Travers Geoffray has music—and New Orleans—in his DNA. “My grandfather was a musician in New Orleans, so was my great-grandfather who came from France to New Orleans,” he explains. “My dad wasn’t a professional musician, but because of our family history, he wanted to make sure music was a part of our education.”
Geoffray,who was raised in Virginia, began writing his own tunes at the ripe old age of 12, and fell in love with the sounds of Professor Longhair, James Booker, and Dr. John, those prolific purveyors of New Orleans piano blues and boogie woogie. When the time came to choose a college, Geoffray headed to Tulane; upon his arrival, he hooked up with some local musicians, and immersed himself in the musical heritage of the Crescent City. “It felt easy, it was addictive. I was in the practice rooms at college, punching out this kind of music,” he recalls. “It just made me feel really good.”
On April 14th, Geoffray released a solo album, Highway Kings, via ATO Records, after a long career with revered jazz band, Mississippi Rail Company. The album was produced by Grammy-winning gospel/bluegrass vet Michael Latterel (Jim Lauderdale, Rhonda Vincent) at Nashville’s House of Blues Studio, a change of scenery for the artist—in more ways than one. “I ended up recording the album in Nashville because I needed to step away—New Orleans has its own quirks, just like every city. It’s so tourist-driven though, that the music that happens there is very ‘up’ and you feel pressure to always keep the party going, playing long sets late at night, and that wasn’t very conducive for me going deeper to explore places I wanted to explore musically,” he reveals. “Maybe half the record is definitely music that would be hard to play in the venues there because the songs are too slow. I stopped performing for a while to get the record done, I didn’t want to have the pressure of putting those kind of sets together. It helped me define myself as a writer and a performer. It was scary; things were going well, and to kind of leave it behind was scary. This new record is less in that style, though that New Orleans style never really leaves me, and it permeates what I write. It’s like it’s in the humidity here,” he laughs.
“I started writing the title track about two years ago, and that inspired everything else on the record. From a literary and film point-of-view, I’ve always been obsessed with road stories, everything from Dumb & Dumber to The Grapes Of Wrath,” he explains of the album’s road-centric theme. “Traveling is the American story, moving from one place to the other. Even if you’re not on the road, there’s a spiritual journey that happens when you’re coming to new realizations. I wanted to explore the literal theme of being on the road, as well as the idea of traveling from one point-of-view to another.”
Geoffray is currently on a tour which includes a stop at Nashville’s The Basement on Sunday, April 23rd, as well as a spot on the main stage at this year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, in support of Highway Kings. “It opened up my musical style, I wrote songs unlike those I’d written in the past,” he continues. “The process of making this record was a helpful journey, I’m a better musician than when I started it. I’m more grounded. I like the journey,” he adds. “I’d like to think I’m about the destination, but I think I just like being in the car.”
For Nashville show information: http://thebasementnashville.com/event/7300095/travers-geoffray-w-weston-hill-beau-james/