Photo courtesy of Travis Rice
He’s a Think Country favorite by now. We’ve talked with Travis Rice a few times and been out to his shows. He never disappoints! In fact, last year during CMA Fest, I called him “the best unsigned male voice in Nashville”, at least from all the many I’d heard up until then. I stand by that statement. His voice is so easy to listen to, whether he’s belting out a ballad or rockin’ the house the down, and we’re always curious about what he has cooking. We found out and now you can too. Sit in on this interview from CRS 2020 at the Omni Hotel in Music City.
Think Country (Annette Gibbons): So, how are you?
Travis Rice: I’m wonderful.
TC (AG): It’s been a year.
TR: Gosh, I know, right?
TC (AG): So, tell us about the hair. It’s very important.
(Travis Rice cut his long hair quite short not long ago)
Photo courtesy of Travis Rice
TR: It’s very important.
TC (AG): Did you decide to just go for a new look?
TR: Just was tired of it, you know? Windy days were a nightmare, so yeah, just a new look, you know? New look, new music.
TC (AG): So, is it working out for you?
TR: Yeah, well, they’ve not fired me yet, so…
Photo courtesy of Travis Rice
TC (AG): Oh, they’ve not told you yet? (Laughing) Of course though, tell us about the music.
TR: Oh, the music I’m really excited about. We’ve got some new writers we’ve been working with, I mean, it’s the same old stuff, it’s the same vibe, but we’ve got some fresh perspective and we’ve got some new stories that we want to tell. The new song, we’re not mentioning the title yet, it’s a lot of fun and it’s kind of one of those that kicks off hard and doesn’t stop until the end. There’s not really any low levels in it. So, for three minutes, everybody that’s listening, I feel like they get to be mine. It’s a real rebellious, kind of fun, reminiscent type of “breaking the rules” song.
TC (AG): When does that release?
TR: It’ll be out April 3rd and I think it’s a jam. I’ve had a lot of fun making it and it’s done, sitting on the shelf and ready to go.
TC (AG): Is that going to radio or what’s happening?
TR: We’re gonna start with just some Spotify-type stuff and The Highway, of course, and then see where it goes from there. As long as the people can get it, that’s what I care about.
TC (AG): So, do you have more music following on that?
TR: Yeah, we’ve got another one that’s kind of on deck for the summer that we’re real excited about. It’s right up my alley too, it’s called “Beer On A Boat”.
TC (AG): Nice!
TR: It’s definitely me, in a nutshell.
TC (AG): Are you out doing many gigs?
TR: Yeah, we’re out doing our normal stuff. Whoever wants to listen to us, we’re gonna do it and play it. We’ve not done a whole lot with the radio in the last year or so, but we’ve definitely been out and takin’ it to fans.
TC (AG): Do you do festivals and that sort of thing?
TR: Yeah, I do festivals and fairs and anything like that. Anywhere anybody wants to hear us, we’re happy to go. We’ve been doing a lot of that, and we’ve done a few corporate gigs in the last little bit which is a lot of fun. It’s a whole different ballgame. They always treat us really nice, so that part’s fun. It’s a little more luxurious. (Laughing)
TC (AG): Do they really then still listen to the music?
TC (AG): Sometimes they don’t.
TR: We’ve been fortunate in that sense, but I know what you’re saying. Sometimes you feel like you’re background music, but we’ve been fortunate to have some really fun times at corporate shows as well. Like I said, it’s a little more luxurious at times. They’ve got a lot of money, so they like to throw it around. (Laughing) It’s nice for the band and me. We’re not having to rough it quite as much, which we don’t mind, but it still beats a real job no matter if we’re showing up in a Volkswagen, it still beats a real job. (Laughing)
TC (AG): Yeah, these real jobs, they just suck. (Laughing)
TR: I know, but somebody’s gotta do it so I don’t have to. (Laughing)
TC (AG): So, do you much writing?
TR: Yeah, that’s something we’ve really been doing a lot. I mean, I’ve always done a lot of writing, but I’ve been doing a lot more co-writing in the last couple of years. It’s great networking. It’s a great way to meet people and make new business friends, and also it’s a fresh perspective. You know, I can take seven ideas and look at ’em this way, and you take those same seven ideas and you put somebody else in the room and all of a sudden it’s a whole new idea.
TC (AG): I’m fascinated by the idea of co-writing, especially if you’re going in with something like a personal idea. You’re like, “Oh, hi, I think I’ll just spill my guts to you.”
TR: We call it showing up naked on the first date. That’s pretty much kind of the analogy that’s around town, but you get more comfortable with it, you know? The more you do it, you get to where you can kind of get over the small talk real quick and get down to it.
TC (Patti McClintic): Were you the one that told me they now have up to seven co-writers in a room? Someone was telling me that.
TR: Seven? No, that was not me, I’ve never been in a seven person write.
TC (PM): I interviewed someone who told me they’re putting up to seven people in a room at times, and a big reason for that is to include the artist. I thought that was crazy. Whoever told me that thought it was crazy too and said they won’t participate in those.
TC (AG): What’s your ideal number of people in a room?
TR: Well, I’ve done a lot of two and three. I think the biggest one I’ve done, there were four of us. For a long time, there was a lot of that, and there’s still a lot of that, but it’s not as much the number as just the vibe in the room. It’s like everything in music, you know?
