Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Boots and Hearts emerging artist Travis Wood. We met at the Thompson Diner for coffee and a bite to eat. Travis arrived on time and open to all of my questions.
The first thing you notice is that he’s tall, handsome, and intense. A good combination for a performer but that’s only a small part of who Travis is. We talked about the showcase, but we also talked at length about songwriting, the process, the people, the journey he’s taken to get where he is today. He’s enthusiastic and he’s committed.
We started by talking about where he came from, his old band Whosarmy and the opportunities created by competing (and winning) Cover Me Canada. While the band is no longer together they are still on good terms and he’s been able to leverage the connections he made through the show to find some amazing people to write with. He writes with a crew of people here in Toronto and they make regular trips down to Nashville.
TW: My experiences there have been good there. I’ve had friends take me in and show me the ropes. Guys who are a couple of steps ahead of me. I get play it cool and shake hands and just hang out with my friends. Make nice, see and be seen. It’s a cool town. Everyone there is a songwriter. There’s so much music there. I like that it feels like a small town.
SC: So the song you used for your audition, is that yours?
SC: It’s really good.
TW: Was it Throwback? I submitted two.
TW: “All About You”? I did another one called “All About You”.
I’m confused. I thought I submitted Throwback.
That was a song I wrote with some really great writers. I’ve played that on stage in Nashville and every time I play it, it gets a good response and that song got some traction down south.
(Note – Travis was completely right and I was wrong. Throwback was the song he submitted.)
SC: It’s a good song.
TW: Thank you.
What I like about it the most, is it’s not a story you’re told in country very often. Which is, a guy who’s looking around at a girl with another guy and going hey, your boyfriend seems… like not my kinda guy. Which was a hard voice to find without sounding arrogant. So you make it all about her. You wanna say how much better she deserves. She deserves someone that’s all about her.
SC: Are you working a day job?
TW: Nope. I do the writing thing. I’ve been able to take the time to do that. I haven’t signed a publishing deal, yet. I will, but I’m kinda waiting. And I do perform live. I do entertainment gigs. I play bars. It’s fun for me. I’m supposed to play Wagon Wheel and Wonderwall but I don’t. I go in and play my songs. Generally people respond to what I’m doing.
I spent so many years in my band not being comfortable in my skin and trying to be something I wasn’t. And now all of a sudden I’ve fallen into this thing where I’m writing these songs. It comes so honestly to me and I feel so engaged when I perform them. I want to perform these songs.
SC: How’d the move from rock to country music happen?
TW: I know I started listening to Shania Twain records. I think one day I heard that *sings the guitar riff from “That Don’t Impress Me Much”*.
I’ve always loved pop music. I was getting more and more in touch with the fact that I really loved pop music and I wanted to write pop songs in a rock setting, with guitar and drums. I heard that song on the radio when I was driving and I thought, that’s one of the best things ever. *sings the guitar riff again* that’s fantastic!
I started listening to the “Come On Over” album and I fell in love with how clever the lyric was. I love Shania Twain. So then I just started digging into country music. I want to find what else I like about it. It’s about the lyrics. The lyrics grab me.
I was in a rock band and listening to country. Country still has it’s rock elements. Like Tim Hicks, he sounds like AC/DC, not vocally but the bluesy-ness.
I did an EP with my band, Whosarmy, and I was listening to country the whole time and if you listen to the EP, Hole In My Heart, it was me trying to tell stories. It was country-esque, more narrative things, trying to get it right, lyrically. That was my first segue way into country. Trying not to piss off my band.
The band fizzled and things ran out of momentum and I made a change. I called up a friend of mine, Todd Clarke, and said I want to do writing. He brought me into a couple of writing sessions and I wasn’t quite there at first.
I think I’m kinda getting there now. I was able to infiltrate this great group of Toronto writers who have been so nice to me and helped me get my foot in the door. It’s been wonderful.
I was lucky enough to meet him during that show thing, where I was kinda somebody for a minute. I was able to reach back out to him and he knew me and that was it.
SC: I was wondering does the competition thing make it more comfortable for you? You were in competition on the CBC show and you were comfortable in that environment.
TW: Cover Me Canada, they had around 9000 people apply. It was an insanely lucky thing.
SC: Really? Lucky? It’s gotta be more than luck.
TW: *laughs* Put it this way, I didn’t want to enter the contest. I think it was my guitar player’s mom. She was “you have to do this”, so we did.
