AS THE FRONTMAN for long-running Scottish pop giants Travis, singer-songwriter Fran Healy had consistently resisted the idea of venturing out on his own. “I’d always said I’d never do a solo record,” Healy says in his cheerful brogue. “But something changed last year.”
Following a world tour with Travis in 2009, Healy began work on his first solo effort, the newly released Wreckorder (Rykodisc, $16). For Healy, the solo venture is in some ways a reflection of his new place in life: These days, the 37-year-old is happily married (to his German photographer wife, Nora Kryst), father to a young son, and splitting his time between New York City and his adopted hometown of Berlin. “I’d always felt a bit like I didn’t fit in my skin,” he says. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be older. In my 20s, I wanted to be older. Now that I’m in my 30s, it feels nice — it feels like I’m where I should be. And I’m sure that has some effect on the songs.”
With the help of his co-producer, Emery Dobyns, Healy took his ideas and turned them into the sumptuous pop anthems that grace Wreckorder. Known for his melodic gifts and his canny way with hooks, Healy says the barometer of a good song remains the same as ever.
“Music has become overly mythologized, but it’s really simple,” he says. “Give me a melody that I’ve not heard before, and tomorrow morning when I wake up, if it’s lodged in my brain and I can’t get it out, that’s a good song.”
Healy handled the bulk of the instruments on the disc, except bass on several tracks. For the grooving gem “As It Comes,” he recruited a fairly famous name to bolster the rhythm. “I thought it would be perfect for Paul McCartney to play on,” Healy says. “Paul got back to me a few days after I sent him the song and said he’d do it. He actually recorded it on the famous Hofner bass that was on all [the Beatles’] songs.”
To thank McCartney for his contribution, and to honor McCartney’s late wife, Linda’s, vegetarian activism, Healy and his family started following a vegetarian diet. “When I told Paul that, he had to sit down,” Healy says with a chuckle. “A few days later, the FedEx guy turned up with a package with several Linda McCartney cookbooks and a note: ‘I hope this is enough to get you started. Love, Paul.’ It was really sweet.”
Healy, who’s touring in support of Wreckorder, says that being alone onstage has been an eye-opener after so many years with a group. “Having a band is a security blanket if you’re a singer-songwriter. When you’re up there by yourself, it’s a make-or-break thing. Your own personality is what people are scrutinizing. I’m actually enjoying it quite a bit,” he says. “But don’t tell the guys [in Travis] that.”
Despite his solo fun, Healy says he’ll definitely be back with Travis to make another record in the near future. “I don’t know when exactly, but it’s going to happen,” he says. “We’re a great band together, and that’s something special none of us want to let go of.”