Better Than It Ezra Was: Travis McNabb talks about life, music and being a drummer

As the drummer for Better Than Ezra, Travis McNabb's name might not ring too many bells. Being the drummer of a rock band never brings the popularity that the lead singer or guitar player garners, but you won't hear Travis complaining. 

THE DEPAULIA—So 1 hear you're on tour with Cowboy Mouth. 

TRAVIS MCNABB—Not yet. The tour begins in four or five days. 

DP—Didn't you play with them before? 

TM—The last time we played with them was Marti Gras in New Orleans. 

DP—Now, you've played drums on the last three Better Than Ezra records, but you've also played percussion and other instruments on other rock, folk and gospel records. Not only that, but you've worked as assistant engineer and a producer on a few albums like Shawn Mullin's "Better Days" and Andrew Hyra's "Words Like Numbers." 

TM—Yeah, I joined Better Than Ezra in '96. Before that I worked engineering in a studio. My dad was a musician, and his dad was a musician. I could pick up almost anything. 

DP—Do you consider yourself a musician then or an artist who uses music as his medium? 

TM—I think they are almost the same. All of us in the band have always been involved in other kinds of art. In fact, some of the art I sold helped me buy my equipment. 

DP—"How Does Your Garden Grow" was [BTE's] last album with Elektra records. The new album "Closer" is self-released? 

TM—Actually it's on a label called Beyond Music, which is distributed by Universal. 

DP—Do you prefer being on an independent label? 

TM—Electra was too big. We Movie Better Than It Ezra Was Travis McNabb talks about life, music and being a drummer Better Than Ezra play the Riviera March 22. didn't know where we fit in on the totem pole. There area lot of bands on major labels. We like knowing we're a priority. 

DP—Better Than Ezra has been a band since 1988. The first album was self-released, but Elektra later picked it up. Now you're back where many new bands begin, on an indie label, but you obviously have a lot more experience than anew band. 

TM—I think we're on better footing than an unknown band, and we have a great fan base that always show up no matter if we have a song on the radio or not. We're always wondering what's the next step? How do we go further? We're always reaching for the next rung. 

DP—So is radio play something that is really important to you? 

TM—The new single, "Extra Ordinary," got a lot of radio airplay. It was even picked up for a McDonald's commercial. It reaches new, younger fans. If you continue to have songs on radio, it also renews the interest of people. who were interested before. 

DP—Better Than Ezra has been labeled as an alternative pop band. Do you think that is accurate?

TM—Labeling bands is a tricky business. It's such a subjective thing, but as a general notion of where we fit in musically, sure. It's really in the eyes and ears of the listener. 

DP—Except in Cowboy Mouth where Fred's drums are front and center, drummers are almost always positioned way in the back, sometimes not getting any of the spotlights. Being so involved, does this affect you? 

TM—Many musicians are driven to start playing by notion of fame for me it was always about music. It's a three-way thing we all do together. Those issues aren't important to me. The drummer is normally back a bit because he holds everything together rhythmically. It's not so glamorous, but it's really, really important. I'm comfortable with that position. 

Better Than Ezra will be opening for Cowboy Mouth at the Riviera on March 22. 

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