Gym Class Heroes’ lead singer, Travis McCoy, shares his experience spreading HIV/AIDS awareness in three countries and meeting inspirational people along the way.
Tell us about the time touring with Staying Alive Foundation. How did the tour affect you personally?
It was a crazy! Twelve countries, ten flights, and ZERO time to rest. But when you are part of such an amazing and important journey, the time to sleep has to come last.
It definitely made me think in ways I never had, I came back with a whole new perspective – about a lot of things. I was out of my comfort zone to say the least, but sometimes you need to do that in order to grow as a person.
And to be able to return home and be able to share my stories and what I saw, and hopefully be able to affect other people is something that I feel very grateful for.
Which countries did you visit while touring with Staying Alive Foundation and who did you meet?
I visited South Africa and there met a grantee named Bulelani who is a filmmaker and educates his community about HIV and AIDS and helps get the dialogue going about issues that aren’t always easy to talk about.
In the Phillipines I met a great guy named Alex, who’s group Baluti runs peer educating classes in very impoverished communities. The teachers were the same ages as the students, which was incredible to see. They ranged from 6-18.
Starting sex education that early is something very interesting to consider, I know I wasn’t taught anything ’til I was much older than 6. I know it’s a bit controversial or a topic, but within reason, I think it could be a positive thing
In India, I met Mandakini, and don’t let her 4’11” stature fool you, she was one of the most powerful and inspiring women I have ever come in contact with. She has had an incredibly tough life, and is doing her part to overcome her battles, and is educating others to help reduce the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS.
Do you think that youths today are aware of how serious HIV/AIDS is?
Probably not as much as they should. It was a real hot button topic back in the 80s and 90s, and I feel like the media has lost sight of it, and is focusing on other issues like the environment, the economy and terrorism. All of those are obviously extremely important, but we can’t just push everything else to the side.
How do you think we can get more youngsters to be aware of HIV/AIDS and its effects?
I saw becoming involved with Staying Alive as an opportunity for me to do exactly that. Musicians, actors and other celebrities can get the youth to watch, listen and wear certain things. The youth have their eyes peeled to see what’s next and what they should be doing etc etc. So why not use that to do something positive and potentially get those kids thinking about something they might not ever take two seconds to stop and realize?
How was the experience meeting the HIV/AIDS activists along the way?
It was inspiring and an honor.
What did you learn from them?
That anybody can make a change, no matter who you are or what resources you have. If something is important enough to you, and you believe in it, it can happen.
How did you start working on the One at a Time track?
I started while I was on the trip. I’d jot down lyrics or ideas everyday, I recorded sounds on my Tascam and brought all of those home with me back to Miami. I jumped into the studio with a couple of my producer friends- Phil and Bruno- The Smeezingtons, and we put the track together, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
Where did you get the inspiration from?
From the trip of course. All the people I met, things I saw, it all stuck with me, and I hope the spirit of that came out in the song.
How long did it take for you to work on the track?
After having it written we spent two days finishing the music and cutting vocals.
What is the message behind One at a Time?
You can sit at home and live in your bubble, and that’s well and fine, but why wouldn’t you want to make a difference. If we all work together and see the task at hand, we can all make a change for the better.
The battle against HIV and AIDS still rages on in 2009, and we can’t pretend that it’s not there. Only working together we can affect one life at a time just like the Staying Alive grantees do in order to make a difference.
What will the audience get to see in Travis McCoy’s Unbeaten Track?
The most amazing journey I’ve ever been on, and feel lucky to be a part of! They’ll see some powerful moement, beautiful people and hopefully learn from it. They also see that this epidemic is still very serious to this day, and we cannot take it lightly.
What do you hope people would learn from your song and documentary?
That they can do their part as well. Talk to their friends, have an open dialouge and be smart about your decisions. We can all do our part.