Featured image courtesy of the artist
Written by Dan Cousart
William H. Travis, formerly of Our Griffins, is a soulful folk singer/songwriter from the Philadelphia area. His first solo EP, “Port”, was released in 2013, and now he is back with a new single “Long Ways Down” and a new EP that will come out in the near future. His music draws from a variety of influences including Bob Dylan, country music and traditional blues. Travis’ songs echo Ryan Adams and Bon Iver and are deep, interesting and connect on a personal level. In this interview, we sat down with him to discuss Philadelphia and his show on August 12th at Ortlieb’s with the Levee Drivers and Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts.
Rock On Philly: So William, you’re from Nazareth, PA, correct? Could you tell us a bit about what it was like growing up there and what the music scene was like out there?
William H. Travis: The scene was pretty non-existent when I was growing up there. It was the kind of place that you’d hear of a new music venue coming into town and then it’d be shut down six months later. So it was a lot of biker bars when I was like 14, and towns in and around the area were not that much better. My friends and I would listen to a lot of records and imagine a scene somewhere out there in the world.
ROP: So what is your association with Philly?
WHT: I was Philly-based for seven years. I went to school at there and then I just moved to Bethlehem, PA. I have been itching to get back into Philly.
ROP: What’s the scene like in Bethlehem?
WHT: It’s very 90s punk. I dig it, but it’s hard for me to play my stuff out there but it’s cool.
ROP: Where did you go to school when you were in Philly?
WHT: Temple University. T.U. Loved that place. I tell random people they should go there. I had a great experience there, it’s really diverse there and where I was from wasn’t. I love people in Philly.
ROP: What got you into writing songs? Who were your first inspirations?
WHT: It was a lot of Dylan at first, then I got into Blind Willie Johnson and stuff like that. Very raw stuff that was really heartfelt.
ROP: You have a record out called “Port” that came out in 2013, and you have a new EP coming out soon. Could you tell us a bit about your thoughts on the first one now?
WHT: Looking back there’s definitely some moments when I look back and cringe a little bit, but I guess that just comes with the territory. It’s almost like an awkward picture your mom will take at your birthday party and show you years later. “Mom, why’d you do that?” Overall, the approach of having a bunch of friends getting into the studio and just running with it is still very impressive to me. We made some cool stuff. With this new record, I took a much more stripped down approach with just a bass player, a lead guitar player and myself to focus more on songcraft and to really get into the lyrics more. I really wanted to hone in on really bare songs. Hopefully listeners can really enjoy this one.
ROP: Is there a difference in your lyrical perspective on this new EP?
WHT: Yeah totally. For my first record, I was more focused on getting my last band Our Griffins off the ground and I did this in my spare time, but now the new one is much more of me digging deeper and having a better focus.
ROP: So what are your thoughts on your new single “Long Ways Down?”
WHT: I think that it really brings the whole record together. I feel like it’s a nice under four minute song that’ll hopefully get people into the rest of the new record.
ROP: Was there anything in particular thing or idea that got you interested in being a singer/songwriter?
WHT: Having been in bands in the past, I’ve seen how much things fringe on one or two people not being able to make a gig or not. I like the idea of being able to play whenever wherever I can with a varying set up. The songs can still be on their own.
ROP: Have you ever played with Levee Drivers or Miles Nielsen?
WHT: I’ve kind of run in a circle with Levee Drivers. Marley their manager was a good friend of Our Griffins when I was playing with them and we used to go to shows and stuff together. I’m super honored to be playing with them. Super excited.
ROP: You excited for the show?
WHT: I’m so pumped. I played in Ardmore recently, but it’s not quite Philly so I’m super excited to be playing a solo set here.