Pat Travers: The Roaring 20's An Exclusive Interview

By Jeb Wright

Pat Travers has released a new album titled Blues on Fire via Cleopatra Records that sees the guitarist paying homage to blues artists of the 1920’s. Travers, a fan of the blues, was challenged as he had never even gone back that far in his musical repertoire.

Travers took the concept and ran with it, scouring the internet for songs of the era and taking time to research the artists. The result is a powerful album that truly sees two different eras of music melded into one.

In addition to the new album, Travers discusses how Social Media has helped resurrect his career and how it lead to him releasing his first ever independent EP release. We also discuss his new record contract with Frontiers Records, new music and a possible live album and DVD in his future.

Jeb: Let’s talk Blues on Fire.

Pat: I am sorry to have kept you waiting, man. I knew we had this interview coming up, but I was working on a song and I just wanted to do one more thing.

Jeb: Well, if you’re working on new Pat Travers music then I will let you go and get back to it!

Pat: [laughing] No, its okay. I got everything done that I needed to get done, so I am ready.

Jeb: You are, somehow, busier now than you have been for the last fifteen years. You have albums coming out live dates to play and you’re very active with your website and Facebook page.

Pat: In 2008, things looked pretty rosy. We had, what I thought, was a pretty good record deal. Of course, everything fell apart. At the end of that year, the people that I was depending on all ran out of everything. We’ve had to fight our way back over the past three years.

I don’t know why, but at the beginning of this year, I started getting a lot of stuff thrown my way. The first of which was doing some of what I call busy work, which was doing a couple of songs for Cleopatra Records on a couple of their tribute albums, so I did that.

Next thing, they asked me if I wanted to do a blues album based on the blues of the 1920’s. I jumped at the opportunity. It was kind of coincidental, because for about three months before they brought this up, I had been listening to Chicago blues, exclusively. I had been reading their bios and I had been learning about their influences. I was very fascinated by all of these characters. The 1920’s was a great time for entrainment in this country.

Jeb: I think this is a very cool approach. How did you make these old blues songs into Pat Travers songs?

Pat: These songs actually predate the Chicago blues. These songs came from New Orleans and St. Louis and places like that. Most of the songs I did came from 1927, which must have been the year that these records came out.

I would go on the internet with a list of twenty artists and pick three, or four, songs of each artist and try to find some songs that I liked. The first song I recorded was “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” by Blind Willie Johnson. I started getting into these other songs and I decided that I would just rock some of them out.

I loved the lyrics and I was interested in the patterns that they followed, as they were a little different than rock and roll.

Jeb: A lot of people would have taken the paycheck and gone though the motions on a project like this, but you really threw yourself into the project.

Pat: It really was a big discovery for me. I really didn’t know they rocked out like this back in the 1920’s. There were a lot of great musicians making great music.

I don’t think the ‘60s and ‘70’s musicians were the craziest. I think the guys from the ‘20’s would make the other guys blush. They were pretty wild and the lyrics reflect that. They were not shy talking about what they wanted to talk about. The innuendo was used very cleverly and it was really fun. It was music for adults. They all would have a lot of fun playing the Devil’s Music.

Jeb: “Death Letter” is a great song.

Pat: That is a scary one. That tune really grabbed me. The version that I covered was from the ‘20’s, which the first recorded version from Son House. He had that particular funky right hand slap that he did even back then. The version I did I slowed down a little to let the words ring out more, as there was a lot of reality going on there.

Jeb: “Rock Island” is a great song.

Pat: The ending on that one is funny. It sounds like I’m rounding up some cattle or something. I listened to it the other day and I realized that I was just copying Ronnie Hawkins.

Jeb: You have to play “Black Dog Blues” live.

Pat: I think that will be the first one of these songs that we will play live. I am thinking of doing “Death Letter” too. I would like to do the first half of it solo and then have the band kick in about halfway through. I think that would come off really powerful.

Every song on the album is really good. I did twelve different arrangements of these songs and I really wanted to have each one sound a little different and I didn’t want to repeat myself. I think I accomplished what I set out to do.

Jeb: Will there be a new Pat Travers album coming out with new, original songs by you anytime soon?

Pat: Absolutely, we are really involved with our social media and our reach has gotten really large. We have worked very hard on this and we’ve tried to really make this work, as it really is the new avenue to reach out to your fans. Your fans know where you are and we can let them know what is going on.

We made a four-song EP and we are selling that online. I am numbering and signing each one and it is our first ever independent release. We are the record company. We did the production ourselves and it really sounds great. I mention it on the Facebook page and there is link on there that they can click on and buy the EP.

