Rhett Akins contributes the brilliant hook on Denning's "Where's That Beer's Been," the frothy new radio single from his debut EP, "Beer's Better Cold." "Beer is the elixir of where I come from," says the 27-year-old Georgian

By Nancy Kruh
July 16, 2020 02:40 PM
Advertisement

It's a time-tested principle of country music: There is no such thing as too many beer songs. And you won't find a more faithful devotee than Travis Denning.

Of course, that still leaves the problem of saying something that hasn't already been said about America's favorite adult beverage. But Denning has risen to the challenge with his newly released "Where That Beer's Been." The 27-year-old Georgian freely admits he pulled off the feat with what he calls the "profound redneck genius" of master songwriter Rhett Akins (and dad of Thomas Rhett).

Denning recalls he arrived at the writing session with the title in his "hook book," inspired by a friend's offhand comment, "I don't know where that beer's been. I ain't drinking it."

But even Denning had no idea what to do with it. "Who the hell would question where a beer's from?" says the dedicated beer drinker. "Like, who cares?"

Clearly, when Denning threw out the line, Akins didn't care, either.

'Well, hell," the fellow Georgian drawled, "I know where it's going."

A song was born: Denning estimates it was cranked out, along with the help of co-writers Chris Stevens and Jeremy Stover, in about an hour.

Travis Denning
Jason Myers

The frosty picker-upper is the second radio single off Denning's debut EP, Beer's Better Cold, released in May. And if you're sensing a theme here, Denning strongly encourages it. Lead-off single — and Denning's first No. 1 — "After a Few" is generously doused in alcohol, of course, and beer is specifically mentioned in five of the EP's six songs.

At the moment, Denning estimates he has "probably another nine" beer-related ideas sitting in that hook book.

"God dang, there's probably beer in almost every one of my songs," says the lyrical brewmeister, "but there's beer all through it because, I mean, beer is the elixir of where I come from. It's a part of everything. It's a part of Daddy coming home. Watching NASCAR. First kiss. First trouble. Growing up. It was always there. So, I don't go out of my way to, like, voluntarily make sure it's there. I think it's just because of the way I was raised and grew up. There's just a lot of cold cans popping in the songs out there, for sure."

So what's his favorite beer?

Denning is as quick as Akins on that one — "an open one" — and then he follows up, "It's case by case." (Does he mean that literally?)

Final judgment: Everyday beer, Miller Lite. "Crafty" beer, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Home state beer, Macon Progress. "I definitely love malts, for sure," he avows.

Improbably, Denning admitted during the interview — a virtual "happy hour" with 10 music journalists — that his home was temporarily beer-free, and he was having to make do with a Jack and Diet Coke.

Sure, it was only 3 o'clock in the afternoon — a little early for hard liquor — but, Denning allowed, "That's like 8 o'clock at night in quarantine hours."

Life has changed in other ways for Denning since COVID-19 knocked him off the road this spring. In other, alcohol-related news, he reports he's had the time to perfect his margarita. (He shared the recipe on one of his popular livestreams: three ounces of tequila, two limes, one ounce of simple syrup). And he is especially excited about kayaks he purchased for fishing expeditions on Nashville's nearby reservoirs and the Harpeth River.

"Oh my God, it's been so much fun," he enthuses. "I caught my first river small-mouth bass. It wasn't big, but it was the coolest thing. I'm on a river, in a kayak, and I caught a fish, and that made me really happy."

His fishing fervor also earned him an invite to Jake Owen's "full-on country superstar pond," which Owen keeps stocked with three- and four-pound bass. A few days before Denning's arrival, Owen had also slipped three nine-pound monsters into the water.

"And guess who got one of those three nine-pound bass?" Denning gleefully announces. "I screamed like a little girl, man! I straight-up high-pitch screamed. I was shaking like crazy ... I don't give a damn it's a pond that's stocked. You still gotta catch 'em."

He adds that the downtime has also been allowing him to "dig a little deeper" into songwriting.

"I will never let the gas off of writing songs," he says. "I do think that's a craft that can go away just as fast as somebody can get it, and so I try and write every day I can. I wrote today actually, and that's keeping me a little sane, for sure. ... I hope to come out of this with just a mound of music I love. I definitely got a handful of songs I'm digging."

No doubt they'll all go down better with a cold one.