Travis Collins bares his soul

by Mary Reller

The bassist of We Are The Willows and Deleter is stepping into his own light — and he’s taking his guitar with him.
The last few years have been a challenge for Travis Collins, but he says his solo project A.M. Stryker is therapeutic.
“The mood of my record is sad,” Collins said, “but people like being sad sometimes. We need to be sad. … We all need to reflect.”
Collins wrote music for over a decade before A.M. Stryker, but the subject matter in his new album, “The Lion’s Share,” depicts some of his most private encounters 
— including his divorce from his wife of four years. 
“There was the general vulnerability of putting out the most personal thing I’ve ever done,” he said.
The couple lived in Dublin for a year when Collins decided to leave and study English literature. Exploring life overseas was difficult as an immigrant in Ireland, Collins said.
“The two records I needed to bring when I was living in Dublin were my two John Fahey records,” Collins said. “I didn’t know a lot of people at first, so I had a lot of down time and would listen to those records a ton. I had nothing else to do.”
He spent the time abroad revisiting his guitar and writing free verse poetry, using some of this material in “The Lion’s Share.” John Fahey inspired a lot of the picking techniques and musical styles used in the album, Collins said.
When terminal illness in his then-wife’s family summoned the pair back to the United States, the couple lived with her family in California. They parted ways in about 2012, and Collins moved back to Minnesota.
“This whole record is coming from the turmoil of all of that which eventually led to her being my ex-wife,” Collins said. “[It] was basically me piecing it all together. It was bits of poems and instrumentals that I’d been working on over the years, and it all fit together in the end.”
For someone who was used to playing bass in other bands, a solo project with soul-baring lyrics was an intimidating thought. Collins wanted to do a solo project, but he had a lot of doubt and was concerned that it wouldn’t be well-perceived. 
One of Collins’ supporters — who also co-produced and co-engineered his album — was We Are The Willows bandmate Peter Miller. 
Miller described the A.M. Stryker album as “gorgeous,” especially for people who see the beauty in a cogent, full-length album.
“He needed to make this record,” Miller said. “I think in the end, part of that catharsis comes from sharing [your] experience with other people and putting it out in front of the world. It can be really scary, but I’m glad he decided to do it.”
Collins’ ex-wife knows about the album and that there are sad songs written about her, he said, but the lyrics were written in the thick of it and do not reflect how he feels about things now, years later.
“I think that’s one of the positive things that comes out of therapeutic songwriting; being able to see outside yourself after you spill all your shit onto the table,” Collins said. “I feel all of these feelings, but now that I see them there, I see things a little bit more clearly, and I’m not blameless.”Travis Collins bares his soul