Though Travis Linville’s stand-out Americana and folk album Up Ahead was released in 2017, many of its songs were written one or two years prior.
It would be easy to understand how the longtime Oklahoma singer-songwriter, producer and noted sideman for Texas crooner Hayes Carll could tire of the material he has been living with nearly every day for the last several years. Speaking recently with Oklahoma Gazette, Linville said while he has happily moved on from some of the songs in his early career, the slightly melancholy twinge on Up Ahead still feels fresh and relatable.
Linville spoke with Gazette ahead of his scheduled date at The Blue Door, a venue the artist has sold out the last few times he has played there. The show is set for 8 p.m. Jan. 27 at the popular listening room, 2805 N. McKinley Ave.
Often known for his studio work and contributions as a side performer, Linville used 2017 as a year to step out on his own, traveling across the nation in support of Up Ahead. In March, he was named a Country Artist You Need to Know by Rolling Stone.
Aside from the success of his new album, Linville spoke on the current projects he is involved in as a producer and his work as an adjunct professor at the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma (ACM@UCO), where he has worked for the past six years.
Oklahoma Gazette: How has the fan response to Up Ahead been in the last year? Was it everything you hoped? Were there any surprises for you taking that album out on the road?
Travis Linville: The response was great. Everybody was really supportive. There are a lot of people who have been following what I do for a long time. A lot of that is taking different shapes from playing as a local singer-songwriter or being a bandleader or kind of being a side man or a performer for other artists.
OKG: Did you feel like you made a lot of those connections out on the road?
Linville: Yeah. It was a big year as far as making new fans and meeting new people. That’s all one of the more rewarding parts of doing music. One of the parts of doing music that I like is the travel and meeting new folks along the way. I’ve always had my foot in a few different worlds, and I think really what the difference was that this past year I squarely put myself back into the driver’s seat of my own calendar and my own career and my own music. It’s kind of hard to fully do that if I’m on tour half the year playing guitar for Hayes Carll. So I’ve been out doing something that’s not too much different from what I’ve been doing the last 10 years, except that I’ve stepped back into the world of doing it with my own songs and on my own.
OKG: Has your relationship with the songs on Up Ahead shifted at all? You probably wrote those several years ago, and here we are in 2018.
Linville: Relationships with songs always change over time. In my experience, a lot of times, they dwindle away. I don’t have much interest in playing songs that I wrote when I was 20 years old because I don’t much care to hear what the 20-year-old version of myself had to say. But with these songs, I’ve played them all year long and I feel like they still hold up and they still keep my interest. I’m still proud of them. It’s only one year in, but as of now, they still feel relevant and current to me.
OKG: For 2018, do you think you’ll still be as focused on some of your solo work, or are there other kinds of projects you think you’ll be involved in?
Linville: I’m going to continue on. I’m squarely back in the world of controlling my own schedule. That’s one of the big perks to doing music as a job — you can create your own world and reality, as far as when and where you work. It’s hard to do that if you’re waiting for someone else to let you know when you’re playing. I’m going to be touring a lot this summer — as much as possible. And this year as much as possible. And working toward another record release either at the end of this year or early next year.
OKG: You’re also known for your work as a studio producer. What were some of the projects you worked on in 2017 that you thought were interesting?
Linville: Yeah, Jason Scott’s Living Rooms EP just came out, and I’m really proud of that. I worked with Erin O’Dowd on her full-length release, which is about to come out. I’m working on some songs for a guy named Michael Wilkinson in Florida. So yeah, I have some projects going on, and in some ways that has dominated my recording work throughout the year because I only have so much time that I can get to stuff. Part of me putting out another record is sort of putting a pause button on all of that for a little while so I can think about my own material. I’m sort of just now getting there, but I really enjoy producing records for songwriters.
OKG: Are you still working as an adjunct professor at ACM@UCO?
Linville: Yeah, definitely. This is the first day of spring semester. I typically direct a few bands here and sometimes teach a songwriting class or ear training or music fundamentals classes. I really love it. You know, I started hanging around a music store in Chickasha where I grew up. Every day, I would just go in and hang. I was 15 years old and looking for a job that wasn’t in a kitchen, which is where I was working at the time. I kept asking the guy, “Hey, what do you think about me working here?” and he was just kind of like, “This is a one-man show. This is just a little music shop; I don’t need another worker, but if you want to teach lessons, you can.” So I started teaching guitar lessons in 1995, something like that. In some way or another, I’ve always tried to keep education part of my thing. It’s just important to pass it down and I enjoy it. But ACM is awesome. The people here are great and the staff is really, really great. Many of the people I work with I’ve known for years. I love it here at ACM, and it’s definitely a jewel for Oklahoma City.
OKG: Is there anything about the Blue Door show you want to add? What can people expect with that?
Linville: Yeah, well, we love playing The Blue Door. It’s all-ages; it’s BYOB, which is kind of a cool thing. I guess the last three or four times I played there, it’s sold out, so it’s definitely a make-sure-you-get-tickets-early situation. But as far as 2018 goes, we’ve just got to keep grinding away playing wherever and whenever I can find a place to play.
8 p.m. Jan. 27
The Blue Door
2805 N. McKinley Ave.
Print headline: En route; Travis Linville looks back on a big 2017 as he plans his return to The Blue Door.