In 1999, Glasgow’s Travis became one of Scotland’s most popular exports, making headlines throughout the United Kingdom, gaining fans across Europe, and breaking ground in the United States. According to Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield, it’s easy to hear why: “Travis play sentimental pub rock at its warmest, with gorgeous guitar hooks and boy-next-door sincerity.” Heavily influenced by the classic rock sounds of Neil Young as well as British pop bands, Travis drew musical comparisons to Radiohead—minus the science fiction effects—for lead singer Fran Healy’s ability to pull a song together with his choir-like, tenor-range vocals. But unlike some of Britain’s most popular acts, Travis, along with other recent British groups such as Stereophonies, Gomez, and Catatonia, chose to ignore the chic London scene. Tossing life in the limelight aside, the members of Travis claim they are not in the business of making records simply for the glory, but rather for the sheer joy of performing their songs.
While the band’s success, which arrived in the wake of their sophomore effort The Man Who, appeared to take place overnight, Travis’s ascent to pop stardom actually resulted after eight years of determination. Prior to forming in Glasgow in 1991, three members of Travis—
Members include Andy Dunlop (attended Glasgow School of Art), guitar; Fran Healy (attended Glasgow School of Art), vocals, song writing; Dougie Payne (attended Glasgow School of Art; joined band in 1996), bass; Neil Primrose, drums.
Formed band in Glasgow, Scotland, 1991; relocated to London, released debut single “All I Want to Do Is Rock,” 1996; released debut album Good Feeling, toured with Oasis, 1997; released The Man Who, 1999; toured the U.S. for the first time, headlined at the Glastonbury Festival, 2000.
Awards: 1999 Brit Awards for Best Album for The Man Who and Best British Band, 2000.
singer/songwriter Fran Healy, guitarist Andy Dunlop, and bassist Dougie Payne—all held ambitions other than making records. Back then, they were attending Glasgow School of Art, where Healy, a painter, met Payne, a sculptor, at an evening life drawing class; the two artists became instant best friends. Payne later met Dunlop, a jeweler and silversmith, at the Fresher’s Week at the School of Art. All three continued with their studies while playing with the group, and both Payne and Dunlop completed their courses. Healy, however, found it too difficult to concentrate on his songwriting as well as his education, and eventually dropped out of art college when he discovered that he was finishing more songs than paintings.
The fourth member of Travis, drummer Neil Primrose, previously worked at Glasgow’s Horseshoe Bar and knew Dunlop through his then-current band called Running Red. One night, Healy encountered Primrose at his place of work and asked the drummer to join his new band, Glass Onion, for which Dunlop was already the lead guitarist. Uniting with Healy, Dunlop, and two other members (neither being Payne), Primrose accepted the offer, and the group spent some time playing gigs in Glasgow, hoping to land a record deal. But as the months slipped by without label interest, Healy, Dunlop, and Primrose decided to make changes. They left their manager and the local club circuit, dropping out of sight for a year to write new tunes and rehearse.
Feeling more confident and ready to give music another try, the band returned to the Glasgow club scene and caught the attention of label executive Andy McDonald. McDonald encouraged Healy to sign a publishing contract with Sony/ATV Music, and he also found the group a new manager, Ian McAndrew, known for his work with the Brand New Heavies and Tim Simeon. McDonald himself was keen on signing the band to a fledgling Go! Discs, but ran into difficulties with parent company PolyGram Records. However, when Go! Discs folded and McDonald formed his own label, Independiente Records, he kept Travis in mind. Later, Travis would become the first act signed to McDonald’s new company.
Meanwhile, Sony/ATV urged the group’s frontman to make another change: to find a new bass player and move to London. Responding to the suggestion, Healy visited his best friend’s home with a bass guitar in hand. “I put it on him and stood him in front of the mirror and said ’Woof! You were born to play the bass,‘” the songwriter recalled in an online interview with Lucy Robinson. At first, Payne defiantly refused, but before long changed his mind and officially stepped in to complete the lineup in May of 1996. Subsequently, Healy, Payne, Dunlop, and Primrose, said farewell to Glasgow, packing their bags and arriving in London with a new name, Travis, taken after the character in the acclaimed Wim Wenders film Paris, Texas.
By now, Travis had recorded their debut single, “All I Want to Do Is Rock,” released in October of 1996 in a limited edition on their own Red Telephone Box Records. And with the success of the song, the same tune that had previously inspired McDonald, Travis became the first major signing to the newly minted Independiente. A pivotal performance arrived a month later: appearing on the television program Later With Jools Holland alongside singer Lionel Richie, rock icon Sting, and hip-hop artist Tricky. Other opportunities arose as well, including dates with other prominent bands and more than 200 headlining club gigs, leading Travis to attract a strong, devoted following.
