By now Blues Traveler has been an undeniable influence for several generations of fans and bands alike. On their new album “Truth Be Told” the band taps into a new well of creativity to produce what an early critic dubbed ” their finest set of songs to date”. Anchored by founding members John Popper, Chan Kinchla and Brendan Hill, and energized by the now “official” addition of band members Tad Kinchla (bass) and Ben Wilson (keys) the band headed into the studio with three years of cohesive live performances and songwriting as a five piece band.
There is a free-spirited familiarity that shines throughout “Truth Be Told”. They’ve all changed. They’ve all grown. They’ve all relaxed. Recording at Sound Design in Santa Barbara, California over a period of two months, the band changed their entire approach to record making. Confident that he and the band had the situation under control, producer Don Gehman insisted on patience and a relaxed atmosphere.
“Before there was always some milestone we were trying to reach,” explains frontman and harmonica virtuoso John Popper. On “Truth Be Told” Blues Traveler makes leaps into new instrumentation and timbres. From the clever “Let Her & Let Go” to the emotional “Sweet & Broken” to the scorching old school “Can’t See Why”, the group abandons none of the driving grooves that propelled them to rock stardom. But on this album’s 12 new tracks, the bands signature aesthetic is treated with a renewed emphasis on songwriting and a sound more focused than ever.
While best known for brilliant musicianship and prolific touring, witty and engaging songwriting has always been the band’s calling card (the Grammy winning single “Run Around” still holds the record for longest-charting single ever in the history of the Billboard charts). Blues Traveler’s uncanny connection with their huge grassroots fan base has made them one of the most consistently successful bands of the past 15 years. Including their worldwide breakout “four,” certified six-times platinum in the U.S., the band has had a total of six gold or platinum releases and sales of over 10 million albums to date.
Soon after forming in Princeton, New Jersey in 1983, these high school friends moved to New York City playing nightly in the club and bar circuit. They seemed intent on wearing down the nation’s highways and a loyal fan base following began. Balancing renowned musicianship with accessible songcraft, combining pop hooks with blues and rock influenced grooves, the band was among the first in a new generation to win a reputation on the road for explosive live performances and intense fan loyalty. This would later be identified as a scene of it’s own. Marked most notably by the H.O.R.D.E. tour, the Blues Traveler founded festival that came to define this genre of live music.
With “Truth Be Told,” the band’s 7th studio album and their second since founding bassist Bobby Sheehan passed away in 1999. The band has forged through the hardships of the past and there is a strong “survival sense” to the vocals and playing, mixed in with a new relaxed approach to studio recording. Welcoming Tad and Ben as full band mates, including their talented assets in the songwriting process, along with the loyal and inspired direction of Don Gehman, “Truth Be Told” is the Blues Traveler way of recording honest music.
Blues Traveler is- John Popper (Vocals and Harmonica) Chan Kinchla (Guitar) Brendan Hill (Drums) Tad Kinchla (Bass) Ben Wilson (Keyboards)
On July 1, 1997, A&M Records will release the sixth record from Blues Traveler titled Straight On Till Morning. Unlike prior recording efforts, the band was able to spend a considerable amount of time preparing for this record. There was a month of writing and rehearsing in Seattle, there were five more weeks of collaboration in upstate in New York, and then there was a month of pre-production. From the swamp boogie howl of the lead single. “Carolina Blues” to the hauntingly hooky “Canadian Rose,” the depth of writing and solid performances ooze from every note on Straight On Till Morning. “We’ve always been conscious that the live vehicle is a totally different mode of expression from capturing a performance in the studio,” says guitarist Chan Kinchla. “We’ve always loved doing both. But the ability to really make things work in a vacuum, like you have to do when recording, is something we worked very hard at.”
Since signing to A&M in 1989, the band has toured tirelessly and built a solid following on the road. Without much support from the radio community or the other normally conventional record selling vehicles, Blues Traveler emerged as a word of mouth phenomenon due to the simple fact that fans connected to the band’s mood and music. Averaging over 250 shows a year, the quartet would play clubs, street fairs, the upper roadway on the Brooklyn Bridge, benefits, nitrous parties, and basically anywhere there was a working electrical outlet. Often playing for ten people, the band would return to town and find that the audience had grown exponentially to a hundred or even a thousand. In their travels across the United States, the band is one of one the few touring artist who have brought music to each and every state. In 1992, after all of the big summer touring headliners has passed on Blues Traveler as a support act, lead singer John Popper started the H.O.R.D.E. Festival, which has since grown into the #4 grossing US tour of the 1996 summer.
On their fourth studio record, the band was finally commercially acknowledged as A&M broke two Top 10 singles, “Run-around” and “Hook”‘ and sold over six million copies of the 1994 release “four”. Never a “critics darling”, Blues Traveler were finally added to the playlists of KROQ and MTV because they became too popular to ignore. If one were to try to describe the band in one word, it would be “honest”. Often they’re too honest, revealing personal secrets which sometimes shock those who are entertained with these revelations. John Popper has often told interviewers that, “The reason the band hasn’t been featured more prominently in our recent videos is because of the circumference of my ass.”
The bottom line is that on the road and in the studio, Blues Traveler have honestly loved playing together since they all attended high school together in Princeton, NJ. Leaving themselves no choice, the band literally got into the van and went on the road after graduation. On making Straight On Till Morning Popper says, “The only pressure we felt in making this record was to continue an honest dialogue with our audience. We wanted to be completely free and completely honest. I think that we pulled it off and I hope that it comes across that way to our fans.”