Steel Guitarists Along The Road.

Well HELLO EVERYONE.
WELCOME to my NEWEST series and creation I called it Steel Guitarists Along The road. I gave it this moniker because within this series I shall be visiting with MANY steel guitarists along the road of ALL realms of music. You know I’m going to go out on a limb here and be honest, I know PEOPLE and I know TONES, but I don’t know much about the actual instrument myself. Alas, I don’t pretend to know all about something I don’t and I am learning SO MUCH every day I compose articles. Hell I been laboring nights and days behind this keyboard for so long that I’m developing different styles and methods of allocating my time for everything.

You know one thing I learned from observing this music business for so many years and watching literally thousands of bands play…it’s a business. It’s a HARD tireless and sometimes scary business, it can be lucrative and tangible or it can be non profitable all in the shift of word of mouth. Good or bad your reputation and word of mouth can make you or break you out there, no matter how hard you network and use social media.

Another thing I learned from festivals and venues is the fact you MUST know how to carry a briefcase and conduct your business as a band and a BRAND. You ever notice how the simple R is the difference between BAND and BRAND, quaint isn’t it? Purposely done…I think not, nonetheless it is quite a thing to ponder. All within that scope of BAND and BRAND is how you market your product to ME the guy with the money in my hand. What are YOU going to do to make ME spend MY money on YOUR music? It’s all about HEART and SOUL, and how you express yourself to me, we all like different avenues of music and you aren’t going to please everyone all the time.

One portion of this whole musical journey I have taken is watching that person sitting behind that thing some bands have, called the steel guitar. It’s been one of the staples of Country Music since the 1927 birth of the Opry and the emergence of Hank Williams, heck even before him it’s existed. And today all around the Honky Tonks of the present day and age that I inhabit in order to bring you these articles, there lies a long list of people that bring the music to light.

Country Music has THREE staple pillars of it’s foundation or it’s backbone if you will. Those are in this order the songwriter, the producer, and the steel guitar in my opinion it takes those three to make a classic Country Music album. My point being Willie Nelson “Red Headed Stranger” and “Wanted The Outlaws” as two prime examples that had all three. Shooter will tell you rapidly “Wanted The Outlaws” was the first platinum selling Country Music album EVER and defied the sough it was initially given by Nashville in the 1970’s.

Local music as a whole contains such a plethora of well rounded steel guitarists and pickers waiting for you to discover them if you are willing to wade through the broken beer bottles and travel the worn out back alleys of America to find them. You have to look in the places most normal people wouldn’t, and you have to listen. You have to brave the heat and cold and discomfort of the fields and farms that spew forth these festivals, mostly you have to study and watch for them.

This installment of my series bring me to visit with a man that has been a friend for some time now his name is Travis Egnor and I found him through W.B.Walker’s Old Soul Radio Show. His band is called The Horse Traders and they romp around the East Tennessee and West Virginia area. You can see their video here and this is my wonderful visit I had with him transcribed into print in this article.

Cover photo of Mr. Travis courtesy of Melissa Stilwell Photography

GHC
Why don’t you tell me how you got started in music, and who influenced you the most?

Mr. Travis
Ok those are huge questions. Well the way I got started, I’m actually the only person in my family that’s musical at all and nobody else had any interest in it.My parents had this old console record player and they ended up with all of my uncle on my dad’s side records and there was everything in there from disco to early Alice Cooper, to Stevie Wonder and the Oak Ridge Boys and everyone just listened to what they liked. Again, they weren’t musicians so the music was always there. Ever since I was really, really young I was brought up with music on those records and I can’t really say that one particular artist really brought me up. I remember liking the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band a whole lot and that’s one band that I really look up to.

I wanted a guitar at five years old and I really wanted one badly I had a couple of plastic one for kids I think the company was Symphony and my first real guitar was a Silver Tone and I bought it in Huntington West Virginia at a place called Mac And Dave’s and I think they are still open but just getting ready to close. I just really wanted one and I cannot say one hundred percent that it took off immediately at five years old, and I had some lessons and those fell off as I drew interest in other things. I picked it back up at seven and I think from the time that I was about twelve it’s been a constant in my life.

