Updated: Nov 28, 2021
"...by the end of it, it’s impossible for me to not find some part of myself or personal experience tangled in it." -Travis Shallow
Coppage: Listening to your music and specifically in your songwriting, I hear a blend of stories or narratives along with moments of lyrical meditations and inward mining of the soul. When you approach a song or new idea (from wherever it comes from), do you tend to have a desire to tell a story in your songs or marinate on a feeling, exploring emotion?
Shallow: When a song idea or a specific experience brings up an idea I wanna mine deeper into, I don’t really know where the song is going to go initially. It’s just the starting point. Usually I start with a line or two or a couplet that I really like and I expand the idea around that. But the story and the narrative HAS to be there for me to be invested. I’ve sat down quite a few times to write a strictly narrative based song that doesn’t have me in it at all, but by the end of it, it’s impossible for me to not find some part of myself or personal experience tangled in it.
Coppage: Travis, we have known each other since early 2000. As a musician myself, I look back at moments or ideas that presented a, “Aha” moment. One for me was the realization that the spaces between notes are more important than the notes – it’s okay to be on stage with air to breath and not a constant barrage of notes or noise, etc. Can you think of a moment or moments that you carry with you while you are writing or performing? Something that you learned along the way.
Shallow: I have been lucky enough to have more than a handful of those moments and even more grateful that I have remembered them. Some have been on stage but most of them have been offstage. I remember hearing the line “the notes are silver, but the rests are gold” And that always stuck with me. It’s such a simple way to look at music, but music in itself is the balance of sound and silence. You have to have both. My favorite songs and songwriters all have dynamic range in common. They can build it up and give you 5th gear when they want, but they always bring ya back down to idle before doing it again. It needs to breath, and there’s some masters out there doing it at the highest level right now. I hear people saying that music sucks right now, and I couldn’t disagree more. You might have to dig for it, and it might not be on the radio, but some of the best music and songs I’ve ever head are coming out one after another.
Coppage: You have been sober for over 6 years now. That is a very personal journey that you are open about. Can you discuss your songwriting before sobriety in contrast with after? Is there a difference? How has sobriety influenced your songwriting?
Shallow: Songwriting before and after getting sober almost feel like two different lives. Before it was a lot of writing late at night - 3am and after a show of mine and still couldn’t wind down. Maybe I had an idea or melody but looking back at songwriting journals, it was a lot of stream of conscienceless with really bad handwriting. I still had some songs written then that I’m still really connected to, but there was a lot of incoherent trash too. A lot of the subject matter was about hating the place I was in and trying to find a way out. Then after a long rehab stay, it took me awhile to get back in the saddle, and I was unsure if I could even still write a song. I was almost re-learning how to do everything again. Not just songs, but just daily life. But about 6 weeks being home I sat down after a walk on the beach in the winter time and wrote The Great Divide. That song ended up being the anchor that woke me back up and showed me I could still do it. I went and wrote an entire album around that song. Also, the blessing/curse of the "sober fairy" is sleeping in completely goes away. So I’m up early and write in the morning now. It’s a lot less pressure, a lot more output, and a higher percentage of keepers.
Coppage: Enjoyers of music and art have the impression that artistic creation is “all about the muse,” in which songs just magically appear. While that may happen, it is usually a disciplined process or schedule. What is your approach to songwriting?
Shallow: Early on I had one of those muse visits that delivered a song to me all at once and seemingly out of nowhere. I almost wished it wouldn’t of happened. It was like winning a jackpot on the first scratch off you ever bought. It warps your expectations. The muse is a thing though, I’ve experienced it. But you can’t just put up an antenna and summon it. My approach now is scheduled time for writing with a relatively hard cut off time. If I don’t get anything in that allotted time, and it becomes not fun, I go do something else. But your butt has to be in the chair attempting to write first. “The muse likes to find you working” is the better ideology in my opinion. The more time you’re in the chair writing, your batting average goes up. There’s always exceptions though. If I’m inspired by an idea, I stop everything and try to wrangle it in right then. I’ve learned to not wait or come back to it because it will likely be gone. But even with this new approach to writing, it’s still alluring. I think Leonard Cohen said it best, “being a songwriter is like being a nun, you’re married to a mystery.”
