“There’s nothing that keeps me young like riding around on a tour bus with a bunch of knuckleheads,” says Ben Wilson, keyboardist of Blues Traveler. “We just have a great time.”
Speaking over the phone from his bed at noon on a Wednesday, it’s clear that the band is still living the rock star lifestyle — and loving every minute of it. Wilson laughs freely and often while recounting a recent escapade in which he and lead singer John Popper got pulled over in a foreign city while on tour, then given a police escort back to the freeway.
“He’s still someone who gets recognized quite a bit,” says Wilson of Popper. “He’s one of those guys that people just want to talk to.”
Founded (as all the best bands are) in 1987 in the basement of the drummer’s parents’ Princeton, NJ home, Blues Traveler has been performing for over a quarter of a century. Fast-forward to 2017 and they’re still going strong, backed by an impressive track record: twelve studio albums, sales of over 10 million units, and over 2,000 live shows performed in front of 30 million people.
“When you get into thirty years as a band, you gotta find your inspiration and follow it,” says Wilson, when asked about the band’s continuing success after three decades.
That’s what makes their latest album, Blow Up the Moon, so unique. Comprised of 14 tracks, each one features the classic John Popper harmonica … and each one is a collaboration. Artists from a wide variety of genres came together to brainstorm, write, eat lunch, and record something totally unprecedented.
Get ready to hear the Blues Traveler staples (harmonica, acoustic guitar, twang, etc.) intertwined with lyrics and vocals from artists such as Jewel, The Dirty Heads, 3OH!3, Hanson, Rome Ramirez, Plain White T’s, Bowling for Soup, and more.
“We bent over backwards to let the people we were working with leave their imprint on us,” says Wilson. “You never know what’s going to come out of the joining of two types of music.”
Blues Traveler has experienced its ups and downs in the past, from health scares, to gold records, to tragedy. Throughout it all, the music remains consistent. Decades together has bonded these childhood friends and adult bandmates into a family of sorts. Their spirit and music shine through the harmonizing melodies and crooning lyrics, at once nostalgic and fresh.
“Every album is kind of a stamp of where you’re at, like a photo album,” says Wilson. “Looking back on our thirty year anniversary, it’s a time for reflection, and it feels good.”
With three decades of massive commercial success behind them, and no sign of slowing down, the future of Blues Traveler looks bright. Come see them perform hits old and new when they visit on October 15.
Doors open at 7pm and the show starts at 8pm, at the Norva in downtown Norfolk. See you there. For tickets, click here.