Travie McCoy, frontman for the punk-hop group Gym Class Heroes, is a changed man.
In some ways he's still the same Travie. He stands at 6’5. Tattoos paint his frame. Piercings adorn his earlobes.
Unshaven yet boyishly cute, McCoy possesses a laidback, unassuming demeanor, and is surprisingly soft-spoken and introverted when he talks about the adversity he has overcome in the last few years. He uses music as his therapy.
And his new album, Lazarus, reflects the changes he's made.
McCoy, 28, steps out as a solo artist on his latest effort, exposing his past tribulations, and relishing in his newfound happiness. Even the title of the album evokes the Biblical tale of resurrection and rebirth -- a metaphor for McCoy's renaissance.
More than a year ago McCoy had been arrested for assault (of a audience-member who called him the "n-word"), addicted to prescription painkillers, and aching from a breakup with his long-time girlfriend -- famous pop singer Katy Perry.
McCoy, who is originally from upstate New York, candidly admits he isolated himself in his Miami home with his dog Stitch. He wallowed in self-pity, and his music reflected his melancholy.
“When we were like, 80 percent done with the record,” McCoy told NBCNewYork backstage at Roseland Ballroom recently.
“I just said, ‘I can’t put this out.’ I didn’t want to make another 808s and Heartbreaks,
” McCoy referencing Kanye West
’s lovelorn 2008 release. “I wanted something upbeat and fun; more like a 909s and I’m Fine.”
So McCoy scrapped the somber songs, and opted for more optimistic tracks like Billionaire and Dr. Feel Good and We’ll Be Alright. He credits friends and family for “making him do a 180.”
After 18 months in the making, Lazarus is ready for public consumption. And McCoy seems anxious with anticipation: “Everybody’s going to take something different from this album, so be it.”
McCoy chose the first single to be Billionaire
, which features singer Bruno Mars
, because of the song’s summer flair and positivity.
McCoy says the song was a glimpse into the overall direction of the album. On the song McCoy fantasizes about living the lavish life like Oprah and being on the cover of Forbes magazine.The song, infused with a reggae-tinged rhythm and unforgettable hook kudos to Mars, currently dominates radio airwaves and has quickly climbed the Hot 100.
But on this project, McCoy isn’t solely rapping, he’s also singing. He describes the album as more melodic: “There were hints of me starting to sing i.e. Viva La White Girl.” McCoy tells of how he could barely listen to that song in its entirety back then, but says he’s grown more comfortable with his singing voice.
Never one to be categorized in music or defined in life, McCoy has created a musical potpourri with Lazarus
meshing his influences in hip-hop, indie-rock, punk and soul. To achieve his unique sound, McCoy enlisted the help from producers like the Smeezingtons, the Stereotypes and Josh Abraham. Lazarus
also features collaborations with artists like T-Pain
and Gnarl’s Barkley singer Cee-Lo Green on Dr. Feel Good.
With his fresh perspective on life, McCoy hopes this album to be therapeutic to fans: “This record was definitely a blessing in disguise, it helped me get out of a rut and hopefully it will help other people get out from whatever is keeping them down.”
Lazarus drops on June 8th. And for those curious to hear the earlier material he scrapped, McCoy says look out for the mixtape to leak just prior to the release of Lazarus.