We did a Bryan Adams song and they picked us. Somehow we made it onto the top nine and then from there I always felt like we were going to win. I kept thinking it was going really well. That was a fluke. It wasn’t my decision to enter. But we did and I geared up, I tried very hard. We had a lot of fun.
SC: So for this one (Boots and Hearts)?
TW: This one went down similarly. I got into writing. I’ve been writing with these great songwriters. I’ve been so lucky and they’ve been so great to me, I’ve written some of the best stuff I’ve ever written. And we were in Nashville in January, me and three writer friends of mine from Toronto and one night two of the guys came home and they said “we were talking about you in the car” and he said “if you had the opportunity to be a recording artist would you do it?” And was like “no”. And the one guy says, “I was sure you would” and the other guy said, “no I had a feeling he’d say no”.
My friend Todd kinda kept pushing it and that’s when the Boots and Hearts thing came up. He said “what do you think about entering, it could be a fun way to experiment to see how you feel about it”.
Not all writers can sing and I have the ability to sing country, it turns out, better than I was at singing rock music and pop music. I sing on all the demos and the demos have done well. I love singing my songs, I’m really engaged, more than I ever have. I have more fun performing.
My instincts have led me there. So I entered. They called me one day, I was laying on my couch. I was groggy when they called and I said “oh that’s wonderful”. The girl said “aren’t you excited” and said “I’m excited!”.
So now I’m doing it. I’m gearing up to do it. I’m excited, I’m totally excited. I think I’m going to go up and play, just me and my guitar.
SC: Have you been to the festival?
TW: No, I was supposed to go last year to meet a friend of mine who wrote a song for Tim Hicks. I was supposed to go schmooze with them and meet some people but I couldn’t go for some reason. And now it’s in a new location this year.
SC: It sounds like it’s going to be amazing.
TW: Yeah, I did a writing session with Tim Hicks
SC: Who didn’t win.
TW: It’s interesting, things took off for him. He’s so nice, such a great guy. So it makes sense. He’s talented and he’s a wonderful guy.
SC: So you don’t need to win to do well, which is great.
TW: Well it’s great for me. It looks like I’ll be performing first. It’s all vote placed and I’m last in the votes.
SC: What do you do in your spare time?
TW: I’ve kind of taken this mentality that I’m a songwriter and I like to let myself be lazy sometimes. I’ll just hang around the house and watch tv. There’s always something I’m getting ready for. I’m always trying to come up with song ideas, always. I always have the next session that I have to go to. I want to bring in ideas. I’ll sit around and constantly adding stuff to my phone. A couple of thoughts. Those one or two days I week where I have time I go through my phone and the notes.
The way I like to write songs is to come up with a song, not a new idea but I like to know exactly what the content in the verse, where am I going in the chorus. I like to map out where I’m going. I know how I’m going to get from point A to point B so when I go to my next writing session I’m able to pitch it with some clarity.
SC: So the writing thing influences what you listen to?
TW: Yes, but I’m a fan of country music. But it’s hard to get outside of the writing mind, that’s really clever, I listen and I think, I love that melodic change they made there, I love how rhythmic this chorus is. Really what you’re trying to do when you go into a writing session in Toronto, you’re trying to write something as good as the best songs out of Nashville.
Some days we feel like we did. I wrote a song the other day, I wanna show you this… if my phone will work. People get sick of me talking about music because I do it so much. I just did this song with my friend Gavin. If this song doesn’t do something for someone, man I’m gonna go work at Burger King, or something.
We wrote this song and we thought, come on, that’s great!
SC: Do you have an artist you listen to that you feel other people should know about?
TW: Hmm… do you?
TW: The Dead South, that’s a great name. Who else?
SC: Sundy Best, they opened for Dallas Smith on the Tippin’ Point Tour.
TW: I’ll have to check them out. I’m the opposite of a snob. I only want pop stuff. I’m probably too preoccupied with it. I’m thinking about how to write for those artists. I’m trying to think in their world. I don’t pay attention to the alternative stuff much. I’m trying to think of any smaller artists who are amazing. The Lovelocks.
Thanks to Travis for meeting with us. We wish luck and we’ll see him soon.
There’s still time to vote to help Travis get a better spot in the showcase – Emerging Artist Link: bootsandhearts.com/showcase.
You can find Travis here, on the internet: