“We played Glastonbury and it rained and it changed the whole course of our lives”: Travis frontman Fran Healy on the making of their classic hit Why Does It Always Rain On Me?

Travis in 1999
(Image credit: Mick Hutson/Redferns)

With their 1999 record The Man Who, Travis became one of the UK’s biggest bands. Much of that was down to their indelible singalong Why Does It Always Rain On Me?, which became one of those songs that was popping up everywhere at the height of its popularity. It was on the radio, in pubs, playing on the jukebox in the Rovers Return, in your uncle’s car - wherever you were, you bumped into Why Does It Always Rain On Me?. And yet, in a recent interview with this writer for The New Cue, Travis frontman Fran Healy said the song’s success was far from assured. At the time of recording it, the Scottish quartet weren’t even sure if it would be a single. Healy went into the details about the creation of their monster hit.

“It was never really going to be a single,” he began, explaining that the majority of the group’s hopes were pinned on previous two singles Writing To Reach You and Driftwood. “I had to have this discussion with Andy MacDonald [Travis’ label boss] because it just wasn’t the obvious single at the time. Everyone was thinking Writing To Reach You and Driftwood, ‘these are big songs!’, so we put Writing To Reach You out first and it did OK, then Driftwood came out and did a bit better and then it was the matter of the third single. I remember sitting in Andy’s office and my argument was, ‘It’s summer, it’s Britain, it’s gonna rain, Wimbledon is gonna be on, let’s pitch it to Wimbledon’. We were desperate! Eventually, Andy was like, ‘Great, we’ll do it’ and we had to do an edit because it’s quite a long song on the album so we shortened it. We sent Dylan, our plugger, off to all the radio stations with it and then Wimbledon came and it didn’t rain, we were like, ‘We’re fucked!’.”

The song’s big breakthrough, Healy recalled, came later that month when they played a suitably soaked set at Worthy Farm. “We played Glastonbury and it rained and it changed the whole course of our lives forever. The following year, everyone knew it. We headlined Glastonbury the next year! That’s how massive that song got, it was bonkers. It’s one of those songs that hit a nerve and you never know when that’s going to happen. Everyone in the music business likes to be a bit arrogant and say, ‘Well, I knew’ but you never know.”

Healy recalled that the track had its origins in a winter holiday the frontman took to Israel to seek out a bit of a heat and sun in the dark months. It rained the whole time. “I sat in the room miserable and wrote that little bit, “Why does it always rain on me?”, to cheer myself up,” he said. “I thought, ‘That’s quite good’, but it sounded like a verse, it didn’t sound like a chorus. Three months later I wrote the, ‘I can’t sleep tonight’ bit and I was like, ‘Well that definitely sounds like a verse’ and I remembered I’d written something that might click with it and went through my brain and found it and stuck it on the end. It was never a slam dunk. Driftwood, we were like, ‘This is mega, this is massive!’. But this one took a while to poke its way out of the shell.”

As for the fact it became unavoidable, Healy doesn’t disagree. Once, he was even forced to perform it on the karaoke machine by a Glasgow pub’s landlord. The manager was like, ‘Wee man, go and sing your song, it’s on the karaoke machine’. I’m like, ‘Really?’. He was like, ‘Go on!’, so he opens up the karaoke machine in the middle of the day and all the old ladies would come in for their lunch cos it was a cheap, good bargain lunch, so you’d get the purple rinse brigade in,” he ;aughed. “I sung Why Does It Always Rain On Me? and at the end of it, I put the mic down and I was walking through the chairs towards the band and this wee woman reached out and she was like, ‘Son, you’re awfully good at that, that sounded exactly like it does on the radio’. I was like, ‘Thanks a lot!’.”

Watch Travis perform their breakthrough rendition of Why Does It Always Rain On Me? at Glastonbury 1999 below: 

Travis - Why Does It Always Rain On Me? (Live at Glastonbury '99) - YouTube Travis - Why Does It Always Rain On Me? (Live at Glastonbury '99) - YouTube
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Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.