When Fran Healy hit a wall writing songs for the new Travis album, he decided to bring things full circle.

“Chris has made a few good records in his time so I sent him a text and asked him if he wanted to go for a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway,” says the Ivor Novello-winning songwriter, recalling the intervention made by the frontman of the biggest band in the world. “So I drove up to his house and he jumped in the car and we went for a drive up the coast. He listened to the record with me in the car as we drove, because I was at the point that I was becoming blind to it.” 

An hour later, Healy was finishing off a new song with his pal at the piano in Chris Martin’s Los Angeles home, bringing the connection between all-conquering stadium rockers Coldplay and the band who inspired them to a creative fulcrum, three decades later. Chris Martin has spoken in the past about how Glasgow Brit-winners Travis were “the band who invented my band and many others” with their 1997 debut album Good Feeling and its hugely influential 1999 follow up smash The Man Who.

“He’s a sweet, sweet man, Chris. He was like: ‘Turn it down, man, it can’t be too loud.’ He’s protective of his ears. He’s very Yoda about his stuff. A purist.” The result of their coastal collaboration can be heard on Raze The Bar, the second single from Travis’ forthcoming new album, LA Times, released this summer. Martin provides backing vocals on the track alongside Brandon Flowers of The Killers, another stadium-filling frontman who started out busking Travis tunes at open mic sessions in the early 2000s.

Healy said: “We got back to Chris’s house after this drive up and down the PCH. He went straight to the piano and started singing Raze The Bar, it was all ready there in his head. A few days later I asked him if he wanted to sing on the chorus and he was up for it right away. He was talking about Donna Summer getting a bunch of uncredited mates in to sing on a song and said I should do the same. Brandon was really my only other big celebrity band mate. So I texted him and he was like: ‘Sure, man!’

“The circularity of it all isn’t lost on Chris, either. I had actually seen him a few weeks earlier. I was dropping off my son Clay at a school concert Chris’s boy was playing at, rolled down my window and shouted: ‘Haw you!’ in the most Glaswegian accent ever. “I actually told him that day how I thought he was a force for good, and how he’d made a lot of people happy, because he does, and I don’t know if anyone ever tells him. What more could you want from life than that? He was slightly misty eyed.”

The new album is the band’s first since their brilliant 10 Songs, released at the height of Covid and stunted by the lack of live touring. Written in Fran’s studio on Skid Row, and recorded in LA with Beck and Phoenix producer Tony Hoffer, the band’s 10th record is a classic Travis cut – laced with memorable jaunty hooks (new single Bus) and gentle, melodic, introspection (the falsetto of Live It all Again), Healy turning his pen to everything from a lament to his favourite boozer in New York (Raze The Bar) and the blight of social media influencers (I Hope That You Spontaneously Combust) to a toxic relationship (Gaslight) and a song that he started writing in 1997 and finished 27 years later (Naked In New York).

“We didn’t get the last record out of the gates properly,” says Healy. “It’s a good record but it’s overlooked. The trap doors didn’t get opened. We didn’t get to tour it because of Covid. It was very frustrating, but that’s the way it is. So this record is really important to us – we feel like we have a lot to prove. We needed to make an even better record than the last one. Also, if you’ve been around as long as we have, since 1997, people can be forgiven for writing you off. I wouldn’t blame you for writing off a band that has been around that long, but we are a really good band and, if a good band hasn’t thrown in the towel, then you should never write them off. I feel very ready. And I’ve checked the gates. They’re working.”

(Image: Steve Gullick)

Healy and bandmates Dougie Payne, Andy Dunlop and Neil Primrose have road tested the songs on tour with The Killers, including three nights at The Hydro in Glasgow last week. “It’s been brilliant to be on the road with them. Before the tour, I sent Brandon a message saying: ‘You know we’re going to blow you off the stage every night?’ and he replied: ‘I’m perfectly aware of that’,” says Healy, laughing. “The Killers go like a rocket. We’re like a submarine. We go underwater and we’ll do things down there that you’re not sure of.”

The band will return to the Hydro on December 21, supported by Hamish Hawk, as part of a world tour in support of the new record, and in celebration of hits like Driftwood, Flowers In The Window and Selfish Jean that have sustained three-decades of popularity. Voices from other bands aren’t the only thing Travis have borrowed for their new album. Their frontman has been at Annie Lennox’s early-Eurythmics hair dye, too. “It’s a light for attracting attention to this record,” says Healy, smiling. “And I have never had more attention in my life. It’s the hair equivalent of driving a VW campervan. I was walking around Dublin the other day after opening for The Killers and had people shouting off the open top bus tour who had been at the gig.

“I was in a bar in New York with my new other half and a woman in her 80s came up to me, left a postcard on the table from the friend she’d been in with, on which she’d written ‘Your hair is beautiful’ with all these smiley faces. I had been worrying it was too much. This is an important record for the band so I want to look the part. And the band can find me in a crowded airport very easily, which is a bonus.” 

Travis’ new album LA Times is out on July 12. New single Bus, is out now. Travis play OVO Hydro on 21 December. BBC Scotland documentary Travis: The Man Who will be broadcast on July 16 on BBC Radio Scotland.