Jeb: You have a very unique sound, both vocally and on guitar. In some ways, did that hurt your career?

Pat: I have thought about that before. It is very difficult for me to try and be someone else. I have recorded some songs in the past that I really didn’t like because they were more pop and I was being pressured to get on the radio. I didn’t feel comfortable doing that. They didn’t catch on and nobody cared because the songs sounded overwritten and made just to be pop songs.

If you listen to the EP you will see that I am just being who I am. It is, for the most part, me doing my thing in the studio.

I will tell you that there will be a full Pat Travers album out next year. I am also very glad to have this Blues on Fire album, as I think I did a really good job on it and it was the perfect timing for me to do this project. I have heard they are going to put money into some promotion for the album, which is really nice.

Jeb: The fans need a Pat Travers DVD.

Pat: We have not released one but it is not for a lack of trying. We tried last December to do some video but it just wasn’t a good day and I wasn’t happy with the results. You only have one shot to do it and it has to go just right.

We actually have a live show on Direct TV from 2010 in Minnesota at the Moondance Jam. We have shot a couple of other shows, but for one reason, or another, it wasn’t something I was 100% happy with. We will get it done and get something out there eventually.

Jeb: When you write, which is easier, music or lyrics?

Pat: It has always been very easy for me to write music on the guitar. The music will trigger a word or two from me. The lyrics are the hardest part for me. I have several songs where the music is done, and I know what the song will lyrically be about, but I haven’t got around to writing out the verses. I guess you could say that I’m a little behind on my homework right now. It sucks.

I have to finish this record for Frontiers Records by December, but I am playing every week and traveling and then I need a day down when I come back home. It is very busy.

Frontiers are a good label and I really think they will do really well for us. We have a live album that will come out with them too. I am not sure when they will release it, but just keep checking back with me on the website and with Facebook.

Jeb: I really like the album Hot Shot and it is not your favorite album. Why?

Pat: That is part of the time where we were talking about earlier. I had to record two or three different songs that I didn’t like. I like some of the songs on that album, I think “Killer” is a great song and I like “Hot Shot” a lot.

There are great vocals, and drums and guitar and the album sounds good, but my problem comes from a lot of personal things I was going through at the time. I wasn’t going through a good time and that has something to do with it. There were other things happening, peripherally, to the record itself. Everything was turning into a real struggle at that point.

Jeb: You opened for Rush on their Farewell to Kings Tour.

Pat: We got really lucky getting on that tour. At the time, Rush was frustrated because they could not get any radio play. The still sold Gold on everything they released and they owned their own production. We were able to travel and put on a good show without spending a lot of money and they sold out all of the shows. We got to play to between seven and fifteen thousand people every night all over the country. We were getting a lot of great radio play at the time and we were doing a lot of interviews. It was great to get to know them. They are very humble guys who are very funny.

I remember hearing “Tom Sawyer” for the first time. Geddy played me a rough mix of the song and I told him, “You’re about ready to go to superstardom. You are going to have a big hit song all over radio.”

Jeb: Tell me about the cover for Live: Go for What You Know. I have heard that cover shot is not live at all.

Pat: No, it is not. It was taken in a small photographer’s studio in New York City. That is not even my guitar in the shot. Somebody went to Manny’s and got me a Black Les Paul to hold.

The guy had me standing on a box about three foot square and about twelve inches off the ground and he just shot away. It came out pretty amazing. I thought it was a little weird at the time, but I realized that it was a good way to get a really good shot without having to go through thousands of transparencies. He was a good photographer and he made me feel really comfortable and confident.

Jeb: Last one: Did you do a short movie called Another Killer Day?

Pat: That featured songs from the Hot Shot album. We did “Hot Shot” and we did a couple of other songs. The production was already sort of happening, and somehow, they incorporated us and we did three performances in it.

It was a strange thing. We just showed up and they incorporated us into the script. I had a small little part, and so did the band, it was very teeny tiny. It was really weird. There were two different stories going on.

Jeb: I will end this by saying I love seeing you play live as you kick ass every time.

Pat: You’re making me feel kind of guilty. It has always been my thing that no matter what the crowd, there are no half measures. However, I had a show the other day that wasn’t so good. I didn’t follow my own creed and I am sorry about that. However, I have never been able to do things in a half assed way.

If there is an under attended show, for whatever reason, then we like to leave a few people freaked out by putting on a great show and then they will tell other people how good it was and it will become this mythical show. Later on, you will find out a lot more people were at that show than were at that show, if you know what I mean.