By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
Like a favorite song, it was about as good as it gets.
Travis Wayne was sitting on the front porch in his favorite chair. The Thursday afternoon sun shined down its warmth on him, and on the house he lives in outside of London.
He was in “kick-back mode.” And it just got better when he got a text message.
“It said, ‘Stop by here when you come this way next week.’ I just got an endorsement deal with Walden Guitar Company in Nashville.’ You just came up at the right time,” Wayne explained to the visitor.
As it turns out, he will be in Music City anyway, since Wayne and his band will be playing next Friday afternoon at the Wild Beaver Saloon as part of the CMA Awards Downtown Festival.
In the last year-and-a-half, the Tri-Countian has had a lot of good things going his way. The singer and musician said it has been a hard ride, but all that changed in late 2011 when he picked up a pen and paper and wrote a song.
“It was Christmastime. My wife overdrafted on our checkbook, and my oldest son was playing basketball. My other son was running around playing and I just sat down and wrote it,” said Wayne, who was born in Manchester and lived most of his life in Lily and London.
That tune he wrote during that rough holiday period was called, “I’m Still Dad.”
Wayne took the song to a Nashville producer, Dave Demay, a former winner of the 1980s TV talent series “Star Search,” and a nephew of the late Buddy Killen, a legendary record producer and music publisher.
“He (Demay) liked the song. He liked ‘the fact that you’re raw. Somebody hasn’t tried to make you something you’re not.’ And we recorded it in Nashville. It took four months to do that song, because I’d never been exposed to recording a song with professionals,” Wayne pointed out.
For many budding Country music artists, getting their song played on the radio has been the first start on the road to a bigger career. When he returned from Nashville, Wayne mentioned “The station he grew up with” was about to give his tune a test drive.
“When I came home, KD Country (WKDP-FM, 99.5) agreed to play ‘I’m Still Dad’ just once to see how the audience reacted. They liked it, and a week later they called and said they got a ton of calls. And it got played more. Then, other stations around the region and in other regions got on the bandwagon,” he said.
“They told us at KD Country that ‘We just can’t play that song all the time.’ That’s how much it was requested,” said Wayne’s mother and biggest fan, Juanelle Frankenberger. As proof of her supporting her son, she keeps a laptop with her at all times, keeping in touch with Wayne’s fans through the Internet and social media sites.
And, as it turns out, with other people who pen the songs that drive country music.
Wayne recalled, “With the response, we got in touch with other songwriters. And now, they’re giving me good songs. Then I did a song called, ‘And Then Some.’ It was a military tribute about a young man who just got laid off from work. He met an older man who served in Vietnam in the late ‘60s. The younger guy had a lot of problems, and listened as the veteran talked about losing his buddies in the service, and for the younger guy to never give up hope, no matter what. The veteran reminded his friend, ‘I know where you’re coming from.’”
Wayne added “And Then Some” is currently out and getting airplay, with a lot of attention. It is also on an album that will be released early this month.
Something else is being released early this month — in fact, this upcoming Wednesday night.
Wayne is one of 15 contestants on the CMT reality series, “Redneck Island,” the network’s version of the popular and long-running CBS series, “Survivor.”
“Shortly after ‘And Then Some’ was released, a guy from Maryland contacted me and mentioned ‘Redneck Island,’ and thought I should give it a try. Former WWE superstar ‘Stone Cold Steve Austin’ is the host. My character’s out of a guitar, my Taylor acoustic guitar which I brought from my home. That guitar’s flown across every state and Mexico with me. We had a break from filming the show once, and one of the guys from CMT who was there heard me pick and sing during that break. He told me, ‘Man, I love to hear you sing and play guitar,’” Wayne said.
“Redneck Island’s” first episode for season 3 is this Wednesday, June 5 at 10:30 p.m., after the CMT Music Awards, on CMT. Wayne mentioned that new episodes will run on Saturdays after the season premiere. But he also pointed out the guy they see on the island isn’t quite the guy most people know on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s television. It’s entertainment. Keep in mind that when it comes to winning $100,000, I will do whatever it takes, even if I’m being somebody I’m not,” Wayne stated.
At the age of 31, he’s a worker who wants the American Dream like all of us. Wayne has the love and support of his wife, Tory, and his two sons, 10-year-old Trevelyn and 3-year-old Tristyn. He loves and supports them in return — along with two other people close to him.
“There’s so many artists who haven’t made it in Nashville because they haven’t taken the extra mile because of fear of rejection. You have to take that chance. I’ve got my mom encouraging me. And my stepdad encourages me. I really call him my dad,” Wayne said.
His mom Juanelle noted, “I’ve told Travis whenever he’s down, and I remind him, is that ‘All they can do is tell you No.’ I’ve spent countless hours connecting with people on the computer and my laptop, and they’ve helped my son and I. It’s been a real blessing.”
On his website at www.officialtraviswayne.com, he said, “Outside of my family, music means more to me than anything. And just as important, are the people I share it with, both on the stage and in the audience.”
Sometimes that means giving a little something of yourself to the people who brought you to the brighter lights.
Juanelle brought up one instance last holiday season when a church in Manchester was looking at a bleak Christmastime. She added Wayne and his band gave of their time and entertained them with a benefit show, which raised $700 to help families and children of the church to have a Christmas they may not have had.
“A lot of people forget where they came from, and who helped them along the way. I’ve always tried to remember that. My whole band of four musicians are from eastern Kentucky. Someone told me once about ‘em, ‘They’re real country boys, playing real country music.’ We’re doing better with the quality, size and locations of the concerts and shows we do. But we’ve never forgetten our roots. I’ve always had a lot of good people who’ve helped me out. It could fill a page,” Wayne said.
A lot has happened since he wrote “I’m Still Dad” in those dark days of December 2011. Wayne attributes the uptick in his career, and his life, with having a lot of luck and being at the right place at the right time. Like many who keep their head up and forge ahead, he replied as the skies cleared from the front porch, “I know where they’re coming from. I’ve been there, too. And I’m still standing.”
“If you have faith and stay true to your roots, It’ll be fine,” said Juanelle to her son.
“It’s been a fun ride so far. I’ve been lucky to do more in a year-and-a-half that many people do in a lifetime. I want to prove for my family with the only God-given talent I have, my music. I just want to do what I love to do, instead of things I have to do. I don’t see nothing but blue skies ahead,” replied Travis Wayne.