Travis T. Warren, Singer for Alternative Rock group Blind Melon. Travis T. Warren Interview October 9, 2012
Travis T. Warren Interview
1. Could you tell me about the recording and writing process for your debut solo album Beneath These Borrowed Skies?
Travis T. Warren: Well the writing process actually went really fast. I started writing and recording for “Beneath These Borrowed Skies” last Nov (2011). At the risk of sounding “cheesy,” the whole experience was very spiritual. About 70% of the album is new material. The writing and recording process for this album went hand and hand. I recorded it at the same time I was writing and working out parts, which is a different writing process for me. Normally I write a song, rehearse the hell out of it, and then track it. I have a very modest recording setup – nothing too fancy. Decent converters, a handful of mics, and a few good mic pres. My “studio” is basically a converted bedroom. I don’t mind this setup because I don’t have to spend that much time geeking out on gear. This allows me to focus more on the writing and performance aspects. The only downside to this setup is that we have a lot of traffic running right outside my studio. Needless to say, because of the noise, there was a lot of cussing that went on during the making of this album! If you listen, you can hear cars driving by throughout the entire album. I finally figured it was part of the ambiance – that and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it. I’m not a Pro Tools Guru by any means. I know just enough on Pro Tools to get around (and not screw anything up!)
I try to keep it more about the music and less about the technical side. I tracked everything here at my studio except for drums. We recorded the drums at my drummer’s (Rob Columbus’) studio, Brick & Mortar, in Hollywood. My friend, Chris Unck tracked the violins (Jessy Greene), Bowed Bass (Eva Gardner), and pedal steel (Chris Unck). I recorded and produced the album and Rob Schnapf mixed the album. He is one of the best and a great guy as well. I first heard of Rob through Elliott Smith. Rob mixed a handful of Smith’s albums and these happen to be some of my all time favorite records. I felt like it was a perfect mix. Rob doesn’t put his “stamp” on things. He hears the music and goes from there. He improves what’s already there without compromising the integrity of the album. As you can imagine, it was an absolute honor to have Rob mix the album.
2. Where did the title of the album come from?
The title actually hit me while I was in the studio in the middle of recording the album – it just came to me suddenly & subconsciously. Later I realized it was a tribute to my influences and my own experiences in life because I can hear these influences and hear my past bands all wrapped into one on this album. I feel as if all of these influences came together for this album – as if I “borrowed” from everything I had done previously. As happens with many musicians, it’s been a long and sometimes rough road, but I have always managed to “hang in there” even with these trials and tribulations. So the album came from everything I suppose – it certainly comes from the heart.
3. How do you manage your time as a musician?
Well I believe balance is key. I don’t always manage to follow that path, but I know it’s necessary to keep balance to have a good & healthy life. I admit, I spend an incredible amount of time doing music. Fortunately I have a girlfriend that knows this, understands it, and is somehow tolerant of it all! Ha-ha – She is truly an amazing person in so many ways. She teaches folks how to ride horses as horses are her passion. Also, she is an amazing artist. She works with horses during the day while I work on music. Then during the evenings, we often watch basketball. Both of us really love basketball and it gives us a chance to completely get away from everything else. We are devoted Lakers fans – Love ’em! Absolutely love them – Die hard Lakers fans here! Summertime, we try and travel as much as we can. We love Sedona and the northwest a lot.
4. What products are you currently endorsing?
I use and love BLUE mics. I used the Kiwi, Woodpecker, Mouse, Dragonfly, and the Blueberry for this album – I have grown really fond of these mics over the last several years. I mainly record vox tracks with the Mouse and Dragonfly. Even though I’m not endorsed by RCA, I own an old RCA-BA Tube pre amp which I ran all of my vocals through. I believe it’s from the 50’s. The guy who sold it to me had his engineer completely modd it out. He added XLR ins and outs and a pad switch and output gain. This added much more flexibility with sound and tone. I think the combo really compliments my voice.
5. Without Social Media could bands today manage to survive?
Well I’m sure it can happen but the chances are very slim. Social Media and the Internet in general have changed the game – for better or worse. It’s pretty much a given that everyone (except Tool because they don’t have to!) uses social media – some better than others. I personally am not very good at using social media. There is something about it that is very unattached and disingenuous to me. I’m much more of a one on one person; however, I understand every artist pretty much has to use social media to get their work out there these days.
6. What’s your vision of the internet for musicians in the future?
That depends on the listener I think. Artists need people to survive. Without them, there is no way to cultivate your art – it’s impossible. The internet has changed the way we see music, the way we listen to music, and the way we perceive music.
To be honest, I praise folks that actually still BUY albums. It’s so easy to rip music nowadays – hell, I’ve done it myself so I sure don’t blame people who do it – especially when times are hard financially. I believe that most people would buy music if they could afford it – and I think most people want and need music in their lives. The upside of the Internet is that anyone can now easily get their art or thoughts out to any soul across the world. The machine that once ruled the music industry is becoming obsolete and a thing of the past. Musicians no longer have to HAVE the major labels to become noticed – which was pretty much unheard of before the Internet hit. Now, anyone can make music – with or without talent.
7. What could we find interesting in your Music collection today?
Recently I’ve been listening to Cold War Kids, Richard Swift, and Fiona Apple’s new record. I love Fiona – she is one of the most underrated artists around. Great songwriter and she has an incredibly beautiful voice. Another one of my all-time favorite bands, Pinback, just put out a new record that I can’t wait to hear. You will always find Pinback in my collection. Great duo out of San Diego, Broken Social Scene, is another band I’m always listening too.
8. Any tours lined up in the near future with Blind Melon or as solo?
Blind Melon is playing a handful of shows in Spain this November – and possibly in Ireland. I have a few things coming up on the east coast later this month with my solo album and hopefully more things next year.
9. Any news on possible new Blind Melon album?
As of now Melon doesn’t have any plans on recording anything in the near future as far as I’m aware.
10. Anything exciting going on with Blind Melon at this time?
Like I mentioned, just a handful of shows in November.
10. Where do you see Music in 100 years from now?
Well if we haven’t killed ourselves off with nuclear weapons, fevered ego, or death to the environment – then for the most part, I see acts ripping off one another. But every so often a true talent will come along that will change the game – an artist or band that will inspire a whole new generation of kids. Music lovers live for these artists because they come along and change the game. And the cycle will go on and on.
11. Any words for musicians starting out?
Run away…Listen to your parents…ha-ha – Kidding. My best advice is to follow your heart. Never lose your roots or humility and ALWAYS play from the heart – Always. Otherwise everything you do is questionable and sounds and feels hollow. Everyone has a story to be told, but it’s how you tell that story that matters.
Check out the Travis T. Warren website