Travis Hayes Busse looks like just another normal college student wandering across the USF campus. However, this implies that “normal” means having two self-written and recorded albums, multiple performances at venues throughout the city and a following of dedicated fans that fawn over his relatable lyrics. Busse, a junior media studies major and music minor from Philo, CA, brings his small-town roots to the big city to offer up an original acoustic sound that college students flock to.
Foghorn Scene: When did you start performing and why? What is it about performing that you enjoy?
Travis Busse: I picked up guitar the summer before I started high school and soon after began performing both solo and in various bands throughout my youth. In addition to songwriting, I‘ve always loved performing live. It’s honestly hard to put into words what it is exactly that I love and enjoy about performing, but to put it simply, it’s the most raw and unaffected thrill that I’ve come to realize, the combination of adrenaline and the experience of sharing a piece of myself with others doesn’t compare to anything. It lifts me up higher than any romance or drug might rival. I hope that by sharing my experiences with others they might find some comfort in knowing they’re not alone and vice versa.
FS: How would you classify your music? Does it fall under a certain genre or is it more eclectic?
TB: A good friend of mine once defined my music as “up-tempo mellow acoustic” but in generic terms I guess I’d fall under the “Acoustic/Folk” genre. I do consider myself a singer/songwriter and in the past have been very minimalist with my sound. I’m always changing and finding new ways to express myself sonically. I’m not one for labels generally.
FS: Last spring, you celebrated the release of your first album, “It Ends With Us.” How has your sound progressed since then?
TB: I’ve grown up a lot and many of those songs on my debut album were years in the making and often reflected concerns and stories of my youth. Since the album, I’ve been focusing on writing more songs that capture where my life and the world is at today. Sonically, I’ve experimented with adding full band arrangements to my songs and have actually played some live shows with a full band accompaniment. Hank Richardson, also a USF student, has been my steady musical accompanist whether it be writing/recording bass guitar on my debut album, playing bass guitar live with me, or playing in my premiere backup band ”The Nice Young Boys Band.” He’s always been there and we plan to collaborate again in the future.
FS: Most of your recordings are DIY (do-it-yourself). Have you any plans or hopes to enter into a more substantial studio? Or are the home recording effects a part of what you try to include in your sound?
TB: Most of what I do as a musician has been DIY. Since first getting into punk music at a young age, I‘ve always been attracted to that aspect of doing everything yourself – recording, getting gigs, promotion, distribution. Music is absorbed into every aspect of my life and I plan on doing everything and anything I can do to continue doing what I love. In the past I’ve wanted to prove that I could not only write and play my own music, but also record and distribute it myself. Now that I’ve been doing that for several years I’m interested in trying out other options such as recording in a more substantial studio with other musicians. It’s been a gradual process but I’ve liked learning how to take on every step whether it be writing, performing or recording.
FS: What have you recorded since your last album? Is there any difference in the way you completed this album compared to the last?
TB: Since my debut album I’ve released an EP entitled “Habit and Heartbeat.” It includes 5 newer songs that I recorded analog and low-fi using a tape recorder and a boom box equalizer resulting in a more “retro and rough” sound than the digitally mastered and polished album. The recording was all done live with no overdubs or musical accompaniments. It might seem like a step backwards but I felt a more raw, rough and real sound better suited those newer songs rather than the ones featured on the album. I’m currently working on even more new songs to hopefully release soon on a forthcoming album.
FS: What inspires you to write your songs? Are they centrally themed or do you find that your songs take on random form?
TB: I’m honestly inspired by the events and situations that take place in my life, the relationships (romantic or platonic) that I’m in, my friends, my family, their lives and mine. My songs are and have always been my journal so to speak. Rather than write reflections of everyday life’s trials and tribulations down in a book they come out of me in the form of songs. When an issue in my life is too pressing to hold inside, it seems to find its way out in one way or another through my music.
FS: It seems that you have quite a talent for multiple instruments. In your past album you played the guitar, harmonica, piano and of course, supplied lead vocals. Which instrument do you feel most at ease with and can we expect any new instruments in upcoming songs?
TB: I feel most comfortable playing guitar because it’s the instrument I started with. I enjoy singing but am constantly trying to improve. In fact, in the past couple of months I’ve begun working with a vocal coach. The harmonica and piano are instruments that I chose to dabble with and I have started incorporating both into many of my songs. I hope to start adding more percussion – drums, tambourine, etc. – very soon to my songs and sound as well.
FS: In the past, you have performed at open mic nights across the city such as at the Red Vic and here at USF’s own Crossroads CafŽ. How do you go about booking these shows?
TB: Desire and perseverance are the two key aspects. If you want to play a show, get a show and play it. As far as getting shows it’s only a matter of knowing the right people/venues, making calls, sending e-mails and never giving up. These past couple of months I’ve also played some house shows and set one up myself at my own place just to have an opportunity to perform. Improvisation has also been key. I love performing more than anything and am just trying to keep doing that as much and as long as possible.
FS: Where else can we see you perform this spring?
TB: I will be performing on campus in McLaren Hall on Feb. 6 for Erasmus’ Festival for Freedom. I think it starts at 5:30 p.m. and ends at 10:30 p.m.. Many awesome bands are playing. I will be playing at 7 p.m.. In addition to that, I plan to keep playing around the city, at least once or twice a week, in numerous cafes and bars, and hopefully work my way up to playing some of the more major venues in San Francisco.
FS: For a full-time college student, it seems that you have really found a lot of success with your music. Do you have any recommendations for other aspiring campus musicians?
TB: The best advice I can give is that if you truly and genuinely love music than do it. Write it, play it, perform it, record it, live it. If music is something you heatedly want to pursue than it doesn’t matter what else is going on in your life, you make it happen. Don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re not good enough or you don’t have the right sound or that you’ll never make it. If you want it bad enough you’ll get it.
FS: In the spirit of the New Year, do you have any goals or hopes for this year and your music?
TB: I hope to keep consistently performing live and working up to playing bigger shows as well as possibly tour and play more shows outside the Bay Area. I also hope to record a new album and collaborate with other musicians as much as possible. In addition, keep a lookout for my label, Vestibule Records.
For up-to-date information on Busse, his music, what he’s writing/recording or where he’s playing, visit: www.myspace.com/iamtravishayes.