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Interview: The real Travie McCoy comes out at the top of Willis Tower

Luis Gomez

About Last Night

9:07 AM CDT, May 15, 2010

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Travie McCoy, the heavily pierced and tattooed frontman for Gym Class Heroes, broke the silence on the elevator ride to Willis Tower’s 103rd floor on Saturday right around the 500-foot mark.

“Oh …” said McCoy, plugging his popped ears with his fingers. “I can feel it in my eyes.”

Some on the crammed elevator laughed. Others were probably too busy trying to figure out who McCoy was — or maybe which NBA team he plays for.

“I get that all the time,” said the 6-foot-5 singer-rapper once we arrived at our destination, the Skydeck, later adding “People say I look like that Noah dude (Joakim Noah of the Bulls).”

After taking in the unique view of the city and lake, McCoy made his way to The Ledge, the glass box that extends 4.3 feet out from Willis Tower’s walls. He was apprehensive at first, but eventually put his left foot on the glass floor, followed, slowly, by his right foot.

“Oh (shoot),” he groaned, this time finishing his sentence. “This ain’t right.”

McCoy claimed his heart was beating faster than normal, but that didn't stop him from leaning with his back against the wall ("This is like that trust fall," he said).

It was easy to tell the exact moment he became accustomed to looking down 1,353 feet because there was a dance involved: Think Michael Jackson’s kick and crotch grab.

On June 8, McCoy will release his first solo album, “Lazarus.” He called touring without Gym Class Heroes “awkward” (McCoy performed at Charter One Pavilion later that night) and compared it to starting all over. Still, he insisted Gym Class Heroes, known for its hit “Cupid’s Chokehold,” hasn’t broken up and is “12 demos deep” into its next record.

As for his solo album’s sound, it has a radio-friendly, summer feel — especially his single “Billionaire” with Bruno Mars, currently No. 22 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. “Lazarus” originally had a darker tone, due in part to his break-up with “I Kissed a Girl” singer Katy Perry, but McCoy decided to scrap most of the heavy songs.

“I don’t want to make anyone sad right now,” McCoy said. “People are losing their jobs. If anything, I want this to be an escape from that.”

McCoy’s visit to The Ledge ended with him posing for the Skydeck camera, which makes photos available for sale. He told a female friend she should do the same, but she initially declined out of fear of stepping onto the glass box.

“Get one,” he said, guiding her onto The Ledge. “You only live once.”

Twitter @aboutluisgomez