It’s been a real joy getting to play songs from Travis Linville’s upcoming album, I’m Still Here on WMOT. He’s a much sought after writing and musical collaborator in his native Oklahoma. The new album was recorded partly in Nashville and was produced by JD McPherson, featuring collaborations with Hayes Carll, as well as fellow Oklahomans John Fullbright and Jacob Tovar. He wrote the title track with The Highwomen’s Natalie Hemby and the song “Feeling We Used To Know” was written by a former bandmate some twenty years ago. What a deep album full of top notch songs and musicianship. I’m Still Here is due May 21st via Black Mesa Records.
AnaLee: First of all, congratulations on this album finally getting finished and ready for release. I know it’s been a couple of years since you started working on it. I’ve heard from so many artists that had to put their records on hold due to the pandemic, but also a lot of silver linings because of that. JD McPherson is such a talented musician and songwriter, turning a classic sound into his own modern day songs and I love the sounds I’m hearing so far on your record. Would you tell us about getting to know JD and deciding to work together, as well as a little about the band and where you recorded?
Travis: Thanks so much! JD and I actually go back twenty plus years. We both lived in Norman, OK in the mid-late nineties. One of my earliest memories of JD was watching him play with a band through the window of a cool little dive bar called The Deli. Over the early 2000’s we were knocking around in little clubs and even played a few shows together back then. When I first brought up recording with him in 2018 I had the idea just to meet up in the studio for a day and see what we could do. To my surprise he was hyped on actually making a full record so that’s what we did. It was an honor and pleasure to work with him and because we go back to the earliest days, it felt like a really natural collaboration. Not only is he a super talented musician who is literally overflowing with great ideas, but he knows me as an artist and knows where I’m coming from. I couldn’t have asked for a better band in the studio!! Jason Smay and Ray Jicaldo were killer and Dominic Davis on bass who plays with Jack White and a million other people. Some other great musicians lended exceptional talents later but that was the core band on the sessions in Memphis. Memphis magnetic is where we recorded. Memphis has such a powerful feel. I’ve always loved that city so much! I really feel the history and the vibe I get any time I’m there so I was more than stoked that we chose to make the record there. Memphis Magnetic is stacked full of amazing and inspiring vintage gear. Some of the stuff in there could easily be behind glass in a museum so there was a unique and uncommon magic recording there that I believe can really be heard on the record.
AnaLee: Let’s take it back to the origins of the song, “Feeling We Used To Know”. Can you talk about how this song began some twenty years ago with Jamie Kelley and then how it evolved during the recording process?
Travis: When I was 17 years old I got an offer to try out for a band. With fake ID in hand, I went to a dancehall that no longer exists in rural Oklahoma and the first guy I met onstage was Jamie Kelley. I got the job and we knocked around in several bands and played tons of shows every single weekend over the next few years. We eventually started writing songs and made a record. This song is one Jamie wrote shortly after we both moved on to other things so it’s always been really personal and meaningful for me. I’ve been thinking about recording it for years and this sort of became the perfect time. JD and the band really brought this one to a new place in the studio and playing it live out in the room in Memphis with the guys was one of my favorite memories from the session. We searched for a while trying to find out where it should go and when it landed here I think we all knew we found it. My last record “UP Ahead” carried a theme of looking forward not backward. This record has a lot more reflective quality and this song is a big part of that for me.
AnaLee: The title track, “I’m Still Here” is a co-write with Natalie Hemby. When I interviewed her a few years ago, we had not met at that point, but by the end of the interview, I felt like she was a long lost friend! She’s just so warm and easy to be around. Tell us a little about this song and your experience writing with Natalie.
Travis: Natalie is especially easy to like and her talent and skill is almost overwhelming. She makes writing seem so easy and in my experience she seems to have a real gift for understanding what someone else is trying to say. I had the idea for I’m Still Here when I got there but when I showed it to her it was like she immediately knew what it should be. She literally started playing and singing the first verse like it had already been written! She just really is so good. We worked on it over a couple of hours and there is no doubt in my mind that it’s one of the best songs I’ve been a part of writing.
AnaLee: Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for our WMOT listeners and I wish you much success with I’m Still Here.
Travis Linville, “Feeling We Used to Know”