Louis Langrée is well aware of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's rich history. The CSO's freshly minted music director also knows part of that history includes the nurturing of contemporary composers and their often unconventional works.
Enter MusicNOW, Bryce Dessner's 9-year-old festival of adventurous sounds. (Read our conversation with Dessner here.) This year's sonic extravaganza includes the CSO's take on new pieces by such esteemed composers as Nico Muhly and David Lang, as well as the title work from Dessner's new Classical album, St. Carolyn by the Sea.
CityBeat recently connected with the genial Langrée — who spoke in self-described "primitive" English by phone from Paris — to discuss the CSO's collaboration with MusicNOW.
CityBeat: Before we get into MusicNOW, I'm curious about your initial impressions of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Why were you interested in coming on as music director?
Louis Langrée: The fame the orchestra is really big. Everybody knows it's a major orchestra. But then making music with them was a completely different experience because, yes, they have the qualities of all major American orchestras — precision, clarity of the attack of the situation. But they have also from their heritage, in their DNA, this German conception of sound, that you build the sound from the base of the harmony. That means the density of the sound is something absolutely remarkable, and that's rare in the United States. I think it has to do with the tradition, the roots, of this orchestra and also, of course, about the quality and the spirit of the musicians, which is really wonderful.
CB: Why were you interested in collaborating with MusicNOW and taking on a festival of contemporary music?
LL: One of the strengths of the orchestra is to have supported and commissioned and performed contemporary music from their very early age. Having given the American premiere Mahler Third, Mahler Fifth, Stravinsky coming to Cincinnati before he was considered a giant, having premiered (Aaron Copland's ) "Lincoln Portrait," having commissioned (Copland's) "Fanfare for a Common Man" and many other pieces and many more recent pieces. That's why I wanted to open my tenure as music director with eighth blackbird and Jennifer Higdon concerto piece. It shows that we should support, play, commission and perform contemporary music — and, of course, contemporary American music.
CB: What was it like collaborating with Bryce?
LL: Meeting Bryce was a wonderful. His French is perfect. Especially compared to my primitive English. (Laughs). I like his attitude in making music and experimentation. And any strong institution should be also a place of experimentation. Music is not something you put in a museum. It's alive. And then we should perform contemporary music like Classical music and perform Beethoven music, not forgetting that he only composed contemporary music. All the composers — Mozart, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Bartok — composed contemporary music, so we have to continue it. He's very focused and concentrated, but on the other hand the spectrum was quite bright. I think we have arrived on wonderful programs — very challenging, but very exciting.
CB: What makes him unique as a composer?
LL: He knows how to make an orchestra sound. It's a very clear and precise writing but at the same time there is so much flexibility in the variations of colors written and the flow of the music. It's always quite exciting to study a piece and hear it. Having the privilege of working with the composer is something wonderful because there are so many questions I would like to ask of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, and of course it's impossible. So being able to ask the composer and to hear his answers is just wonderful.
Bryce is someone who has great harmonic taste, and I think for the orchestra it's wonderful because you can express yourself much easier. I think he's very much like his music — a very welcoming man, a very open, very luminous person. I see that in his music, which is not always the case with composers. With him, I get the feeling he's one with his music.
CB: How has the orchestra responded to playing these new, sometimes challenging pieces?
LL: Any new piece you don't know what to expect. What I've found is that these musicians are very open-minded, they are very generous and positive in their attitude and are eager to try any new experience. It's a privilege to perform these two concerts of new music, but it's also very challenging, so you have to be very practical.
CB: And what's the experience been like for you?
LL: It's a great responsibility when you conduct a piece, but it's also a great privilege that today's major American composers are willing to write for us. To be sharing this experiment and experience in concert, to be a part of MusicNOW, is really something beautiful.
MusicNOW's 2014 festival begins tonight and continues tomorrow. Visit musicnowfestival.org for tickets and full programming details.
CityBeat met with drummer and instrumentalist Josiah Wolf (Yoni’s brother) at The Comet and spoke to him about Cincinnati, his new projects, upcoming shows and WHY?’s latest albums.
CityBeat: Cincinnati is your hometown. You and Yoni grew up here?
Josiah Wolf: I was born in Philadelphia but came here when I was, like, two. So yeah, I grew up here. I lived here all of my formative years…left when I was around 21.
CB: I saw that WHY? is nominated for the “Indie/Alternative” category for the Jan. 26 17th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (CEAs). How does it feel to be nominated?
