Everyone who follows the greater-Boston blues scene has heard of Travis Colby. He’s the young keyboardist for Rhode Island’s very busy blues giants Roomful Of Blues. Colby, who also is accomplished on guitar, shows up at many blues jams and he has lead numerous side projects over the years. Finally, the keyboardist-guitarist-vocalist has started a rootsie power trio called, simply enough, the Travis Colby Band.
A year and a half of slow progress for Travis Colby Band should be speeded up once he releases the CD he and his two trio mates have been working on. Colby is calling it the Travis Colby Band “because a lot of stuff that we’re doing are originals that I’ve written,” he said.
“I’m doing most of the singing. I’m the band leader in the band.” For a long time Colby has had mini projects that he never named after himself out of a lack of confidence. He was in Hipology, Driveway Toast, and many bands in Keene, New Hampshire, where he is from. When friends suggested he call it Travis Colby Band, he didn’t want to be that guy who named it after himself. “It’s a leap of faith,” he said.
The dynamics within the band structure changes when the band leader names it after himself. His two band mates are committed but he treats them “like side guys in a good way.” Colby also has to take the flack. If a club only pays three hundred bucks he will pay them 100 bucks each. If the club does not pay as much, he still has to give them a hundred each because he is doing it for the exposure.
Travis Colby Band will record and perform a broad spectrum of genres, including some blues because he always wants to play blues. “I like so many different kinds of music. There’s a good amount of funky music and R&Bish stuff. ’” Colby’s interpretation of R&B is something that is blues with a little more pop and funk influence in it. He also wants to do rock and roll in the Jerry Lee Lewis vein.
“I always loved funky stuff. I’ve always felt like a lot of the bands that I’ve played in don’t play enough of it,” Colby said. “I think it’s good for getting people up on their feet, dancing . If you’ve ever seen someone dance to a shuffle you’ll know what I’m talking about. I’ve been playing in blues bands for so long, and the closet they get to a funky song would be a train song. And some people might say I’m not playing funk, that I’m not playing real, real like Tower Of Power or Parliament stuff.” Colby said he’s just having a little bit of a reaction to just having to play in so many blues band and wanting to break out of that mold.
Colby’s plan or vision for the final product of his CD would be a variety of styles within that rootsie Americana mold. “I don’t want to go from playing a polka to playing a Gregorian chant,” the keyboardist said. “There’s so many different ways you can think about an album and ways that you want to structure it. Some people write an album lyrically.” Colby referred to a female blues singer who put out an album in which each song was a little story.” For Colby, it would be more about feel. Each song would be representative of a certain type of rhythmic and melodic feel that he likes to play.
A Colby original title Brand New Game will be the title track. It holds double meaning in that Colby is putting out a new CD as well as Colby diving into new genres of music. The keyboardist also has endeavored to get out of the rock musician lifestyle and find a new way of looking at his life. “Basically, I need a brand new game to play because this old one isn’t any fun any more,” Colby said.
Everybody has been wondering how Colby will play around his Roomful schedule. It comes down to another leap of faith. Colby’s commitment is to Roomful because it’s a good band, and he loves being a member and it’s a good job.
“Because of the economy and other reasons too, Roomful is not as busy as it used to be,” the keyboardist said. “Everyone who books gigs in Roomful knows that Roomful is a commitment.” Colby used to get apprehensive about booking gigs outside of Roomful because it is such a massive commitment. When in the past, he booked his solo gigs, he used to forewarn club owners that within two months he might have to cancel out on them. Good clubs want to book two or three months in advance. Roomful has an unspoken rule that it doesn’t get anything within a month.
“I just book the gigs and just pray,” Colby said. “In a way, I guess I want to have my cake and eat it too. But once again, I always know that Roomful is the commitment and the job, but I’m trying to get as much on the side as I can. I just want to work too.” Colby would work six nights with only one night off per week if he could.
Colby has tapped Roomful drummer Ephraim Lowell for his trio. Colby has been playing with Lowell for so long that they know each other’s styles very well. The second reason is that they have the same schedule with Roomful and have mutual night’s off. Rounding out Colby’s trio is bass play Jeremy Kindsvatter.
Orchestration within this trio will be varied. Although Lowell pretty much resides on the drum set, the other two members are multi-instrumentalists and they switch it up a bit. Colby plays guitar as well as keyboards and Kindsvatter plays bass and saxophone. Colby can play the left hand bass notes on a keyboard with an amp on the ground so the bass carries like a bass guitar while Kindsvatter plays saxophone.
“I like to think that might be a hook for us, something to separate us” from other bands, Colby said. This opens up the sound and fans tell Colby after the shows that his trio sound like they have more than three players.
Covers include the B-Sides of artists like Stevie Wonder, Robert Palmer, and Ray Charles. When they do Ray Charles, they’re not doing “What I Say” They play “I’ve Got A Woman.” For Stevie Wonder, they’re doing “Reggae Woman,” not “Superstition” For Robert Palmer, they play “Sneaking Sally Through The Alley” instead of the poppy “Addicted To Love.”
So far, the Travis Colby Band has been playing the Stage Right Studio in Woonsockett, Rhode Island; the Water Street Cafe in Fall River, Massachuesetts; Fatty Magees’s in Providence, Rhode Island,; and The Two Jerks Pub and Grille in East Providence. They used to play E.F. Lane’s in Keene, New Hampshire where Colby is from. Colby also would like to get his new Travis Colby Band into places where he had booked his previous side projects, the Strange Brew Tavern in Manchester, New Hampshire and the Blues Cafe in Newport, Rhode Island.
Colby plays a Roland RD700GX and an Korg CX3 organ through a Barringer amp. His plays a Fender Stratocaster guitar through a Peavey Classic 30.
The Travis Colby Band’s very first gig went over surprisingly well. A bartender booked them for a Saturday night at The One Thirty-Three Club in East Providence. She was very worried that a blues band from their Thursday night blues program might flop in front of a Top 40 crowd that were used to cover bands.
“She took a little chance with us, and it was a great night,” Colby recounted. “People were dancing the whole night. That was our first gig, and it made me feel confident that we could perhaps cover both things, getting the satisfaction of playing original music and having people like it, but also keeping people on their feet.”