Travie came up to me in the middle of the bustling morning backstage at The Queen Laitfah Show and sat down across from me to chat. He spoke in a scratchy voice indicative of the cold he was fighting, with a fresh cup of green tea in hand. I was so excited to chat, I dove right in to the music, asking him about his new single.
The song “Rough Water” featuring Jason Mraz was written a while ago, he told me. He had shown it to producer Benny Blanco, who collaborated with McCoy and his band Gym Class Heroes on “Stereo Hearts (Feat. Adam Levine)” in 2011. When Benny was working with Jason Mraz, he played “Rough Water” and Jason busted out a guitar and sang the hook. Blanco sent it to Travie and he was immediately impressed. He “took it to a whole ‘nother level,” recalls McCoy, and “the response has been fantastic.”
While Travie McCoy is, for the most part, a hip-hop artist, it probably surprised no one to hear he was working with the twangy songwriter Jason Mraz. McCoy isn’t one to be limited by the boundaries of genres or musical expectations – he’s worked with artists as diverse as Adam Levine and Daryl Hall (one of his idols). McCoy broke it down for me, “I don’t go into songwriting with any expectations. I let the song do what it does and I do what I do and hopefully it works out in the end.” He also uses his crew of musically talented friends, like Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz, and Joe Trohman, as a weathervane when he’s working on new material. “I try to impress my friends first and the world second,” McCoy said coolly, “If I get the smile and the head bob, alright cool. If I get the weird face, funky face,” he said, scrunching up his nose, “back to the drawing board.”
Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy had joined Travie to perform “Rough Water” on The Queen Latifah Show that morning (Pete Wentz was also on the guest list). When I asked McCoy how Stump was tapped for that duty, he laughed, “Patrick, I hate to say, is kind of my fall guy. Whenever there’s a song or appearance and the person can’t make it, Patrick’s like ‘I’ll do it!’ and he ends up killing it!” McCoy gushed that the guys of Fall Out Boy have been big brothers throughout his career. They “took us under their wings, showed us the ropes.” McCoy’s band Gym Class Heroes and Fall Out Boy have performed together countless times and Gym Class Hero’s breakout single “Cupid’s Chokehold” featured Patrick Stump’s vocals. Their musical careers are deeply intertwined so it was only appropriate for Stump to join McCoy on the Big Sexy stage.
With McCoy’s new single “Rough Water” gaining momentum, the big question on my mind is when can we expect an album? The wait shouldn’t be too long as Travie hopes to finish it by the end of December. Of the album, Travie divulges, “This record isn’t sad, but there’s a lot of realness. Also, a lot of stuff you can boogie to.” Continuing to defy genres, McCoy promises that it will be a “hodgepodge of sounds and different influences” including reggae, rock, and funk. Taking on a somber tone, he also explained that this record will be a bit darker than past releases because in the past year he’s lost family and friends and was able to pour out his mourning through his music. Travie mused at himself, “I have this defense mechanism where I try to make myself laugh over serious, serious things and it comes out through writing. A song might sound funny, but you scratch the surface a little bit and you’re like, ‘wait a minute… is there something wrong with this guy? Is he alright?’” he laughed. He reiterated how therapeutic music has been for him over the years and how putting out deeply personal music has allowed him to “let go.”
Likewise, Travie McCoy concerts can be like “group therapy sessions” he explained. The fans come from all over not to just sing along, but to sing his words with conviction. As he hangs around to meet fans after the shows, many tell him how they relate to his songs. While he’s able to help the fans through tough situations with his music, they may not realize they are doing the same for him.
Travie will be doing the rounds with the holiday radio festivals, including the KISS.FM Jingle Ball in Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago and Atlanta. Then, when his full-length comes out early next year, that’s when “all hell breaks lose and I’ll say goodbye to my dogs and apartment for a while.”
Until then, grab “Rough Water” on iTunes!