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In Tune with Travis Denning: A Deep Dive into "Roads That Go Nowhere" - Exclusive Interview

In the vast landscape of country music, where authenticity and soul reign supreme, emerges an artist whose melodies resonate like the echoes of home: Travis Denning. Hailing from the small town in Georgia, Denning's journey to musical stardom is as rich and vibrant as the Southern soil that nurtured his passion for storytelling.

In an exclusive interview with All Country News, Denning delves into the heart and soul of his debut album, "Roads That Go Nowhere," offering insights into the creative process, collaborations, and the profound impact of his music. From his humble beginnings strumming chords on a guitar to sharing stages with country legends, Denning's evolution as an artist is a testament to perseverance, talent, and an unwavering commitment to authenticity.

Discovering the Time for a Debut Project

For Denning, the decision to embark on his debut album journey came from a confluence of personal growth and artistic evolution. Growing up in Warner Robins, Georgia, Travis pulled from the sights and sounds of his beloved hometown.

"I was just tired of putting out little pieces, you know? I felt like I had the songs and the mental focus to thematically pull some songs together," Denning told us. "And, you know, I'd recorded about seven songs in 2023, and as I rolled into the summer, I thought, "Well, if I just cut five more, that's 12. If I cut eight more, that's 15." It was just that simple. So, it was time for a full-length project. Once I wrote the song "Roads That Go Nowhere," I knew that would be the title track and the theme of the record. So, a little bit of both of those scenarios were kind of the telltale signs that it was time to put out a full-length."

Guitar Love: The Heartstrings Behind Song Selection

As an avid guitarist, Denning's love affair with the instrument intricately weaves into the fabric of his song selection process. Each chord progression is a brushstroke in the grand tapestry of his life. From the tender strumming of an acoustic ballad to the fiery riffs of a Southern rock anthem, Denning's guitar serves as both a storyteller and a confidant side kick. But did his love of a good guitar solo play into the overall feel of the album?

"I knew from a production standpoint that the guitar was going to be the focus. That was one of the three things I really stuck to: cutting great songs, focusing on guitar in production, and challenging myself vocally to see what I could do. So, the guitar was always going to be a significant part of it, and it played a big role in a lot of the writing process.For some of these songs, it was an afterthought. In the writing process, it just depended. I mean, "Strawberry Wine and a Six-Pack," I wanted those to be guitar-driven. I knew how it should sound, all those things.  But writing something like Ocmulgee River was such a story song I said "All right, I'll figure out how to fit a square peg into a round hole with a guitar in this."

Seeking Wisdom and Inspiration: Best Songs, Outside Cuts, and Cole Swindell's Guidance

When creating "Roads That Go Nowhere," Travis sought out external contributions while also incorporating ones from his own pen. But how does an artist juggle it all? For Denning, it boiled down to guidance from a fellow country star, and the golden rule of Music Row.

"The best song wins. I mean, I've been a songwriter in Nashville trying to get cuts on my own for too long to not respect that rule, you know, because... And those were things I was taught early on by Cole Swindell and people who truly are songwriters. He's cut outside songs, and he always said, "Dude, when I heard something that was great and better than what I'd written, there was no ego involved, like, record the song." So, that was some of the best advice I'd ever gotten. Yeah, there are three songs on this record I didn't write: "Things I'm Going Through," "Why I'm Drinking," and "Add Her to the List."

"Why I'm Drinking" was, you know, I just love it. It was an older song that my buddy Cole Taylor had written, and it always stuck with me. I thought it was one of the more unique songs he had written. I was like, that might be a cool way to kick off a record, a four-minute guitar ballad. That's why I did that. And then, I think there's kind of a pre- and post-mentality on this record that surrounds before I wrote "Roads That Go Nowhere" and after I wrote it. And I really believe that."

