Travis is an old friend—and an old soul, some would say. He ponders life, plucking the threads of quiet thought and wrestling with their answers in song. He lives to share the music that comes from the exploration of story and emotion. Unwilling to rush his life’s work, Travis allows music to age naturally. Lyrics fall into place like keystones into arches in a beautiful colonnade: slowly, purposefully, gracefully.
When Travis mentioned his upcoming Bloodlines album, I was ecstatic.
Travis is also a master storyteller whose songs reflect the passions and concerns of his heart. The story of Bloodlines began with his discovery of some old family photographs. The stone-faced portraits of distant relatives stirred more than familial sympathy; they were a connection to a heritage of farmland living. Faces, in their dusty frames, were anchored in familiar orange grove, town churchyards and the homestead’s front porch. It wasn’t hard to imagine their lives as he remembered his own upbringing, and soon the echoes of their toils began to sound in rhythms of guitar.
“The now empty rooms of the family farmhouse held memories that warbled and sang in the scuffed floorboards and hand-worn rails.”
The now empty rooms of the family farmhouse held memories that warbled and sang in the scuffed floorboards and hand-worn rails. The weather beaten shakes and dilapidated steps of the hand-built home stood as testimony to Oberg generations. Grandfathers of grandfathers had carved their lives in it’s grain, and the family stories were still there to any who would listen. Lives, stacked one upon another, became the main thread of the album. Travis landed upon the name ‘Bloodlines’ as a representation of the familial stories with a more somber undertone that hinted at the long-labor days hewn from stony fields. He harnessed lyrics from hymns, country songs, and family phrases as a way to tell his multi-layered story. Mixed with soulful harmonica, slow melody, and modern turns of phrase Travis crafted blood-and-sweat ballads with an emotional range fuller than the individual parts.
As I searched for a visual metaphor to capture this idea of lives lived stacked in sequence I landed on using the words and sales bills of of past generations to build into a single symbol of life. While the tree metaphor was trite and overdone, the building of its branches from the words of a bygone era gave it a renewed sense of authenticity. It felt appropriate, and the layering of old period bulls (flyers), turn of the century ephemera, and handwritten family letters printed in red conveyed the same stone-faced portrait as his ancestors in their frames. Using hand-written genealogies and accounting records from the local general store, we patched together a homespun packaging that retold the same story of his songs in the printed album cover and booklet.
“…Handwritten family letters printed in red conveyed the same stone-faced portrait as his ancestors in their frames.”
One of the distinguishing features of the album is the white CD that sits in a sea of old paper tones. This shiny contrast is echoed in the Bloodlines title centered on the front cover of the album. These elements, and the pages of the interior booklet, stand as modern photo albums to display the historic origins of Travis’ new stories. They also bring the focus back modern day—to illustrate the new life birthed in the retelling of old stories as they echo in the earbuds of today’s fans.
Now that the album is in stores hits like ‘Hurricane’ have been included in West Coast compilations and a variety of online indie and singer/songwriter collections, some of which can be purchased from iTunes. You can find more about Travis Oberg by visiting his site here, and while more songs are on their way, they’re still distilling in the basement of his basal ganglia. Of course, they’re worth the wait. Sign up for his mail list to get the advance word on when the next album is coming out…or request he come play a concert in your living room. You won’t regret it.
We printed the final piece at Copy Cats Media, and Justin (our rep) gave us this WonderFull comment about the quality of presentation in the Bloodlines artwork:
In my time here at Copy Cats Media I have worked on hundreds of projects. The Travis Oberg project “Bloodlines”, that Joshua Smith designed, would be in my top 5 projects as far as look and design. The stylish and crisp look grabs you and makes you want to listen to the record from only just seeing the cover art. It is truly beautiful.