Tell us your real names, country of birth, date of birth and childhood experience. 

My name is Travis Lee Kern and I was born and raised in the coal mining town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia.  I grew up loving the place and the people of rural Appalachia.  The history of the mountain people is so rich and I was always interested in how I fit into it.  Stories of my ancestors were gold to me.  Though I played more sports than music growing up, the stories I collected laid the foundation for the writing I continue to do.  

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Tell us about your music career, your band name, musical background, experience and skills.

I play guitar, clawhammer banjo, harmonica, piano and a little bit of mandolin.  Though I’ve written songs and performed for years, “The Coal’s Low” is my debut album. In my early twenties, I spent a couple of years in Nashville, TN pursuing a career in music. The timing wasn’t right, and I needed to live a little more of life before I could write this groups of songs. Opportunities are opening up daily and I am in awe and so thankful.  I’m very excited to see where God leads me through this music.

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Tell us about your genre, concept and idea behind your music video and the song.

I call it Appalachian Americana. I wrote “Empty Roanoke Coal Train” on the banjo, and it was important to me to record it with the clawhammer banjo rhythm front and center. Maggie Lander did an amazing job adding color to the song with her fiddle work.  A prevalent image of my childhood was seeing Norfolk Southern coal cars heading in and out of the region.  When I moved to Central Kentucky, I began thinking of coming home as filling up.  This song arose from that scenic drive I would take on Route 58 from the Cumberland Gap to Big Stone Gap. 

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Tell us everything that we need to know about you as a musician and the ups and downs you have faced in the music business. 

Rather than ups and downs, I think of my life with music as consisting of seasons.  I have tough seasons in which I think I’m a hack and that everyone probably sees me in that light.  I know a lot of artists struggle with this phenomenon. It can be paralyzing. I’ve also had quiet seasons, when music had to take a backseat to more pressing issues like being a stay-at-home dad to two babies.  I thought I’d never emerge from that one.  Then there are seasons like the present one, in which my music is resonating with people and doors are opening.  The hope in every winter is that spring is around the corner.  

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Tell us about other members of your band, music producer, crew or music video director, how the song was recorded and how the music video was shot.   

Daniel Lay — guitar,

Maggie Lander — fiddle and backup vocals,

Chip Minks — bass,

Jeffrey Alford — drums,

Travis Lee Kern — banjo.  

Daniel and I produced “Empty Roanoke Coal Train,” as well as the rest of the record.

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Tell us how long you have been in the music industry, your experience and your future goal. 

I’ve been writing and performing for nearly 15 years.  My main goal is to be faithful to God in this musical journey. I see myself continuing to seek wider audiences for my songs through performances and pitching them to more established artists. 

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Tell us what inspires you to write, compose and sing. 

Writing and playing music is a gift…a blessing from God.  I realize that the best way to honor that gift is to share it and be thankful for it.  Thematically, life in the mountains, faith, my wife, family, and nostalgia are my primary inspirations.  

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Tell us the secret behind making a hit song. 

I would guess equal parts stellar writing, production, promotion and being in the right place at the right time. 

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Tell us the message you will like to pass to your fans out there.

Thanks for encouraging me on this journey!

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Tell the kind of advice you will give to an upcoming artist. 

People immediately gauge your authenticity when you perform.  Write with as much authenticity and detail as you can muster….then let it rip.

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Elaborate on your music careers, albums, songs, tours, recognition or awards you might have obtained. 

 “The Coal’s Low” is my debut album.  Two of the songs on the record placed in The Gathering in the Gap Songwriting Contest in different years.  “Community College” won first place in 2010 and “The Coal’s Low” came in second in 2017. 

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List Radio or TV Stations that are airing your songs and blogs that have featured you as well and send message to them via this platform. 

The Rooster, WHBN 1420 AM — This is a great station in Kentucky that has really promoted my music heavily.  Joe Mathis has had me on The Joe Show for two different 30 min segments.  Both Joe and Charlie Perry have passed my music on to people they know in the business.  It’s a gem of a station and I’m thankful for their support.

Red Barn Radio – I’m scheduled to perform on Red Barn Radio in front of a live audience on April 4, 2018, with the hour long show to be aired the following Saturday.  Booking this was an honor, as I’ve listened to countless RBR shows on Saturday nights on WEKU.  It is a professionally recorded and produced show that is syndicated throughout Kentucky and other pockets of the South.  

Blue Moon Kentucky — An internet radio show of American music based in Spain featured “Empty Roanoke Coal Train.” 

Leo Swiss Radio — I just got word that DJ Leo will be playing my music out of Switzerland in the near future.

There have been several other stations that have said they like my music, but I can’t verify if they’ve played it.

I’m set to play on the television station WCYB in Kingsport, TN next week.  

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Tell us how you write your lyrics, compose, sing and record in the studio. 

Usually, I’ll start with an idea or a hook that I want to build a song around.  I’ll then come up with a melody by humming or singing nonsense over a chord progression that I think fits the original idea for the song.  Once I have a melody and basic song structure, I’ll step away from whatever instrument I’m playing to write the chorus of the song.  I’ll then map out the verses of the song, brainstorming what themes I want to appear or flesh out in the song.  Once that’s in place, I begin to feel out the song while playing an instrument.  Sometimes songs flow quickly, but most of the time it takes days for me to craft and edit the song into its final version.  The recording of the album The Coal’s Low, on which “Empty Roanoke Coal Train” appears, was an absolute blast.  I pulled together friends of mine from two bands to make the record with Jason Groves at Sneak Attack Recording Company in Lexington, Ky.  Daniel Lay, guitarist and songwriter for Much Obliged, helped me produce the songs, giving them life in a way that I couldn’t imagine. The songs were really fresh to everyone, and combined with the fact that we recorded it live in the studio over the course of two days, there was a real energy to the tracks that I really love.  Jason has a few Lexington Music Awards plaques for best recording engineer and I can attest that he was wonderful to work with.  

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Name five biggest artists that you like. 

John Prine, Bob Dylan, Ron Short, Scott Miller and Jason Isbell.

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Name the artists you have collaborated with before in your songs or artists you are willing to collaborate with in the future if you have the chance to do so. 

First of all, Ron Short is hero of mine as a musician and storyteller.  His work as a mountain storyteller and songwriter paved the way for musicians like me to write and perform songs that speak of life in Appalachia.  The fact that he is my friend and at times a musical collaborator is something that I count as a blessing.  

I’d love to be in the same room with John Prine someday.  

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Give us the links to your website and your entire social network. 

www.travisleekern.com

FB: @travisleekern

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Give us the links to your various stores for fans to buy your music. 

travisleekern.bandcamp.com

store.cdbaby.com/cd/travisleekern

It’s also on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, or wherever you consume music.

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Tell us about your happiest day and saddest day. 

My happiest day was when my son was born.  My saddest day: any of the four miscarriages that my wife and I experienced before having children.  Each were crushing and affect me to this day.

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Tell us how you will spend a million dollars.

I’d tithe 10%, then go on tour!


One comment:

  1. H William Smith

    November 20, 2017 at 12:13 am

    Travis is absolutely the real deal! I have known him for years and watched him grow as a musician. The Coal Is Low is a killer album and I hope to see him live back here in his home town soon!

    Reply

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