Travis Denning Is Excited to See Country Music Embracing a Rock Edge
Travis Denning doesn't typically chase particularly flashy or expensive guitars -- to him, his instruments are a tool, not a symbol in and of themselves, and he typically rotates between a cast of about four. That being said, the singer recently bought a Gibson Explorer, and he admits that its heavier sound has been lending his Summer 2019 live gigs a little extra kick.
"[It's] so metal, you know what I mean? It's hilarious," he tells The Boot, laughing. "I've been playing these festivals, and these road guys and crew guys are like, 'Can you play that at a country show?' And I'm like, 'Well, we're going to!'"
As a music fan, Denning's tastes run the gamut, from country and Southern rock to metal acts such as Black Sabbath. He's open to those influences seeping into his own music, although his creative process doesn't involve explicitly shaping a song into any one particular style.
"I don't think I ever go into the songwriting or recording process thinking, 'I want this to have a huge blank edge -- [rock, metal, country], whatever that is. I just want to go in and service the song as well as I can," Denning explains. A heavier sound does creep into his music sometimes, especially when he writes with his fellow country artist -- and noted metal fan, who cut his teeth in a metal band -- Devin Dawson.
"Me and Devin and his brother [Jacob] wrote a song that I recorded that's not out yet, but hopefully will be out maybe later this year or the next year, where you can definitely hear that kind of metal influence," he continues. "Not even from a sense like, 'Wow, these guitars are loud and these drums are loud,' but you can just tell from how we approached it vocally and melody-wise that we love Ozzy [Osbourne], and we love Metallica, and we love Pantera.
"[Songwriting is about] servicing the song, and every now and then you're lucky enough to have a song where you can go into it and say, 'Man, let's do something Motörhead would be proud of,' and it won't come off weird. It'll come off great," Denning adds, "because the song demands that kind of attention."
It's not lost on Denning that heavier songs have been playing well at country radio in recent months. Blake Shelton's "God's Country," also co-written by Dawson (as well as Hardy and Jordan Schmidt), shot to No. 1 on the radio charts at a blinding pace following its release in the spring of 2019. He's thrilled to see songs like that find a home in the country genre, because they're linked to the loud, heavy Southern rock he grew up on.
"Man, when you hear [a] big ol' ... rocking revival, Southern, dark song fly up the charts and go No. 1? And same with [Luke Combs]' "Beer Never Broke My Heart" -- that's the most balls-to-the-wall, honky-tonk, rockin' song that you could ever ask for," the singer relates. "It's good to see that those songs are finding a place at country radio, because I'm telling you, from a live show standpoint, those are the kinds of songs that get people fired up."
As his co-writing session with Dawson suggests, Denning has new music in the works, although the singer says fans probably shouldn't hold their breath for a full album just yet. "The rule right now is that there are no more rules, you know?" he says.
"People can definitely expect new music this year," Denning adds. "We're constantly working on music, and working on the sound, and obviously watching [my latest single] "After a Few" do its thing on radio."
As Denning continues to release new songs, he hopes that a full project will emerge naturally: "I hope that one day we just sit there and go, 'Alright, here it is. Let's just put it out in four weeks!" he says. "People just want stuff, they want content."
The singer goes on to say that he'll continue to give his fans what they want -- whether that looks like a full album, a handful of EPs, or all or none or some combination of the above. "We equally have a thousand plans as much as we're just having a blast," he adds. "At the end of the day, you still just gotta give people music. And I don't know what the rhyme or reason to how we build things is these days. I think it's really case by case. I know my plan is that I wanna give people as much music as humanly possible."
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