Travis Denning admits he threw himself a small pity party when his 2020 tour plans with Sam Hunt were squashed by the pandemic, but he quickly recognized how fortunate he was to be healthy and how much time he suddenly had for his new favorite hobby.

The "After a Few" singer is still dedicated to writing and recording great country music, and he's still hopeful to hear his songs on the radio and for other artists to take his songs to No. 1. Take Keith Urban, for example. Denning covers "Where the Blacktop Ends" during a new music video premiered exclusively on Taste of Country, an honor that could only be topped by the hitmaker recording something he wrote.

"I tell people all the time, I didn’t move to Nashville because I thought the Batman building was pretty," the good-natured, no-nonsense country-rocker says. "I moved here to work."

Hard work and the right connections allowed Denning to cut the 10-year-town axiom in half, and in 2018 he debuted with "David Ashley Parker from Powder Springs," a humorous and catchy story about how far a fake ID can get you. His first big break, he says, was a Chase Rice song. When "Everybody We Know Does" (2016) hit radio, he was able to take a breath.

“When that song was going to radio I’m like, whether this song is the one or not, it doesn’t matter. I know that I can make it happen," Denning tells Taste of Country from his home, just days before his New Faces performance at the 2021 Country Radio Seminar.

With nearly a million monthly listeners on Spotify, Denning has carved out a nice start to a career with additional songs including "Tank of Gas and a Radio Song" (7.7 million streams) and "ABBY" (6.7 million). He moved to Music City in 2014 with an eye on a publishing deal and quickly formed a close-knit group of four or five friends, through which he's learned the ups and downs of the business. No. 1 songs and industry awards weren't even in his periphery at that time, but as he signed his record contract, he began to see New Faces as an honor worth cherishing.

"It’s an awesome show," he says. "It’s an extra moment for any artist to try to make a statement about who they are and the kind of music they make in front of the crowd that you really want to play it for."

It was also a nice chance for his band to get together and play once again, something they've done little since he got that call letting him know Hunt's tour had been canceled for 2020. He admits he probably had a few extra beers that night, but then he bought a boat and dove into his new hobby, the one that's pandemic proof.

“I’ve just been fishing my ass off,” Denning says.

He's been playing a little guitar too. That's where the Urban cover comes in.

"Obviously as a guitar player in country music, it’s almost impossible not to have been influenced and motivated by Keith Urban," he says, explaining why he chose "Where the Blacktop Ends."

"This song always felt like one that me and the band could put our own touch on live, and so we’ve almost always had it in our setlist."

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