Reel Time: Trey Anastasio Discusses Traveler
In advance press material for this album, you mention that you hope to use the studio as an instrument and create a non-traditional studio album. Can you talk a little bit about this approach and how it differs from some of your other non-traditional studio albums such as Story of the Ghost or Surrender to the Air ?
I wanted to make a record that was a sonic sculpture. Peter and I kept digging and digging for more sonic colors on every song. I might come in with a simple guitar line, a little, teeny pattern in the background of a song. And he would tell me to go out and play it again on the vibes. And then, he’d have me play it on the celesta and then, high-octave piano. He would stack these things and then, shape and mold them. So when you listen to the record, there’s an incredible amount of depth, sometimes to simple lines. We wanted every single sound on the record to be incredibly unique, rich and colorful.
You have mentioned that you hoped Traveler had a cinematic quality. You have also spent a good portion of the past 18 months composing material for a Broadway play. Do you feel that your recent musical theater work has influenced Traveler and your other recent solo work?
I’ve learned so much from it. I think it’s certainly influenced my other work and vice versa. As a matter of fact, when I went and did the Hands on a Hardbody demos up at the Barn, I was definitely using some of Peter’s sonic riffs.
A few songs from Hands on a Hard Body and your 2010 solo tour made their way into Phish’s live set. At what point do you decide a song should move into the band’s repertoire versus keeping it for one of your non-Phish projects?
Sometimes these things have a life of their own. A lot of songs that have started out in TAB ended up being big giant Phish songs—“First Tube,” “Gotta Jibboo,” “Sand,” “Bug” and “Heavy Things.” This process has been around as long as there’s been a Phish, so I don’t think about songs being for one band or another at this point. To me, they’re songs for everybody to play.
The title of your new album is Traveler. Is the album’s title a reference to your own life on the road or your journey in the studio?
The journey is a theme that lyrically runs through the record and while the songs are certainly personal, it’s also a universal theme that many writers and artists have addressed through the centuries. But I also saw it as having a more literal meaning. Peter came to see Phish live and I remember saying: “What if we set out to make a record that people could pop on in their car on their way back from a concert or that they could throw on at 2 a.m. when they’re driving?” I wanted it to be cinematic, visual.
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