Consequently, when Travis released their debut album Good Feeling in the fall of 1997, they saw the effort rise straight to the top ten of the British charts. Recorded in just four days, the mostly live album—containing memorable singles such as “U16 Girls” and “More Than Us”—illustrated the group’s energetic performance style and earned favorable responses. “Good Feeling is clearly the most accomplished, heart stoppingly exciting British debut album since Definitely Maybe by Oasis,” stated Select magazine in October of 1997. Likewise, in its October 17, 1997, issue, Entertainment Weekly commented, “Healy stretches every lunkheaded syllable to its elastic limit, until those words bluster almost anthemic. And this Scot’s no one-hit wonder—11 more stunners spell stardom.” Nonetheless, Travis failed to make a major impression on the larger population until the band Oasis stepped in. After that group’s Noel Gallagher made a personal request for Travis to accompany Oasis for a highly publicized arena tour, the up-and-coming band’s popularity took off.
The single “Writing to Reach You,” released in March of 1999, soared to number 14 on the British charts, after which Travis made another television appearance on Top of the Pops. Another single issued in May, “Driftwood” charted as well at number 13, making way for the release later that month for Travis’s sophomore album, The Man Who. Recorded and mixed between the summer of 1998 and early 1999, the album saw Travis making music in various settings. For preliminary sessions, the band recorded for three weeks at the picturesque surroundings of producer Mike Hedge’s Chateau De La Rouge Motte studio in Normandy. Then, returning to London, the quartet booked time at various studios throughout the city with Nigel Godrich, who also produced for Radiohead, Beck, R.E.M., and Pavement. “This album’s a wee bit more grown-up,” acknowledged Payne for the group’s website. “But if you were to listen to the last song on Good Feeling and then put the first track of The Man Who on, it’s just a continuation really. The best way to listen to Good Feeling was watching us playing it, seeing and feeling the whole thing.” Healy further added: “This album’s not a rock album in that way, it’s more of a song album. It’s an album for staying in rather than going out.”
The Man Who won Travis numerous accolades, and on August 22, 1999, the album reached the number one spot on the British charts, knocking Boyzone’s By Request from the top position. The album would go on to sell over three million copies in the United Kingdom alone, and was the fourth-biggest seller that year in Travis’s homeland. Early the following year, Travis took home two main Brit Awards (the United Kingdom’s equivalent to the Grammys), including the award for Best British Group as well as for Best Album. Although grateful for the recognition, Travis refused to dwell on the success, focusing instead on their music, where they have been, and where they want to go. “If you’re popular, it’s a symptom of how many people have heard the songs,” Healy told Melody Maker. “The territory where nobody has heard your music, that’s how far you’ve got to go. It’s got nothing to do with awards. It’s about proper bloody songs, you know? I’m just sick of all this bollocks, celebrity bullsh**. Just give us a good song, please, somebody. We just want a nice wee song to sing.”
Taking their songs overseas in February of 2000, Travis arrived in the United States for a short American tour that included dates in New York City and Los Angeles; they returned in the late spring as the supporting act on the Oasis tour. The summer of 2000 saw Travis performing at another important event, the Glastonbury Festival, the United Kingdom’s massive, three-day summer concert. At Glastonbury 2000, Travis was set to share headlining duties with David Bowie and the Chemical Brothers. After this, Travis planned to head into the studio to record their third album. “I don’t really ponder on what we’ve done, I’d always just rather ponder on what we’ve yet to do,” Healy said, as quoted by Melody Maker. “We go Isn’t it great? Isn’t it magic?’, but most of our energy is spent on moving forwards, rather than looking behind…”
Good Feeling, Independiente/Sony/Columbia, 1997.
The Man Who, (U.K) Independiente, 1999; Independiente/Sony/Epic, 2000.
Melody Maker, February 16–22, 2000; February 23–29, 2000, pp. 4–5; March 8–14, 2000, p. 4; March 15–21, 2000, p. 4.
Rolling Stone, March 3, 2000; April 27, 2000, p. 66.
Spin, February 16, 2000; May 2000, p. 62.
Wall of Sound, February 2, 2000; March 3, 2000.
Amazon.com, http://www.amazon.com(April 19, 2000).
Good Feeling, http://www.users.epulse.net/~ruston(April 16, 2000).
Travis Online, http://www.travisonline.com(April 16, 2000).
"Travis." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 21, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/travis
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