Travis Linville has announced his forthcoming new album, I’m Still Here, due out May 21 via Black Mesa Records and available for pre-order now. Produced by fellow Oklahoman JD McPherson, I’m Still Here 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. Linville has revealed the result of one such contribution today: a music video for the title track, a lament on the chasm between perception and reality, which was penned in a single writing session with power songwriter, and one-fourth of supergroup The Highwomen, Natalie Hemby (Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Lady Gaga). Her talent as a writer pulled Linville’s song idea in a decidedly more pop-inflected direction, touching on Hemby’s gift for writing exactly what someone else means to say.
Of the song, Linville offered to Wide Open Country, “I had the great pleasure of writing this song with Natalie Hemby who is easily one of the best. I had been kicking this idea around for a while and came to the session with some version of a chorus. Natalie immediately started playing and singing what became the first verse of the song that didn’t exist ten seconds ago! Like she already knew it or something. So cool to see her do that. We whittled at it for the next couple of hours and I left feeling elated. My original idea was an abstract thought about reflecting on years gone by and being thankful to still be here, or anywhere. After we finished the song it had a lot more flesh, blood, and heart. Now after 2020, and being locked down for so long, it has fully come to life in another way I never could have imagined before.”
A sought-after player and multi-instrumentalist, Linville’s session and touring work include credits with artists ranging from fellow Oklahomans Samantha Crain and John Moreland to longtime collaborator Hayes Carll 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 and Moreland, as well as Parker Millsap, Todd Snider’s Hard Working Americans, and even country legend Marty Stuart. These collaborations and his recorded catalog, including 2017’s Up Ahead LP, have built for Linville a dedicated group of fans in the music world who’ve spent decades enamored of his nonchalant technical skill, artistry, and taste.
Among those fans 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.”
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.
On the 10-track set, “I’m Still Here” is followed by “Feeling We Used to Know,” originally written 20-plus years ago by Linville’s former bandmate Jamie Kelley. Recorded live, it leans hard in the direction of Elvis Costello and the Attractions, both tightly orchestrated and relaxed 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. Elsewhere, the bottle-clanking country waltz “Yesterday’s Wine” finds Linville paying homage to Willie Nelson while trading verses with Hayes Carll and joined by friends and Tulsans John Fullbright and Jacob Tovar on the chorus.
At its core, I’m Still Here is a collection of contributions woven together with endearingly visible seams - a Travis Linville album where Linville gets by with a little help from his friends, instead of vice versa.
“I’ve never worked with someone so open to new ideas yet knows fundamentally who they are as an artist,” McPherson explains. “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.” Linville will release I’m Still Here on May 21, 2021 via Black Mesa Records. Pre-order it now on 180 Gram Black or Gold Vinyl and CD.