Texas Talent: John Slaughter

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John-Slaughter-8A lot of folks who listen to music, attend shows, or buy CDs have no idea what happens behind the scenes when the stage lights fade and the dust settles to the dance floor.  Other than family and close friends, no one can really know the hard work, late hours on the road, family sacrifice, and dedication performers put into the craft to do what they love.  Texas singer/songwriter John Travis Slaughter is an example of what devotion and love of his trade exemplify. He’s an avid family man and a hard-working young person who not only takes his music seriously, but somewhere in the process was able to get a degree in agricultural science from Sam Houston State University. This is no easy road for anyone, but John Slaughter seems to have enough positive energy to reach his goals.

Postcards Magazine met up with John one afternoon at the Texan Café on the square in downtown Huntsville, Texas. Over coffee and iced tea, we chatted for a while, and John filled us in on what makes the musical wheels in him turn. We asked about his earlier beginnings and what hooked him into this wonderful world of music—and how he eventually “traded Mozart for Bob Wills.”

John-Slaughter-Submitted-by-JohnWhat are your origins?

Huntsville is my home, but I was born in Houston, raised in Grangerland, then moved to Conroe and attended Caney Creek High School. I was part of the first graduating class in 1999. I became involved in the rural activities of a small town. I was active in FFA, showed livestock, and became state vice president of FFA. But music was always something I loved.

When did you first start writing songs?

I started writing songs in high school, and it carried on into college.

I understand that, while at Sam Houston State University, you played music with Texas icon Roger Creager?

Yes, I played fiddle, mandolin, and sang harmony vocals with Roger for about six years. I had a great time traveling all over the U.S. I learned some valuable experience about playing and traveling with Roger. And, I was able to graduate from college debt free since I paid for classes as I went.

Is there a lot of sacrifice at home that comes with being a singer/songwriter?

This last month I’ve been gone a lot. I’ve played a lot of shows, been in the studio late nights recording, and getting home at 2 and 3 in the morning. I’m so proud of my wife Brandi for hanging in there with me—and now we have a 6 month-old son named Wyatt. I’m so blessed to have such a wonderful family. Brandi and I met while we were both going to Sam Houston State. She and Wyatt have really revitalized everything for me, so now it’s about providing a good life for my family.

Sounds like your schedule is full.

I still carry a day job, too. I’m an ag-science teacher at Montgomery High School. It’s a great place to work and a great group of employees—and it allows me to have a job and make things easier on my family.

I suppose that’s to your advantage, staying tuned into the younger generation?

I used to tell my students it’s my brother who does all that. Now it’s getting where I can’t hide it anymore. (laughs)

John-Slaughter-6On your website I listened to one of your new cuts “Horseshoes and Hand Grenades.” Great title—how did you come up with that?

I’ll be honest—I write 99% of my songs, but that is one song that I did seek out. A gentleman by the name of Trent Summar wrote that song, and when I heard it, I said I have to cut that one—and Trent gave me permission to record it. The fans love it, and it adds something to our show.

So you enjoy collaboration with other songwriters?

Yes, I’ve accumulated some great friends in the business—Thom Shepherd, Drew Womack, Jody Booth, Jason Allen, Bart Woytek, and Cody Johnson, who co-wrote “Pray for Rain.”  Cody and I have written some 20 songs together. All in all, we drew from everywhere for this record, and I couldn’t be happier.

Do most people like songs they can relate to in some way?

We’ve tapped into a lot of forms of the human condition—there’s some rowdy, party songs—lovin’ and losin’—leavin’ and cheatin’, and heartbreak, so I like to think we’ve covered all the bases. It’s eclectic.

I suppose it helps spawn new material when drawing from the well of human emotion?

Absolutely, and I think the best couple of songs I’ve ever written in my life are on these last songs I did—and I just wrote them 3 weeks ago! The record will also include “Ghost Town,” which is the first #1 song we had on the radio. We see people out in the audience singing the words to our songs, then they bring another 8 people with them next time, and it begins to snowball.

What instruments do you play on stage?

I play acoustic, and I actually play a couple of songs on fiddle with my band.

Where did your fiddle influence come from?

My uncle Larry Kelley made and played fiddles, so I learned a lot from him. Back then I was in the 6th grade orchestra, and I hated it. So I traded Mozart for Bob Wills.

John-Slaughter-5Explain how your songwriting process works.

I’m an old pen and scratch pad writer from way back, but I’m starting to warm up to technology—so I put down ideas on my iPhone. There’s a song I wrote on my new record with Thom Shepherd called “A Fool Like Me,” and I wrote that on Facetime with him. He was in Austin and I was in Huntsville. So technology helped us because of our busy schedules.

Your new CD sounds like a positive step in your musical journey.

It’s called “Meet in the Middle,” which is the title track I wrote with Bart Alan Woytek, a great songwriter. I’ve been in the studio the last month or so finishing up the CD, and it’s about ready to go. I’ve worked hard my whole life, practiced and practiced, and played for 20 years of my life. “Meet in the Middle” is absolutely the best work I’ve ever done, and I poured my heart and soul into it. I didn’t leave anything on the table. If you do that in life, you will be successful—win or lose.

Well said, John Slaughter. John’s band consists of Jake Lowe, steel guitar and harmony vocals; Steve Cargill, bass guitar; Josh Barnard, lead guitar; Jason Broussard, drums and percussion; and Travis Bishop, piano, organ, accordion, and harmony vocals.

John politely excused himself after the interview to go pick up his young son. I was impressed by this well-mannered young man who spoke so highly of his family and pursues his dream with an unbridled drive. At 33 years-old, he seems wise beyond his years. That’s good. He’ll need that. For those trying to make a living at it, the music business can be relentless, with pitfalls and disappointment. But it’s also good for the heart and soul to those who heed its call. John Travis Slaughter has heard that call loud and clear.

The new CD “Meet in the Middle” will be available by the time this article publishes. Check John’s website and Facebook for upcoming shows, CDs and merchandise: johnslaughtermusic.com or on Facebook: John Travis Slaughter.

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