Local boy touches world with grandmother’s song

Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Travis Ryan Smith

A small town boy from Mississippi County, Arkansas has gone viral on the world wide web. A single video, shared on Facebook, has received more than 15 million views. And, the song heard in the video rose to number 25 on the iTunes Top 100 Country Songs chart.

And, it all began as a Christmas present for his grandmother, Tommie Sue Wilkey, a native of Osceola.

Wilkey, who now lives in Mountain Home, wrote the lyrics to “Fishing In The Sky” some 30 years ago. This past December, her grandson, Travis Ryan Smith, 18, put the lyrics to music (with the assistance of Brandon Bryant of Bflat Records and his daughter Abby Bryant providing background vocals) and used his strong voice to bring the words to life.

The son of Robert Smith, of Blytheville, and Tonia Childress, of Marion, Smith is a 2017 graduate of Manila High School and is currently a student at Arkansas Northeastern College.

With a deep love for country music, Smith began singing around the age of 13.

“I just liked music and started singing along with the radio,” he told The Times.

Before long, he was singing in the high school choir and competing in local talent competitions. Then in November 2017, Smith recorded his first song, “Buzzed For Your Love.” And, then came the idea to record his grandma’s song.

Robert Smith first told his son about the song more than a year ago. The family was gathered at grandma’s house for Christmas when the subject came up. She had recorded the song, acappella, on a cassette tape sometime back in the 80s. Soon, the tape was found and Smith heard the song for the very first time. The effect it had on his heart would soon be shared with the world.

Inspiration behind the lyrics came from childhood memories Wilkey had of her own dad. The song talks about “streets of gold” and “mansions on high.” It talks about how God knows us each and every one so there must be a lake in Heaven where “the fish will always bite.”

A few week’s ago, Smith’s Aunt Debbie found the lyrics and continued this amazing journey.

“I wanted to record it as a Christmas present for my grandma,” Smith shared.

What happened next, he could have never imagined in a million years. Robert Smith made a video recording of his mom playing her grandson’s recording of her song for the first time. The expression on her face was priceless as the surprise touched her heart. The video was soon posted to Facebook and the rest, as they say, is history.

The first Facebook post received six million views. One share of the video received nine million views. Soon, the song was on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, U-Tube, etc. And, the video had gone viral!

Smith said he receives personal messages from people every day stating just how much the song has touched their hearts.

“I was not expecting it to blow up like this,” he said. “It is crazy how a song can affect people.”

And, crazy it may be, but it is a kind of crazy Smith understands. Country music has always spoken to his heart. “Country music tells a story,” he explained. “I’m glad this song means something to people around the world... beyond just me and my grandmother.”

So, what does the future hold?

Since the Facebook post, Smith and the Bryants have sung live on the Tommy Mac show on Thunder Country 96.3 and the song is getting some air time on the station. Smith hopes to continue recording his music and sharing his stories with the world. He is presently working on his first EP (Extended Play), which is an album with around four or five songs. He anticipates the EP being released the first week in March.

When asked about her son’s talent, Childress said, “Travis has been an entertainer since he was a young boy. He is so outgoing and has a great sense of humor. There is never a dull moment when you are around Travis...I have watched and listened over the years and witnessed him grow into this talented, big-hearted young man...I am so proud of him for chasing his dreams.”

Smith is also the grandson of Bill and Ruby Leveritt, of Osceola.

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