Hello! Welcome to “Under 1000″, a column highlighting artists with under 1,000 followers on their official Facebook pages. Each piece will profile and interview an artist we feel is worthy of your follow, with the hope of spreading their sound and getting them that all important fourth digit.
About The Artist
- Name: Travis Crowley
- Facebook likes (at the time this was written): 261
Jeb Bush once said “I want my voice to have purpose.” While I never thought I’d find myself quoting “Jeb!” in any form other than “please clap,” I find some weight in this idea. That is, to use the freedom and power that comes with ideas to their full potential, rather than let their worth slip away half-juiced and forgotten.
New York-based singer-songwriter Travis Crowley embodies this notion. Not a single lyric goes to waste — whether it be a word-playing quip, or a blunt anecdote relaying the events of an unexpected night out. On his debut mixtape The Trouble Kid Tape, Crowley shares stories and experiences with an endearing wit and honesty, painting with a tattered brush to make every detail feel shared instead of merely told.
First single “Pretty Little Adelaide” is a recollection of a brief, barely realized relationship, as well as an honest, “level-with-me” request for clarity from the song’s subject. It feels relatable yet fully personal, a rare balance that may as well be Crowley’s calling card, as it applies the complex ideal to each of his tales. Country romp “Cocaine and Yoga” brings the odd events of the outside world to an introspective place. He opts to use humor to offset a slew of “serious” thoughts, not simply to compliment them, and this allows the listener to reflect without feeling forced to do so.
One of the tape’s most enjoyable elements is the mystery of “what’s next” — Where will Crowley bring us on this understated journey, and what will it sound like? Tracks like “Circle of Hell” and the aforementioned “Cocaine and Yoga” bring the record’s country influences front and center, while tracks like “The Trouble Kid Song” delve into folksy indie rock. Then there’s closing track, “Every Morning When I Wake Up”, a Mraz-esque acoustic rap that, despite being the most isolated track on the mixtape, feels like its triumphant thesis statement.
For this week’s Under 1000, Travis and I talked about the jumping of genres, his aspirations regarding Adele, and dog poop. Find my conversation with Travis Crowley below.
MEB: First and foremost, why do you make music?
Travis Crowley: Songwriting is my favorite thing to do. I have always strived to have good stories to tell, and I figured out that the best way to get people to listen to them was to set everything to music. It also helps me come to terms with the things that happen every day, whether it’s larger scale, like examining my own personal behavior and discussing the ramifications it has on the people around me, or the very small and specific things, like time spent with someone over the course of an hour. It’s still just a lot of fun for me, and I hope that I never lose sight of that.
MEB: You refer to The Trouble Kid Tape as a mixtape, rather than an album. What makes the distinction for you?
TC: To release my style of music in mixtape form was an idea I’ve been sitting on for many years. It’s, of course, mostly a thing in rap music, so I figured that my stuff would stick out based on the presentation. There’s an accessibility and coolness to the format that I have always loved, and nobody does it for alternative music. It’s direct. I wanted to make my songs as easy to listen to as possible; buy it if you want, stream it if that’s how you listen to music, I will also give you a free download. Obviously, we’re all familiar with the potential for success now. Chance the Rapper beat me to it by, like, a lot.
MEB: You recorded and mixed the entire album yourself. What did you like about the process, and what were some of the biggest challenges?
TC: The best and worst part of recording and mixing yourself is the same thing: You can do whatever the hell you want. You provide yourself with the opportunity to say what you want to say, exactly how you want to say it, but the free reign can become intimidating. How do you know when it might be done correctly, or how to reel it in? You’ve got to trust yourself to do right by the idea of what you wanted to make in the first place. Of course, you can change your mind about certain things along the way, and heading up the process alone allows you to do that. These songs, based on content and style, lent themselves to the DIY process; it’s part of the authenticity.
MEB: You jump genres quite often, from indie rock to country to hip-hop. How do you decide which soundscape you’d like the song to land? Do you write lyrics with a certain sound in mind?
