Travis Book of Infamous Stringdusters launching radio program

Travis Book, bass player, songwriter, and lead vocalist with The Infamous Stringdusters, has announced a new project. Starting June 25, he will be hosting a new online program that will combine music and discussion, airing live from The Grey Eagle in Asheville, NC.

And happiness. He told us today that this would be a big part of the new show, The Travis Book Happy Hour, which will actually run for closer to 90 minutes. It will air live at 7:00 p.m. (EDT) next Thursday, with subsequent episodes being broadcast on Facebook and YouTube every few weeks.

“It will start out low key and acoustic. Me with an acoustic and a guest with an acoustic… maybe I’ll pull out an acoustic bass.

I envision the show as mostly music, but we may tackle some larger issues as peers are available to join us. I will do a monologue at the beginning of each show, hopefully creating a space to talk about what is going on in the world, and in the music industry. Try to share some light in this unusual time.”

Book said that he had been thinking of having his own radio program for years, joking during that time that whenever Nick Forster was ready to retire from eTown, he would be happy to step in. But as the COVID-19 restrictions have stretched on, he realized that there was a place in the rapidly expanding world of online streaming to tackle something like this now.

And he had no doubt where to host it.

“Grey Eagle is the oldest music venue in Asheville. Everyone in our corner of the bluegrass industry has played there. 

I started with a thought of doing this monthly, but I’m now looking for every two to three weeks. It will be in seasons of 6-8 episodes. We’ll take a breath after the first season, and assess what will be best for the next. I hope there will be a demand. We’ll see.

We’re looking for a proof of concept at this point, and may look at sponsorship as things go on. It’s operating on pure faith now, me and the guys who run The Grey Eagle. I really have no idea where things will go, but we are hopeful.”

The Happy Hour will solicit donations during each broadcast, in a pay-what-you-can mode, for both the venue and for Travis. Each episode will stream live, on his personal Facebook page and that of The Grey Eagle. They have a video crew which was put together to stream concerts while occupancy in the hall was not allowed, and are continuing to stream live shows now that they can open with limited capacity.

Sarah Siskind will be the first guest, celebrated Americana singer and songwriter, and Book’s ex-wife. The couple share two children together and continue to function as their parents in an extended family situation. He said that she was the obvious opening guest, as they have shared so much of their lives together, and they are already in each other’s COVID circle. Plus, he thinks of her as the greatest songwriter he has ever known.

Here’s how he describes Sarah for the Happy Hour.

“A veteran of 35 years of songwriting and recording (she started young… super young) her most recent record, Modern Appalachia, is a modern masterpiece. It’s been years since we’ve played together (or lived together for that matter), so I’m super-stoked to share the stage with her again. Tune in and let us show you how to maintain a sense of hope, optimism, and humor in the midst of trying circumstances.”

Though he is taking a wait-and-see attitude, Travis isn’t afraid to dream big.

“I hope that the sky’s the limit… I really have no idea. Theoretically it could eventually go to a subscription model, maybe sell tickets for the live show, or consider syndication. It’s hard to anticipate what the model will be coming out of shutdown. I guess we’re wading into the deep end to see what happens.”

Be sure to check out the debut episode of The Travis Book Happy Hour on June 16 at 7:00 p.m. (EDT).

Obviously, while we were talking, I had to ask what things looked like for the Stringdusters.

“The ‘Dusters are doing a bunch of recording, together from separate home studios. I played at the Grey Eagle a few weeks ago, but that’s it. I’ve been writing a lot. But the ‘Dusters are in a holding pattern since we live so far apart.

I hope we can find a way to keep making music, though it will be tough. The longer I lay fallow, and can’t play music with my brothers, the more I want to get back out there. It’s such a big part of who we are. We all have full confidence that we will be a touring band again. It feeds our soul, and we feel like it’s our destiny.

But it’s hard to know if we will ever tour that hard again. This extra time with family has been really important to all of us.”

As with so many things these days, I suppose we shall see.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.