Launching a new album is a pretty all-consuming process for an artist, but as Trace Adkins' 'Proud to Be Here' releases today, he'll be the first to admit, he's had much more on his mind lately.

"I've been so busy with everything else, I really haven't seen any reviews or heard any critics," Trace tells The Boot. Of course, Trace has had reason to be preoccupied. He and his family are still reeling from the June 4 fire that destroyed their Brentwood, Tenn. home.

Just a week after the fire, he was joking around backstage at CMA Music Fest with reporters, but he admits in the aftermath of the fire, there has been a lot to deal with emotionally and logistically. "I'll have to be honest, it's really been hard," he says. "I told my manager the other day, 'You know what, man? I'm sorry, but my heart and my head are just not in this right now. It's just not where my head is at. It's really hard for me to try to focus and pull my weight and be a team player with this whole thing when my focus is being distracted."

Trace, wife Rhonda, and their three daughters, MacKenzie, 13, Brianna, 9, and Trinity, 6, have been living at the family's farm outside Nashville since the fire, but with school starting again soon, Trace says they are looking for a place closer to town. "We are trying to find a house to lease or rent there in town until we rebuild, so that's what we are doing now," he says. "It's been pretty hard to find a place, but that's what we are working on."

According to Trace, they don't plan to rebuild another house on the site of their previous home. "We already had another piece of property that we were going to start building on this year anyway," he says.

Even as they look for a temporary home, Trace has been fielding interviews, making TV appearances and doing his part to get the word out about 'Proud to Be Here.' "I'm really proud of this record," the Louisiana born singer/songwriter says. "We all worked hard on it and when you're in the midst of it, sometimes you don't know what you've got. You get through the process and then you get to sit and listen to it all. Sometimes it is what you expected and sometimes it's not. Sometimes it exceeds what you thought it was going to be, and that's the situation with this one. I'm really proud of it. I think the material is some of the best I've ever gotten my hands on."


Though penned by songwriters Ira Dean, Chris Wallin and Aaron Barker, the title track, 'Proud to Be Here,' sounds as if Trace wrote every word himself. "The people that do know me know my story, the near death experiences and all the craziness, but that really wasn't what I was looking at," he says of why the song appealed to him. "I thought about the fact that I'm still in this business after 15 years, still around and still trying to contribute. That's really what I was thinking about when I named the album that."

'Proud to be Here' is being released in three different versions. The standard album will feature 10 songs, and then there's a deluxe package with 14 cuts including a brand-new duet with Blake Shelton, 'If I Was a Woman,' that will only be on Trace's record. There will also be a 16-track edition of the album, available only at Target stores that will include two live tunes.

Though busy artists sometimes record their parts for a duet separately and have them pieced together in the studio, that wasn't the case with Blake and Trace. The two recorded together, and Trace admits it was a blast. "We just laughed at each other all day," Trace says. "It's just hard to believe that that's what we do -- that's our job -- because we had so much fun."

Of course, any time he and Blake are working together, it's always a good time. Case in point, the video shoot for their previous hit duet, 'Hillbilly Bone.' However, Trace wants to set the record straight that Blake wasn't as intoxicated during the shoot as some believe he was. "He didn't get really drunk," Trace says. "He was drinking all day, but he was drinking wine, and I don't think Blake could drink enough wine in a day to get really drunk."

Being close pals, Trace was on hand for Blake's wedding to Miranda Lambert. Though he didn't give a toast at the event, he tells The Boot what he would have said: "'This is probably going to be dangerous!' That's what I would of said to him," Trace laughs. "Just knowing the two of them, this is going to be dangerous."

Trace isn't sure if the raucous new duet, 'If I Was a Woman,' will be released as a single because they'll have to deal with the politics of recording for different record labels. "When we did 'Hillbilly Bone,' I didn't have to get anybody's permission. I had just left Capitol [Records] and we hadn't inked the deal over at Show Dog yet," he says of leaving Capitol to sign with Toby Keith's Show Dog Universal label. "I didn't have anybody to deal with so we put the song out and there it was. But now, when you've got labels that have to come together and work on it, who knows what's going to happen?"

Another of Trace's favorite new songs is 'Semper Fi,' a salute to the U.S. Marine Corps. "A lot of times we go into these combat zones and do the USO trips and there aren't any Marines at the shows," Trace says. "We don't get to go where the Marines are because the Marines are stationed in really hot [dangerous] areas. They won't let us go there and they don't get to come to the shows either because they are out in the middle of nowhere. So we decided we would do a song for the Marine Corps and give it to them. That's really why we did it."

The album's lead single, 'Just Fishin,'' is currently climbing the chart, buoyed by a video featuring his youngest daughter. "We recorded it for the last album. [The record company] wanted to put it out as a single and I didn't want to because it was close to 'You're Gonna Miss This,'" Trace says referencing the sentimental hit that topped the charts in 2008. "I just didn't want to have those two songs close together."

He admits he's a sucker for songs like those. "I'm a pretty crusty old guy and have a pretty thick bark. When a song like that can touch me and move me, I just figure it's probably going to break through just about anybody else's shell too," he says. "That's my measuring stick for songs like that. If it chokes me up and moves me, it will probably hurt some other folks too."

Watch the 'Just Fishin'' Video

if(typeof AOLVP_cfg==='undefined')AOLVP_cfg=[];AOLVP_cfg.push({id:'AOLVP_973453809001','codever':0.1,'autoload':false,'autoplay':false,'displaymnads':true,'playerid':'89761511001','videoid':'973453809001','width':476,'height':357,'playertype':'inline','stillurl':'dynamic','videolink':'#','videotitle':'dynamic','videodesc':''});

Songs that speak to the tender side of parenthood definitely strike a chord with Trace and he's quick to say his family is his priority, especially taking care of his girls in the wake of the fire. "That's been my main concern, really my own concern. I'm not concerned with myself or any of my stuff," he says. "It's just stuff, but to the girls, it's a pretty traumatic thing for them."

He comforted them by reminding them of what is truly important. "It's been a traumatic thing for them, but hopefully they'll take out of this that not to be so materialistic. Things could literally go up in a puff of smoke," he says. "The important thing is that we're all together and we're all OK. I hope I can continue to impress upon them that that is the most important thing."

In the wake of the fire, Trace thanked fans for wanting to help, but redirected them towards helping less fortunate families who had suffered through this summer's tornadoes and floods. Even though stuff is just stuff, Trace admits there were some things he lost in the fire that he'll miss. "My Harley and a red, white and blue guitar that Buck Owens gave me," he notes. "I had a ball cap signed by Arnold Palmer and pictures of myself and presidents, and [with] Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds, those kinds of things. All the pictures that we had of the kids and stuff were mostly on hard drives. We were able to retrieve all that stuff, but those other pictures, I can't get those back."

One important thing they lost in the fire that will continue to live on is an African violet that Rhonda had given Trace before they were married. They hadn't even started dating when she brought the plant to him in the hospital as he was recuperating from his wife at the time shooting him through the heart and lungs during an argument. Trace wrote about the episode and the plant in his book, 'A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions from a Freethinking Roughneck. "She's kept that alive for 17 or 18 years," Trace tells The Boot of the original plant that died in the fire. "Rhonda told me that she had cut a piece off and took it to the cabin, so she still has a piece of that plant growing."

As Trace moves forward in search of a new home, he's philosophical about the events of this summer. "I put it in perspective," he says. "First of all that everybody was OK, but secondly, I looked at some of the misfortunes that have come my way in this life, I don't even think of my house burning down being the top 10. You have to put things into perspective."