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Trace Adkins

Trace Adkins gets himself into the strangest places.

Recently it was a guest performance on “The Young and the Restless.”

The hulking country star made it sound like watching himself on the soap opera was about as much fun as scrutinizing one’s driver’s license photo. But taping his spot “was a fun day,” he concedes. He even met Drew Carey, who tapes “The Price Is Right” on the same CBS lot.

Adkins was seen even more on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” the Donald Trump reality contest. The singer almost won the whole shooting match, but came in second after the Backstreet Boys ran him ragged with their odd requests for a charity benefit.

Since then, every tour promoter thinks it’s funny to stock Adkins’ dressing room with wheatgrass juice and black fingernail polish. “Dude, I’ve got it out the ying-yang,” he reports. “Oh, real funny. Big joke. I’m crackin’ a rib laughin’ here.”

And no, he still hasn’t tried the wheatgrass. “My food eats wheatgrass,” he says.

And that’s the kind of comment he would say to Bill Maher, who started all these out-of-the-box appearances by having Adkins on “Politically Incorrect.” Collectively, they have taken the singer way outside the loop of country radio and video.

“I have an outlook now that if something sounds like it might be kind of fun I’ll do it,” he says. “If it doesn’t sound like it won’t be any, I won’t. It’s as simple as that.”

He bent his own rule for “Apprentice.” He’s not big on reality shows — “I just find most of it to be incredibly silly” — but his wife and publicist convinced him how much attention would be raised for the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.

His 6-year-old daughter suffers from food allergies, so “I felt like it was my responsibility to do it.”

Just like “American Idol,” coming in second has its advantages. Adkins says, “We’ve made more money since the show than I would have won ($250,000) had I won the thing.

“If I had won, I’d have to be Trump’s Miss America and go around with him for the next year promoting ‘The Apprentice.’ I’ve got a job and Piers needed one,” he says with a laugh, referring to “America’s Got Talent” judge Piers Morgan, Trump’s ultimate pick.

Adkins does a show at Sunset Station today, then sticks around to perform his current hit “You’re Gonna Miss This” during Sunday’s Academy of Country Music Awards.

“I’m just happy I got one of the slots (to perform),” he says, because he is not otherwise nominated. That could be in part because “Miss This” is a recent and accidental hit.

The extra single to push his current greatest hits collection was supposed to be the party song “I Got My Game On.” A video featuring comedian Rodney Carrington seeking advice from a “love doctor” turned out to be so funny that the song didn’t work on its own. “For whatever reason it doesn’t always translate to radio,” he says. “I can blame (Carrington) for killing my single, I guess.”

The single’s quick fade made record executives scramble for a new radio track. They picked “Miss This,” which ended up as No. 1 on the country charts for three weeks.

The tune about dads watching their little girls flee the nest is a big change from the beer-snorting barroom boogie of “Ladies Love Country Boys” and “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.” Maybe even an image-changing one?

“You have to try to do that balance,” Adkins says. Each album has “deeper, reflective songs. But they don’t work at radio or the label decides we shouldn’t try them.”

“For me a ballad has to say something profound,” he adds. “If it’s not going to sit you back in your seat or move you to tears almost, there’s no point in recording it. I know that’s a high bar, but that’s where I’ve always set it and where I’ll keep it.”

He has no such standard for the drinkin’ songs. The next one is called “Hillbilly Rich.” It repeats the theme of “Game On,” ruminating on “country boys who start having some success and start thinkin’ we’re cool.”

“Ever been to Graceland?” He asks. “It’s one of the tackiest joints you’ll ever walk in in your life.”

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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