When you think about touring musicians, we often forget about everything that goes on behind the scenes, such as travel expenses, finding and maintaining a crew, and even finding a tour manager.
With that being said, Travis Blankenship, the current manager of Colter Wall,Vincent Neil Emerson, and more, sat down for an interview with Viceabout how he quit his day job of being an adjunct English professor and part time Lowes worker in Kentucky, and became the manager of some of the most impressive names in the independent country music scene.
Back in 2016, when he was still an adjunct professor, a friend of his asked him if he could pick up Colter Wall and drive him around eastern Kentucky for a few shows.
Sure enough, he accepted, and the rest is history.
Fast forward to today and he’s the full time manager for Wall, Neil Emerson, and a number of other songwriters. He also runs La Honda Records (Colter Wall, Vincent Neil Emerson, The Local Honeys and Riddy Arman) alongside his business partner and co-founder, Connie Collingsworth.
Blankenship, who goes by the nickname Rural Sultan, talked about everything that goes into being a manager for country musicians:
“One thing you don’t recognize when you first get into it is that your job is really to be an advocate. Sometimes being someone’s advocate means that you’re not only telling the world about their music but you’re telling that person why the world needs more of their music.
We talk a lot about emotions, we talk a lot about hopes and dreams, but we also talk about why you’re not posting enough on Instagram or why you need to get people to follow you on Spotify.”
He even talked about the odd jobs he used to work while being an adjunct professor, such as Lowes, and even liquor stores. But naturally, making that kind of career move drew some colorful responses from his colleagues.
A number of people judging him, including one who said he was being “fucking stupid,” however, there were a number of others who told him to go for it, and that it would be a “great idea.”
He even admitted that other people telling him what they know is best was always a big challenge for him:
“Other people telling you what they know is best, that’s really challenging. I don’t think there’s a secret, and I don’t think there’s a veil, and coming into the business I was always told that there’s this curtain and if I wanted to look behind this curtain to see how everything works, then I had to kiss some ass to get somebody to pull it back for me. And I don’t think that’s true.
I think that with what the internet has done for artists to be able to promote themselves and the major successes that people have had outside of record labels, it tells us that that curtain has always just been somebody trying to maintain control, to tell you what to do or what’s best for you, and for me.
I think that is one of the hardest things I had to learn. I thought there was gonna be this curtain, and the more I worked, the more I learned there wasn’t a curtain.”
With that being said, he brought up one of the most intriguing points in the whole conversation.
He discussed the stigma that you have to move to Nashville to make it big in the music industry, when that’s not always the reality:
“And people think you gotta go to Nashville to make it. I mean, if you want to be a songwriter, it might be helpful to go to Nashville so you can write songs with other people.
If you want to create little pieces of candy in a factory, you’re gonna have to get a job working at a candy factory, you know? Do you want to work at a song factory? That’s what people really should ask themselves.
I don’t work with a single artist that lives in Nashville, by the way.”
And for a taste of of what they’re cooking up over at La Honda… check this out: