It’s a quiet confidence, an air of authority limited to only the most studied artists, a commanding irreverence woven with a thread of vulnerability. There’s something inexplicably authentic about Oklahoma’s Travis Linville, and it’s carried him from dive bars and classrooms to “The Tonight Show” and esteemed theaters and
festivals across the globe.
Linville is legendary regionally for his work in the now-defunct Burtschi Brothers and for his behind-the-scenes influence— including producing John Fullbright’s first album and teaching guitar lessons to a then nine-year-old Parker Millsap, who said he was “astonished by his musicianship” and, when asked to pinpoint what makes Linville unique, was quick to laud: “Taste.”
Austin songwriter Hayes Carll agrees: “Travis has always been in service to the song. He is capable of playing literally anything he wants, but he never overplays or tries to stand out above the song. He is as tasteful as it gets.”
Linville’s acclaimed solo releases include 2012’s “Sun or Moon” and 2014’s “Out on the Wire” EP, called “rich, soulful and beautiful” by Jimmy LaFave. A live audition of a track from the latter even netted him a role in a William H. Macy film, in which he
performed the song.
A gifted instrumentalist, Linville is known for his work as a sideman with Carll, who calls him “criminally underrated.” As a solo artist, he’s opened for legends—Willie Nelson, Ray Price and Merle Haggard—and newcomers alike, including Ryan Bingham and John Moreland.
In February, he will release a new full-length record, “Up Ahead.” Linville produced the record in a studio in Norman, Okla., essentially in reverse. “I had a bunch of half-written songs, and in some cases just musical road maps, so I brought some musicians into the studio for a marathon live tracking to songs they didn’t know—and I didn’t either at that point. The idea was to create a musical track for me to write over to finish out the songs.”
He recruited four session players who’ve also performed with him live for the studio tracks: David Leach (John Fullbright) on upright bass, Ryan Jones (Oklahoma Opry) on keys, as well as two diverse percussionists: Matt Duckworth (Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus) and Mike Meadows (Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson). Linville himself performed all vocals, guitars, lap and pedal steel, mandolin and dobro.
Independently, Linville has sold 15,000 albums and played thousands of shows across his 20-plus year career, with an ever-evolving repertoire deeply rooted in songcraft, sly humor and subtlety. Recent tours include national runs with Parker Millsap and several international dates as support and band member for Carll. As for what lies “Up Ahead,” Linville is pragmatic: “I am prouder of this record than anything I’ve done, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.”