Travis Denning Heads to London to Play Country2Country Festival and CMA Songwriters Series for the First Time in March. We Chatted to Him Before He Boards The Plane.
On Thursday, March 7, the C2C weekend kicks off in style as Travis Denning joins his peers in Indigo At The O2 for the CMA Songwriters Series. Two years ago, he was watching from the audience and only dreaming of swapping places with 2017’s impressive line-up, including Maren Morris, Drake White and Liz Rose. Fast forward to 2019 and, in an exclusive interview with Six Shooter Country’s Alison Dewar, he talks about what it means to take that leap onto the stage and reveals what he got up to at 3am on the Tube during his last visit.
Travis, thank you for taking time out to talk to us. Tell us what you were doing at C2C before.
I was born and raised in middle Georgia and Georgia Tourism flew me over to play a little private hospitality event at C2C. So I wasn’t on the C2C bill, but I got to go to the shows and hang out, it was good because I felt I got a good grasp of what to expect.
Did you ever think you’d be playing up there on the Songwriters stage?
Not at all, it really is such an honour and a blessing. I have always wanted to be part of a CMA Songwriters Series and the fact it is happening in London as part of C2C, I really couldn’t ask for a better opportunity. Going back to 2017, I just thought man, I would love to be able to do this, even just play one of the side stages, it seemed like such an unbelievable opportunity to go to a country that I just think is so special and so awesome. I was just looking for any chance to go and soak up history and culture an’ all that.
What was funny was I got in the day of Songwriters and everyone tells you man, just stay up, power through the jet lag, and sleep a lot that night. Well, I didn’t really follow that rule very well, I took a five hour nap as soon as I got to London and I woke up like an hour before the show and I had to run to the venue, but I made the show and it was great.
You’re playing several different stages over the weekend, which part of C2C are you looking forward to the most?
I think it’s all gonna be amazing. You know, I’m a songwriter at heart and I think it’s just so special when I get to tell the stories behind the songs. I’m really looking forward to the Songwriter Series and also going up to Glasgow seems like another special footnote on the entire trip. I think everything will be very unique and special in its own way.
Did you get much time to explore when you were here before?
Not at all, I was only in the UK for two and a half days, so this time around I’ll have a little bit more fun and time to soak it all in. It was such a quick trip, but I went to a couple of bars with some buddies, which I thought was awesome – to be on the other side of the world and just hanging out with your friends. I did however go to a place called Wok ‘n’ Roll and I got stir fry to go and ate it on the tube at like 3am in the morning, which I thought was a really cool thing to do, so that was my big exploration.
Are you fitting in any other gigs as well or are you just taking some time out.
I think we’re gonna take the most out of C2C and doing things with the CMA, then fill in the cracks and be able to see and do the things that you don’t get to do when you’re over for two days. Have a nice balance of playing shows and doing what I do, but also getting to go and experience some things.
You’ve recently been selected as a CMA KixStart Artist Scholarship as well as an Opry NextStage recipient, following in very illustrious footsteps. What did that mean to you?
You know, with both of them, they’re just unbelievable honours. There are two things that I really believe are huge cornerstones of what country music is. The Grand Ole Opry is the show that made country music famous and the CMA is just an amazing organisation that does everything and anything it can for country music. It’s just an unbelievable thing to be a part of, and it’s kind of a nice little motivation at my end; to live up to that expectation that they think that this music is going to be a success and that people are going to love it. I’m going to do my best, it’s just a nice kind of circular mutual relationship where they believe in me and I have to believe in myself to give it right back.
You started singing in bars when you were 16, I imagine there were a lot of times when you were singing to one man and his dog. After you moved to Nashville, how did you break into songwriting circles and when was the first time you began to think yes, I can really make a go of this.
Really the biggest testament I gave to myself of how I started to find success and get into all those little inner circles, was just doing it. I wrote all the time, every day, I tried to write better songs, I tried to get into better writing rooms with better writers, and I kinda put my head down and just went to work. I wrote songs, grinded it out trying to hone my craft and then a couple of years went by and I had a publishing deal and I had a couple of songs cut. I think after writing with a couple of my heroes like Craig Wiseman and Tony Lane and feeling like I really held my own in the room, that’s when I thought OK, I may not know what I’m doing, but at least I feel like I belong. Those were big moments for me.
Tell us about working on your first album.
We have cut 12 songs and we’ll keep recording songs. What’s really interesting is how accessible music is today. I think the rules have totally changed in what you’re supposed to do or have to do, and I think we’re just really focused on getting music out there. It may be in the shape of an album, it may be in the shape of singles or small little EPs with three or four songs, but right now I just want to keep telling my story to people through the music. I want to do as much music as I can get to folks, to the fans coming out to shows, so I can tell them what I’m about and what they can expect from my whole career.
Having listened to your music, ‘Red White and Blue’ is very patriotic and I did chuckle about After a Few. I have to ask, is that one quite autobiographical?
Well, I get asked that a lot. It’s autobiographical in one or two examples unfortunately. The biggest question I get is ‘is there one specific girl this is about’. In my head, I think it’s maybe one person, maybe two; but I think what’s special about that song is there’s not a person on this planet who can’t relate to that emotion and that scenario. Someone that you know you don’t need to be drawn to, but deep down there’s that X factor that keeps pulling you back. I think that’s why it’s been doing so well and people love it, it’s because they get it, they’ve been there.
And I loved the idea behind ‘David Ashley Parker and the fake ID’.
That’s a funny song for me too, because speaking of coming over to London and playing that song I’m like, does anybody actually need a fake ID in London to get beer? Because the drinking ages are different, it’s a 100% true story for me, that was my real fake ID, that was a real guy and I actually put him in the music video for that song and it was such a cool journey and a story that came full circle with that.
With the music you’re recording, have you been influenced by different types of music, do some songs shake it up, is it stripped back, can you give us any little gems about what we can expect.
When you are recording a record and you want to put out a body of work, you kinda have to have a checklist of ideas. What are all the aspects of me, my personality, my musical love that I want to bring to the table, and so for me yeah, there’s definitely songs in there that some people might catch a little left field and think ‘man, that’s kinda rocking, a little heavier, maybe that lyric’s a little deeper than something I expected,’ – you know from a guy singing a song about a fake ID. But you have to have those moments and you have to kind of shake it up and give people a little run for their money on what they expect so you can tell your whole story. There’s a song I wrote with my buddy Devin Dawson, who’s a great artist, we wrote a song called Snakes and Needles, which is a helluva title but I think that song is really gonna kinda blow people away on what their expectations might be on that. I’m excited for that song to get out.
Will we hear it at Songwriters?
I think I can probably bust it out at the CMA Songwriters Series, I think I might have to now.
What is the one message you’d like to say to the guys and girls that will be reading this?
I would like to tell them to be themselves, and don’t worry about anybody trying to change them. I think when I did that and just realised I write songs about my home town and I write songs about middle Georgia, some people are gonna get it and some people won’t. But that’s the kind of person I wanna be and I felt I was striking gold on what I felt like was my songs, and my sound, and my story, so that’s the best advice I can give someone.
Thank you, we’re all very much looking forward to seeing you and I hope you get in a little bit earlier this time and you’re not racing to the show with an hour to go.
We have definitely planned ahead for that, I’m looking forward to it and I can’t wait to get there.