FRAN HEALY is being comprehensively upstaged. As he sits in his Los Angeles home, the lead singer of Travis has been effectively gatecrashed by two feline reprobates. One is a small British Blue, which isn’t happy with only getting Fran’s divided attention. ‘His name is Huey, as in Lewis And The News,’ Fran says. ‘What would you rather look at, me or that? There’s just no question.’
In the background another cat, called Goose, is yowling. ‘He’s the sweetest cat, he just gets excited. And the only way he can express it is by yammering constantly for attention.’ We can all relate.
Travis release their ninth album, 10 Songs (guess how many tunes it’s comprised of?) on October 9. Fran says there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing about booking next year’s tour.
‘We had lots of discussions about it,’ says Fran, ‘then we decided f*** it, let’s just run with it. Let’s just do it and then see what happens, because we do not know where this is going, it’s a moving target.
‘This whole pandemic, every day is changing. Fingers crossed and just jump off the cliff, and I think we’ve got a good album to jump off the cliff with, so I’m happy to do it.’
The album is a varied record, featuring a duet with The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs, emotional ballads, and some deeply personal songs.
Fran reclines on his sofa as he explains in his soft Scottish lilt: ‘On this album, there’s a song called Nina’s Song. I had a brief to write a song for a musical that was adapted from a book by Nina Stibbe called Man At The Helm. It’s about two little girls who are looking for a dad for their mum, and that totally spoke to me because I don’t have a dad. It was just me and my mum and I wanted the dad. I remember asking my mum when I was about four or five if there was a dad shop where you could get one.
‘In the absence of one of those major players in your life, you have a big hole. I think that possibly fuels everything that I do, because half of me didn’t get that validation from my dad,’ he explains, matter-of-factly.
‘So, there I was just writing a song for a musical based on a book, but it suddenly comes out as something completely different and it comes out incredibly personal. It’s like therapy.’ After 25 years together, nine albums and penning huge singles including Sing, Flowers In The Window and Why Does It Always Rain On Me?, Fran has honed his songwriting skills. The process sounds cathartic.
‘You get used to this weird little process. All the emotions from the times that you’ve been rejected, or accepted, or f****d about, or hugged, or loved, or not loved — you can feel them physically, it’s all in your tummy.’ He pats his stomach. ‘The job of songwriting is like drilling for oil. So when you’re writing a song, you’re drilling down, and then you get a gusher or some oil comes up in some way.
‘It can start like moaning or groaning or howling at first. Then you listen to those howls and you go, “Oh, there’s a melody in there,” or, “Oh, that sounds like I said the word door there.”
‘Honestly, I don’t know what I’m writing about. Eventually, about three-quarters of the way through I go, “Oh my God, I’m writing about this.”’
Covid-19 gave Fran the chance to reset and just sit and be quiet, he says.
‘Modern life is quite challenging in the sense that people felt so connected with all our FaceTimes, Facebooks and Instagrams. But I never felt like there was a time in human history where people were more fragmented or more separate. I thought the only way that’s going to change is if something massive happens.’
He laughs. ‘My wish came true. It’s not what I had in mind exactly… I thought of a meteorite that led to nine-tenths of the world’s population being gone.
‘That would be my solution, but this is the equivalent of a quick fix. Coronavirus has definitely brought out the best in people and brought them closer together.’
Not quite a meteorite, but it won’t stop Travis with their album and tour.
■ Travis’ new album, 10 Songs, is out on October 9; their nationwide tour begins in April 2021, travisonline.com