Travis star swaps guitar for paintbrush to illustrate children’s book during lockdown

The Man Who was behind some of the biggest guitar licks in rock has swapped his guitar for a paintbrush.

Andy Dunlop from Travis, whose hits include Why Does It Always Rain on Me?, Driftwood and Flowers in the Window, has illustrated a children’s book.

With Brit Awards, chart-topping albums and world tours under his belt, the guitarist said seeing his illustrations published moved him more than anything he’d done in music.

He said: “I got the book through a couple of days ago and when I saw it I almost burst into tears.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of anything I’ve done because it’s so outside my comfort zone. At every point I had no idea whether I could actually do it.”

Travis (L-R) Neil Primrose Fran Healy, Andy Dunlop, Dougie Payne
Travis (L-R) Neil Primrose Fran Healy, Andy Dunlop, Dougie Payne

With Travis forced off the road during the pandemic, Andy agreed to illustrate The Adventures of Chef Animo and Granny Vegano, a travel and vegan cookery book for children.

The former art student said: “The story is written by a GP called Hayley Tait, whose daughter was in my son’s class at school. She knew I painted and she’d been wanting to do this book, based on her travels, for ages.

“When she asked if I’d illustrate it, I said yes, and months passed. Then when she told me she was ready to do the illustrations, I was thinking, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t illustrate a kids book’. But by that point it was too late to back out.

The Adventures of Chef Animo and Granny Vegano by Travis guitarist Andy Dunlop
The Adventures of Chef Animo and Granny Vegano by Travis guitarist Andy Dunlop

“I just had to do it. I just had to keep going. And in the end, it was an amazing experience.”

Andy, now 49, who admits he was influenced by Quentin Blake’s illustrations for the Roald Dahl books, was studying jewellery-making and silversmithing at Glasgow School of Art when he met Fran Healy, Dougie Payne and Neil Primrose and they later formed Travis.

The indie rock group hit the big time with their second album The Man Who, which was the biggest-selling album of 1999.

Their worldwide success came when they took to the stage at the Glastonbury Festival that year with the track Why Does It Always Rain on Me? and it began to rain as soon as the first line was sung.

Illustrations from The Adventures of Chef Animo and Granny Vegano by Travis guitarist Andy Dunlop
Illustrations from The Adventures of Chef Animo and Granny Vegano by Travis guitarist Andy Dunlop

The children’s book – the first in a series – follows the adventures of the two characters as they traverse the globe, meeting animals and learning about other cultures’ food. It includes recipes for kids to try at home.

Andy said: “It’s entertaining and informative. I’m not vegan, so it’s been interesting for me to learn, too.”

This isn’t the first time Andy’s artistic talent has been picked up.

A portrait of former US president Donald Trump as a clown was used as a stage backdrop by Barbara Streisand to poke fun at the POTUS at one of her concerts at Madison Square Gardens in New York.

It’s one in a series of political-themed portraits Andy has painted, including David Cameron and Boris Johnson under the pseudonym Elfi. He even auctioned one of Jeremy Corbyn as Santa to raise money for Shelter in Liverpool, where he now lives.

Illustrating books isn’t the only new territory the guitarist has broken into since the pandemic began.

He’s also started teaching after being approached to support the next generation of songwriters and musicians at Liverpool Media Academy.

Andy joked that some of the students are too young to remember Travis. He said: “They’ll say, ‘My dad says you guys did that song about the rain . . .’

“We did a songwriting class this week about writing Christmas songs. I told them that technically I’ve had a Christmas number one because I played the instruments on Band Aid 20. That meant I was a question on Pointless once, and nobody knew who I was.

“There’s the two sides to the rock star coin – ego, and shattered ego. I miss playing live but I’m getting that adrenaline rush from doing things I wouldn’t normally do.”

Travis are hoping to get back on the road next year, to belatedly celebrate the 20th anniversary of their No1 album The Invisible Band.

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