Coppage: Do you see songwriting (not performing) as a collaborative action or more of an isolated practice? Which do you prefer and why?
Shallow: I’ve done a couple co-writes, but writing for me is mainly a solo endeavor. That said, I’m not against co-writes at all. I just don’t have that much experience with them. I’m a pretty extreme introvert and spend most of my time alone with my dog in my home studio, and that feels right. I also have a pretty deep well of experiences before sobriety to keep the sad-bastard serenades coming for awhile. But if that well ever dries up, I’m damn sure gonna be making some phone calls. lol
Coppage: Songwriters seem to be a whole different breed of folks. They can internalize what they see and then put it out is a medium that is desired for folks to engage, no matter how painful the song or emotion may be. Because of this, do you believe songwriters have a responsibility to uphold not only to listeners but to themselves? If so, what is the responsibility?
Shallow: That's a great question, man. I used to think I had to suffer a bit to turn out something beautiful. And before I got sober, I was carrying around so much that I almost HAD to write songs just to relieve the pressure valve a bit. Nowadays it’s different, but still similar in a way. I am one of those people that take on the feelings of the people around me, and it can be hard to not let it affect me or dragged in. The best way I’ve found to unload some of that is through a song. It can be vague or uncomfortably specific, but it’s releasing that energy back out. And I’ll tell ya, it works. And It’s a lot cheaper than therapy too. But I do both, a good therapist and a songwriting outlet seems to be the formula for self-care these days. And I do feel like there’s a watermark as a songwriter that I’m always looking at, but there’s little responsibility to uphold that for me personally right now. I have felt more of that responsibility in the past, and I’m sure that will change in the future. But right now I just like writing songs. Playing a new song straight through for the first time after writing it (and still liking it) is one of the best feelings there is. Everything that comes after that is icing on the cake.
Coppage: I would be remiss if I didn’t ask who are your songwriting influences and why. However, I want to dig in and find out what are your other songwriting influences that is not music or other musicians?
Shallow: I rotate listening to a handful of songwriters at the moment. Foy Vance is a big one for me right now. I remember the first song I listened to on the ride home from rehab and freshly sober, was a live video of “Closed Hands Full of Friends” and just watching it with tears flowing and hair standing up and chills and all the feelings. I hadn’t actually felt anything in so long, it was almost a euphoric level and reminded me how powerful a song can be. He’s still on heavy rotation.
Jerry Joseph is another staple around here for me. His work just keeps me inspired. His music always has something to say. It’s usually very clear where he stands on issues and gives an angle that is unapologetically his truth. I love that. I was lucky enough to meet him early on in my career (2006ish), and we hit it off. He took me out for a few tours in the Pacific Northwest, and we did a few shows around New Years in Costa Rica. He really looked out for me. I owe a lot of my approach to songwriting and what is bullshit and what isn’t, to him.
There’s a lot of heavy indie songwriters that I listen and keep up with too. David Ramirez, Jeffrey Martin, Anna Tivel, Rayland Baxter, Hiss Golden Messenger, Alex Dezen, Katie Pruitt, Malcomb Holcombe are just a few. There is so much great music out there, and I’m surprised and taken back by how many unbelievable songwriters there are out there right now flying under the radar. All of these folks are lyrical heavy hitters in my opinion. The melodies are there, sure. Some of their voices are an acquired taste, but they all are telling stories and drilling deep into what they’re saying. No fluff. They swing the bat.
And I’ll tell ya, I fill up the tank with so many things and people other than songwriters. And it’s everywhere. Remember Diana Nyad? She was 64 and swam from Cuba to Florida, straight through. No Shark cage. 110 miles. Took her 53 hrs. How is that not inspiring? I watched a documentary about it and was floored. It takes my “I’m sad because of blah blah blah...” and says look at what’s possible. Stop letting time go by. Do something while you’re here. Move a muscle, change a thought. Don’t stay stuck. Let go of this bullshit you carry around. You don’t HAVE to carry it. She’s just one person I thought of, but there are so many humans out there walking to their own beat, making beautiful art, making ends meet in new ways and on their own terms, and that’s inspiring as hell.
Coppage: Anything else you want to make sure you have the opportunity to say? How can folks find you as well as listen to your music?
