Travis Rush hails from the beautiful state of Oregon, but recently, Rush has been in Nashville working on his sophomore project, set for release in 2009 on Mason Records. A blend of his self-penned tunes as well as songs from some of Music City’s most notable writers, the project reverberates with the honest emotion and lyrical depth fans have come to expect from the young singer/songwriter.
I met with him to dig a little deeper into what makes this country artist who he is and what he is busy working on as he shares his time between his home in Oregon and his time in Nashville.
Bev: You have a new CD called “Feel” which will be out soon, and your new singles is called “You Will Find Your Way”, tell me about the current song and how it was written.
TRAVIS: I didn’t actually have anything to do with writing this song. As we were preparing to do this album, I don’t know if you know, but I had another album, it was more of a learning experience I like to call it. I learned all the things not to do. So this album we got songs from writers and got our songs from Nashville Publishing Company, I was floored at all the music they have available here. I was like how are there this many great songs that nobody has recorded!? I’d hear a song and think somebody has to have done this. I was looking around on the web trying to find it. By the time we got done going through songs I said to my manager I don’t know, I don’t need the ego boost of putting my own stuff on here, this stuff is better! We went through and picked all the songs for the album without ever finding out who the writers were. We didn’t want to know. It’s all about the song, the quality of the song and the lyrics and that was totally the decision. When that was all done, we asked for the writers and all the paperwork and everything and as it turns out; four of the songs were written by the same two guys. Neil Cody
and John Henderson. I really want to connect with those guys and write together; obviously we have the same taste.
Bev: Were you looking for a theme for the album?
TRAVIS: If you call a variety of topics a theme, then yes [laughs].
Bev: It wasn’t all love songs or all dance songs or anything…
TRAVIS: Nope it was a variety of topics. We had a couple of rules, well I had a couple of rules; One I’m a family guy, I don’t sell those party songs. My manager brought me one at one point and said this is going to be a hit, I like it but it’s going to have to be a hit for somebody else because I don’t relate to that song, it’s not me. The two requirements I had were I had to either have been through whatever the song was talking about myself or I had to know someone very close that had and every song had to be about a different topic.
Bev: Is your goal to always have songs that can be matched to people?
TRAVIS: Yes, hence the name of the album, “Feel”. I just like the word and said this really encompasses what I’m trying to say. People feel stuff, whatever it is. Let it in, it’s good.
Bev: What did you learn between this album and the last album? What was one of the most important lessons that you’ve learned.
TRAVIS: Expectations and probably the team. I learned how important they are. Nobody can do this by themselves, so finding those right people you can count on, knowing they’re in it for the long haul. I have no desire to go sky-rocketing but a slow, steady, solid foundation.
Bev: So far, what kind of things has your team put together?
TRAVIS: My manager is the best at pulling the reins back on me, because I’m a very fast paced, ‘what are we going to do next!?, what’s next, what’s next!?’, he’ll say ‘hold on, let this sink in. Lets let that do what its supposed to do then we will move on to the next step.’ We haven’t even spoken to any one, booking agents, tour managers, he doesn’t want to until we are absolutely ready to hit the road full-time, then we will go talk to somebody. We don’t want to prematurely get somebody when we might get somebody better. I think there is a formula, but it’s not the same formula its always been, there’s change, even from when I did my first album, the doors are more open now. I’m from the Northwest, I’m not from the city, I don’t have the connections, but the business is starting to accept that a little more.
Bev: Talk about the fans, what are some of their reactions to the single?
TRAVIS: We actually weren’t going to release that one first. We were going to release a different song. We had a couple we were looking at so we took the first five songs on the album, and put them up on my website for the fans and listeners to vote on. They had to put in their email and it would allow them to listen; but in order to vote they had to listen to the entire song the whole way through. Then a survey would pop up and ask them to rate it and put in any comments they wanted. I got some amazing feedback! You want fans to say what they want to say, the door is open, it’s amazing they will tell you what they think.
Bev: Was it open to fans who have already been to your website or available to anyone online?
TRAVIS: It was a free-for-all. In the end I had about 4,000 votes. The input went from things like ‘what a great song to others that were very specific about the technical side of it. This one guy was like ‘I really like the guitar riff on this one part, I think it could have gotten a little bit bigger when it got to the bridge,’ and I’m like who are these people!? This is great!
Bev: How did you come up with the idea and software to accomplish that?
TRAVIS: My background is computers. I built websites and I hosted websites. My brother and I did it, and this little mechanism for the voting, my brother and I came up with that. We both come from different computer technology backgrounds. We built this thing and put the first five songs up, got through them, then about a month later we put the next five up. Then after that we did one more round of the top two from each round and at the end “You’ll Find Your Way” hands down was the one. I think part of it is the timely-ness of the song and its not a negative twist on the economy like a lot of the songs are right now. It’s meant to be more uplifting, more understanding, we’re all going through this together so just hang in there. That is what I think did it, all the verses are hitting on a different demographic and a different life issue. Everyone knows at least someone in one of those situations.
Bev: With your insight into the creative side of the internet, what other ideas have you incorporated into promotions?
