gonna cut s---. I'm thrilled and happy to be here, and ready to get to work and knock it out of the park."

When asked if either of the men thought their relationship would be awkward now that Toby is more or less Trace's boss, Toby was quick to say things wouldn't change on his part. "He's glad that I'm in a situation where we can't get screwed. We've both been in the business long enough to know that there are people out there who might do that," Toby insists. "I don't need to hear his music, I don't have to tell him or any artist what to play. When I signed Trailer Choir, I signed them for (the songs) 'Rockin' the Beer Gut' and 'Off the Hillbilly Hook.' I didn't have to tell them, because they knew what they were selling out at frat houses and clubs with.

"Trace is gonna do what I do -- he's gonna bring music in and we're gonna put it out there, and if the first one works we'll put out one right behind it. If it doesn't work, we'll still put out one right behind it."

Trace signed the record deal with Show Dog Universal Wednesday at the press conference at BMI, where he was also presented with a cake to help celebrate his 48th birthday. A release date for the first single and album has not yet been set.