When someone comes from as strong a musical stock as Travis Linville, a conventional life and the path not taken are irreversibly conjoined. His preternatural musical work ethic was ignited as a small child on the built-in stage in his grandparents’ music room, and since then, Linville’s thirty-something years of sweat equity have culminated in a winding, successful career built of disparate parts: veteran and up-and-comer, mentor and underdog, session player and bandleader, sideman and songwriter.
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.”