Travis McNamara is fluent in nine instruments. Piano lessons started at 6, followed quickly by the guitar, drums, harmonica, ukulele, accordion, clarinet and mandolin. The last instrument he picked up was the banjo — for which he’s best known. McNamara is the banjoist in the popular Colorado bluegrass band Trout Steak Revival.
He’s been playing the banjo with Trout Steak Revival since 2008, but recently started performing solo sets. McNamara will perform his evolving solo set, for only the third time, at The Jailhouse Craft Beer Bar in Buena Vista March 4 at 7 p.m.
“I have all these songs I’ve written that are just sitting around collecting dust in my apartment, that either didn’t quite fit with Trout Steak, or are more electronic, or are cover songs I love and am drawn to. It’s also a great place to try out new material and to continue trying to stretch as an artist,” McNamara said.
Be ready to hear some electronic elements and softer music than what you’re used to hearing with Trout Steak Revival. McNamara has also been doing a lot of home recordings of himself playing different instruments to incorporate into his live show.
“I’ve been trying to figure out how to accomplish it for years, and I think I’m finally making some headway. It feels like a fun and creative time,” he said.
Hearing other musicians talk about their songwriting process is “endlessly fascinating” to McNamara, who writes music and lyrics simultaneously. “I am always searching for great songs and trying to pick apart how they are made. … I think people have always been trying to make great music, and so we should listen across decades.”
Earlier this week, McNamara and the rest of Trout Steak Revival returned from a week-long Cayamo Cruise performing along with Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Brandi Carlile and Kacey Musgraves, just to name a few.
“I actually still feel like I am on a boat. It was a great experience. I am still kind of trying to process it,” he said.
McNamara has often said his favorite part about being in Trout Steak is that his bandmates are his best friends. He said if he weren’t playing music with them, they’d be hanging out anyway.
McNamara, Casey Houlihan and Will Koster were summer camp counselors in college. McNamara has known Koster since they were 11.
Despite his busy career and proficiency on a plethora of instruments, McNamara said he feels the most free and expressive on the piano. One of his favorite musical memories is a piano solo he performed for his high school talent show. He wrote a five-minute piece. “I was so nervous waiting in the dark side stage, between the curtains – I was shaking. I went out and played it, and got a standing ovation. One of the loudest sounds I could remember. I felt this shower of endorphins from my head down my body. I had a shine on me that lasted for days. I was bit by the bug that day, and it is still one of the best days of my life.”
Sarah Haugher, owner of The Jailhouse, said, “We are so excited to kick off our once-a-month music series with Travis McNamara. Trout Steak Revival is one of our all-time favorite bands and they have such a connection to Chaffee County. We are really looking forward to hearing what Travis has been working on outside the band.” There is no cover, so head to The Jailhouse to enjoy some craft beer and lend your ears to McNamara. “I am truly honored that anyone would want to come spend their night with me, and I am excited to step into some new territory with you,” he said.