Scottish rockers Travis prove that togetherness and the personal touch is key in their latest album, 10 Songs, writes Nick Benson.
It has been over 20 years since Travis famously asked music fans Why Does It Always Rain On Me?
The idea for the song came to frontman Fran Healy during a visit to Eilat, Israel, when he was hoping to enjoy some sunny weather but instead had to make do with a full week of rain.
However, the track itself was a much greater success, as it became the band’s international breakthrough single, receiving recognition around the world.
However, while some may only know Travis as ‘the band that sang that song about rain’, the Scottish rockers are much more than that and they prove this in their latest album, the charming 10 Songs.
While Travis’ ninth studio album obviously comes as very welcome news to the band’s extremely loyal fanbase, it also marks a major point in the group’s musical careers.
“I’ve been a father for 14 years,” Healy told American Songwriter. “My son was front and centre on my work bench and that was my project. For the past 14 years that was the thing. About a year ago, he came up to me when I was in the middle of working and he told me, ‘I’m good, Papa, you can do the band now’.”
Having received the blessing of his son Clay, Healy said now wants to remind the music world just why Travis were so special in the first place.
“For me, writing a song in this day and age is a radical statement,” Healy said. “A song is something with a soul. A song has a pulse. It has a heartbeat and it’s alive and it makes you feel something when you hear it. Therefore, writing a song is radical. Writing a song in this day and age is punk. It’s a real statement. So calling it 10 Songs, I thought was very powerful. It’s a statement of intent.”
Throughout their history Travis have sold millions of albums and been the subject of an award-winning feature length documentary, Almost Fashionable. Healy has also elicited acclaim from Paul McCartney, Elton John and Graham Nash, who have all proven their credentials as great songwriters throughout the decades.
10 Songs has already received many favourable reviews, with some commenting on the nostalgia factor of the band, whilst others comment on Healy’s return as the principal songwriter.
Sadly, in today’s music world it is far from uncommon for the credits on successful modern pop songs to feature upwards of ten writers. However, this shows just how talented Healy is. In a world of music factories churning out mass-produced pop songs, Healy has managed to showcase his masterful songwriting skills and strike a chord with many music lovers, who prefer to opt for the personal touch rather than a manufactured track, void of true emotion.
Speaking of such mass-produced pop, Healy said: “It’s fine. Personally though, I’ll take ten songs written by one person over one song written by ten people. And if I feel that way, then surely someone else must do too.”
The album has lots of character, including its simple but endearing title, 10 Songs.
Some may say it does exactly what it says on the tin but while yes, it is an album named 10 Songs and it contains 10 songs, the real measuring stick is the content and these songs are full of heart and passion.
Travis can never be accused of perfunctory – any of their work, whether it be albums, EPs, singles, gigs or even interviews, the band always give it their all and 10 Songs is no exception.
Travis has consisted of Healy, bassist Dougie Payne, guitarist Andy Dunlop and drummer Neil Primrose ever since the band’s debut studio album, Good Feeling, back in 1997 and now, 23 years later, 10 Songs shows just how important consistency and togetherness is.
The album kicks off with the charming Waving At The Window, which shows how the band has managed to stay together for so long while many others have gone their separate ways.
“That song is me talking to my wife,” Healy said. “It’s about love. I thought it was about me and my wife, but a lot of these songs can be about my band because it’s the same thing, I’m married to these people. We’re married, we’re together, we love each other, it’s a relationship.”
The album has all the things that brought joy to fans of the Scottish rock band in their heyday and then some.
Shifting with ease from loud to soft and animated to moody, 10 Songs offers fans a spring in their step and a moment of sobriety and this is more than evident in two of the album’s earlier singles, A Ghost and Kissing In The Wind.
In A Ghost, a track packed full of energy, Healy tells the listener to “live your life, don’t waste your time”. Healy said the song was inspired by the new lease of life and creative drive he received after his son Clay told him he should put his full focus on Travis.
“It’s about looking at yourself in the mirror and seeing the ghost of someone,” Healy said of the track. “This reflection talks back to you and says, ‘It’s easier to be alive than hide under your pillow while your life is passing you by’.”
Clay also played a major role in the single’s music video, as just as the video was ready to shoot the world went into lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Healy, a former student at Glasgow School Of Art, put his drawing skills to the test and, with the help of Clay, drew the entire video by hand.
Meanwhile, the romantic, wistful ballad Kissing In The Wind sees the tempo slowed down and will be viewed by many listeners as ‘classic Travis’. The first release from the new album, it was timed to coincide with the broadcast of the amazing aforementioned documentary Almost Fashionable, which delves into the band’s loyal fanbase.
The album also features Susanna Hoffs, of the Bangles, as guest vocalist on The Only Thing, a country-tinged duet on which Hoffs sings: “You are the record in the record shop nobody wants to buy” – a problem Travis will not have with 10 Songs.
While they may have shot to fame as the band who sing about the rain, Travis is much more than that and this album is evidence of that.
Travis are back with 10 Songs, proving that togetherness and the personal touch are just what this world needs right now.
Welcome back Travis – we’ve missed you!
10 Songs by Travis is out now on BMG.
Picture: Travis. (Ryan Johnson).