Story Behind the Song: Travis Denning, ‘After a Few’
Ahead of the release of his debut EP, Beer's Better Cold, rising country artist Travis Denning dropped "After a Few" as the first single from the project. The song first arrived in early 2019 but, after a slow and steady build, sits in the Top 10 on the country radio charts as of late April 2020.
"After a Few" is Denning's highest-charting single to date, an exciting way to start off a new release. But when the artist first wrote the song, he admits he was hoping to pitch the track to bigger stars.
Below, Denning shares the story behind "After a Few," in his own words.
I was writing with Kelly Archer and Justin Weaver. Justin was at his old spot on Music Row -- a really cool spot that was just, like, good vibes all the time, you know? ... And so, we got in the room.
My thing was, I had been digging on this Charles Kelley record, [2016's The Driver] ... I burned it up so much. In fact, I mean, even my mom -- I remember, I said to my mom, I was like, "You'd really like this" ... And, specifically, there was a song on there called "Dancing Around It" that I just thought was, like -- it was just so silky smooth: kinda like old Fleetwood Mac, but dark and kind of like -- I don't know, it just had this whole vibe.
And so I played that song for Kelly and Justin, and I was like, "I just want to capture the picture that you see when you hear this song. I want that same picture in whatever we write today." So we kind of chased that hypnotic, Tom Petty kick snare ... kind of vibe.
I started messing around with a guitar lick, and I found the guitar lick that would later become the main one in "After a Few." So we just had that groove going ... and had that lick over it. And Kelly just goes, "Alright ... I've got this title ... Man, I just don't know if this is worth a damn ... It's just "After a Few."" That's what it was called.
And I immediately loved it for a few reasons: I had written songs called "David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs" and "Heartbeat of a Small Town," and I'm like, "I need a title that is literally just, like, three syllables. I can't write anymore long titles." So she said "After a Few," and I was like, "I love it."
Kelly drove that thing. She immediately -- the first melody she did, she went [hums the verse melody]; she was like, "Wouldn't that be cool?"
I was like, "Yeah, that's cool!" [Laughs] I mean, she was just on it, and she drove that thing pretty well, and we had it done in probably three or four hours; it came out very fast after that.
I wanted to send it to Luke Bryan and Dustin Lynch. As soon as I got the demo back, I was like, "Either one of those guys would just kill this song." And this was at a time in my life where, the record deal was coming, but it hadn't happened; it hadn't been offered yet, but I had been talking with Blain Rhodes at Universal at the time, and [Universal's] Brian Wright was on board.
So I sent it to Blain, and I was like, "Will you run this by Luke?" And Brian emailed him back and was like, "Yeah, that's awesome. But, no, I don't want to." [Laughs] He was like, "I don't want to play it for Luke, 'cause that sounds like Travis' song." And Blain was like, "I agree, man."
And [they told me], "I think you need to start really thinking about the future here, and kind of start to think smart about these songs." And that was a really awesome thing to hear, because, essentially, he was saying, "We're probably going offer you a record deal here shortly. Don't give away your good songs."
And that was the first song that I held for myself. And then I held "David Ashley Parker," and that came out, too.
But, yeah, that was pretty funny. I definitely wanted to pitch it, but then I was like, "Nah, I should hold it." ... I'm pretty glad Luke or Dustin didn't hear it ...
I remember we wrote it, and I was like, "That is like the most D.L. thing ever." He just, he can sing that stuff so well. But, hey, Dustin, if you're listening, I'm glad I never sent it to you!
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