JW: I don’t ever expect to win those things, but it’s nice that we’re on the radar of the city. We were nominated last year too and went down to The Madison. I think [the CEAs] have gotten bigger. It’s cool — it’s kind of a way of getting the music community and art community together.
CB: Do you interact with some of the local bands here?
JW: Uh, never, no. [Laughs] Just kidding. Yeah, I’ve met some good friends here and some good bands here. I’ve met a lot of people through WHY?’s other drummer Ben Sloan — a lot of his friends that he went to school with. They have a collective, The Marburg Collective, and they play at The Comet every Monday.
CB: Aside from WHY?, I know you’ve been working on some other projects, such as Dream Tiger with your wife, Liz. Can you tell me about that?
JW: I’m doing stuff for myself right now that is only in infancy. Some of that might be music I release myself or I might collaborate with Liz on it. Some of it might become WHY? songs. I have a lot of tracks that are in their beginning stages.
CB: So with WHY?, do the members work on music individually and then come together?
JW: Yeah, we do that a lot of the time. Every record is different, though. Like with the last record, Mumps, Etc., Yoni worked on almost all of that by himself. With the Golden Ticket EP, I did all of the music on that. Yoni wrote the songs on the piano and then he sent me the tracks and I put music around it.
CB: How is it different to do your own stuff versus stuff for WHY? or Dream Tiger?
JW: WHY? is kind of Yoni’s band in a way even though we’ve had times of collaboration. It’s my band also but he’s the main guy. Dream Tiger is Liz’s band. [Laughs] In both bands, I kind of take a side role. The difference is working with my brother versus working with my wife. They’re different but both are good in my life. Lately, I enjoy working by myself in a way, as far as coming up with ideas.
CB: You’ll be playing at The Comet on New Years Eve with WHY? for your last show of the year. How do you feel about that?
JW: I love The Comet. It’ll be a fun, low pressure show for us. I’m excited about it. I’d say that intimate shows [are] my preference.
CB: Which of your albums is the band’s favorite to perform? I know at the Fountain Square show this summer, you guys played a lot from Alopecia, which is one of my favorite albums. How do you choose which albums to play?
JW: Right now we’re focusing on the new record, Mumps, Etc. We do most songs from that but, yeah, we do a lot from Alopecia. Some Elephant Eyelash. We don’t really do much Eskimo Snow right now. The Alopecia songs do lend themselves to the live performances better than some of the other ones — they are more exciting songs in a way. For some reason, the Eskimo Snow songs are a little more difficult to pull off live [but] we do a couple.
CB: So Mumps, Etc. came out last year after a three-year break. How would you say the band’s sound has evolved in that latest album? And since then?
JW: That record was mostly Yoni as far as the arrangements go. He didn’t play a lot on it but the rest of us got the parts he arranged and learned them and embellished them a bit. The goal was to get a very clean, large sounding record with minimal instrumentation — not too cluttered. I think we did pretty good with that. When I listen back to the instrumentals, it’s clean, and that’s what we were going for. Nowadays, the newer stuff that we’re working towards is a little more homemade — a little more experimental. We’re trying to get back to some of that stuff and get away from being in a big studio. Next up, we’re going to record more at my house in my basement studio.
CB: And then there’s the September EP Golden Tickets from this year on the Joyful Noise label. It is a described as “a collection of personalized ‘theme songs’ for and about seven specific WHY? fans who were Internet stalked.” Can you tell me a little bit more about that project?
JW: It first came about through our web store three years ago, I believe, right around this time. We had this one t-shirt that was a misprint. All of the other shirts had a certain color but one shirt was gold. It was like a test print. Somehow we came up with this idea: How about we put up a contest online and say whoever gets the golden shirt will have a song written about them. And the first guy who bought the shirt — it was Hunter Van Brocklin, the guy — was sent the shirt and we wrote a song about him. That’s how it started. From there, we did another merch contest and then we kind of got away from the merch contests and did more of a charity after the Japan [tsunami]. We did an auction where whoever gave the most to the benefit got the song written about them that month — that was the golden ticket. So every month, it became a little different.
CB: When the fans found out about their “theme songs,” how did they react? Creeped out? Flattered? Shocked?
