A journey across the globe: that is the listening experience of the band Traveler which will be playing at the Coconino Center for the Arts on February 25.
Led by artist and violinist Scott Jeffers, who describes their sound as “world fusion,” Traveler draws on instruments and sounds from around the world, from Morocco to India, Scotland to Turkey. In his compositions, Jeffers fuses the cultural sounds of the places he visits, creating melodies that may be as equally fit for the Scottish moors, blowing sand dunes or an American metal show.
“I'm pretty sure when they go away from our show, most people are like, ‘Wow, yeah, that's unique.’ And of course, hopefully they'll also be saying, ‘Wow, that was great,’” Jeffers said.
Exposing western ears, including his own, to music from around the world has been the goal of Jeffers and Traveler for over a decade. The Arizona local writes all of his music while on the road as he travels the world, becoming inspired by the landscapes of distant lands and the cultures and music he experiences there.
People are also reading…
“That's where I find like, the most inspiration for composition is when I'm in some awesome place or experiencing some cool stuff,” Jeffers said. “I take my violin everywhere. So if I'm on a camel in the desert, I still have my violin on my back.”
Jeffers said, for him, there’s simply no better way to write, finding inspiration in every corner of his near annual travels.
“You get off the camel and you're sitting on sand dunes and your violin is right there. So you're kind of inspired by the vision you're seeing: this ocean of sand and the moon rising,” Jeffers said.
Traveler’s last album, “Kings of India,” released in 2020, came after a 2019 trip to India but carries the influences of previous travels throughout his life. That trip was particularly notable for him, Jeffers said. It was the first time he had been to India after long wanting to visit and explore the nation, and Jeffers said it was particularly inspiring.
The title song came from an experience he had taking part in an elephant festival in southern India along his journey.
“It was really a deeply rooted festival, and there were 100 elephants. So it was pretty amazing and inspiring, so that's what that whole song ‘Kings of India’ and that album was named after, that festival,” Jeffers said.
Other than family road trips, Jeffers said he didn’t travel too much as a child, but he was naturally drawn to world music. Growing up in Tucson with a father who played the violin and a Lebanese mother listening to the music of the old world.
Other sounds he discovered for himself only later, but Jeffers said he can’t help but wonder if there is something deeper there as well. In particular, Jeffers said he discovered a passion for Scottish and Celtic music. Those Scottish sounds are something he often finds himself coming back to, and that’s something he can’t help but analyze.
“Even though we have Scottish ancestry on my dad's side, we never celebrated it really. But when I heard Celtic music for the first time, I found myself drawn to it so strongly, you know, not even knowing that was part of my roots,” Jeffers said. “So I got to think that it's something deeper, something implanted. As an artist, you look at these things; possibly past lives or just the DNA of your whole, your whole ancestry.”
Jeffers said his first international trip came when about 20 years ago when he became infatuated with the music of Greece.
“I went to Greece for a month, and I had nothing. I didn't know anybody you know, I just, I just got there and wandered, basically. And I found so much inspiration, I enjoyed it so much that I just continued that every year,” Jeffers said.
Since then, Jeffers has visited countless counties, largely in Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa. Most recently, Jeffers said he made a visit to Ecuador where he too gathered inspiration and wrote music.
Just as Traveler seeks to expose new advances to world music locally, Jeffers said they also hope to introduce artists to new audiences as well. Jeffers said he sometimes meets local artists at shows they play across the world, or along his travels, and when possible, invites them to play alongside Traveler at their shows.
“We make friends with these musicians and then bring them with us to different shows and on stages, wherever we might play,” Jeffers said. “And they would bring more of that authentic […] sound and infused in with our sound; it just makes for a nice melting pot.”
Even after more than two decades of traveling and creating world fusion music, Jeffers said he never worries about running out of inspiration.
“You just feel the pull to go somewhere,” Jeffers said. “And then while you're there, just inspiration starts to flow, everywhere, and every new sound you hear inspires itself into a song somehow. So, I think that's where I'm kind of lucky, because I think I have endless amounts of fuel to build on as far as song composition of unique ways.”
Traveler will be playing at the Coconino Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m. on February 25. For tickets, visit coconinoarts.org.