Randy Travis Uses AI Vocals To Release First New Song Since Debilitating 2013 Stroke

In 2013, the country music legend Randy Travis suffered a near-fatal stroke, which took away most of his speech and singing ability. Travis has released a few archival recordings since his stroke, and he’s made a few public appearances. In 2016, for instance, Travis sang “Amazing Grace” at his Country Music Hall Of Fame induction ceremony, but he needed the crowd’s help, and he clearly struggled. This morning, Randy Travis released a brand new single. How is that possible?

As Rolling Stone reports, Randy Travis and his camp aren’t saying how Travis recorded his new song “Where That Came From.” The track was written by country vets John Scott Sherrill and Scotty Emerick, and Emerick released his own version of the song last year. Given Travis’ condition, it seems likely that the song was made with what Rolling Stone calls “AI voice-cloning tech” — as in, someone else really sang the song, and an AI filter made it sound like Travis. But Travis is promoting the song as his own, and he’s posted several videos of himself and his family members reacting to the recording.

I’m not a scholar of Randy Travis’ work, but it really does sound like him on “Where That Came From.” The voice is warm and craggy and heartfelt, and I don’t hear the weird digital sheen that I hear on some AI recordings. If the track really was made with AI assistance, it raises new questions about the ethics of that technology. It’s not the same as Drake’s diss track “Taylor Made Freestyle,” on which Drake used AI to impersonate the late Tupac Shakur, much to the consternation of Shakur’s estate. Randy Travis is alive; he just can’t sing. It must be a special kind of hell for a great singer to lose his voice entirely, and if these applications can make something resembling a new Randy Travis song possible, is that OK?

UPDATE: In an interview with CBS New Sunday Morning, producer Kyle Lehning confirmed AI was used to create the track. “It’s not about how it sounds. It’s about how it feels,” he says. “Him being here and him being able to be, you know, a vital part of the decision-making process makes all the difference to me.”

“It freaked me out.” In 2013 country music star @randytravis suffered a stroke that robbed him of his singing voice. Travis’ longtime producer, Kyle Lehning, gives Lee Cowan an exclusive inside look at how cutting-edge AI enabled Travis to once again raise his voice in song. pic.twitter.com/vxzXQ5k2OK — CBS Sunday Morning 🌞 (@CBSSunday) May 3, 2024

Below, listen to “Where That Came From” and watch the social-media videos where Travis and his family hear the song.

Eleven years ago I never thought I would be able to have a hand in music production of any kind, but by God’s grace and the support of family, friends, fellow artists, and fans, I’m able to create the music I so dearly love. https://t.co/e4Aohm7XIo pic.twitter.com/4czHR4x5Xx — Randy Travis (@randytravis) May 3, 2024

To finally get to share the song with my family was both emotional and exciting. Raleigh, Cavanaugh, and her husband Kyle are the heartbeat of our daily lives and have been great leaning posts for me and Mary.https://t.co/SWkXfwrKHy pic.twitter.com/OoMHC4Mprr — Randy Travis (@randytravis) May 2, 2024

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