JW: Everybody liked it! At least nobody expressed a [creeped out] sentiment. Maybe some people were creeped out [Laughs], but people seemed to like it a lot. People wrote us about it. We were lucky; all of the people we selected were really cool people. If you’re going to put your information out there on social media, we can write a song about it. It’s all public information. We had a good time doing it. Yoni would send me the tracks and I would make the music around it. It was just a fun little project.
Check out WHY?’s website for more information about the band.
It was sometime back in September that I stumbled upon the story of Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry, and her piece in The Guardian about the unfortunate realities she faced as a female musician. Only days later, I heard the stories of classical composers wearing their own diadems of misogyny. All these forces were crumbling away at what I once believed to be the most progressive industry we had at our hands.
With such revelations came a personal desire
for truth at a closer proximity. I honed in my lens and turned it on the state
of our own music scene, and the circumstances of female musicians in the Queen
I may have stumbled a bit the first time I saw Molly Sullivan perform. It could have been the champagne. It could have been the wine. It could have been the sheer, uprooting shock of such a sneakily sultry voice filling all the quiet corners of a room.
It was 2011 and the setting was a birthday party at the neo-historic Marburg Hotel, and local heroes Shadowraptr had just finished their set in the basement — a lush and operatic performance of their usual brand of psychedelic Prog-Rock, with Jazz sensibility. They didn’t disappoint with an expectedly raucous presentation, and we didn’t back down as an ever energetic crowd. It was in a quiet aftermath, among friends and fellows just as imbibed as our beer-soaked shirts, that I wove my way through a hallway maze and sauntered into a living room with an organ against its back wall. At its helm sat Molly Sullivan.
As she would come to tell me nearly three years later, “Going back to when I first started playing out as a singer songwriter, I always felt this extreme pressure and insecurity of being a female musician…whose music was tending to be more on the delicate side of things, an emotionally driven side of things. It required a little stillness from the crowd.”
But back looking back on that night in March 2011, stillness was inevitable. Warm from wine and an approaching spring, the handful of us that sat in the living room did so with an active passivity. But even as heads lolled against neighbors’ shoulders or against the walls at our backs, there was an intensity in every pair of eyes that I glanced into; all were watching, focused, as Molly struck a chord and then another, taking us through the coziest part of the evening with two or three ballads of life, lovelorn.
It was an intimacy that couldn’t have escaped those of us even if it had tried, and only a brief, drunken sampling of where Sullivan had started her story, rising to the ranks of the recognized, respected and regaled. Before that, she was front woman for the electronically infused No No Knots and a few months after that, she would play out as a solo artist with a backing band, making a stop at The Heights Music Festival and a New Year’s Eve show at the Southgate House Revival in 2012, before a brief hiatus kept her choruses hushed.
Sullivan admits that a lot of the anxious cogs of her earlier years were weighed on heavily by being a female musician in a primarily male-dominated scene.
“I feel like it’s a lot
easier for men as artists,” Sullivan Says, “generally, because you have the
potential to be the heartthrob, and also it’s not necessarily a sissying thing
to go to for a guy. So I feel like there’s more of an audience inherently built
In the later months of 2013, however, she re-emerged, armed with a loop-accentuated sound and a solo confidence that she speaks fondly of. Crafting songs, sonically clad with vocal layering and solid to the string guitar work, Sullivan took her one-woman symphony on the Cincinnati circuit, to high acclaim — winning the solo artist bracket of FB’s local “Last Band Standing 2013” battle of the bands, and earning herself a spot on one of the participating MidPoint Music Festival stages.
Sullivan had dedicated time to playing earlier shows in spots she would normally not perform, in venues and around crowds she would normally not consider being her primary audience. She says she found new courage in taking these risks. Though initially unsure about even participating in the event at FB’s, Sullivan came to find her hesitation was unnecessary.
“I made some assumption about the clientele there – it’s kind of known to be like a bro bar,” Sullivan explains. “I was thinking, ‘They’re not gonna get my art.’ That ended up not being true.”
When asked about the
progression of her performance presentation, Sullivan says, “I think I’ve
actually come to learn — just by doing it when I’m in a bar and everybody is
silent — just like recognizing that there’s something captivating about the
simplicity and the emotion of being present with your songs. It’s a really
empowering thing when people are dedicated to listening and joining you in that
Sullivan also recognized the power of community, and the part that earnest encouragement from within the Cincinnati scene played in her career as a musician. One pillar in her support group is claimed by The Daughters of The Midwest, an ensemble stage set of premier, female musicians dominating the Cincinnati area.