(I really need to interject something here. If you ever meet Travis Rice, ask him to say the word “vibe” for you. Especially if you aren’t from the south. He says it with just enough of a southern accent to make you know he’s from the south, but not so much that you need a translation. It’s really cool. Sorry, “Yankee Living in the South” moment. Carry on…)
TC (AG): Are there any songwriters, that are like, one day you want to write with?
TR: Oh, there’s tons! Like, all the guys at Acoustic Alley tonight. (Bob Kingsley’s Acoustic Alley is an event at CRS with some of the best hit songwriters in Nashville) Stylistically, though, Rhett Akins just has a way. Probably the number one reason is he’s just constantly writing hits.
TC (AG): Yeah, I don’t think he knows how to write a bad song, does he?
TR: Yeah, and HARDY, the way he thinks and stuff is just really cool to me. He’s kind of a new guy and comin’ up, but yeah, he’s got a really fresh way of looking at things. Also, Travis Denning, I really like his style of writing.
TC (AG): Yes, such a clever play on words.
TR: Right and I love that kind of stuff and I’m doing my attempt at it all the time. Metaphorical, play on words, that type of stuff, I love, so yeah, those are kind of the new class that I’d love to get in a room with and pick their brains. There’s the classics with Shane McAnally, Luke Laird and Wendell Mobley and those guys. I don’t know that I’d be doing any contributing because I’d be kind of starstruck the whole time, but I’d like to try!
TC (AG): Do you ever play songwriter rounds?
TR: Yeah, we do some, but it’s been a while since I’ve done any here in town, but we’ve got some coming up actually, at the end of April. April 25th we’ve got one here, so it’s nice to kind of get back to that. I love that and it’s kind of what got me started here in town doing a lot of those. I’ve been on break from doing that, but we’re fortunate because everywhere we go it’s kind of a songwriter night for us, you know, we get to sing our own stuff. It’s really nice to come back and hear the new stuff from the people in our circle of friends and colleagues though. That’s something I’m really looking forward to getting back into a little more, performing the new stuff and trying it out. It’s daunting and little insecurities come out, but it’s necessary and it’s still fun. You know, when you hit on one and the room gets quiet and you know you’ve got everybody for the next three minutes, that’s great.
TC (AG): Yeah, you can just see that feedback.
TR: Yeah, you feel it. You don’t even have to see it. I can close my eyes and know whether everybody’s diggin’ it or not. The room has an energy, and if you’ve got ’em, you’ve got ’em until the end of the song.
TC (PM): What happens if you don’t get ’em? What’s your plan of action?
TR: Well, I have a trick, I just stop.
TR: I just get up and start doing card tricks. Fortunately, I’ve never had one where I just felt like I completely lost everybody, but there’s definitely some where, you know… We’ve got a couple where you kind of learn to be comfortable with them, but if something isn’t working, you definitely have to be confident enough to know when you’ve gotta pull something else out. You usually get three or four songs and if you get one that you feel like you don’t have ’em, well, it’s time to put the other one on deck. You know, like, “Let’s go to the old ‘go to’,” and I try to reel it back in.
TC (AG): If we were going to market you to the UK, give me three words to describe you.
TR: Three words, oh, man…
TC (AG): You or your music.
TR: Well, I would go with “honest” or “transparent”. We’re very vulnerable and open in our music, so let’s say, “honest”. Is “real” too close to that?
TC (AG): It’s a little close.
TR: Alright, so, “honest”, “energetic” and “sexy”! (Laughing)
TC (AG): Especially with the hair!
TR: See, there we go!
TC (AG): It’s a good look. We like it.
TR: Thank you.
TC (PM): We liked it before too, but we approve.
Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography/Think Country
TC (AG): Now, if you come back next year and you’ve got long braids, I don’t know.
TR: Well, it’s been about fifty-fifty on the hair. Some people loved it long and some people like it now. I get about fifty-fifty on it. Some people say, “You need to grow it back out,” and others say, “You need to leave it like it is.” I like it. It’s a lot easier, a lot less maintenance and windy days are not a nightmare anymore, rainy days are not a nightmare. I have real fine hair and it was just all everywhere, I looked like a drowned cat.
TC (AG): You know, they say the look is important for women, but it’s the same for guys as well. People will see pictures of you and people do buy into the look as well as the sound.
TR: Well, yeah, it’s all a package. It’s a vibe. What vibe are you givin’ off? I don’t know that anything else is really changing in our music, but I just had it for five years and I was ready for something different. I have commitment issues, okay? Five years for me is a long time.
TC (PM): In five years you can change it again.
TR: Exactly. I’ll be bald by then anyway.
TC (AG): You can wear a hat.
TR: I’ll just do the comb over, that’ll be in style by then. (Laughing)
TC (AG): Now that, we’ll never endorse.
TC (PM): No. We’ll never suggest that. Bald would be much better.
TR: By then I’ll have ear hair growing in and it’ll be a whole different thing.
TC (AG): It will be like, “Do you want to interview Travis?” We’ll be like, “No, sorry.” (Laughs) It’s always a pleasure talking with you.
TR: Always a pleasure seeing y’all too.
We had Travis sign our wall banner and off he went. Do keep up with him on social media, and set your notifications to “on” for Think Country, so you don’t miss anything from Travis Rice. His new song is so close to being here right now, you don’t want to miss being first on board to hear it. I know we’re excited about it. He is absolutely one to keep a close eye on whether he’s got short hair or long. It’s the voice that will win you over, especially live. I would bet on that.
Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography/Think Country
Travis Rice Website: http://www.travisricemusic.com/
*Featured image courtesy of 90 East Photography/Think Country