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Child’s Play

With new music and a creative window opening up for him, Travis Kidd is pushing forward with a heavy dose of country, rock, a touch of blues, and lots of guitars.

G.K. Hizer
Marc Rains
December 28, 2019

For over 18 years, Travis Kidd has been supporting himself and his family as a full-time musician. “The last time I held a real job was 2001,” he shares with both a sense of pride and a touch of wonder. “There’s not many in Tulsa doing that.”

And although he might be met with a touch of disdain or mistrust for playing a healthy mix of cover tunes from some of the “purist” musicians that focus on original material, it’s nothing that he’s ashamed of. “Yeah, I play casino gigs and a lot of covers, but I also get most of my originals mixed in there as well. Most of those shows are three or four hours and at least three sets so that I can work a bit of everything in,” he says.

In reality, there should be no shame in that, especially when he’s been able to support a wife and three kids as a professional musician.

Although he’s been playing regularly the whole time, Kidd has kept a relatively low profile over the past few years, as he focused primarily on cover gigs and paying the bills. His last album of original music came out in 2008, but Kidd has met a new season of creativity, and has an EP of new material set for release in mid to late January.

“I’ve spent a good 10 years focused on raising my family and paying the bills,” he says. “With that, I just haven’t been as creative. Brandon Clark has three kids as well, and I don’t know how he keeps cranking out new stuff every year. I guess he multitasks better, and I have a more singular focus or tunnel vision. Now that I’ve got the kids grown a bit, though, I’m feeling more creative, and I’ve been writing more again.”

That’s good news for Kidd’s longtime fans, but it also promises to open more doors and win new fans. Anyone who remembers his past two releases, Mid America and Anytown USA, knows that his sound is hard to corner. A rocker at heart with distinctive country influences, Kidd incorporates it all into his songs. Touches of classic rock, ‘80s guitar rock, and traditional country all come together in his songwriting. If anything, Kidd’s songs might best be described as sounding like summer in Oklahoma, and the new songs follow suit.

A preview of the new tracks reveals a fresh mix of those influences, ranging from guitar-heavy rock to honky-tonk country, with just enough to tie it all together without sounding disjointed.

“Staying Right Here” is the most country-influenced of the bunch, featuring enough twang to bring visions of two-stepping on honky-tonk dance floors and some tasty pedal steel featuring an appearance by Jamey Johnson’s steel guitar player. On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Jesse Boy” features big guitars and a soaring chorus more reminiscent of an ‘80s rock anthem. That proves to be apropos, as the song is a tribute to Jesse Cooper, the teen guitarist of Tulsa’s breakout band Crooked X, who died in 2016 due to a blood infection that spread to his spinal cord and brain.

“I originally wrote that one for Jesse’s parents after he died,” Kidd says. “I was watching some stuff on YouTube after he passed, and I found a video with him sound checking a guitar, so I grabbed those licks from YouTube and transposed them into the right key to use them in the song that I recorded for his family.”

Meeting in the middle, “Loud Guitars and Run Down Bars” may be the best example of Kidd playing to his strengths: a mid-tempo ballad that highlights his storytelling with tight harmonies and a memorable hook.

The outlier of the new album may well be the bonus track, “Purple Margarita.” A track that Kidd started playing years ago at fraternity parties in Arkansas, the song has followed him to the point that he finally committed to recording it. A mashup of the music from Prince’s “Purple Rain” with the lyrics to Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville,” it’s a cross-pollination that works incredibly well. It gives a different nuance to Buffett’s lyrics.

Kidd has been a regular performer at River Spirit Casino Resort’s Margaritaville and 5 O’clock Somewhere Bar. When the song has come up or been requested, it has gone over incredibly well with both the audience and the staff. The response has been so overwhelmingly positive that Kidd’s version of the song has been passed through channels to get it to Buffett.

With new music on the way and a new creative window opening up for him, Kidd is looking forward to a busy 2020. He’ll be headed to Nashville the second week of January for a songwriting session with Pat Savage, whom he’s written with previously (and who co-wrote two songs on Ashley McBryde’s last record). Kidd is also focusing on directing his songs toward television and movie placement, with his eye on a couple of projects that will be filming in Oklahoma over the next year.