“I’ve definitely kind of
geared my energy towards being supportive of other female musicians,” Sullivan
says, “supporting Kelly (Fine), Mia (Carruthers), Maya (Banatwala). And now
that I’m back out there again, because of the support that I’ve been shown.”
“I think it’s a really powerful thing to have a female musician community to support each other,” she continues. “And as soon as I got back into it, it made it a lot easier to go with the flow and be excited for people wholeheartedly.”
And looking outside of the just the female musician community, Sullivan vehemently recognizes the support of Cincinnati as a whole. Sullivan expresses an appreciation for her time playing with The No No Knots, as well as the support she received from the members of Cincinnati’s Marburg Collective. As she explains, "There’s mostly positive reinforcement floating around. There’s kind of this really solid to the earth community here that exists that wants to support."
She admits that what hides outside of Cincinnati is what scares her most. We traded stories and conversations about recent revelations of ignorance and misogynistic skeletons in some of contemporary music’s most renowned scenes, tales of classical composers saying woman have no place in conducting pieces.
Sullivan acknowledges being weary of “the whole, big wide world,” with such possibilities floating around in clouds of reality.
“Cincinnati scares me in its
own ways,” she says. “Almost what scares me more is beyond what’s Cincinnati,
just the competitiveness that can be fruitful if you’re successful in the game.
And I think part of me has been afraid of success, because with that success,
you know what’s gonna come: it’s gonna be that banter online, all those
anonymous people hemorrhaging bullshit…Why bother?”
Even with such uncertainty for outside markets, Sullivan exhibits an insight and strength that propels her forward, even more so because of her acknowledgements of the bad that can come with the good. She says she’s learning to navigate her way around “the hemorrhaging bullshit.” Her awareness of everything that can dampen an otherwise well lit stage is what makes her voice so definitive on the conversation about the regressive mentality of misogyny that can still exist in our present day music-scape.
There exists within Molly Sullivan a partnership between community appreciation and individualistic impetus. She acknowledges the power of community backing, saying it’s a “powerful thing to have a female musician community to support each other.” And she recognizes the groundwork that’s been laid out in years past.
“We’ve seen the rise of a few
female fronted bands come through,” Sullivan says, “and people are more willing
to be excited for that and support it.” (She cites the Seedy Seeds and Wussy as
pioneers for female musicianship.) Sullivan is aware of where we’ve been and
where we are. But what’s more, she’s ready to take us to where we need to be.
And she’s ready to do that with a self-made spirit.
“I’m getting to a point where I don’t give a fuck really,” Sullivan says.
It was with a new impetus
that she’s approached her musicianship. “I’ve grown stronger as a female
musician,” she says. “Now I’m just kind of like, well, if you don’t want to
listen to it then fuck you, you don’t have to be here. It took me a long time
to get to that point, and I still kind of have some insecurity about it. But
most of the time I’m just like, ‘Molly, grow a pair, get over it.’ ”
Sullivan also explains the intentionality behind her current solo-set performances. Much in the same vein of playing in new venues, under possibly uncomfortable lights, she exhibits a drive to explore her boundaries, and expand past her limitations.
“I’ve chosen to do these
things by myself,” she says. “If I’m going to play with a band later, I need to
be OK playing solo first. It’s been really empowering, doing all of that.” She proves herself to be relentless and,
though hurt, unscarred by the outside forces of misinterpretation and
It’s with a knowing, weathered paddle that she navigates these future streams. And it seems she couldn’t be more pleased with the direction she’s headed.
“So far, it’s been really
lovely being back.” She takes a moment, at the end of our conversation, to
reflect out loud. “Would you look at that? I did that. And I don’t need anybody
else. I’m all about collaboration, but it’s really good to know that I don’t
need anybody. I’m capable.”
Papadosio is a trendsetting, progressive voice in the world of Rock, mixing an electronic sound with improvisation and dashes of psychedelia. The North Carolina-based band has created a groundswell through the musical landscape with steady tour dates and the development of its own festival, Rootwire, in Southeastern Ohio, the group's birthplace. CityBeat caught up with drummer Mike Healy, a Cincinnati native, and chatted about his Ohio roots and the development of the Rootwire Music and Arts Festival. Papadosio storms into Bogarts this Friday night for an evening of high energy and eclectic sounds. Click here for tickets and further information.
CityBeat: I wanted to ask you about the Rootwire Festival. How did you guys start the festival and decide on the location?
