Tennessee native Travis Rice has shared the stage with Craig Morgan, Randy Travis, and Travis Tritt, among others, and this year participated in his first-ever CMA Music Festival. Garnering new fans alongside critical praise, including the DisCovery Award from music critic Robert K. Oermann, Rice, who recently released his touching new single, "When The Fish Didn't Bite," kindly took the time to talk about his roots, the single and much more.
You played basketball and graduated college with a business degree, so when did you know that music was what you wanted to pursue professionally?
I played ball my whole life and when that was over I had no idea what I want to do - that’s when music took a hold of me in a much more serious way. A friend asked me to play a benefit and when I stepped out on that stage in front of an audience for the first time, it was like a drug to me. I put myself outside my comfort zone and honestly, I was hooked. I never felt anything else that made me feel that way, except when I was on the ball court, and I figured that if I was that passionate about it and got that much enjoyment from it, then I should see where the road would take me.
Did you always gravitate to country music?
As far as songwriting, yes, but I didn't grow up in a musical family. Dad’s radio broke in his truck when I was little and he didn’t get it fixed for ten years – but music was something I always gravitated to. As I was growing up I always had music playing and as cliché as it sounds, I wanted to learn to play an instrument in high school because I thought it might help me get a date (laughing).
Initially, when I got into the guitar I wanted to be the lead in a rock band, but I realized pretty quickly I didn’t have the natural ability for that, so instead, I focused on writing songs and found out that I had something I wanted to say. I didn’t write in a journal or talk about my feelings, so music became my journal, the place where I put my emotions and wrote about what I was going through. I wasn’t performing those songs yet, it was my way to deal with things, which eventually turned into a desire to perform. And in time, I found that people connected with my songs. It all happened very organically.
Based in London, Two Ways Home - Isabella Mariee, who is originally from Vienna, and Lewis Fowler, who grew up in Gloucestershire – are ready to make their mark as country music’s newest duo. Having released their latest EP, Better Days earlier this year, the twosome is currently in Nashville and immersed in songwriting. During a break from their busy schedules, Isi and Lewis kindly called to talk about their roots, “Better Days,” and more.
How did the two of you come together as a duo?
Lewis Fowler (LW): We met through friends at university. Isi was a year above me and I auditioned to be in her rock cover band by playing the guitar solo in Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” The band didn’t pan out, but we began writing together and attending open mic nights and it grew from there. We went around London searching for other guys who wanted to play old country and after a musical search, we found three guys who are absolutely great - Clancy, Dom, Chris.
Coming from a European background, what drew you to country music?
Isabella Mariee (IM): We were both interested in music, but didn’t know what kind of style we wanted. When we sang together, our harmonies lent themselves to country and the more we sang and played it, the more we fell in love with the genre. We really love Lady Antebellum, Brothers Osborne, Lucie Silvas and Josh Kelley.
LF: I didn’t grow up listening to so much country music, I listened to bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Eagles, but as I played guitar, I realized the style of guitar I enjoyed playing lent itself to country - and it ended up being a nice transition going from AC/DC to country music. When I was younger, I never thought music was anything more than a pipe dream, but after studying at university and meeting Isi, I realized what I wanted to do and just stuck at it.
Originally from Kentucky, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Erik Dylan has had cuts by many country mainstays including Kip Moore, Eli Young Band, Eric Paslay ("Angels in this Town") and Justin Moore ("Put Me in a Box"). Additionally, he shared the stage with some of the biggest names in music, including Reckless Kelly, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Emmylou Harris, and Rodney Crowell. On October 21st, Dylan released his first full-length album, Heart of A Flatland Boy , a stellar ten-track project that centers around life in small towns. During some down time before a writing session, Dylan graciously called to speak in depth about the album, it's stunning artwork and more.
In addition to penning songs for others, you have released an EP as well as some singles, but Heart of A Flatland Boy is your first full-length project. Why was now the right time to release it?
Brett James produced my first EP and the sound on it went straight down the middle – which I was happy with, but I also knew in my heart that it wasn’t where I truly wanted to be. So, I spent the last three years really focused on this record, knowing in my head what I wanted it to be like, but not really being able to explain it to anyone else.
I had been writing with Guy Clark during that time [Clark passed earlier in 2016] and I asked him how I could release the type of music I wanted to and still garner fans. Guy responded that a satchel full of good songs and some patrons are all you really need - and so that’s how I approached the record.
I've heard your previous releases, but still didn't know what to expect from the record; and on first listen, I absolutely loved it, not only for the songwriting, but also in large part because of the strong Texas component to it.
There’s a lot of Texas in there because I’m influenced by a lot of Texas music, like Steve Earle, Reckless Kelly, and Guy Clark. But I also really love what Steve Albini did with Nirvana, so there’s some of that Seattle influence in there too. I don’t know where the record’s going to land genre wise, but I’m not too scared of that because I think it can stand on its own…and hopefully, will find its place somewhere.