Gym Class Heroes frontman Travie McCoy is stepping out on his own once again, planning to release the follow-up to 2010's Lazarus in early 2014. The upcoming album's first single, "Rough Water" features Jason Mraz and details a relationship that remains strong even in the face of hardships.
"Anyone you're close to, there’s gonna be times where you’re not gonna see eye to eye," Travie tells iHeartRadio. "As opposed to jumping ship -- no pun intended -- and throwing in the towel, you work through those and you learn from them.
"This song was inspired by a relationship that I ended up learning a lot about myself from. I used to be the type of guy that avoided confrontation at all costs... I’d walk away. I was just so enamored with this girl that for me, she was worth fighting for. Instead of running away and dealing with the issues and coming to some resolution, I learned that things weren’t as bad as I was making them out to be. I learned a lot about myself and I thank her for that and I thank her for the song."
Check out "Rough Water" ft. Jason Mraz:
Travie stopped by the iHeartRadio Headquarters while he was in New York recently, and in addition to talking to us about his new single and upcoming album, he also let us in on the significance of a few of his many tats.
In fact, the single art for "Rough Water" is a nod to tattoo culture and its significance in Travie's life. "It's actually inspired by tattoo flash artwork," he says. "When you go into tattoo shops, they have flash, the things you look at to get ideas. The style that we chose is considered old school Sailor Jerry style tattoo artwork. Back in the day, that’s the type of artwork you would see in tattoo shops... a lot of black shading, a lot of primary colors because they didn’t have a lot of colored inks. Even the script is a very traditional style of lettering. The cover of that was actually tattoo inspired."
Check out Tattoo Stories with Travie McCoy below.
"I started an apprenticeship when I was 15, so I’ve been immersed in this whole tattoo culture since the age of 14, since I got my first tattoo. I was really intrigued, and I’ve always been into art. I probably wouldn’t have graduated if it wasn’t for art.
"Every single tattoo I have means something to me," Travie tells iHeartRadio. "Not only the tattoo itself, but it shoots me right back to when I got the tattoo, what I was talking to the artist about... sometimes I can even remember what I was listening to when I got a tattoo. It’s an experience you share with the artist. I’ve been tattooed by four people and so I don’t know you kind of build a relationship with the artist.
On the heart on his throat:
"I got that on Warped Tour '08. I got the outline done, and it all connects with the other two -- a quote over here and a chopped off hand with an old school microphone.
"It was the most painful tattoo I’ve gotten. I have a tattoo of Marvin Gaye on my ribs -- and that hurt really bad, the way I had to lay was uncomfortable -- but [for this one] the pain was excruciating... Totally worth it."
"The pen is obviously for writing, and [the microphone] is for speaking, and the heart is a reminder for me to write and speak from the heart. I had the quill pen done in '06 and the hand was done in '03, and they were both colored recently."
"I was on a massage table laying with my head down, so I had all the blood rushing to my head and was holding my breath. The coloring was the worst."
On the tattoos he has on his chest in memory of his family:
"These are all cousins of mine who passed away," Travie says, pointing out the names ion cursive across his chest.
"Angelo, Monique, and Isaiah. There are doves around them – just kind of an homage to them. They all died at a really young age. Monique, I believe she was 17 she was actually murdered. My cousin Angelo -- we always called him Tito but Angelo’s his real name -- he died in a car accident when he was 23, and my cousin Isaiah committed suicide when we were on the I Am Music Tour with Lil Wayne. The tattoos mean a lot to me, but the placement as well, 'cause they’re close to my heart. If I got a tattoo for all the friends and family that I’ve lost that I was close to, I’d be covered."
On the tattoo he got on Pete Wentz's TV show 'Best Ink':
"I recently got a tattoo on Pete’s show Best Ink... it’s a picture of my dog Stitch. I got it late last year. I haven’t gotten a picture of Scrump yet... Soon. Stitch is six and Scrump is a year in November."
"Consequently enough, the guy that I apprenticed with and worked with for four years did my tattoo. I had no idea that it was. When they asked me to do the show they’re like, 'Yeah some kid named DJ from Rochester... DJ Tambe' and I’m like, 'Yo! I came up doing tattoos with him."
On his bromance tat with Pete Wentz:
"Pete [Wentz] and I actually a buddy tattoo. It’s from 'Young Turks' -- the Rod Stewart song. Mine says 'Young Hearts' and it’s a scroll' and it goes around his arm and his says 'Be Free,' so when you put them together it says 'Young Hearts Be Free.' Bromance!"
On his Hall & Oates tattoo:
"I actually have the cover of Hall & Oates Private Eyes. Hall & Oates is my favorite group of all time, and people are like, 'Who?' The thing is a lot of people don’t necessarily know the name, but the main Hall & Oates songs, they know every word. To have that kind of catalog and have so many songs that people know without even knowing is amazing and something I aspire to.
"For me it’s nostalgic. My dad is a bass player, so I came up listening to everything, but mostly Philly soul stuff. Hall & Oates is one that always stuck with me."
On the tattoos on his knuckles:
"I have to get them touched up, but my knuckles say 'Stay Gold' from my favorite Robert Frost poem. It’s from The Outsiders, a poem called 'Nothing Gold Can Stay,' and it’s just basically about innocence and life. The first line is, 'Nature’s first green is gold, its heart is few to hold.' It’s talking about life and death, how things are beautiful and they eventually become decrepit and crumble and die, and then things start all over again. It’s about the cycle of life, and so ‘Stay Gold’ is kind of a reminder for me to stay young and stay innocent. I’m just a big grown ass kid."
On his 'Jerry' tat:
"From our second full length album, there’s a character named Jerry, and that’s him. The whole Jerry thing actually came from a tubing trip on the Guadalupe River -- we rented our tubes from a place called Jerry’s.
"We floated down the Guadalupe River drinking PBRs, and there’s a rope swinging from a tree. We were trying to convince somebody to swing from it, and we finally got Eric to do it, and he got up there and he freaked out, so we started going, 'Jerry! Jerry!' And he was like f*** it, and he did it. So now before we play a show, that’s our ritual. We all put our hands in the air and we do the Jerry’s chant. It gets us hyped up.
"So it blossomed into this whole thing... the story behind the artwork for As Cruel as School Children is the big chubby blue kid on the cover. We decided to name him Jerry, it just made sense. I’m probably one of hundreds of kids who’ve gotten the Jerry tattoo since."
Photos by Katherine Tyler