Mike Healy: Some of us went to school in Athens, Ohio, and we actually played some festivals there before we started doing Rootwire six or seven years ago. We checked out the property and really liked it and had an idea to do a festival ourselves from traveling a lot and making so many awesome friends across the country we could collaborate with and create an amazing event. We decided (on) that land because we had previously visited it, Kaeppner Woods, outside of Athens in Logan. It is absolutely beautiful, some of the oldest mountains in the world in the Appalachian foothills. There is a lot of great energy there, it’s beautiful and it just couldn’t be a more perfect place to throw a festival the last four years. That’s how that place came about. The festival, we have just been collaborating with so many amazing friends. We just invite our friend bands and friend artists from all over the country and installation artists from all walks of life. It’s just been an absolutely amazing time for four years.
CB: I saw the band for the first time this year at the All Good festival (in Thornville, Ohio). Listening to your music, it feel like there is a little bit of a spiritual element to it. Do you guys consider yourself spiritual or religious and how does that inspire your music?
MH: I would say that none of us are religious. There are definitely all sorts of messages throughout our music of some sort of divine connection to Mother Earth and taking care of the place we live and taking care of others and loving others, all kinds of common things we like to talk about. I guess if you want to call it spiritual you can — we call it a no-brainer. You love your neighbor you take care of each other. You want peace in the world and all these universal values I feel like people can connect to. There are definitely a lot of those messages in our music. I don’t find any of us to be religious at all. Music is our religion, honestly. We are always searching for alternative thinking. We are all into the green movement and really into eco-building and sustainable living and alternative energy. All these things are on our mind a lot and we speak about them in music.
CB: The band has relocated from Ohio to Asheville, N.C. I heard you moved to a cabin somewhere outside of town. You must be together as a band a lot of the time — or all the time. Is it hard being around each other so much?
MH: We actually don’t live in that cabin anymore. We are spread out around town living with our girlfriends and stuff. We do spend a lot of time together. We are on the road 200 days a year. We are always just hanging out on the tour bus together. Even when we are home we still get together and hang out. We are a big ol’ band of brothers (and) just love spending time together. We really enjoy making music and we are all really great friends. It is totally insane. We are gone all the time and it is hard on our ladies, spending so much time away. It’s quite the crazy lifestyle. It is not for everyone. We love it. We try to do the best to make it work.
CB: What is your favorite part of being on the road?
MH: Definitely playing music every night. That is what we live for. The whole set up and tear down and all the long hours of waiting around are not so fun, but once you get on stage and are able to create and get people dancing and seeing all these smiling faces everywhere, that definitely fuels us. Some of the favorite times too are when we are on the road and have a couple days off that we get to go do beautiful things like go visit beautiful national parks or go on some crazy hikes or go relax at a really nice hotel or someone’s house. Those kind of times we look forward to because it is nice to relax and see friends all around the country.
CB: What is your favorite song to play live?
MH: That’s a hard one. We have like 50 songs that we have in rotation. I love all of them. I really like playing a new one that Anthony (Thogmartin) wrote called “New Love.” (There) are really fun new songs we have been playing live a lot in every town. Everybody has been really digging it. It is hard to pick a favorite because I love all the material.
CB: The band has played a lot of festivals, particularly around Ohio. Do you have a favorite festival moment?
MH: There are so many. I guess we love playing All Good every year, because those have been some of the biggest crowds we have ever got to play in front of. We got to play on the main stage last year in front of 15-20,000 people. Previous years … we got to play after Flaming Lips one year and right before Primus one year and those crowds were like 30,000 people. It was totally insane. It was so cool. Those are definitely high moments. Obviously Rootwire is a big moment.
We have started playing some festivals on the West Coast and all over the country. We are really enjoying trying new ones out. We have played so many in the Midwest and East Coast and it has been so nice to try some new festies out west. This year we are doing some of our first international plays. We are really excited to go down to Central America and play … in December. There is so much going on.
CB: Can you describe your songwriting process?
MH: There (are) several different ways we go about doing it. We will have a jam session and we come up with a song on the spot and write it together in the rehearsal room, and somebody will have a riff and we will go around adding pieces of the puzzle together as a group. Other times, somebody will have almost a completely finished song idea and bring it to the table. People will learn their parts and put their own flare on it. Sometimes someone will have half a song and come to somebody else to help finish it and someone else will write lyrics.
