Earlier this year, GYM CLASS HEROES frontman TRAVIS McCOY traveled to South Africa, the Philippines and India as an ambassador for MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation–an organization that promotes awareness and prevention of global HIV and AIDS. When McCoy returned in July, we brought you an exclusive interview about the trip and how it impacted his life. Four months later, the foundation is gearing up to release the a documentary about McCoy’s trip as well as a single, “One At A Time,” that McCoy wrote for the cause. The film and song will be released on Dec. 1–World Aids Day–with all proceeds of the track going to the foundation.

INTERVIEW: Lucy Albers

What was the writing process like for “One At A Time”?

There was a lot, a lot, a lot of pressure. I had to not only speak for the charity, but speak for the three great people that I met, too. I also had to make it not sound too preachy and keep the corny and the cheesy factors to a minimum. When you’re going in to write a pop song, you want it to appeal to a wide variety of people, and you want it to keep its integrity and not come across as too cheesy. But I think I did well, and I’m very proud of it.

Would you say it was more difficult than writing for Gym Class Heroes?

I think I put a lot of myself into anything I write. But this wasn’t just for me; I had to be selfless. At the same time, though, you want to put your stamp on it and make sure it represents you as an artist. So there are a lot of things that came in to play when approaching the song, but I think that it kind of wrote itself in a sense. It just started coming out.

Who did you work with on the track?

I worked with [producers] the Smeezingtons. I had actually worked with them on my solo record, so it wasn’t like I was going into the studio with producers I’d never worked with before. We had an established relationship, so it was fun. They kind of got what I was going for, and they got to see the documentary and get a sense of what I got to see and where I was coming from. I think we really tackled it.

How involved were you in the creation of the documentary?

I was pretty hands on. I mean, I couldn’t be in London when they were chopping it up, but every time they had an edit, they’d send it to me and I’d send back notes. I had a good sense of if I thought something was missing or if something was compelling and needed to be in there. I made sure they went back and made it happen.

Have you stayed in touch with the people you met on your trip?

What’s crazy is that we premiered the song and had a fundraiser in London and they surprised me and actually flew out Bulelani [Mvotho], who is the grantee that I met in South Africa. We hit it off from the start. I thought the dude was such an inspiration and had such a passion for what he was doing; it’s something that will stay with me forever and will be in everything that I do. To see him come around the corner and not have any idea that he was coming at all, I just broke down in tears and gave him the biggest hug ever. It was an intense moment.

I’ve stayed up-to-date with everyone through Georgia [Arnold, founder of Staying Alive]. It’s pretty tough because a lot of the grantees come from very impoverished communities, so a lot of them don’t have access to internet and what not. So it’s hard to stay in touch with Alex, who is from the Philippines, and Mandakini, who is from India. But Georgia keeps me updated, especially with what happened with the flooding in the Philippines. I was scared sick worried about Alex and all the people there, but I got good news that no one I had met was hurt and everybody was okay.

Now that you’ve been back in the States for more than four months, how does the trip still impact your everyday life?

First and foremost, since I got back, the trip itself just made me appreciate the smaller things. I wake up with a sense of, “Wow, I’m alive and I’m breathing.” I feel like a completely new dude since the trip.

Has the trip and being involved with the foundation opened your eyes to what others are doing for the same cause?

For sure. I’ve met a few people in Europe as well as in the U.S. who are doing just as much as the grantees in other countries are doing. It’s cool to know that there are people at home who are just as up for the fight as the grantees are.

Are you happy with the end result of everything?

I’m elated with how things turned out. I’m more anxious with how the documentary is going to be received and how people will receive the song and all that. I hope people download the song as many times as they can, and watch the documentary. I hope everyone gets something out of it. Check out the Staying Alive website to see what you can do. We all spend a decent amount of time on the internet, so you can take five or 10 minutes to check out the site to see what you can do from the comfort of your home. alt

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