Not just another silly love song: Local musician offering chance to have someone’s story of love turned into musical piece

Published 10:02 am Saturday, January 20, 2018

Travis Lee Kern has had the pleasure of writing songs for different people, for different occasions. And to him, that’s a blessing. 

“I was talking to my wife about that, what a blessing it is to be able to write songs, and she came up with this idea.” 

The idea is to offer someone a chance to have their own personal love song written, something unique to their story — whatever that story may be. 

Email newsletter signup

Kern said he will accept submissions through Wednesday, Jan. 24, and announce the winner on Sunday, Jan. 28. The chosen submission will have their story created into a tune, complete with lyrics and delivered as a recording at no charge by Monday, Feb. 12, just in time for Valentine’s Day. 

“I’ve written songs for people before, but it’s never been a ‘commissioned’ situation,” Kern says. But for the several weddings he has performed at, he usually writes a song for the couple. “So, they’ll have that as a gift. I’ve written songs about my grandparents, my wife, things that have touched me relationship-wise.”

Kern recently released his latest record, “The Coal’s Low,” which he says arose from reflecting upon his grandparents. “My dad was one of nine kids and my grandfather was a coal miner. He actually died in the mines.” 

But Kern never knew him. 

“So, many of the songs I wrote, I imagined them around what he was like. Once it was recorded, I realized I had this record of a song and a story that my kids will have, my extended family will have. It made me realize — this could be something I could do for someone else, to spread the love in that way.” 

He describes his style as Americana, country and folk. He plays acoustic guitar and banjo on the album, and named it “The Coal’s Low” because it revolves around the effect of growing up in Appalachia — Kern grew up in Virginia, just over the line in Big Stone Gap. 

“But you don’t need to be there to understand or recognize” the passion in the music, he says. The compilation was a group effort from other musicians, Kern says. Chip Minks of Danville, and a member of the band Rooster’s Crow, played bass on the record, as well as his bandmate Maggie Lander, a fiddler. Two guys who grew up in Burgin, Daniel Lay and Jeffrey Alford are also on it — Alford played drums while Lay contributed guitar as well as helped Kern produce it. 

And Courtney Howe, a Danville High School senior, did the artwork for the CD cover. 

“It came together very organically. There was a real comfort level amongst the musicians and I think that comes out in the album,” he says. The entire thing was recorded live, with all the musicians playing together, which is rare anymore. 

For those who want to send in a submission to be considered, Kern says it’s important that they know their story is confidential. As a school counselor — this is his first year at Burgin Independent, after teaching math at Danville High School — he is accustomed to confidentiality. He says he will be just as careful with others’ personal stories of love. 

“To tell someone a story of love is very personal, so they will all be confidential unless they give me permission to share it.” 

Anyone who submits a story should be detailed. This is important, he says. “It’s in the details where I can come up with more to add to the song.” He says he will flesh the story out, expand it and make it personal and accurate. 

But he wants those interested to realize they don’t have to tell their own, personal story. It can be about their grandparents, something about a best friend they love so much. “It’s a story of love, which can happen in a multitude of ways. They tell the story, and I take it from there and create a song that’s inspired by that.” 

It may not include every single detail shared, but it will be written in the same theme. 

“In essence, it’s a unique gift they’ll be able to give.” 

Kern has already received some submissions, and says it’s been a “crazy thing.” 

“Each one is special — makes me want to write them all. This has already been a very powerful experience.” 

To submit your story to Kern, email To find out more about his music and hear examples of his writing, visit, or find him on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, YouTube or just about anywhere else you can listen to music. The CD is also available locally at Maple Tree Gallery on Main Street in Danville. 

“I believe with my heart that songwriting is a gift — not everyone can do it. This is a way I can give back, with a talent I’ve been given.”