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Fran Healy talks going solo, Paul McCartney and UK dates

Fran Healy

Feature by Jack Foley

FRAN Healy, lead singer of Travis, is about to embark on a solo career that is described as incomparable to his previous work.

The new album, Wreckorder, has been carefully planned and crafted and features help from music legend, Sir Paul McCartney (among others). It will be showcased at two forthcoming UK shows.

So, what can fans expect?

“If you’re the singer in a band, people always ask, ‘Are you gonna go solo?’” says Fran Healy. “My answer was always, ‘Why would I do that? I’m in the best band in the world.’ But last year, out of the blue, I suddenly thought, ‘okay, it’s time’.”

The ensuing album, Wreckorder, sees the singer and songwriter striding a new creative path that allows his incomparable songs to shine in an altogether different light.

The tunesmith behind two Album Of The Year Brit Awards and responsible for such classics as Sing, Driftwood and Why Does It Always Rain On Me, Healy set out to craft an intimate series of recordings trying to capture what he felt was sometimes misplaced or lost in translation in the journey from Dictaphone to recording studio.

As a result, songs such as Anything and first single, Buttercups, reflect a more singular and personal vision, showcasing Healy’s beguiling vocals and insistent melodies.

“My biggest concern was that it would sound too much like Travis,” Fran continues. “What would be the point in going solo only to make a record that sounded like Travis. So, I’m relieved it doesn’t.”

Upon the conclusion of Travis’ 2009 world tour, Healy teamed with Travis guitarist Andy Dunlop for a truly unique US trek.

Dubbed A Chronological Acoustical Journey Through The Travis Back Catalogue, the concert/slideshow presentation saw the duo covering the breadth of Healy’s entire songwriting career, from the first song he wrote to the last, Holiday.

The rapturous reception received by the tour left Healy energized and eager to make a career-defining album.

The aforementioned Holiday proved the catalyst for Wreckorder, opening up a floodgate of new material specifically written for his debut solo album.

In September 2009, Healy began recording in Berlin, accompanied only by producer Emery Dobyns, with whom he had previously collaborated on Travis’ Ode To J. Smith.

With the Grammy-winning producer assisting behind the board, Healy created the album, playing “nearly” every instrument.

Sir Paul McCartney

Healy enlisted Sam Dixon (Sia, Duffy, Corrine Bailey Rae) to play on the album and Paul McCartney, who lends a hand on As It Comes.

After pondering who might play bass on the song, Healy took a shot and dropped McCartney an e-mail asking: “Would you mind? Here’s the track. If you have a minute, give it a listen. Love you to play bass on it.”

McCartney promised to find the time and three months later, took the largely finished song to his studio where he used his famed 1963 Höfner to put down an instantly identifiable bass track.

Infinitely grateful, Healy was eager to show his appreciation but found himself flummoxed, wondering what kind of gift do you get a Beatle?

“He’s probably been given a million presents,” Healy laughs. “Like, he’s got a room that’s just full of unopened presents from people. Then I thought, Paul’s a big veggie, my son’s already vegetarian, it’d be nice to maybe have the whole family do it, so I asked my wife and she said: ‘That’s a great idea, and what a way to say thank you.’

“When I told him, it completely blew him away,” he continues. “Three days later, a package comes to the door – he’d sent us three Linda McCartney vegetarian cookbooks with a note saying: ‘Here’s a little something just to get you started. Love, Paul.’ So, I got a bass line and cookbooks!”

Further flavour was brought to the album courtesy of Noah & the Whale fiddler Tom Hobden and singer/songwriter Neko Case, who shares vocals with Healy on the hauntingly beautiful, Sing Me To Sleep.

Inspired by the way Burt Bacharach wrote for his own muse, Dionne Warwick, the enchanting duet was “made to measure for her”.

Going on the road

Healy has spent summer 2010 introducing fans to his new songs with a series of North American solo dates supporting Keane and now heads back to the UK next month for headline shows at in Glasgow and London.

But he has now developed a taste for pushing himself creatively and is really looking forward to getting out on the road in the UK…

“This is just the start,” he says. “I’ve only just scratched the surface of this new journey. I’m really excited about seeing what I do next. I remember when we started the band, the potential felt huge. That feeling has returned.”

Wreckorder is now available for pre-order here

The formats available are download, vinyl LP, standard CD and a Special Edition Hardback CD, which includes an exclusive bonus track.

To see Fran Healy live he will be coming to the following venues:

Wednesday, September 15 – Glasgow Oran Mor
Thursday, September 16 – London Bush Hall

Tickets are £17.50 and are on sale on Friday, August 27 at 9am.