GHC
So what started you on the steel guitar?

Mr. Travis
You know,I guess just wanting to hear that in my music. And when I played in Nashville there were all kinds of people playing them in the bands that was in but here in West Virginia when I moved back, there’s not a lot of steel guitarists around. I think there’s only me and James Barker who plays with Tyler Childers and the Foodstamps that are the really the only steel players around here, so I just learned how to pick one out.

I don’t play pedal steel I play straight steel and a buddy of mine Chris Scruggs got me into it, and this is a bold bold statement but I’ll make it anyway I would venture that he is one of the top three if not the best straight steel players in Nashville. Because there’s just not a lot of people doing it anymore and he has really mastered the instrument I mean he’s wonderful. He really got me into straight steel so yeah I just picked up the instrument and I ran across a man selling a six string console steel which is basically a lap steel with legs for a hundred bucks and began using it immediately as I created the Horse Traders. From there I just kept going and going.

GHC
When did the Horse Traders come about?

Mr. Travis
There have been a few different versions of the band but we have been together for about two and half years now and it was something that me and Jeremy Roberts we all know him as “Wood” and has been the drummer for the entire time until New Years Eve as he went on to do solo projects. He and I stared the Horse Traders as a continuation of the other bands that had members that lived here and in Nebraska, and that was fine for touring because we got together here or there it was fine. But when we began to work on new material it just got too complicated so we started up the Horse Traders with our good friend Frank Miller who has been in the band for two years until now.

GHC
Your new EP that’s out now, where are you going to go with that, and will you tour?

Mr. Travis
“I Don’t Mind” we have been playing around with that for about a year now and so we are getting ready to release a split ten inch record with a good friend of ours named Reverend Justin Hylton and we are releasing it in April and then in June we will go back and do a full length. So it will indeed be a full year for us because we will have mostly new material on the full length album. We will play with that for a little while and see where we go with that.

GHC
Without giving away any dirty secrets what makes you unique in your sound?
What differentiates you from other players?

Mr. Travis
As a steel player the player I have is a mid-1950’s Gibson Conselette and it has dual 8 string necks and I keep one in c6 tune and the other one I play around with a lot so I keep it in open G tuning. And I do a lot of behind the bar bending so I’ll be holding a chord with the bar but with my fingers behind the bar I’ll bend it so it sounds just like pedal steel. I’m able to bend those strings so well, but I cannot D tune the strings or hit any knee levers. But I do a lot of behind the bar bends so as a straight steel player that would be one thing that differentiates me from other straight steel players is my ability to do that. I’m not a super great player I can get around on it but I’m still learning so anything that comes from me is from a learning background and you never know what’s going to come out of it I think.

GHC
Now, you do other instruments for the Horse Traders as well right?

Mr. Travis
Yes of course I do in some of the songs I play electric guitar and I play baritone guitar. I play bass if needed of course Mooney is a very good bass player and I can play drums if we are recording and it’s needed. Mandolin, Dobro I can handle all of that.

GHC
You guys are a well oiled machine every time I have seen you play and you work well together.

Mr. Travis
It comes from being really good friends and we hang out together all the time.

GHC
Yeah you guys are more of a laid back atmosphere I cannot say that it lacks any professionalism because it doesn’t it’s very precise it’s just you guys aren’t as tense as some bands up there you know?

Mr. Travis
I’m glad to hear you say that and I don’t know what causes that other than our comfort with each other and the fact that we are having fun being with one another.

GHC
You mentioned Chris Scruggs I plan to contact him once I get my method more mastered and I plan to get Andy Gibson and others. I started with you because I feel your band deserved more exposure and do you have any future plans here in 2017?

Mr. Travis
Yes there will be a video coming out in the early spring and we are booking for festivals, we just got a new drummer so we are settling him into the lineup and we going to go from there.