It's been a journey...
Thanks for gifting me that drumset on Xmas when I was 13, Pops!
My first EP, Big Stretch, is dropping before the end of this year. 7 Original songs written and recorded in Puerto Escondido, Mexico.
I've been playing music most of my life. As a child, I had to sit at the piano for 15 minutes a day as time passed like honey flowing uphill. I was an overactive child, and the piano didn't suit me. While my brother always won "best in class" at our yearly recital, the teacher gave me a small "most improved trophy" every single year. I never connected deeply to the piano, but I'm still grateful my parents forced their overactive son to sit through the torture. It's the foundation for my understanding of music.
When I turned 13 I begged for a drumset, and after a frustrating Christmas morning, I found my first beginner kit in the basement with a big red bow on it. That morning, every single present under the tree was for my brother. I was having an existential crisis (AM I A BAD KID?) watching him open CDs and shirts for over an hour, until my Dad said "Travis, I think I might have heard something in the basement last night when Santa was here." He was a single father on a budget. So, that Christmas I had to watch my brother open 20 small gifts while I waited for one big one that cost about the same. It was both hilarious and excellent parenting in hindsight, and I immediately fell in love with drums.
My first band was formed before the end of eighth grade. A three-child rock band called "The Punky Brewsters" that played fairly impressive Blink 182 covers for being in the middle of puberty. That band eventually added a fourth member and we rebranded to "Will Denied," a screamo hardcore band that began to play in the Milwaukee underground rock scene. We recorded a 5 song EP called "Crossing the Rubicon" after winning a free half-day in a recording studio at a local battle of the bands. I'm still proud of those songs. We were 17-year-old straight-edge kids with a dream. The dream ended the year I left for college.
I began playing guitar at the summer camp I went to as a kid and then worked at every summer until I was 22.
I was a good drummer by that point and played the guitar like a drum with different notes. I wanted to learn because I liked my voice. I had been singing and playing hand drums in a three-man camp band called "The Popes" with a few of my best buddies for several summers before picking up the guitar. Others (read: mostly kids) always told me they liked my voice, as well after our campfire tunes.
I loved playing with my mates, but I didn't want to rely on other musicians to perform so that final summer at Camp Minikani I learned a Pearl Jam song on guitar well enough to play it at the summer's closing campfire ceremony. I was hooked on playing guitar when the last chord was strummed and 100 people (again, mostly kids) gave me a rowdy standing ovation.
I kept learning new covers, and by the time I was in my mid-twenties living in New Orleans, I was even dabbling in songwriting. Immediately after suffering a brutal heartbreak, I dragged myself to an open mic at Carrolton Station hoping for some type of a release. I grew in confidence after that first night on a proper adult stage, and for the next year, I never missed a Tuesday at the station. That year is when I became a proper guitar player and performer.
I continued to learn covers and work on my own songs. I made a binder with printed-off lyrics and chords to thirty-some songs and played them at happy hours around Milwaukee during grad school (see poster above).
After that two-year program ended, I left The States to travel around South America, and my life changed forever.
In my eight years traveling I was always the guy with a small travel guitar who could entertain a group of new hostel friends with fun covers. I learned over 100 songs and forgot just as many during those globetrotting years, but I never tried to write anything new. These new travel mates wanted Wonderwall and Pumped Up Kicks, not some song they'd never heard about a girl they'd never met. I completely gave up on playing or writing my own music early on during my decade of travel.
That all changed after the pandemic when I moved to Puerto Escondido, Mexico.
When I arrived in Oaxaca in October 2020, I decided I wanted to make music a much bigger part of my life now that I was finally settled in one place. I started playing two-hour gigs out of my little Laney amp for a few hundred pesos a night. I also started an open mic that quickly grew into a huge gathering of musicians, and eventually into the biggest weekly event in my new home city!
After a year in Puerto, running an open mic, and starting a three-person music project that played a few nights a week, I started to write music again. The community of artists that played on my open mic stage inspired me, and Puerto as my chosen home supported me enough to give it a go.
Over the next year, songs came out of me one at a time. After a gig, I would be playing my guitar at home with a mezcal and my dog nearby; a lyrical inspiration would suddenly match with a random chord progression. Some songs were never fully fleshed out, many were tested out on the open mic stage, and the seven you'll find on Big Stretch are the ones that stuck around. Each of these tunes got stuck in my own head. I'd wake up thinking to myself, It must be pretty good, it's been in my head for 3 days.
This album is only possible because of this community in Puerto Escondido and the feeling of home that I've found here (Remember, home is a feeling, not a place). Thank you to everyone who has been a part of it, and thank you to everyone who helped make this record a reality. (Continued thanks to the Big Stretch band, and all those who contributed to the album below.)