"Southern Rock" featuring Hardy: A Harmonious Fusion

One standout track on the album, "Southern Rock," featuring fellow artist Hardy, exemplifies Denning's ability to seamlessly blend genres while staying true to his roots. Collaborating with Hardy, whose raw energy and authentic storytelling parallel Denning's own, felt like a natural fit.

"My favorite song on this record is "Southern Rock," and I wrote it for so many reasons. I mean, first off, it just sounds like a million dollars. It just sounds... we just cut the hell out of it, and I couldn't be happier with the final product. Hardy sounds stupid amazing on it, just as good as he's ever sounded. But for me personally, that song is eight years old. I wrote it in 2016, with Chase McGill and Jesse Alexander. It was the first time I'd written with either one of them, and they've been some of my favorite collaborators in the writing room ever since. And that song's just very personal to me. I grew up a huge Allman Brothers fan; I saw the Allman Brothers six times before I graduated high school. So having a song to honor that was huge for me."

However, when the moment arrived to invite my esteemed friend and fellow songwriter, HARDY, to infuse his signature southern rock essence into the track, it unfolded like a captivating chapter from a Nashville fairytale.

So, I had the song recorded, and as I was working on it, I thought, "This is the one that he would really like." That same night, it happened to be the ACM Honors, and he was being honored with Songwriter of the Year. I was performing with Billy Ray Cyrus and Fire Rose, and we were just hanging out before the show. While getting a drink with him, I just said, "Hey, I cut a song today that I'm going to beg you to sing on." He seemed intrigued, and he said, "Oh, okay. Can you send it to me?" I replied, "Sort of. I don't really have a demo, and I changed some of the lyrics. But I'll send you a mix in like two weeks." He said, "Okay, cool."

Because it was fun, I rewrote some of the lyrics. It's an eight-year-old song, and there were some things I wanted to change. He asked, "Are you going to send me that?" Finally, I got it to him, and man, like a day later, he hit me back saying, "Man, I got chills. I love this stuff. Let's do it." It was awesome. Yeah, you know, we ran it by everyone, and they liked it.

And man, he just crushed it. I mean, he's so talented on all levels. Obviously, people know he's a talented songwriter, but he is an insanely talented vocalist as well. His range is crazy, and he really gave that song a run for its money, for sure."

The Poetic Closure of "Ocmulgee River"

Closing out the album with the introspective solo write, "Ocmulgee River," Denning invites listeners on a poignant journey of self-reflection and introspection. Inspired by the tranquil waters of the Ocmulgee River, where Denning often found solace and inspiration, the song serves as a raw, unfiltered glimpse into his soul.

"I always wanted to write a song simply called "Ocmulgee River" because it's just where I come from. It's where my buddies took flat bottoms and fished, gator hunted, and duck hunted, sometimes legally, sometimes not. It's like winter. It was the river, you know? And for me, it's a special place. I rode so many back roads, up and down Westlake Road, and I had this romanticism and love for where I come from, not just the house, but the very ground itself. My happy place was way down Westlake Road late at night, with maybe a beer or two, being close to the boat ramp. It was a great place to go with friends or alone. So, the album cover was taken at Westlake Road. I think I wrote the song in 30 minutes, just tapped it out. I sent it to my producer, and I said, "I think we need to end the record on this." And yeah, it's a special one."

Hopes for the Fans: A Shared Journey

As "Roads That Go Nowhere" makes its way into the hearts and playlists of fans worldwide, Denning's ultimate hope is simple yet profound: to forge a meaningful connection through the power of music. "I want listeners to feel seen, heard, and understood," Denning expresses. "If even one person finds solace or inspiration in these songs, then I've achieved my goal as an artist. In the world of country music, where authenticity reigns supreme, Travis Denning's debut album "Roads That Go Nowhere" stands as a testament to the power of storytelling and the enduring spirit of the human experience. With heartfelt melodies and soul-stirring lyrics, Denning invites listeners to join him on a journey of self-discovery and connection—one chord at a time.


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