TRAVIS: We started pre-ordering for the album and my brother and I came up with this idea to connect with the fans better than simply sending out emails to confirm the purchase. I wanted to build something to communicate with them directly with my voice. Now, when anybody buys the album on my website, versus through iTunes or retail, I get a text message on my phone saying someone just bought it and it tells you their name and where they live, and their email address. We built a little app where I go in and I actually record myself thanking them for buying the album and then I send it to them. So they get this email from me that is thanking them for buying the album, and I think it’s kind of cool.
Bev: It is very cool and personal for the fan, because its coming from the artist it makes the fans feel they are special.
TRAVIS: They comment on Twitter, the ones that have gotten it. They get on there and say I got the message. Thanks that was so cool!
Bev: Talk a little about your background and how you got started singing and how you got to where you are now.
TRAVIS: My father plays guitar and my mom plays piano. When I was about 8 years old, I started playing, and the age of 15 I had written my first song. I started mixing with a little jerry-rigged thing at home and recorded some music. I had two tape decks next to each other that I would record from one, and then I would play something and record through the mixer. I would record and add to it and play that back and by the time I got to the last part it was so distorted and screwed up. It was the only way I knew how to put tracks together. I lived in a little town and we didn’t have access to much. The population was about 1500 people in the town I grew up in. We had a radio shack and that was about the end of it.
That was the beginning. We had a little family band, we played at home. We never went out anywhere. My brother played drums, I played piano, my sister sang and played tambourine and my dad played guitar. We would finish dinner and mom would sit on the couch and we would play some songs. My dad had these binders he had printed up with Diamond Rio, John Denver, Glen Campbell and all these guys in it. We would sit down and play all their music. It was fun, people would come over we’d play for them whether they wanted us to or not.
Bev: Did either your brother or sister ever venture into the music?
TRAVIS: My sister is an optometrist and so is my dad, eye doctors. My brother is in the acting and directing world. He’s the only one that’s in the entertainment side of things.
Bev: You’re splitting your time traveling between Oregon and Nashville? Are you going to move to Nashville eventually?
TRAVIS: I don’t think so. I think I would like to have a second home here. I have a home, my family’s there; I have a ton of relatives in Portland, Seattle, Washington and Oregon area. It’s funny how both are very similar cities. The climates, everything! When we hear its going to snow we shut down all the schools, even before it snows.
Bev: At the moment your focus is not performing, but you plan on it soon?
TRAVIS: I am. My manager is saying not yet, but I’m definitely chompin’ at the bit. That is my favorite part. When I was a kid the day that I realized this is what I wanted for my life, it was a very definitive moment. I was performing, playing the piano, at a variety show in high school and I was playing a Lionel Richie song. “Say You Say Me”, I look up and there is a lady in the front row and she’s crying. I remember sitting there and just thinking, wow how cool to be able to tap into someone’s emotions doing this, not that I want to make people cry, but it can have that effect on people.
Bev: Will you be attending CRS and CMA Fest in Nashville this year?
TRAVIS: I’ll be back here for CRS, yes. Radio touring this next week, a TV show down in Georgia and we will be doing a CD release concert. I will actually be doing it back in Portland, on the 17th of March.
Bev: When is the actual release date for the CD?
TRAVIS: March 16th. The single is on iTunes right now.
Bev: With your computer background is there anything else exciting that is going to happen?
TRAVIS: Oh yeah. You’re going to hear about all kinds of stuff. One of the things we are going to do is music videos for everything, for every song on the album, partly because of my brother’s background. He helped out with the video that is out now. I want to do a lot of video, a lot of live video, video streaming to fans of different events, not after the fact, but while its happening. I think that will be pretty fun and its unique. I know a few people that kind of started doing it for little events here and there but I want to incorporate it into everything.
Bev: Are you twittering?
TRAVIS: Oh yeah!
Bev: And you do it yourself?
TRAVIS: Yes, I do. I won’t ever let anyone do it. I do it for my fans. It’s fun doing things while it’s happening. I think one of the things I want fans to know is my music will always be from my heart. I won’t ever sing a song because it’s a hit, I will sing a song because a neat song. They can count if it’s on an album or in a concert, you can count on it being emotional. Sometimes I probably get a little overboard while I’m singing, getting into the emotion of the song.
Bev: With the fans and the connecting, what has been one the most emotional stories that has gotten back to you after hearing one of your songs?
TRAVIS: It was actually on my previous album. I have a song on there called “Just For Tonight” and it’s a song about being with someone who is an alcoholic and then being verbally abusive when they are drinking, which unfortunately is an experience that I went through. I remember a gal that had contacted me a lot, through Myspace, she started talking to me like once a week about her relationship with her husband who was coming home drunk and verbally mean to her all the time and she was trying to figure out how to get out. It was the song that started it, she knew that I had been around that, and she wanted to know how I got out. It got almost a little uncomfortable for me because I thought wait a minute, she needs to talk to a professional, and I shouldn’t be giving advice. At the same time it was so cool that she said she listened to the song all the time. And it really helped her to deal with what was happening. That’s what I want for all of the songs.
Bev: Travis, what a pleasure talking to you and getting to spend time with you, I look forward to seeing you on stage soon.
Travis: Same to you, I enjoyed this very much and hope to see you at a show soon.
For more information on Travis Rush visit http://www.travisrush.com/
Transcribed by Jennifer Kardell