Like most South Australians, a walk through Rundle Mall brings with it pigeons, tourists and of course, local busking acts. Just outside Rundle Place you will generally find a large gathering of shoppers stopped in their tracks to immerse themselves in a performer that manages to captivate their audience with a unique sound filled with charismatic melodies and chit-chat interludes.
That performer is Trav Collins, and he’s one of our personal favourite buskers in The Mall. Trav is an artist that can easily take you on a journey from the Adelaide city centre to the main stage at Glastonbury and, concurrently, an intimate gig at The Gov with mellow lighting and wholesome warmth. The boy from Marion Bay, who has slowly become a staple in the busking scene in Rundle Mall, says that creating original music is his biggest passion in life.
“My Mum, twin brother and I grew up in the small town of Marion Bay on the Yorke Peninsula. We lived there for our whole primary schooling where we attended Warooka Primary School. That is where my music began,” says Trav. “We had a very free and outdoorsy upbringing. Farmers and fisherman were the two types of people and footy or surfing were the two hobbies you had to choose from. I eventually got into drawing and painting and Mum would always hang up my pictures not matter how average they were- I mostly painted frangipani flowers as that was my best chance for a hanging in the hallway.”
From humble upbringings on the Yorke Peninsula, Trav found his way to Adelaide for schooling and in pursuit of his foray into the music industry. “I am currently travelling around in a van taking my music where I can by doing street shows, festivals and venue shows as much as I can.”
We had a chat to Trav about his quintessentially Australian upbringing, music and where he hopes to go in the future.
When did your relationship with music begin?
My relationship with music began in primary school where a mate and I dared each other to start learning instruments. We chose the trombone and, two months later, my mate left me solo. When I first took the instrument home I had to practice outside and face away from the house- it’s not that they didn’t want to listen to my playing [but] it was that they didn’t want to hear an awful sound in general. A year later my Dad bought my brother an acoustic guitar while we were visiting him in Broome. When my brother started taking lessons, I quickly jumped on and started learning as well and guitar was definitely getting most of my attention.
We moved to Adelaide for high school and went to Brighton Secondary which happened to have a Special Interest Music Program and this is where my music study got serious and a career in the industry became a possibility for me. The head of music, Jeffrey Kong, opened up many performing opportunities for me and this is where I realised that performing music and especially guitar was where my life was leading. I did still play the performing music and especially guitar was where my life was leading. Guitar, vocals and didgeridoo are what you’ll hear today.
What is your favourite aspect of busking in Rundle Mall?
The amount of people I cross paths with and talk to, learning their stories and what they thought, even just knowing their day was the slightest bit improved because they stopped for a song or even a whole set. Also, being in Rundle Mall and watching all the people day in day out from a static view point is quite interesting. You truly get to see how many regulars there are and even know when a certain person will walk past down to the minute. Just sitting and watching as all the busy people go past gives you a new perspective. I go and busk all day and then on the way home remind myself to go to the shops. I just have a completely different relationship with the place.
The Arts can be a difficult industry to excel in, even for those with genuine talent, due to a lack of stable employment and reaching that ‘big break’ as an artist: what made your passion for music something that you knew you needed to pursue regardless of the harshness of the industry?
The music industry is such a studied, monitored, business-modelled, forever changing mystical beast if you think of it as a whole entirety and that’s why it can be super overwhelming. But, if you drive in at the right speed in the right gear, then it turns out that it’s the best place and you realise that it’s not a big, bad industry. It’s a place full of many like-minded individuals getting around doing the same thing that you love doing. There are so many little run-off strains from the mainstream that you can find your niche and jam it out there, no worries. Eventually, if you want and put in enough work, meet the right people and make the right sounds can possibly swim up towards the mainstream. I will be performing and writing music for the rest of my life as I simply don’t see any other way it’s going to pan out. Love what you’re living and live what you love, I guess.
Who are the biggest influences on your music?
The artist who has the biggest influence on my playing (and this was also the first live music act I ever saw) is John Butler. I first saw him when I was 13, live and solo at The Gov. That basically changed my life. His playing style stuck with me and I went straight home and learnt as much as I could. Xavier Rudd is another big one and also the reason I got into playing the Didgeridoo (Yidaki). Kaleo, The Cat Empire, Lumineers, Mumford and Sons, Jeff Lang and even Chris Finnen, who I have had the chance to support a show for and jam in his lounge room, are all people that I have taken inspiration from. There are many more but the list would go on so these are the main ones. As for the stories on the album, the people who most influence my tracks are my family. Most of the songs are real stories about something that has happened in my family. Another influence is my friend Tom who played piano on the album. We are always having a jam writing new stuff and we musically challenge each other quite well. We may even release some music as a separate project from my solo work so we shall see what happens.
Not to take away from your busking talents but what is your long-term goal as an artist? Will we see you playing Splendour in The Grass one day?
Hopefully. My long-term goal as an artist is to take it as far and wide as I possibly can and if that’s filling one hundred seat clubs across the world and doing street shows in between, or hitting the big time and headlining festivals then I’ll be happy either way. I have been aiming to hit the festival circuit in Australia and started that off this year with Blenheim Fest in the Clare Valley. Splendour would be lovely but, I’m more of a Bluesfest type of guy. My end goal is to live a happy and healthy life writing, recording, performing and earning my way from sharing my music, making a positive difference where I can.
Finally, besides in Rundle Mall, can we find you anywhere else around the state to settle in for some sweet tunes from a local artist?
I have a few dates lined up and often other shows will pop in between. The main one coming up which I am very excited about is my Live at Wizard Tone Album show on the 17th of August. This is a run of the set plus a couple of new tracks in the very same room where I recorded the first album in December last year at Wizard Tone Studios. The idea with this one is that there will be a studio audience coming in and upon purchasing the ticket, you are also purchasing the album which you are coming to watch be recorded. It then comes in the post a few weeks later- it will be available online too.
The next performance penciled in after that is a three-hour set at the Austral on the 24th of August. Then, I am off to NSW for about a month doing street shows and a few venues around Sydney town. When I get, back I’ll be playing the Fleurieu Folk Festival on October the 26th and the following day at the Prospect Spring Fair for a set on the 27th of October. More shows always pop up but for now that is how the calendar reads.