Given this, Terry isn’t intimidated by much of anything. But From the Vanishing Point, RWB’s ninth album, transcended Terry’s previous experiences. The just-released album represents the band’s debut for an actual label.
“We signed with Fanatic (Records, distributed by EMI/Caroline) in spring 2010 and they re-released our last record, These Magnificent Miles,” the vocalist/guitarist says from RWB’s Cleveland tour stop. “This is the first album we’ve made with Fanatic from scratch.”
The reissue of These Magnificent Miles created a few trickle-down effects — first and foremost, it interrupted RWB’s steady release schedule.
“We signed with Fanatic and our fans were expecting something new,” Terry says. “We had to shine them on for another year. The label said, ‘The rest of the country has to hear (These Magnificent Miles) first.’ ”
While Fanatic worked Miles to an audience unfamiliar with the Columbus-based quintet, RWB used the holding pattern to hone Vanishing Point.
“We set aside time for pre-production and gave ourselves time to work on the songs, so it was a little different from our previous records,” Terry says. “To be able to take time was a real treat.”
Terry’s primary concern was fostering the band’s creative evolution while reassuring longtime fans that Red Wanting Blue (Terry, bassist/vocalist Mark McCullough, guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Greg Rahm, guitarist/vocalist Eric Hall and drummer/percussionist Dean Anshutz) hadn’t altered their sound for a label deal.
“To our fans, there’s a certain idea of what’s going to happen now that we’ve signed to a label,” Terry says.
“I wanted to make sure we were remaining true to what Red Wanting Blue has been historically, as we develop and try to explore new musical territory.”
The big departure on Vanishing Point is RWB’s methodology for developing songs. Given their independent and somewhat cultish reputation, RWB enjoyed a casual transparency while writing and often road-tested new material before taking it into the studio. With These Magnificent Miles, they learned the downside of that practice.
“Fans really loved the album but they said, ‘We’ve heard some of this stuff over the years. I wish there was more to discover,’ ” Terry says. “We wanted to keep a lot of this music close to our chest. The way technology is these days, I’ve played a song for the first time, no one’s ever heard it, and the next day somebody knows the words already because they saw it on YouTube. You’ve got to be cloak and dagger about what you let people hear.”
Red Wanting Blue’s long history was potentially both a benefit and a detriment. Terry first assembled Red Wanting Blue while a student at Ohio University in 1996. Three years later, he moved the band from Athens to Columbus where they’ve remained ever since. Over the years, RWB’s reputation as an adrenalized, compelling live act has grown while they’ve endured the natural growing pains and rotating personnel that afflict most bands.
“It takes a long time to find your sound and sometimes to let that sound find you,” Terry says. “You’re young and you don’t know shit … all you know is you want to play music and you love it. As much as you like to think you’re going to make a dent in the world, the world dents you right back and a lot harder.”
In 2007, RWB was named one of the country’s best independent bands by Alternative Addiction. The following year saw the release of These Magnificent Miles, the recording and touring of which was filmed by New York’s Ken Davenport, a noted Broadway and Off-Broadway theatre producer, for the film These Magnificent Miles: On the Road with Red Wanting Blue.
The band’s long timeline and fervent fan base should have been irresistible to labels, but they avoided RWB for a bafflingly long stretch.
“The label was nervous right away about, ‘Are your fans going to hate Fanatic because you’re not this mom and pop thing?’ ” Terry says. “Fortunately, our fans are like, ‘We want this band to be seen and heard.’ ”
Reaction to From the Vanishing Point from passionately zealous fans, new listeners and critics has been overwhelmingly positive, with tracks like “Audition,” “Walking Shoes” and “White Snow” receiving nationwide airplay since being issued late last year. Last October, to satiate anxious fans, the band leaked a track a day from Vanishing Point, followed by the full album stream and a special preview concert for hometown followers. RWB performed the entire album at Columbus’ premiere venue and site of some of the band’s biggest shows, Newport Music Hall. For all the times the band has played in Columbus — or anywhere, for that matter — previewing its label debut was nerve wracking.
“It was the first time our band had done ‘An Evening With ...’ (type of show) at the Newport and we were like, ‘We’re actually going to play all this music that people don’t know yet and then we’re going to take a break?’ ” Terry says with a laugh. “Oh my God! Were people going to leave? Would they be upset? But we’d released a new song every day leading up to the show, so people would have a chance to acclimate themselves to the music. Still, I never expected so many people to know all the words. It was an awesome feeling.” ©
RED WANTING BLUE performs at Jefferson Hall on Tuesday with Green Light Morning.