TC: I don’t think I ever really sit down and decide to write a specific style, the genre-specific sounds tend to come out as each song is fleshed out. I draw from a lot of different places, but the overall product still sounds cohesive to me and I think that’s why it works. But every song is different. I try to make them emulate what it felt like to be in each situation, and it happens both ways. Sometimes the music dictates the story, and other times the story suggests the music. I can play “Home Sweet Home” and be transported to the street corner I was standing on when the events depicted played out.
MEB: One of the mixtape’s standout tracks is the uniquely named “Cocaine and Yoga”. What’s the story behind that track?
TC: I was out in Brooklyn one night with a pretty large group of friends, and I was trying to meet up with this girl I had a huge crush on at the time. We were bouncing between a couple places before I found out where the girl was, and I was able to convince the group to walk over. When we got there, there was a slight line to get in, and every single one of my friends (close friends, mind you) ditched me in favor of pizza. I think there was a mac and cheese pizza? Something fun like that; I can’t honestly be upset about that.
Point is, I remained committed to seeing this girl and hanging out and all that, and by time I got in, the circumstances of what the night was had just so drastically changed that…well, it’s all detailed in the song. Lyrically, I posed “cocaine” and “yoga” next to each other as obscure yet fundamental opposites. The idea was that I was witnessing extreme duality firsthand, and I was fascinated by it. You can be two incredibly different things at the same time and it isn’t even out of the ordinary. It’s a lesson I learned while allowing myself to get into trouble. To me, it’s the quintessential song on the tape, even more so than the title track.
MEB: What’s your favorite song off the mixtape?
TC: That’s a tough one, I have a different favorite every day! Favorite to perform would be “Cocaine and Yoga”. Musically I really love “Slow Dance”. The best recording is “The Tuesday Blues”. My sister Eva sings backing vocals on that one and she blew it out of the water. It is absolutely my favorite recorded part of the project. When I had her do it, she nailed it in one shot, but asked me to try it again. The second take was somehow even better; she is amazing.
MEB: Tell me about the first song you ever wrote.
TC: First real song I ever wrote was a song called “Grace Period” for my middle school band Greyhounds Can’t Sit, aka GCS. It was about the time one of my neighbors accused me of not picking up my dog’s poop while walking him, which I totally did, and brandishing the way over the top rhetoric of “your grace period is over.” I actually still think the lyrics are pretty clever, especially for a 12 year old! I detailed the events literally, but sculpted them to sound more like an angsty sort of rock song that could have applied to a bunch of situations. “I put up with your shit for way too long, your grace period is over, my patience is gone.” Shoutout to Gregg LaFleur.
Although I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this one weird little tune I came up with when I was even younger (shout out to my brother Jeffrey) that I guess would be called “Follow Me to a Place Where Nobody’s Been”. It sounds like something that would be included in a Lord of the Rings musical.
MEB: What’s your ultimate rockstar fantasy?
TC: I want to be nominated for a Grammy against Adele and then lose. Oh, and I would like to be featured on one of DJ Khaled’s superstar collabs. Although most of my rock and roll dreams are pretty low key. I want to write with Kacey Musgraves, and I would like to have a song featured in a television commercial and/or on MTV’s Catfish.
MEB: Tell me about the weirdest show you’ve ever played.
TC: Honestly I’ve played more weird shows than not. Back when the Crowley Brothers (also shoutout to my other brother Brian) were playing, we did this one show in an unmarked Connecticut warehouse during a torrential downpour, where we were grossly misled about general turnout and payment. Our grandmother was one of, like, three people there? That was super weird. I think we agreed not to talk about that; it haunts us. Too late now! A good weird one was a show I played up in Montreal. It was a great showcase featuring a variety of artists, everything from painting to digital design to music, all from the area. And also New York City. So I was certainly out of place, but it was a blast. That was the first time my mom ever heard me play songs from The Trouble Kid Tape. She said I cursed too much.
MEB: What’s the one thing you hope people take away from your music?
TC: I hope people feel the value of storytelling. There’s something refreshing about being able to frame a thought or event in the way only you know how to. When I write and play, it’s always an exercise in self-awareness. That answer is maybe putting a little too much thought into it. I hope people know that I don’t take myself too seriously! At the very least, I just hope people like the songs. I hope they hear them as good — whatever that means to them.
Featured Image Credit: Cait McCarthy Photography