Travis Tooke is a veteran of the Gainesville music scene, known by many for being the guitarist of the alternative rock band "For Squirrels," which was founded in 1992. It has been twenty-seven years since then, but Travis' love of music has by no means faded with the passage of time.
Travis is now the founder of the band, Helixglow, and I had the pleasure of sitting down with him for an interview in which Travis discusses his passion for music, as well as the power and magic that the musical medium has as an art form.
Q: Before the recording started, we were talking about your passion for music and how it moves you, and how you found your passion. Could you talk more about what you mean by that?
A: I Just turned 47, and I realized that, more and more, that it (music) moves me along. I don't seek it like I did when I was younger, when I was like "oh, this is interesting" and I was trying to be creative or be an artist, but once years go by, it just becomes understood as correct, where, all along, that was a good thing to be seeking. Now, I let the inspiration strike me, and let it call to that part of myself, without seeking it too much. I know it sounds Zen, or something strange like that, but I feel most at peace when I'm open to that. Let the signs come to you, like when you're thinking or talking about something and a certain song comes on the radio, or you see a certain sign, or some things speak to you in that way, follow it in a way. That continues to move me and let me want to go along.
Q: You've been around for a while. It sounds like you found your love of music early on. When you did, did you think that this was going to be what you would be doing for the rest of your life, or did you see it as something that was more like a hobby?
A: Once I got into it, I forgot what everything else was. And all this time later, that hasn't changed. Once I found that I was passionate for it, and that being artistic, or to create songs or music, to exchange communication through that,... I bonded with that so much. That's what I wanted to be. The strain is, though, that I become antisocial at times, where I'm not out doing things like partying or doing something else. I'm in the backyard with my guitar, or my girls want to go to Disney or something and I'm like "Disney? Let's go to the park and look at the birds and write a song instead!" I tend to treasure the shining moments rather than the work that has to get done. I'm kind of a failure in a lot of ways because of how fused and bonded I am with being artistic. On the other hand, I realize, and I think they (my daughters) do too, that I'm special in that way, and that life doesn't always have to be about something, or how stable you are society-wise, but what your connection is with what makes people say "wow!"
Q: In that same vein of society, it seems that many people want to pursue those things that makes them a lot of money because they think they can buy that happiness. That if you buy this house, you're happy, or if you buy this car, you're happy. But with that in mind, is there a difference to you between finding fulfillment in what you do versus finding happiness?
A: I guess I feel fulfilled in the moment with the inception of inspiration, or knowing that I'm drawing something good into myself, whether it's a therapeutic process or these things I'm working through emotionally, but tie it to these metonymic lines of meaning that are coming out of me and to use music in a way that it makes sense and I have something that's memorable, that's extremely fulfilling. But the happiness is just being able to continue without saying, fuck, I also have to go to work for 50 hours, then I have to clean out my space again, or to be falling behind on all these areas. I'm great at this song making shit, ha-ha! But everything else, I seem to be red-lining. Everything else, it seems like I'm not gaining any ground on it, and if I do, then I start feeling unfulfilled, and I feel unhappy, because I'm not getting to do what I love to do most, which is be that sort of vessel for connection and meaning, and inspiration. But that's also a strange trick, because it's just one thing, it's just one part of life. I should be a little more well rounded, but I really don't know If there's a way to find happiness or fulfillment, or both. It's extremely hard. Sometimes you have both, like children, which is something so unconditional. My love for music is sort of like that, but everything else is sort of unfulfilling.
Q: There was a post on the Helixglow Facebook page which says that musicians are some of the most courageous individuals because they face rejection and the risk of missing out on the traditional milestones of success, but even so, they can find that connection with something higher than themselves. In relation to courage, did your career as a musician help you build that courage, or did your love for music and the fulfillment that you get from it supersede all fear to begin with?
A: Looking for that inspiration, looking for that connection, looking to be a guide, and realizing that we can all be each other's guides, and hooking ourselves up to the belief that-- I'm not sure what the right word is, but it's sort of like Shamanism--really great musicians and artists do that for you. You look at their work, and you feel like they've shown you the world within the world. There's infinite possibilities, and that you can so strikingly show somebody something that they can't put into words, that lives and breathes, it's something so simple, kindergarten level, but it's also divine. They gave you another thread to pull you through to the other side, and music can do that for you. If I can do that, then I feel happy, but on the other hand, I feel rebellious of certain things. I guess the long way around it is that, being that person, you have to be sort of courageous, but yet, that kind of courage feels better than any other kind, except for maybe the courage to step up and help a friend, and know that you're doing more than just the right thing, but engaging yourself with something that isn't selfish, and that you're willing to put yourself out there. But the courage to do something, and know that all the other stuff may not make sense, but that you still want to go out there and connect with people, that is valuable.
Q: What is it that you think makes music so universally applicable?
A: I don't think I've met one person who says they don't like music. Everyone likes music, they might like different kinds of music, but it's music. There's a kind of participation to it. Music is the sick muse. You don't realize what health feels like until you're sick. I don't think people realize what being inspired is like until they touch music, and then, from a rudimentary level to a complex level, it awakens the muse inside of us. That calling of feeling, emotion, instinct, inspiration, resonance, all this stuff that is not logical, and yet, it seems more powerful than logic itself.