It all depends on what is happening during the creative process. Sometimes we will be on tour sitting on our laptops and all of a sudden a riff will come to our heads and we will start writing the song while sitting on the van or the bus and then bring it back after (the) tour and bring it to the band and go from there. Sometimes we are walking through the woods and we get an idea in our head and sing it into our phone real quick and then we will go back later and hop on the computer and our instruments and figure it out and bring it to the band later. It just comes to you sometimes. It’s crazy how it works. It is part of the creative process — you just never know when you will get an idea that will pop into your head and you have to jot it down somehow.
CB: Being with the band in Athens, I am sure you have spent a little time in Cincinnati. Do you have any fond Cincinnati stories from the past?
MH: Oh yeah. I grew up in Cincinnati. I lived there until I was 18 and then I went to Athens for school for seven years and then I moved down to Asheville. I’ve been playing drums since I was 3 years old and I have been in a band non-stop since fourth grade, so from fourth grade all the way through senior year I was in so many different projects. I played at Bogarts all the time for the Battle of the Bands in high school and got a lot of exposure back then with my younger bands. Now it’s full circle and now my band Papadosio is back playing at Bogarts again. We played there last year for the first time since high school. It was great. It has a lot of memories for me (from) when I was younger.
CB: Where did you go to high school here?
MH: I went to Clark Montessori in Hyde Park. I played in a steel drum band all through junior high and high school too and played all over the city and also toured the country. I played in Hip Hop bands and Rock & Roll bands, Metal bands, Alternative Rock bands, all sorts of bands in Cincy, as well as steel drum ensembles and the steel drum band in high school. I was quite the busy musician all throughout my childhood.
CB: This is basically a hometown show for you, so it will be fun to be back.
MH: It’s great — so many friends and family.
Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights (JTNL) is a Texas-born/California-based Rock band with a bluesy, rootsy edge that has been a workhorse on the road, touring anywhere and everywhere since forming in 2007. Along with tour jaunts with musical giants like ZZ Top, JTNL has also been very popular on the festival scene, every summer playing to large crowds all over the country. Although the band hasn’t released an album since 2010’s major label debut, Pardon Me (on F-Stop Music/Atlantic), there was promise of a lot of new music on their current tour when Tyler spoke with CityBeat recently. JTNL plays Bogart’s this Wednesday with friends and fellow rockers Taddy Porter. (Click here for tickets and further show info.)
CityBeat: You are currently on tour with Taddy Porter. How did this tour come about?
Jonathan Tyler: We have toured with them a lot in the past. Both of our bands formed around the same time. I think about three or four years ago. We started playing shows together and became friends. When we were looking into a tour this fall, their name came up and everybody was really excited about it. It just came together naturally.
CB: You have been touring pretty extensively since 2007. What is the best part of being on the road for you?
JT: I love playing music live. There is something really special about it. It is one of my favorite things to do. It is really fun to get in front of a live audience and play songs and to just kind of get that energy going between the crowd and the band. It is fun to see what happens, a lot of unique, special, unexpected things happen sometimes and it makes it more fun. It is always fun to try out new songs on people as well.
CB: Are you guys working on new music currently?
JT: Oh yeah, pretty regularly, all the time. We will be playing new songs at the Cincinnati show.
CB: What does the perfect day look like for you?
JT: Well, I live in California so I love to go to the beach and I love to surf and I love to eat good food and spend time with my girlfriend. When I am on the road, I love to walk around. We usually travel during the day, early in the morning, to the city we are playing in. We will set up our gear and we usually have a few hours off. I try to find a good restaurant in town and try out new places basically. I try to see what the city is all about.
CB: I know you are in different cities every day so it all merges together sometimes.
JT: Yeah. For some reason we haven’t played Cincinnati very much. I don’t know why. We are looking forward to it.
CB: At one point weren’t you living in Texas?
JT: Yeah, that is where the band was formed. I moved in January to California.
CB: What music are you currently listening to that is inspiring you?
JT: There is a lot of different stuff. I really like the band Endless Boogie from New York. It is like a ZZ Top style Rock & Roll band. I really like those guys. There’s some Electronic music also that I like, which probably doesn’t seem likely because I play Rock music and it may surprise some people. I listen to a lot of different music, really anything that will inspire me. I’m also really into Bruce Springsteen right now.
CB: Some people are saying that Rock is dying. Do you believe that, with the popularity of EDM and other genres of music, that is happening right now?
