Travis Denning kicks off his new project Dirt Road Down with the pulse-raising track “Call It Country,” a song that seems fixin' to plow through your speakers with an insane amount of country swagger.

“It's our show opener right now!” exclaims Denning in a recent interview with Taste of Country, his voice rising as he describes the electricity surrounding the song that he wrote alongside Jessi Alexander and Chris Stevens. “That one was definitely written with the attitude of, I don't want to write anything slower than 120 BPMs today. I want this song to blow the doors off anything.”

And it does.

But what might be even more impressive are the songs from Dirt Road Down that have a bit more laid-back feel, the songs that show another side to the Georgia native, the songs that prove that there is a whole lot more to the guy who reached the top of the charts with the somewhat mystifying “After a Few.”

“I was sort of going with that well-balanced thing,” he says of the six songs featured on Dirt Road Down. “I wanted this project to not only show that I like to have fun and that I don't take myself too seriously, but also that when I really have something to say, I do.”

It’s this feeling and this increasing confidence that seemed to direct Denning’s songwriting during the darkest days of the pandemic last year, days in which Denning found himself writing four days a week and finishing up somewhere around 100 songs in a matter of five months.

“I realized that I would never have this moment to sit down and write songs again and really dive into some places I want to go,” the 28-year-old remembers. “It was like, ‘Hey, let's write about things you want to talk about, or you haven't really written about.’"

He pauses before continuing, "I think that when you're on the road and you're touring and you're working on a song for radio, that’s your headspace. But when that stops, your headspace shifts a little, to be a bit more introspective.”

Listeners can hear that shift loud and clear on the touching “I Went Fishin'."

“Everybody goes through those moments of heartbreak and loss,” says Denning, who counts Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle and Neil Young as some of his biggest musical inspirations. “It's not like they leave you. They're kind of with you forever. But it's more about where you go and what you do to find peace and a little bit of closure. And for me, I find that peace when I am out on the water fishing.”

Dirt Road Down also includes the endearing “Jack and Coke,” a lyrical masterpiece of a country song that Denning wrote in 2016.

“It just never felt like it fit with the other projects before,” he says of the song he wrote with CJ Solar and Chris Stevens. “I love well-crafted hooks and I love twists and I love songs that, you know, we kind of call them ‘bluebird songs,’ songs you can sing at an acoustic set at [famed Nashville acoustic singer-songwriter venue] the Bluebird Cafe. I always hoped that this song would turn out to be something like that.”

Currently out on tour with Brothers Osborne, Denning seems to find himself in his creative pocket at the perfect time, with fans currently eating up his singalong-worthy “ABBY.”

“I think ultimately I'm at that point in my career where I can go play a show and people know my songs and they've kind of made up their minds if they like my music or not,” he says with a slight laugh. “It's nice to have a little bit of that pressure off of having to put something out that grabs everybody's attention and stuff, and instead, kind of lean a little harder into ultimately what I want to do and write about.”

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