Shallow: I do actually; the last 18+ months have been so damn hard in every way. It’s been the ultimate stress test. Not just for people in recovery, but everybody. I end every one of my livestreams saying the same thing “y’all be kind to everybody you run into this week. It’s a choice you have to make and I hope you make it. And most importantly, be kind to yourself. It’s already a hard world out there, why make it any harder? See y’all at the next one.” I know sound like Mr. Rogers, and I’m totally okay with that. People can find me and my music on all the streaming platforms, on all the socials @TravisShallow, and my website travisshallow.com. I also have Patreon that’s getting to be real fun. I also have a new single coming out New Years Day called “Not There Yet”. Lastly, I’ll be on the road this year and you can keep up with tour dates on my website too. If I’m coming close to you, I’d love to see ya.
Travis Shallow is an American singer-songwriter, musician, and recording artist.
He is best known for his steady solo career, with the single "Let It Pass" being his most recent release to date. "Let It Pass" was released on Cavity Search Records on June 26th, 2020.
Shallow said "I wrote Let It Pass last year and recorded it in late January (2020) right before the quarantine and COVID thing got into full swing here in the states. I was watching a friend of mine going through a divorce and it was hard on her, and I could see her trying to hold onto to something that was already long gone, and she was holding onto more of the idea of how it used to be instead of how it actually was. It’s like holding onto an electric fence waiting for it to stop hurting you, when all you have to do is let go. I’ve had to keep learning this lesson over and over, so I’m singing it to myself just as much as documenting her story too."
Shallow debuted "Let It Pass" on his livestream series "Live from Shallow Chateau" that he created during quarantine in response to all live shows being cancelled due to the pandemic. He has live-streamed over 125 episodes during quarantine since March 2020. The "Live from Shallow Chateau" livestream series was also broadcast on JamBase as one of their weekly Featured Livestreams.
Shallow also live-streamed on Breedlove Guitars social media during November 2020 as Shallow followed Jeff Bridges as their Featured Artist of the month] Shallow initially became an endorsed artist with Breedlove Guitars in January 2019.
Shallow was also a former member of alternative country band A Few Good Liars, with whom he recorded one studio album in 2011 titled, Battered Wooden Body. "That album showcases the harmony vocal power of the group and Shallow sings songs that can be tender and those that traffic in darkness. In all he does so with restraint, whether on country tinged acoustic ballads (the excellent "Amen") or aching confession-drenched numbers" "Battered Wooden Body" was recorded in Oxford, Mississippi at Tweed Recording Studio and was engineered by Andrew Ratcliffe whose discography includes (Will Hoge, The Damnwells, American Aquarium)
In 2012, Shallow left A Few Good Liars and started writing and recording songs that would later be released as his first solo self-titled album, Travis Shallow, to regional critical acclaim in the southeastern United States.
Shallow went back to Tweed Recording Studio with Andrew Ratcliffe engineering to record his solo debut album. This solo album was acoustically driven with an accompanying band to highlight the songwriting and lyrical prowess. "Shallow is a singer whose vocal personality is ultimately a category unto itself, like a Willie Nelson, an Otis Redding. He could sing anything and make it sound great, make it well worth listening to. His self-titled album has seven songs like that." Shallow's solo album has a maturity to it that catapulted Shallow into bigger rooms and bigger audiences.
After the release of his self-titled album in March 2016, Shallow took the show to the people performing intimate shows, stripped down with him and an acoustic guitar. Shallow also landed himself some national opening spots after releasing his debut solo album with legend Gregg Allman from The Allman Brothers, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real (son of legend Willie Nelson), The Marcus King Band, Jerry Joseph, Todd Snider, and fellow native North Carolina band, American Aquarium.
Shallow continued writing and began fronting a new line-up, Travis Shallow & The Deep End, with a studio album titled, The Great Divide, released on October 31, 2017. This 8-song album is a mix of Americana, soul, and rock and roll, recorded analog to two-inch tape at Overdub Lane in Durham, North Carolina with Jason Merritt engineering.
The Great Divide was featured in Relix Magazine upon release. "Emerging from NC- Travis Shallow & The Deep End dive into The Great Divide with their eyes wide open. Their debut release seamlessly weaves genres, adding a touch of surprise, yet staying hauntingly familiar. Shallow is a musician’s musician, and his new release, The Great Divide, is your window in."