Travis Griggs’ plan is to one day establish his home base in the mountains of western North Carolina. But he’s also a wanderer at heart, and feels as comfortable on the road as he is anywhere else.
Before moving to the Old North State about 10 years ago, the singer-songwriter spent some time living in a van, touring and playing music on street corners.
“I was actually getting ready to head west when the van started to break down,” he said. “And I came to see my parents and wound up growing some roots in North Carolina. But living in the van, it was pretty awesome. There’s a certain type of freedom in not having anything to be responsible for, except for what’s right there with you. And the open-endedness — being able to head in any direction — it’s a very liberating feeling. It was an experience I’m glad I had.”
Griggs, who grew up in Oklahoma and South Carolina, is in the process of moving from Winston-Salem to Boone. Though he did visit some national parks over the summer, he hasn’t been able to tour since the beginning of the pandemic. But he has busy writing and putting together an album, which he spoke about in a recent interview. He also talked about nurturing his creative impulses and dealing “with drunk people in bars.”
What got you into music?
I started off writing poetry when I was young, and eventually met, when I was on a trip with my family at the beach, some young songwriters. I was 16 when I learned to play guitar. I took a few lessons, mostly to learn how to play some chords, and mostly taught myself from there. It was kind of a means to an end to be able to present my poetry in a way.
Who are some of your inspirations?
I like music that pushes in different directions. I’ve always been a big fan of Radiohead. Incubus is one of my favorite bands. I was also really into Third Eye Blind, things like that, ‘90s rock.
How would you describe your music?
From song to song, it can change a good bit. But, I always say folk funk rock. It’s songwriter driven, but I like to push in different directions. I do some stuff that’s a little more hip-hop or even reggae at times. But folk funk rock is the best way to narrow down most of what I do.
What is your creative process like?
One of the things that I’ve honed in on with myself is recognizing those sparks of inspiration when they come, and kind of being willing to drop everything to nurture them and get what I can out of them. I’ll spend some time kind of noodling around on a guitar, playing some chords, humming some stuff, and exploring a little until I feel something strike me worth spending time on.
And then other times, things just pop into my head lyrically, and I’ll build a song around that spark. It’s hard to describe where that comes from. A lot of times when I finish with things, I find myself looking at them and wondering if they really came from me.
If you could open a show for any artist who would it be and why?
There’s an artist named Jacob Collier, who I think is just one of the most creative people out there right now. And he’s mostly a jazz artist. But, I would just like the opportunity to hear his take on some of my music, though I don’t know how well I’d fit in with one of his shows.
Do you sing karaoke or sing in the shower, and if so what do you sing?
I’ll sing in the shower, if I’m working on an idea, or maybe in my car, I’ll sing along to things sometimes if I’m just listening to music. But I don’t much care for singing without a guitar. Something about it is a little unnerving. I like to feel the guitar against me when I sing.
When people ask me to sing karaoke, I’ll tell them it’s not my thing.
What’s the funniest or weirdest thing that has happened at one of your shows?
I would say dealing with drunk people in bars. I’ve had people trying to interact with me while I’m trying to play, people coming up onstage in small bars, or women coming up and flirting with me when I’m playing. Some people have no boundaries.
What’s your favorite song to perform?
I’d say my song “Time” is one of my favorites. It’s a fun one to play, especially with the band that I have. It’s about the passage of time, and how we’re bigger than that, and that we don’t have to let the passage of time affect us in some of the ways that we let it. I believe we’ll live on past the way we experience time now.
Where did you park for the night when you were living out of your van?
I would do a lot of random places, but I was also going to places where I knew people, so I would do a lot of couch-hopping.
During this past July, I drove across the country visiting national parks. And I stayed at rest areas almost exclusively. I made a bed in the back of my car. I would pull over, put my food tub in the front seat, and I had a comfortable bed back there. Never paid for a place to stay once.
What’s next for you?
For a long time, I was hoping to do more playing and touring and everything, but as with everybody, this pandemic has really just made me reconsider my plans for the future. There’s an album I’ve been working on for a very long time, just piece by piece, and I want to finish that up, and what I want to do is try to make more content.
I have a lot of songs written, so I want to focus on getting some albums made, and some video ideas that I have, and focusing a little less on the live show aspect, at least until things get to a newer normal.
— As told to Robert C. Lopez, email@example.com
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