OKLAHOMA GAZETTE // Travis Linville returns with new album Up Ahead
Travis Linville returns with new album Up Ahead
Usually, as Travis Linville wraps up work on an album, he takes his new work straight to the bar crowd and worries about selling it later.
This time, however, the singer-songwriter, producer and longtime Oklahoma roots and folk music staple wanted to try out a new approach. Up Ahead, Linville’s newest album set to be released Feb. 3, was worthy of special care.
“I think these songs and this production is some of the best work I’ve ever done,” Linville said in a recent Oklahoma Gazette interview. “I wanted to give it a chance to get some legs and get out there to be heard.”
The multi-talented musician, known nationally for his work in support of Texas singer-songwriter Hayes Carll, opens a short regional tour in support of the new album with a release show Feb. 3 at The Blue Door, 2805 N. McKinley Ave.
After wrapping work on Up Ahead, Linville sat on his new music and devised a marketing plan to promote the record instead of rushing the material to the nearest stage show.
That’s saying something, because Linville — also known regionally for his work assisting and producing for artists including John Moreland, Parker Millsap, John Fullbright and Carter Sampson — is very much a hands-on artist. Stepping back in any way shows the kind of mature restraint that must come from a nearly two-decade music career.
Up Ahead by Travis Linville (provided)
In tone, Up Ahead is a mellow, even somber 10-song collection that tells stories about people at the end of their ropes. Linville said it’s not something he realized until he was done writing, but he is happy with how well the tunes fit together.
“A lot of it has to do with people being in a tough spot or being left out in the open and not sure quite where they’re going,” he said. “Those things aren’t all inspired by my own experience, but a lot of it is inspired by my own observation.”
Linville started work on the album with just half-written songs and rough outlines of what he wanted to do. Early on, he invited in upright bassist David Leach, percussionists Matt Duckworth (also with The Flaming Lips) and Mike Meadows (known for his work with Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson) and longtime production partner Ryan Jones on keys to help flesh out the songs at his small home studio in Norman.
After Linville had the music in place, he focused on finishing his lyrics.
“Starting the production and getting things rolling helps with my writing,” he said. “When the songs are there and I have a basis for all of my songs, I like to start working on the actual production because stuff starts to feel like it’s happening.”
When it was time to mix the project, Linville again found himself stepping back and trusting friend and longtime associate Trent Bell of Norman’s Bell Labs Recording Studio to do the work while he went away to New York for a few weeks.
Linville was thrilled with the mixed version of his album when he returned.
“It was what I would want it to be, and it was as good or better than what it would have been if I was in the studio for 20 hours working on it,” he said.
It is Linville’s job to interpret creative visions when he produces for other artists. When working on his own album, the musician already understands the idea he is targeting. It is up to him have faith that others he works with will also see that vision.
He said everyone involved with Up Ahead nailed it.
Most of the work for the new album was done in 2015. Jumping back into old work at the time of an official release months or even years after the creative process can be awkward for some artists, but Linville’s enthusiasm for the material has not waned.
“As we started putting things together for the release, I’ve been revisiting it and feeling satisfied and proud of it,” he said. “That’s a big plus. I wouldn’t want to revisit it and find out it wasn’t something I was into anymore.”