Call them a super group if you want, but Traveller’s Robert Ellis, Johnny Fritz, and Corey Chisel don’t really care if you call yourself a fan. With five solo albums between the three of them, these quick-witted songwriters aren’t interested in clunking down the music business conveyor belt. Instead, they’re turning their attention to crafting catchy and memorable country music.
This goofy group of highway guys churn out songs even faster than they dish one-liners, and they won’t sacrifice their authenticity for anything. You won’t see these country troubadours playing the beer-drenched bars during South By Southwest, but you will hear them cracking jokes as they tune guitars under the sweltering Texas sun. After their Saturday morning set at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Traveller sat down for one last leap through the backstage media circus.
Q: When does your album come out?
JOHHNY FRITZ: March 2nd is the release date here.
ROBERT ELLIS: There’s a music festival in March we should play here in Austin. We should get on that. It pays great.
JOHNNY: Oh, the pay is incredible.
COREY CHISEL: The exposure, alone!
JOHNNY: The opportunities! Free sunglasses!
COREY: Professional hydration!
JOHNNY: And $700 rooms! In Pflugerville! There’s a dog motel I really like to stay at… a kennel.
Q: I heard a little bit of your origin story during your set today, but what’s the real story?
ROBERT: That’s the real story. We were hanging out in Jonny’s backyard, and we said we should start a band…. And then we told Corey that he was in it. And then we booked a tour!
JOHNNY: And then we ran into a promoter, the guy who books Newport Folk Festival, and Robert approached [him] and were like “hey, we’ve got a new band: me, Johnny, and Corey Chisel. Will you book us at Newport?” …And the three of us had never, at that point, actually hung out.
ROBERT: We had no songs!
JOHNNY: By the time we could actually find time to get together and write and the festival… I think it was two weeks.
Q: So what’s your tour going to look like?
JOHNNY: Sold out.
ROBERT: I mean, we are exhausted old men. We don’t feel like touring. So we’re kind of only taking the choice best stuff. If all three of us aren’t like “YES let’s do this,” then we don’t do it.
Q: Do you think you’ll do more Traveller or more solo stuff?
JOHNNY: I would rather only do Traveller stuff, honestly.
COREY: I think one of the things that we’re experiencing …is that individually it’s lousy being a singer/songwriter by yourself. But then getting out there with a bunch of guys that are, legitimately, not here for the fans. We’re here because we love to play these songs and we really hope that the audience does too, but if they don’t then we’re good.
ROBERT: Fuck ‘em!
COREY: And we mean that with all the love in our hearts.
Portions of this interview were edited for clarity.