Philippine-born, Seattle raised and influenced by a musical family, 14-year-old Travis started out by playing music at his church. In 2007, he jumped headfirst into the band life and joined piano rock group New Heights, a group that quickly surpassed that of a typical high school band when they began touring, playing festivals and meeting with major record labels. Their first single Peaches garnered fame upon being featured in “Love Language”, a short film by the Jubilee Project that went viral and inspired many alternate variations that featured the song. Collectively, those videos – and that song – reached an audience of 10 million on YouTube, leading the group to complete their first official music video for the track, which currently has over 1 million views all on it’s own. The group went on to release three studio EPs and the full-length album Something To Believe In before disbanding in 2013.
His love of performance continued when he relocated to Los Angeles the following year, where he began recording covers and uploading them to YouTube. His cover of Taylor Swift’s Style was merely his sixth upload before it caught the attention of the woman herself, and a quick nod in his direction sent interested viewers his way. His view count and Spotify streams went through the roof, which lead to the decision to release his own music.
With his new single Excited and his upcoming EP due to drop this year, Travis looks set to make another big wave. I got to chat to him about what his loves, his new EP and what drives him as an artist. Read his interview below.
Firstly, I feel like the first music album someone ever buys for themselves can say a lot about who they are as a person, even if they don’t know it. What was yours?
For me it was a long time ago. I didn’t start becoming an actual fan of music until I understood what it meant. With that being said, the very first music album (at this time it was a CD) that I ever bought with my own money was “Big Willie Style” by Will Smith. I was a huge Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and MIB fan so when he released the album I was the most excited ten year old kid in all of Seattle.
My musical tastes fall literally all over the genre spectrum and I think that comes down to not preferring music for the genre but the way a song catches me. What are some songs that catch you, and why?
I think the first song that comes to mind in particular (since we’re on this nostalgic road anyway) would have to be Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby”. From what I can remember that song was the first melody that made me feel something in my soul. It made me feel something to the core, and I’ve been chasing that feeling my entire life whenever I listen to music.
Do you listen to any particular genre of music that people may not expect? Any guilty pleasures?
Absolutely. I think people are most shocked when I tell them that I’m a fan of country music. Lately I haven’t had a chance to listen to much because I’m writing my EP, but growing up my dad only had country music on in the car. He grew up in the midwest so that’s pretty much all he listens to. I always fought it growing up but I had to come to terms with the fact that I love me some country music. The cheesier the song, the more I will probably like it.
As I understand it, you grew up in a fairly musical family that encouraged you into it. Is there any particular advice they gave you growing up that you still use today?
The best advice that my parents ever gave me was to find out what I love and turn it into a career. Both my parents went through great lengths to make a life for their kids. This meant giving up their career dreams and doing things that would put food on the table. They’ve always wanted my brothers and I to reach our goals and if they can help push us in that direction they will. My good friend and old manager Henry Han once put it this way, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”.
I’ve been getting a kick out of your travel videos lately and seeing you nerd out over food and luxury cars, and I will readily admit to living vicariously through you (laughs). What other things do you perhaps get a little nerdy over?
Thanks so much for watching them! They’re a lot of fun (laughs). I am one of the biggest nerds ever. I think what I learned is that I love the technical side of the creative process. I nerd out over everything to do with that. Such as creating music, mixing, music production; creating a sonic energy that then turns into a feeling. I nerd out over cooking; how to make the perfect steak, soup, stews, sou vide, etc. I nerd out over video production; exposure, frame rate, post production. And the list goes on; cars, smart phones, computers/tablets, men’s fashion, shoes, etc.
You and Andrew make a great team, by the way. I’ve never been big on cars but seeing that sick Rolls Royce Phantom you posted almost a week ago had me drooling.
Andrew is awesome. He’s become a really good friend over the years and it’s aways a great time hanging with him when I get the chance. Shoutout to Andrew for the Wraith! It was the nicest car I have ever been able to drive.
If you had the opportunity to collaborate with anyone, musically or otherwise, who would it be?
If I could collaborate with anyone it’d have to be Taylor Swift. She’s one of the best writers and artists of our generation (in my eyes) and I think that if her and I got into a room together that’d we’d be able to make an awesome song. Also, if I can get close with her then maybe just maybe I could become a part of her “Bad Blood” crew.
You’ve performed for Kollaboration and more recently Soi Music which are both platforms that not only support asian musicians and artists but the stripped back, organic process of performance. What did you enjoy most about those gigs?
I think one of the best parts of doing a more stripped down performance is the organic energy. You can become one with your voice and really emote the words of the songs. I enjoy them a lot also because it supports the movement of asian artists not just here in the states but around the world. It’s my hope that through the efforts of organizations like Kollaboration and Soi Music that asian kids growing up these days can see artists and creators with their same backgrounds and be encouraged to express themselves through the arts.
What sticks out to you as your biggest accomplishment over the course of this past year?
I think career-wise, my biggest accomplishment this past year was finally being able to go full time with music. I’ve been a part-time musician for my entire life. My full time job has been music production (with random gigs here and there) for the past 7 years now. Although it’s still within the music industry (which I am absolutely grateful for) I’ve always wanted to shift all of my focus on my own career. Thankfully through my YouTube channel I’ve been able to fully shift my focus into growing as an artist. I still love to produce, but for now I’m focusing on building a sustainable career as a recording artist.
You have a reason for – and a certain interpretation – of each cover you do, and the story-telling, message quality of music seems to resonate with you. What kind of messages and stories do you intend to tell on this upcoming EP of yours?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Drake lately, and he had a lyric that said “I made a career off of reminiscing.” I think that’s what this EP is going to be about. There have a been a lot of things that have happened in my life thus far and I haven’t had a chance to properly talk about those things. I think this EP is going to be an expression of the good and bad times in recent years that have made me who I am today.
What do you want people to know about the performer Travis Atreo?
I want them to know that I am an artist that wants to make your soul feel, and I hope to do that through my songs and performances. Stay tuned for announcements about my EP release and tour dates later this fall!