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Travis Denning: 5 Songs That Shaped the Songwriter

by Jim Casey
Travis Denning 5 Songs That Shaped the Songwriter
(photo by Andrew Chin/Getty Images)

Singer/songwriter Travis Denning, 30, has found plenty of success since moving from Georgia to Music City in 2014. Not only did Travis top the chart with his sophomore single, “After a Few,” in 2020, but also he has penned tunes for a slew of artists, including Chase Rice (“Everybody We Know Does”), Michael Ray (“Her World or Mine”), Jason Aldean (“All Out of Beer”), Justin Moore (“Life in the Livin'”), and Morgan Wallen (“Devil Don’t Know”), among others.

On the heels of releasing his new song, “Strawberry Wine And a Cheap Six Pack,” which he penned with Thomas Archer, Jerry Flowers, and Paul DiGiovanni, Travis sat down with Outsider to talk about the 5 Songs That Shaped the Songwriter.

1. ‘3 AM’ – Matchbox 20 (written by Rob Thomas, Brian Yale, John Leslie Goff, John Joseph Stanley)

Travis Denning: Let’s start from the beginning. My childhood best friend Jacob turned me on to this band’s debut record. I remember everything about hearing this song for the first time, from the melody to the lyrics. As most do, I heard it more as a relationship song, but when I got older I saw their VH1 Storytellers where Rob Thomas explained it was written about his mother’s cancer. I was floored at how relatable the song was for two totally different life situations.

2. ‘Seminole Wind’ – John Anderson

Travis Denning: This is probably the first country song I really remember being exposed to. Even when I was young, I felt the sad and homesick emotion in that song. The chorus melody is so “nursery rhyme” catchy. This song taught me how important a musical hook is. When that piano starts and then the fiddle comes in . . . you know on the first note what song it is.

3. ‘Jolene’ – Ray LaMontagne

Travis Denning: You hear this song once, and you feel like you’ve known the singer in the song forever. I think the hardest challenge of songwriting is painting the most vivid picture for the listener while still being conversational in the lyrics and delivery. When it works perfectly, you get songs like this. This is a 10/10.

4. ‘We Rode in Trucks’ – Luke Bryan (written by Luke Bryan, Roger Murrah, Jim McCormick)

Travis Denning: I see where I come from in this song. I see my friends, my family, my hometown, and myself. Luke just told it how it is and laid it all out there in his own way. It’s just a beautiful South Georgia ode to the way of life some of us are lucky to have experienced. I try to put a little bit of that in every song I write.

5. ‘Where She Told Me to Go’ – Eric Church (written by Eric Church, Casey Beathard)

Travis Denning: One of the most insane “didn’t see that coming” hooks, in my opinion. This is just one of the many reasons why I consider Casey Beathard to be one of the greatest songwriters of all time. The man is attached to some of the most original song ideas ever. Also, the last line of the second verse [is at least two weeks from everywhere] is a nod to O Brother, Where Art Thou—and that’s amazing. If I tried to do that it would be the cheesiest goofiest thing in the world.