JT: Yeah, I do. I think it will come back around. I think everything kind of goes in cycles. I think it is easier right now for musicians to do the Electronic thing because it is cheaper. You can just make it with one person really. You don’t need an entire band to make tracks and people are making recordings out of their houses. The whole industry is turned up on its side. It’s interesting for sure, but I think Rock is always going to live on.
CB: If you could trade places with anyone for a month who would it be?
JT: I have to think about that. I really don’t want to be anyone else. That’s a hard one. I honestly can’t say.
CB: Do you have any habits you’d like to break?
JT: So many. Smoking cigarettes would probably be the No. 1 thing. I guess I don’t want to break it that badly since I still do it.
CB: What can the fans look forward to in Cincinnati next week?
JT: They can look forward to some new music. We will probably play a lot of new songs. They can look forward to a high-energy Rock & Roll show.
CB: I have seen you many times over the years. I look forward to it. It is always high energy and great Rock & Roll.
JT: Well thanks, I appreciate that. We will probably play half new music and half of the older songs. I think people will be happy to come out and see something different if they have seen us before, but maybe hear the songs they love as well.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd has brought a youthful side to American Blues music ever since the great success of his first album, Ledbetter Heights,
which went platinum and reached No. 1 on the Blues charts. He was just
17 at the time of the album's release and has gone on to put out several
more successful Rock/Blues albums with his Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band,
featuring Cincinnati's Noah Hunt on lead vocals.
Shepherd has developed a new exciting project called The Rides with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Stephen Stills and Barry Goldberg, a veteran musician who formed The Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield in the late ’60s and has written and produced many classics. The Rides are performing at the Ohio River Throwdown, a new Roots music festival, this Saturday at Riverbend Music Center, playing alongside other acts like Tedeschi Trucks Band, JJ Grey and the Mofro, Los Lobos and many other artists. CityBeat chatted with Shepherd recently about his new project.
CityBeat: I saw behind the scenes videos of The Rides recording in the studio together. What was your favorite experience being in the studio with the other two guys?
Kenny Wayne Shepherd: Well, the whole thing was a really good experience. Everybody had a really great time doing the record. It’s just very interesting. You look back over the course Stephen's career, and Barry as well, and these guys have made some really tremendous records in their time. They have also been on so many albums and done this for so many years that they have accumulated a vast wealth of knowledge of how to do things in the studio. For me, even though I have had my recording career for 20 years now, I still consider myself to be like a sponge, just trying to soak up as much information as I can. I learned a lot from those guys and it was a really good time.
CB: Where did the name of the band actually originate?
KWS: We were putting our heads together. It went on for two weeks. One of the hardest things to do is to come up with a band name, at least it can be one of the most challenging things to do. A lot of the reasons why it is so hard to do nowadays is because almost every name has been used. Everything we came up with, we would go back home and I would look it up online and do a Google search and someone would have that name and we would start over again.
We spent a lot of the time in the studio between recordings … Stephen and I are both big car guys, I mean we love cars. Stephen and his wife have some of the most incredible cars you could hope to own. I have a pretty cool collection myself. We spent a good bit of time talking about cars and driving and stuff like that. As we were exploring name options for the band, one day we were at Stephen's house and I had driven my 1964 Dodge to his house and we were walking out to the driveway to leave and he just looked at my car and said, “You know we should be called 'The Rides.' ” I was like, “Yeah. That’s cool.” I went home and checked and couldn’t find anybody with that name. So here we are.
CB: What is your favorite car you have?
KWS: I don’t know. I would say right now my 1969 Dodge Charger, and I think it is one of the most beautiful, one of the most visually stunning cars that was ever designed. Probably that one is my favorite.
CB: I have listened to the new album and I really, really love it. What is your favorite song to play on the new album?
KWS: I go through phases when I do a new record like, “Right now this is my favorite song …” and then a few months from now a different one is my favorite one. Currently my favorite is “Can’t Get Enough,” the title track. That song is a great representation of this band and what we are about. It is one of the songs we wrote together. It has great, heavy guitars. It has got really, good lyrics. Even the vocal is nice and raspy and bluesy. There are lots of dynamics to that song and I think it is just really a great representation of who we are as a group.
CB: Typically you are touring with your band by yourself. What was it like splitting singing duties with Stephen?
