Travis Widner said he had no idea he would be writing songs and singing in bars when he came to Auburn University four years ago as a freshman majoring in wireless hardware engineering. Although he enjoys both of these interests, Widner knows that the two are an unlikely pair.
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“Engineering is so stressful, and there is no creative outlet,” Widner said. “You just go to work, you do paperwork and you go to meetings. Music is way more fun.”
The reason Widner said he chose to do wireless hardware engineering is because he believes wires are eventually going to phase out, and it will be what employers are looking for in the future. Also, there are many different outlets you can use it in.
“We basically do the same thing as an electrical engineer, but on top of that we can deal with radar and wireless communications,” Widner said.
School has always been important to Widner, and he said he is happy that he will always have a degree to fall back on. However, he said music will always be there too, and if given the choice he would much rather be a musician.
Widner had never written music until he met Chris Williams, two years ago when they discovered they both played guitar. Williams had written some songs already, and when Widner heard them he said he felt inspired to write songs himself.
“I guess the way he sang his songs and the passion that I could see he had really inspired me to delve into this whole ‘songwriting thing’,” Widner said. “I’ve always had a lot of respect for songwriters, more so than people who just play covers, so we just paired up and started writing some stuff. I really like the outcome so far.
Last fall the Widner and Williams started their band, John and the Conners, with a couple other friends, none of which are named John or Conner.
Widner said he believes the Conners are different from other college town bands because of the different instruments they incorporate.
“The most signature instrument in our band is the standup bass,” Widner said. “We really like the look and sound of it. It has a really full sound.”
Their band also includes a banjo, harmonica, keyboard and all of the other “standards with the folk rock genre,” according to Widner. He actually plays the harmonica and acoustic guitar simultaneously for some of their songs.
With band practice, song writing and shows, it is a wonder how Widner has time for school.
“My major is very demanding,” Widner said. “We have homework in every class pretty much every week, and of course it is all math stuff so it hard to wrap your mind around it sometimes. Then, on top of the homework, we also have a design lab that lasts about three hours a week, and it turns your brain into much every time you go in there.”
Widner said that he also spends about 10-12 hours a week playing music, but if he is feeling “inspired” he may spend more time writing or playing the guitar.
“I don’t really give a conscious effort to balance both of them,” Widner said. “I guess I just prioritize whatever needs to be done at the time. If I have a deadline in school I will put music on the back burner.”
John and the Conners play about two or three shows a month and you can check out their band page on Facebook.