Big Smo’s Guitarist Travis Tidwell Talks to Rocking God’s House about Fame, Faith, and Rock
Travis Tidwell is a former child prodigy, and at 11, while most kids’ minds were on video games and various youthful activities, Travis was learning to play piano on a virtuosic level. His skill eventually led to the tutelage of a college music professor, and then he advanced further than the teacher. The Jedi padawan had become the master.
Travis also learned the ropes of the musical world while watching his father perform in countless honky tonks, clubs, and venues. According to Travis’s Facebook page, his father worked during the day and performed as a musician at night to provide for his family; and watching his dad play is what kick-started Travis’s passion for guitar.
The 14-year-old Travis got his first guitar, a Jackson Randy Rhoads model, and it did not take him very long to master it: in the beginning he would lock himself inside his room and practice up to 12 hours or more on a daily basis. From there he would play the local music scene, honing his skills with country, southern rock, and rhythm and blues music, depending on what crowd he was catering to. As early as his freshman year of high school, Tidwell was taking full advantage of social media sites, which, as you’ll read in the interview, led to the job offer of Travis’s life — from Big Smo himself — while Travis was still working at Pizza Hut. The wow factor is indeed building around Travis Tidwell as he tours the United States and appears on a hit television show.
In light of his sudden catapult to stardom, I began wondering if he had a good grip on his new found fame. So I asked him, and it led to the following email interview:
How did you get linked up to be Big Smo’s lead guitarist?
Fate! Smo and his assistant Gina stumbled across a YouTube video of mine and started emailing me about potentially joining his band. I had no idea who he was though, honestly, but everyone around me knew who he was and freaked out when I got the offer. So we emailed back and forth for a week or so then agreed to meet up. I went to his farm, we talked, and hit it off, and I believed in the music as soon as I heard it, and so I accepted. That day we met, March 19th, 2012, the day after my 19th birthday, I became Big Smo’s guitarist. That same day we laid down music for “Workin'” and “Who I’ll Be.” It was magical! It wasn’t until after that that I learned he signed a deal with Warner Brothers.
How long have you played guitar and who are some of your influences?
I’ve been playing for seven years now. I got my first guitar when I was 14. Some of my influences include Randy Rhoads, Yngwie Malmsteen, Eric Johnson, Steve Lukather, Guthrie Govan, Joe Bonamassa, Brent Mason, the typical 80’s shredders too, of course, but before guitar I picked up the piano, so I loved guys like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, even Jerry Lee Lewis. I loved the oldies and Motown as a child. My list can go on forever!
What kinds of guitars do you play?
I love Stratocasters as my go-to guitar. I use Strats and Teles live. Love them both! My Strat I’m using at the moment is a custom GJ2 Glendora with a humbucker in the bridge and 2 single coils. Floating Floyd Rose tremolo, maple neck. It’s an INCREDIBLE guitar. I love Fenders too, of course, but I do love my GJ2! My Tele is a custom, handmade DWC. I love Les Pauls as well. Guitars are a work of art to me, so I guess I love them all!
You admit on social media (Twitter, Facebook etc.) that you are a Christian. Do you feel that God has had a huge impact in your life and success?
Yes! God is more than a huge impact in my life and success. I credit Him for it all. I pray to Him daily and thank Him for all that He’s done. I am incredibly blessed. I take nothing for granted.
What made you decide to dress up like a female school teacher in the spoof of the “Workin'” video on this week’s episode of Big Smo on A&E?
I’m willing to play any role on a winning team! I’ve always been the clown and thought it would be funny. During the live tweeting we do during the episodes, I got a great reaction from the viewers tweeting us. They got a good kick out of it!
Being a guitar prodigy and touring professionally at such a young age, what advice would you give to kids wanting to learn guitar?
I would tell them to know that anyone can do it! Stay focused, stay eager to learn, just push through and you’ll do it if you want it! And if you want to do it as a career, learn everything you can. Being versatile makes you more likely to get a job! And don’t listen or take to heart what the naysayers say!
How have you managed the fame of touring and the TV show in your life?
Well, I’m the same person I was before all this came into fruition. I’m also surrounded by amazing people who keep me grounded. Smo and the guys, my girlfriend, and my parents pounded it in my head to be polite, humble and to be thankful, that it could always be worse and that it could end as fast as it happened. I’m definitely not used to all this that’s happening though. We’ve all started from the bottom and worked really hard to get where we are today.
Are you originally from Tennessee as well?
I am! I’m from a small town called Lyles in Hickman county. Born and raised. An hour from Smo.
What is the craziest gift you have gotten from a fan so far? PG-13 that is. LOL.
Haha, I’ve never really gotten a crazy gift. Usually t-shirts and stuff like that. We get deer meat from some Kinfoke in Texas though!