First things first: Travis McCoy wants to be known as "Travie" these days. After all, that's how he's always been known amongst his family and friends.
"I mean, anybody who knows me already calls me that. No one in my circle calls me Travis. Even my family, at a young age started calling me 'Travie,' " he said, cracking up slightly. "So I want people to feel comfortable calling me 'Travie.' It's almost like inviting people in. You can be part of the family, so long as you buy the album."
And that brings us to the second point — his long-in-the-works solo album, which McCoy wants you to know is no longer called The Lazarus Project, for legal reasons ... involving Paul Walker.
"Unfortunately we had to change the title to just Lazarus, because there's already this movie out there called 'The Lazarus Project,' " he explained. "So we're just calling the record Lazarus now. It's more to the point."
And all this talk of labels, nicknames and titles is sort of relevant to McCoy in general. Because ever since he burst onto the scene with Gym Class Heroes (McCoy and the band are currently at work on a new LP), people have struggled to slap a label on the charismatic frontman. Is he a rapper? A rock star? Something in between? Certainly GCH's hip-hop leaning 2008 album The Quilt didn't help matters any and now, with Lazarus on the horizon (it's tentatively due in June), McCoy is facing another round of critical labeling. And yes, it's a bit annoying.
"It's hard to put a stamp on the record. With anything I do, it's hard to categorize it. With any project, I just go in and blindly start writing songs and then find out which way we want to go with it. This one took a bit longer to find the lane," he said. "It was a year in the making. ... We thought we had found the lane, then I started doing other sh--. Now that it's done and I've listened to it a bunch of times, I'll say that it's got a pop appeal ... the songs will appeal to a broader range of people as opposed to the hip-hop crowd or conventional GCH crowd."
Initially, the songs on Lazarus reflected the dark times in McCoy's life ... inspired mainly by his breakup with longtime girlfriend Katy Perry. But in the months following the split, he said he found a new outlook on life. And the new songs he wrote reflected that shift.
"A lot of the music started off pretty dark and introspective, but now a lot of the records are happy. I stopped being so bitter about my life and situations," McCoy said. "I hate going back to this, but I went through a sh---y breakup, so a lot of records were bitter in the beginning. Sad and mad about sh--, but then I found a median with myself. I realized I don't have it that bad, so I figured, why dampen the mood with sad, sh---y records?"
And on Monday (March 8) fans can get an official taste of what Lazarus will offer, when the first single — a song called "Billionaire" — premieres on MTV.com. But don't let the title fool you: This isn't your average, run-of-the-mill song about Benjamins.
" 'Billionaire' is basically about, you know, like 'Brewster's Millions.' It's me talking about what would happen if I would somehow manage to become a billionaire. What would I do with the money?" he explained. "Don't get it wrong, I'm far from a billionaire. I think I just made it out the 'thousandaire' category. So it's about what I would do with the money and, the same time, it opens up the question, if you were in a position to do something with a decent chunk of money, what would you do?"
And that's sort of the balance McCoy is striking on Lazarus — a little bit of the serious, a little bit of the social, but, of course, a whole lot fun, too. That's the point of making songs like this, no matter how you choose to label them.
"I've always wanted this album to come out in the summer, because that's when most of the memorable music drops," he said. "You want music to have a good time to, music to connect to. You wanna play it at the party."