Pat Travers Band

The Pat Travers Band — Travers (from left), Tommy Craig and David Pastorius — will perform Tuesday at The Open Chord in Knoxville.

If Pat Travers’ career was really the roller coaster many of his fans have imagined it to be, its riders would likely be reeling by now. Indeed, in the 43 years since the release of his eponymous debut album, Travers has had more ups and downs than most artists ever imagine.

A Canadian expat who now resides in Central Florida, Travers was initially inspired to make his own music after witnessing a performance by Jimi Hendrix in Ottawa. He played in a series of bands during his teens, culminating with a stint backing rock ‘n’ roll legend Ronnie Hawkins, the man responsible for first employing the Hawks, the group that later changed its name to The Band. Travers eventually made his way to London where he signed a contract with Polydor Records for whom he released no less than ten albums in his first eight years with the label. One of those, “Live! Go For What You Know,” spawned the biggest hit of his career, “Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights),” a concert staple that’s still in his setlist even now.

Throughout much of the ’70s and early ’80s, Travers and his various backing bands made a name for themselves by performing alongside such headliners as Rush, Rainbow and other hard rock outfits with whom they had a similarity in sound. However as the ’80s progressed, Travers found himself beset by troubles brought on by bankruptcy and a subsequent dispute with his record company, which he successfully sued in order to renegotiate his contract.

Nevertheless, the damage was done. An attempt at mining a more melodic sound led to a significant drop in sales, and although he managed to connect with an independent record label and still tour, he still struggles to find the commercial success he attained early on.

Nevertheless, now at the helm of one of his most durable backing bands — one consisting of Travers on guitar and vocals, drummer Tommy Craig and bassist David Pastorius (nephew of the late legendary jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius) — Travers is in complete comeback mode. His 2015 album “Retro Rocket” put him back on sound footing, while his recent release “Swing!” reimagines some of the great big band classics of the ’40s and ’50s — songs such as Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train,” Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” and Louis Primas’s “Sing Sing Sing,” among them — remade with full rock regalia. While it may seem a strange transition to some, Travers’ manages to infuse the energy and exhilaration of those seminal standards with the force and fury of his own slash-and-burn style.

“And how!” Travers remarks when it’s suggested that he appears busier than he has in years. Yet when he’s asked if he feels like a survivor after all these years, he simply demurs.

“No, not at all,” he said. “I think I’m just doing the same thing I’ve always done, just trying to break out in a big way. I lost some confidence along the way, and became a victim of circumstances for a whole number of reasons. Now that I got over that, I feel like I’m making great music again, as good as anything I’ve done.”

That’s no small claim. Travers said that he suffers from extreme anxiety syndrome, a malady that’s he’s had to contend with his entire life, one that took away his confidence.

“I didn’t know what anxiety was,” he said. “I just wanted it to go away. Alcohol is one way of doing it, but that just makes the anxiety worse. So now I train in the martial arts, and I work out every other day. Once your body gets healthy, your mind goes right along with it. If your body’s out of shape, your brain is too, but you don’t notice it because your brain’s out of shape.”

It’s clear too that he finds his new album a reason for renewal. In many ways, it’s become a means of restoring that passion and purpose he established early on.

“The ‘Swing!’ album was a project I thought about a number of years ago, but the circumstances never were right,” he said. “Cleopatra Records, the label I record for, said, ‘Hey, we’d like you to do an album.’ I had been working on my own original material, but I didn’t want to give that up just yet, so when I said I’d do an album, I told them it would have to have some sort of theme. My wife had the ‘40s channel of XM radio on in the house. You talk about some kind of energy, well that’s what I heard in that music — tons of energy and tons of skill.”

His upcoming concert at the Open Chord will find him featuring several songs from the new album, although Travers admitted that they’re still learning some of the material that they haven’t had a chance to perform live. Nevertheless, he said the tunes they have played have all been well-received.

“Oh, it’s been awesome,” Travers said of the response. “When I was listening to the music initially, I figured that everybody’s familiar with these melodies, so people will respond to them. When I was doing research on that era, I found that audiences were always unified in their enthusiasm. It still works that way. I thought that a lot of people would like it now, and it’s had a very broad response. It even topped the contemporary jazz charts for a couple of weeks.”

Even so, it’s apparent that Travers isn’t wholly preoccupied with all that jazz. A new single, “Racing the Storm,” and several other new tracks that the band has recorded offer indication that he’ll return to his rock and roll roots somewhat promptly.

“While our Swing album is great, it’s not what our focus is on for next year,” he suggested. “Most of the music I’m working on now, I composed right in my head while I was going around doing whatever. It saved a lot of time.”

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