Trey Anastasio’s _Traveler_: Track by Track
Photo by René Huemer
Trey Anastasio recently previewed his latest album, Traveler, on Siruis XM’s Jam On program. Anastasio spoke about each track’s backstory, revealing some interesting details about some of them. Here’s a recap of what Trey had to say about each of the songs.
For more on the album, be sure to read our recent conversation with Anastasio
Trey mentioned that the album opener was a kind of nod to Brian Wilson, whom he considers a genius. The intro, in particular, reminds Trey of Wilson’s work, with its xylophone and piano arrangements.
Let Me Lie
Trey mentioned that this song had been around for a while. Phish tried to do it for their last record but it just didn’t make the cut [although it appears on the Party Time bonus disc in the Joy box set]. It was written by Trey and longtime Phish lyricist Tom Marshall at a cabin the woods in upstate New York. Anastasio said that he loves to sing it because it reminds him of a lot of personal things in his life. While the song has been recorded a couple of times before, Trey believes this is an exciting version because it is the one song on the record that he recorded with a bunch of musicians he has never played with before, such as Bryan Devendorf and Matt Berninger of the National and Kori Gardner of Mates of State.
Trey says to listen for the organ, which Ray Paczkowski played in a big empty room. Anastasio wrote the song with Tom Marshall, though he insisted on changing some of Marshall’s lyrics so that the song would better fit his intended meaning. Trey elaborated on this point, saying that he and Marshall often disagree on the meaning of lyrics, but that this is “where the magic happens.” Trey believes that if both he and Tom find different meaning in the lyrics then a third person will also be able to find their own meaning.
Land of Nod
Trey wrote this track by himself. He describes the ""Land of Nod" as “a place that’s easy to get to and not so easy to come home from.” The sounds that are reminiscent of background singers are actually theremins being played in harmony.
This one was written with Tom Marshall. Trey describes it as a classic Tom/Trey song. He says that the two of them wrote it very quickly and that they were dying of laughter the whole time. Anastasio says that Phish played the song once, in Connecticut [actually Massachusetts on 12/28/10]. He always liked the song and didn’t want to pass on it so he recorded it for this album.
This is one of Trey’s favorites. It was originally intended to be the opening track for the album, but was eventually swapped with “Corona.” He wrote the song early one morning while having a cup of coffee, and finished it pretty quickly. Trey credits the album’s producer, Peter Katis, with helping him make the track more sonically pleasing. He said that this song reminded him of the power of removing things, and that there are a lot of times on this track that things are “muted” to great effect. Anastasio adds that he is very pleased with the outro to this song.
Anastasio had this to say about the only cover on the album: “The original is so good that nobody in their right mind would ever cover that song— which is a good reason to do it.” Jennifer Hartswick does most of the singing on this track. Trey found it remarkable that she was able to do the whole thing in one take while sitting down. He is clearly quite fond of Hartswick, whom he calls “the best person on Earth.”
This song was written by Trey and Steve “The Dude of Life” Pollak at the Rubber Jungle Studio. Trey somewhat reluctantly revealed a “trade secret” that went into the production of this song. The bassline is a single mono track until the chorus, when it splits into hard left and hard right stereo tracks. This creates a sub-low that makes the chorus sound bigger. Anastasio then explained how a similar technique is used to create sub-lows on heavy metal songs. He says that these “phantom low bass notes” can be heard on a good stereo system.
A live version of this song first appeared on the TAB at the Tab record, but this studio version is two minutes shorter. Thomas Bartlett, who plays plays piano with Rufus Wainright and The National, listened to it and liked it a lot. However, Bartlett really liked the ending and thought that Trey needed to get there faster. Anastasio then worked at cutting out a lot of the song so that it could get to the ending faster, which was tough. Anastasio says that he now likes the way the shortened song turned out, especially the ending.
This track was written with Tom Marshall at the Rubber Jungle Studio. Trey really likes the lyrics, especially the line “If you stand still you’re traveling too.” Anastasio again brought up the fact the he and Tom often find different meaning in song lyrics. He illustrated this point by mentioning that Tom interpreted the line “At just the right moment, everything clicks / You see the way forward and move just a bit” to be about those times at concerts when a space opens in front of you and you’re able to move closer. Trey finds this funny because he thinks those lyrics mean something totally different.