April 6, 2024
A sought-after collaborator, Linville’s touring instrumental work includes turns onstage with Samantha Crain and Hayes Carll and session work with too many artists to count, among them gifted American songwriter John Moreland and indie rock stalwart Berwanger (feat. members of the Anniversary). In recent years, he’s performed his own music as hand-selected support for Carll, fellow Oklahomans Moreland and Parker Millsap, Todd Snider’s Hard Working Americans, and even country legend Marty Stuart.
Combined with his hundreds of solo shows, these collaborations and his recorded catalog, including 2017’s Up Ahead LP, have built for Linville a dedicated group of fans equally enamored of his nonchalant technical skill—whether as his own producer and studio engineer, or on guitar, pedal steel, piano, mandolin, or any number of other instruments—and his artistry and taste.
Among those fans who’ve spent decades following Linville’s solo work is Broken Arrow, Oklahoma native JD McPherson, who recollects, “Growing up in Oklahoma, Travis was known everywhere as one of the most respected musicians and performers from a very large pool of talent.”
He’s put in so much work, in fact, that he makes extraordinarily difficult things seem easy, operating outside the banal umbrella of the visibly tortured artist. As Hayes Carll puts it, “Travis is one of those rare artists that seem to be gifted at everything. His playing and singing appear to be just as natural as breathing to him. That ease has always stood out to me.”
But despite that perceptible ease, Linville not only likes a challenge, but it’s essential to who he is as a musician. “My ambition has always been about musicianship. Music itself is what I’ve been in love with and want to explore—rhythm, melody, harmony,” he explains. “Every time I’ve run low on that passion, I’ve picked up a new instrument or technique, and I’m right back where I love to be…with the beginner’s mind.”
In 2018, Linville found himself with a handful of songs approaching studio readiness and bored of his typical “record, release, repeat” grind without much outside influence. Meanwhile, McPherson was searching for the right project to flex his producing muscles. A few conversations later, and a match made in Oklahoma, but brought to life in Tennessee, was born.
Linville’s new album, presciently titled I’m Still Here, was initially tracked live to tape in early 2019 at Memphis Magnetic Studio. Working around delays in respective tour schedules, they completed the record almost a year later at Linville’s home studio and 3 Sirens in Nashville, only to have it heartbreakingly shelved again due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 10-track set is full of, in McPherson’s words, the “fantastic songs and consummate musicianship” Linville is known for, but the contributions from his collaborators shine throughout. It’s a Travis Linville album where Linville gets by with a little help from his friends, instead of vice versa.
McPherson’s first order of business was suggesting Linville take his song ideas to outside ears. The title track, a lament on the chasm between perception and reality, was penned in a single writing session with power songwriter Natalie Hemby, whose credits include songs for Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, and Lady Gaga, as well as her work in supergroup The Highwomen. Her talent as a writer pulled Linville’s song idea in a decidedly pop direction, touching on Hemby’s gift for writing exactly what someone else means to say.
“She just started singing the first verse as she was writing it,” Linville says. “It was impressive to see her do that so effortlessly. After working on it with her for a few hours I felt like I left with the best song I had ever put together.”
It’s followed by “Feeling We Used to Know,” a reach deep into the annals of Linville’s music career, written 20-plus years ago by former bandmate Jamie Kelley. Recorded live, it leans hard in the direction of Elvis Costello and the Attractions, both tightly orchestrated and blasé thanks to McPherson’s assembled studio band. Led by Linville with Jason Smay on drums, Dominic Davis on bass, and Raynier Jacildo on keys, it’s a collective whose combined resume includes work with Jack White, the Black Keys, CeeLo Green, and Dwight Yoakam.
The bottle-clanking country waltz “Yesterday’s Wine” finds Linville paying homage to Willie Nelson while trading verses with Carll, joined by friends and Tulsans John Fullbright and Jacob Tovar on the chorus. Elsewhere, there are moments when outside hands are even more evident: Linville, usually direct as a writer and player, agreed to follow McPherson the long way around to expose a new soul for tracks like “The Rain,” which started with Roy Orbison in mind and landed as a pulsating indie rocker, and the refreshingly incongruous “I Saw You,” hearkening the bouncy piano of Leon Russell paired with the goofy, shouted lyricism of a “Sgt. Pepper.”
Linville credits McPherson with finding the backbeat on multiple songs that were originally headed in a different direction, and Davis, Jacildo, and Smay for bringing to life what was just a nebulous glint at the outset. McPherson credits Linville for providing a foundation that made any of that experimentation possible. At its core, I’m Still Here is a collection of contributions woven together with endearingly visible seams, but it remains a record only Linville could’ve made…or at least could’ve made happen.
“I’ve never worked with someone so open to new ideas yet knows fundamentally who they are as an artist,” says McPherson. “Everyone had such a great time working with Travis and his fantastic songs. Let me drive that final point home: Travis is a really, really great songwriter. That makes work a pleasure.”
Zain Braden’s journey began a the age of 10 and by the age of 14 starting playing lead guitar and traveling with bands playings shows throughout Oklahoma and Texas.
Zain graduated from High School in Healdton, OK in 2012 and joined the Oklahoma Army National Guard in 2012.
While serving in the Guard, Zain started playing acoustic shows during college playing for free on campus and parties in Bryan County. After leaving college to come home to start his career working, he continued to play acoustic with his dad around the house. After meeting his wife Emily, she along with multiple friends and family for years encouraged him to start playing and singing and he did. “For years I was just a hired gun in the back making the noise and now I’m out front doing it. It has been one of the best decisions in my life.”-Zain Braden
Zain booked his first solo career solo which was a acoustic show with his father Brandon at Sunset Grill in Ardmore, OK. With the help from his family they put on a acoustic show for free and hit the max capacity which was a sold out show.
“When I came out of the green room to start the show I couldn’t believe the people that was there. Not an empty seat in the house. It was very humbling to know so many people believe in what I’m doing.”- Zain Braden
With a great feedback from numerous friends and family he continues to play at different venues from small bars to the Oklahoma Opry and the National Sand Bass Festival. Zain is now currently performing shows from solo acoustic shows to full band shows all across Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas.
When it comes to Zain’s musical influences, his music has a big variety ranging from the old school country, bluegrass, blues and to southern rock.
“To describe what Zain sound is like, if Chris Stapleton and Zack Brown combined a sound it would be Zain Braden.” – Phillip Hager, Current touring drummer for Johnny Lee and the Urban Cowboy band.
With an extensive musical library playlist, the capability to run the music in between sets through his own sound system and pro equipment, professionally made concert flyers for promotion to over 2,200 social media followers about the gig, there is little to no dead air. A constant entertaining vibe is maintained throughout the night for everyone!