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Gym Class Hero's McCoy Goes It Alone

of the Oakland Press

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Travis McCoy is eager to clear up some misperceptions as he prepares for the June 8 release of his first solo album, “Lazarus.”

First, and foremost, it does not mean that he’s leaving or breaking up his band, Gym Class Heroes.

“A lot of people thought this was the end of the Gym Class Heroes,” McCoy, 28, acknowledges, “or that Gym Class Heroes was over and I was trying to take the momentum we’ve built with Gym Class Heroes and use it for my own selfish desires. That’s not the case at all.

“Since the inception of Gym Class in 1997, every member has had another musical outlet, if not three or four. This is just another one of those.”

He also wants it known that there is no particularly profound reason that, with “Lazarus,” he’s now going by Travie rather than Travis.

“I’m Travie all day, every day since I was a kid,” says McCoy, who started Gym Class Heroes in 1997 with drummer Matt McGinley, whom he met in — you guessed it — high school gym class. The group’s breakthrough success came in 2006, with the gold-certified “As Cruel as School Children” album and the Top 5 single “Cupid’s Chokehold,” which featured Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump and sampled the Supertramp hit “Breakfast in America.”

McCoy has also made frequent guest appearances on recordings by Fall Out Boy, Pink, Cobra Starship, Kelly Rowland and Tyga, and he was one of the voices on “Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)” for the “Snakes on a Plane” film soundtrack.

“My family and friends have called me Travie for as long as I can remember,” McCoy continues. “A lot of people are taking (the name change) way too seriously. I’m reading stuff on blogs and everything, ‘Who does he think he is, changing the last letter of his name?!’ It’s not that serious. If anything, it’s letting listeners and people who care that much closer to me and letting them feel much more comfortable with calling me Travie and being part of the family.

“I mean, what am I gonna do — sit around and try to think of a rapper name or something like that? I don’t have time for that (stuff). It’s just one letter, y’know?”

“Lazarus,” however, is more than just a casual side project for McCoy.

He started working on it about a year-and-a-half ago, while Gym Class Heroes was on the road promoting its 2008 album “The Quilt.” “It’s the longest I’ve spent on a record in my whole career writing songs,” McCoy says, but that’s because the tone of “Lazarus” changed dramatically after he started the album.

“I scrapped a lot of the early material for the record,” he explains, citing a wrenching and very public breakup with girlfriend Katy Perry with inspiring songs that were “kind of somber and a little too personal.”

“It’s like anyone else,” McCoy explains. “After you’ve been in a relationship that fails you tend to be messed up and throw yourself into the pain game for a while and dwell on your own self-pity, all the (stuff) that comes along with being a sad dude. But that’s what I wanted to put out there.”

He credits “really awesome friends” and collaborators with helping him get through his funk — particularly Bruno Mars, his partner on the first single from “Lazarus,” “Billionaire.”

“We got together and he played it for me, just the hook, and I was like, ‘This is dope!’” McCoy recalls. “It had this dope, reggae, Sublime-ish type of feel.

“But ... then I started to think, ‘Wait a minute, I can’t come out of the gate talking about how bad I want to be a billionaire. This (stuff) is so superficial.’ Then I really listened to it and was like, ‘We’re in a recession right now. Everybody’s bumming. There’s something to sing about here; if I was in the position to have a ridiculous amount of money, would I be selfish or selfless?’ I just took that concept and ran with it.”

McCoy says the rest of “Lazarus” is dominated by hip-hop style tracks but adds that “at the same time my love for live instrumentation is still reflected on the record” — most notably on the “hardcore metal breakdown” of the song “Critical.” Producers include Mars, T-Pain, the Smeezingtons, the Stereotypes, Lucas Secon, Oligee and, from the rock world, Josh Abraham, but despite myriad rumors of guests, McCoy kept the list “kinda tight ... just some really close friends.” Remixes, however, will include collaborations with some of his other famous associates.

“There’s a lot of freedom that comes along with not really putting yourself in a corner and labeling yourself, and I’m stoked to have that freedom,” McCoy notes. “I’m definitely a way more happy person than I was going into this record. I think the end result reflects that.”

McCoy — with Gym Class Heroes mate McGinley in tow — plans some extensive touring this year to promote “Lazarus,” starting with the current “Too Fast For Love Tour” with Cobra Starship and 3OH!3. His band, meanwhile, is “12 demos deep” into its next album, which the group plans to record later this year and have out in 2011 — with a working title of “PCC II” for “The Papercut Chronicles II,” a sequel to its 2005 sophomore album.

“I’m just trying to kill a lot of the negative connotations out there about me doing this solo project,” he says. “There’s still me, and there’s still Gym Class. It’s all good, and one just makes the other better, I think.”

Travie McCoy is part of the “Too Fast For Love Tour” with 3OH!3, Cobra Starship and I Fight Dragons, which stops Wednesday, May 5, at the Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $27.50. Call 313-961-5451 or visit www.livenation.com.

Web Site: www.livenation.com

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