You don’t always want to throw around the phrase “born to play” because, to some, it minimizes the countless hours that goes into mastering the craft -- the woodshedding, rehearsing, gigging, recording, producing, composing and promoting.
Yet, for more than twenty years now, it’s been plain to everyone who has come into contact with him that Travis Linville is exactly that -- born to play.
Reared in a family thick with musicians, Travis picked up that mantle and proceeded to defy all expectations by mastering the basics of the guitar in less than two years.
Though most teenage guitar players would have taken this as a sign that they already knew everything they needed to excel, Travis went the opposite route, seeking out guitar legend Joe Settlemires for instruction. Before he graduated high school, Travis had already landed a spot with a gigging country band and was playing in clubs every weekend.
Settlemires, a former member of the Texas Playboys, was impressed by Travis’ relentless dedication to improving and expanding his talents and passed along a rich legacy of blistering jazz and country guitar chops matched with unwavering professionalism.
It was a legacy that opened doors...but not everyone has what it takes to walk through them.
These experiences gave him access to worlds that few musicians get to experience in a lifetime, let alone by their early 20s. The culmination of his journeyman’s path came when Travis was invited to join Willie Nelson on stage at one of the Texas legend’s annual picnics.
He cites that moment as the one in which his desire to forge his own legacy was born.
First testing his skills as songwriter and bandleader with the Burtschi Brothers as well as performing solo, Travis paid his dues and slowly built his reputation on stages big and small across Oklahoma and Texas. For nearly ten years, he held court on Monday nights at the Deli, the only venue left in Oklahoma hosting live, original music 7 nights a week in his homebase of Norman.
Keeping a relentless schedule, Travis started taking gigs backing up regional musicians while co-writing, producing and recording three albums with the Burtschi Brothers.
In 2005, Travis was recruited by Hayes Carll for his touring band. Fulfilling a challenging role as a multi-instrumentalist (his on stage duties include playing the acoustic and electric guitar, the dobro, pedal steel guitar and the mandolin, Travis has played with Hayes for nine years on stages across all of North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark and Norway. In 2011, the band made its nationwide debut with an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Despite the punishing tour schedule, Travis has never wavered on his commitment to making his own music. Coming on board with Hayes provided him with something of a reset button on his own composition and recording. In 2007, he recorded and released See You Around, 20 tracks showcasing himself as a solo artist and composer while paying tribute to some of his guitar idols with interpretations of songs from Doc Watson, Jerry Reed and Merle Travis.
More recently, his many years as a producer of other people’s albums (by his own count, 50 or more) has been put to use with 2012’s Sun or Moon EP and his current release Out on a Wire. Both releases, limited to five tracks each, represent what he calls “the best of the best” of his material in development.
For the past couple of years, Travis’ role with the Hayes Carll band has expanded also, as he is frequently called upon to open shows with a set of his own material, exposing ever more audiences, domestic and international to his unique blend of influences and masterful playing.
With sounds in his arsenal that include country, folk, jazz and blues and able to express himself on more than ten instruments, Travis Linville and his music may never be easy to classify but describing it is. He takes the stage armed with legacy of effortless authenticity -- a legacy inherited, a legacy earned and a legacy ever in the process of being formed. For any audience who demands to be fed something real, it doesn’t get any realer than this.