Georgia-born Travis Denning began playing in bars aged 16 before getting his start in Nashville as a songwriter. After having his songs cut by artists including Jason Aldean, Justin Moore and fellow C2C 2019 performers Michael Ray and Chase Rice, he signed a record deal with Universal Music Group in 2017. His debut single David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs was a top 40 and yesterday, after making his UK debut at Thursday’s CMA Songwriters Series, he performed at the Town Square stage at C2C.
Carrying his acoustic guitar, Denning arrived on stage around 3PM and opened his set with a quip about being ‘iced’ (being told to down an entire Smirnoff Ice by fellow CMA Songwriters Series performer Jimmie Allen) last night, before performing Boys Back Home. The upbeat, rocky song gave him a chance to show off the power in his voice, which reminded me a bit of Luke Combs, and I really liked the storytelling in his lyrics. He encouraged the crowd to clap along throughout and did a great job at keeping the energy and excitement up.
Throughout the set Denning brought out his deadpan humour, such as when introducing the ‘groundbreaking song about a guy and a girl’ After A Few, which had a more subdued and bittersweet feel than the recorded version. Whilst there were a few references to the previous night, the set also felt very inclusive and welcoming to those who hadn’t seen him before. I was also really impressed with his ability as a lyricist, particularly on Good Years, an ode to small town life that was full of details and showed off the richer, more soulful tones in his voice.
As well as performing his own songs, Denning also threw in a couple of covers. The funky, slinky Snakes And Needles – which opened with an a capella verse that highlighted the depth of his vocal and quick delivery – was effortlessly combined with Motorhead’s classic Ace Of Spades via a fiery, rattling guitar solo. He also had a sparse, stripped-back take on All Out Of Beer, a song he wrote which was cut by Jason Aldean. I felt he really brought out the emotion of the song and it was nice to see a different side to him.
However, the standout for me was Denning’s version of Miranda Lambert’s Kerosene, where he really got the chance to rock out. He had some great guitar flourishes and his voice went from being almost a yell in places to hitting some huge notes. The song got a massive cheer from the crowd at the end and it was clear he loved performing the song and getting lost in the music.
Denning closed his set with David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs. It’s a song that’s jam-packed with details and has great storytelling, as well as brilliantly capturing the nostalgia of being young and highlighting the gravelly edge to his vocal. The crowd were joining in throughout as he encouraged them to sing solo, and by the end of his set he seemed to have won over plenty of new fans from the chatter around me.
Overall Travis Denning delivered a polished, accomplished set that showed off his talents as a lyricist and guitar player, as well as his great energy, stage presence and versatility. He’s an exciting performer to watch, incredibly entertaining and one of my highlights of C2C so far. I can’t wait to see what he does next and I think he’s definitely going to surprise a few people over the weekend.
Set list: 1. Boys Back Home 2. After A Few 3. Good Years 4. Snakes And Needles/Ace Of Spades (Motorhead cover) 5. All Out Of Beer (made famous by Jason Aldean) 6. Kerosene (Miranda Lambert cover) 7. David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs Performance date: 8th March 2019
See Travis Denning live at C2C: Country to Country at The O2 in London this weekend:
Saturday 9th March – C2C Sessions, 10:30 AM
Saturday 9th March – BBC Radio 2 Stage, 1 PM