Interview: Travis Larson Band

Dan McAvinchey: Travis, what were some of the things that influenced your musical tastes and led to your interest in the guitar?

Travis Larson: My first real exposure to electric guitar was probably the Stones. However, the first instrument I played was piano, when I was about 10. Because I played piano for my first 5 years as a musician I was also influenced by a lot of progressive players; Genesis, ELP, Jan Hammer. So, when I decided to pick up guitar, not only did I have heavy rock influences but a lot of progressive also. Guitar seemed less restrictive in that you could physically move around. You know, run around, jump off stuff a la Eddie Van Halen. It was much more expressive than keys--you could bend notes, getting more of a vocal quality.

Dan McAvinchey: What guitars, effects and amplification do you use to get your sound?

Travis Larson: My main guitar is an Ibanez RG570, however for clean sounds on the CD, I used a Valley Arts PRO LTH-7. It has more of a "strat" sound. For digital effects I run through the Digitech RP-10. I run the effects in stereo to two 100-watt Carvin heads that power two 4x12 Carvin cabinets. I also use a Shadow MIDI converter (Widget) that controls a Kurzweil Micro Piano. I use the Widget mostly to cover piano and orchestral parts I played on the record. For acoustic guitars I have a Gibson Chet Atkins classical electric. It works great for live performance. I don't have to worry about low frequency feedback
because of the solid body. On the record I also used a Charvel steel-string hollow body.

Dan McAvinchey: What are you hoping to achieve musically?

Travis Larson: I really try to write music that will keep my, and the listener's, interest for the long term. I guess I'm trying to write music that will be an experience for the listener. Something they will take with them when the song's over. If I can make an audience feel as good as I do when I'm playing -- mission accomplished.

Dan McAvinchey: What are your most recently completed projects and what are you currently working on?

Travis Larson: Well, the "Travis Larson Band" CD is my latest achievement, and the mission right now is to promote the new record. The band has been out doing some great shows; We just played with Bill Bruford's Earthworks and Buddy Miles. So playing live is where I am focused. I do occasionally play acoustically with TLB bass player Jennifer Young. That project is more of a semi-classical setting. There is a possibility of an acoustic release for a compilation this summer, we'll see how that pans out. Of course, we're always writing new tunes for the next TLB album.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you compose your original music?

Travis Larson: Generally I come up with the main melodic ideas. I carry a little tape recorder with me, for spur of the moment inspiration. From there I will take them in to the band and let them hash it out until everyone is happy. There's no real formula. Sometimes I will write a song in it's entirety and the band will learn it. However, I like to get their personalities involved as much as possible. Even with a fully written song, they play the parts their way. A lot of the rhythm section work (stops, fills, etc.) is Dale and Jen.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you record at home as well or rent time at a commercial facility?

Travis Larson: The only recording I do at home is for demo purposes. My engineer and I have actually built a commercial studio in San Luis Obispo, CA. The studio is a 3,000 sq..ft., 24 track, digital facility. It was a huge project, spanning two years. The great thing is I don't have to worry about the clock anymore. There is a tremendous feeling of freedom when I can spend the time needed to record my songs, the way I feel they should be.

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Dan McAvinchey: What went into the decision to form your own record label and release
an independent record?

Jennifer Young: Travis and I solicited record companies with a four song demo in '95. We put a lot of work into it and received only mediocre response. When we were ready to do the full length album I decided that I wanted to be responsible for every aspect of the release. At that point, it would receive the attention I thought it deserved. So, we unofficially started heading in that direction, without even considering the alternative. It seemed logical to skip all of the middlemen.

Dan McAvinchey: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent

Jennifer Young: I've found the freedom of being your own boss to be a great advantage; deciding what is right for you and your music, and acting upon those decisions accordingly. However, since you are responsible for virtually everything that goes on, a lot of hours go into your work. For me, the main disadvantage is that I spend more time working on administrative duties and less on my music skills.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you have any marketing or promotion tips for musicians about to release their first independent record?

Jennifer Young: Remember that you are running a business and as cliche as it may sound, you only get out of it what you put in. That includes spending time, energy and money. It may seem obvious, but getting out there and playing live is always the best promotion. The internet is a vast resource. Read as much as you can and connect with people who may have some insight and advice. The smallest connection can open many doors.

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The Travis Larson Band is a dynamic new instrumental rock/fusion band out of San Obispo, California. Consisting of Travis Larson on guitar, Jennifer Young on bass and Dale Moon on drums, the trio is at once musically talented, financially resourceful and professionally focused. Releasing their debut on a label started by Young, recorded in a studio they helped build, they've decided to take their career into their own hands. Learning as they go, and taking advantage of every strength, the Travis Larson Band is poised to forge their own hard-won path to success.

Dan McAvinchey invited Larson and Young to discuss their debut album and the road that led them to the music business as an independent force to be reckoned with.