KWS: I split singing duties, to a degree, in my own band. I have Noah Hunt, who is from Cincinnati, he has been my lead vocalist for 17 years. But over the past few years of my career, I have stepped up here and there to the microphone when I wanted to, and on the last record we recorded, Noah and I sang a lot of songs together. I have kind of started to integrate that idea into my own band even though I tend to let Noah sing most of the songs because he has such an incredible voice and it enables me more to focus more on my guitar playing. There is certainly, in this band, more vocal responsibility for me. I really wanted to do it. It is pretty cool. Like being around Stephen, who is so well known for his singing and vocals, it has been inspiring to me to step up to the microphone and sing more.
CB: I thought I saw Noah at the Peter Frampton show in Cincinnati.
KWS: He was there. He went to the show because we had just been on the road with Peter over the past two months, we had done some shows with him. Noah wanted to go hang out and see everybody when they came through town so he went.
CB: What is the favorite guitar you have ever played?
KWS: The one I am most attached to is my 1961 Stratocaster. It is the first Strat I ever got.
When you are a guitar player you hear this story about how there is this one guitar that is your soulmate. There is one guitar out there that was built for you. You know it the minute you pick it up and start playing it. Some guys go their entire lives trying to find it. I found this guitar when I was just 15 years old. The minute I picked it up, it fit me like a glove. I did everything I could to get it, I couldn’t afford it at the time, then later on, the following year, it was in Los Angeles at the Guitar Center. Then I came back a year later and it was still there. I still didn’t have the money to afford it, but I decided I wasn’t leaving the store without it. I told my Dad, he was like “We gotta go.” I’m like, “I’m not leaving without this guitar.” Between him, the guy at my record company, my A&R guy, my music attorney, they decide they would split the cost up on their credit cards as long as I agreed to pay them back. I did. That guitar has been with me ever since. It has toured the world with me and been on every record I have ever done. It is just my baby.
CB: That is a great story. I have interviewed so many guitar players and nobody has talked to me about their soulmate guitar before.
KWS: Yeah, well, it really is. I don’t know about those guys but there is a bond between me and that instrument. I feel like all guitar players have their go-to instrument and there should be a really solid connection between them and the instrument.
CB: Social media has become invaluable with marketing music and musicians. When you are on the internet, in general, where do you spend most of your time?
KWS: I am a creature of habit and repetition when it comes to browsing the web. I have a couple of sites I look at every day. I go online and get my daily dose of the news. I usually go to AOL, because half of their stories report the news and the other half are like looking at a tabloid magazine. They have some really weird stuff they put up there.
I have a couple car enthusiast websites, like there is a website called Moparts.org which is for all Mopart Car enthusiasts. I love the Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth brands, so I am a Mopart guy.
I am also obsessed with the new Tesla Electric cars. I have been browsing their forums a lot educating myself on their technology and stuff. I am kind of a geek when it comes to cars and all things mechanical.
CB: Can you tell us what the fans can expect from The Rides' live show in Cincinnati?
KWS: We just rehearsed, we just had four days to rehearse for this tour and none of us had played any of these songs since we recorded the album back in December. So I guess with my schedule with my band and Stephen and his band, we had a very narrow window of opportunity to prepare for this tour.
We are basically going to do the album and throw in a few songs from my catalog and Stephen's catalog and stuff that Barry wrote that other people recorded. The whole goal is to be loose and have a good time and just play music together. They’ll hear a little bit of my stuff, a little bit of Steven’s stuff, a little bit of Barry’s stiff, then they’ll hear the whole (Rides) record.
Lightnin’ Malcolm is an emerging driving force in the genre of underground Blues as a member of the North Mississippi All-Stars and also as a solo artist. Alongside counterpart Carl Gentle White aka "Stud" on drums, the dichotomy of their two styles produces a rough, soulful sound that reminds folks of Blues legends like Lightnin' Hopkins and Howlin' Wolf. Audiences should be prepared to dance, party and delight in Malcolm’s deep Mississippi sounds tonight at the Southgate House Revival. Malcolm is opening for and playing alongside the North Mississippi All-Stars. Showtime is 8 p.m.
CityBeat: I know you have an album coming out on Sept. 10. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
Lightnin' Malcolm: Well, it is 14 original songs and they have quite a few different styles on them. It is all based on my style, which is based on the hard driving, raw boogie North Mississippi Hill Country style. It is mostly (the) guitar and drums duo but we add some horns on a few tracks. We have Luther Dickinson playing slide on a few songs. So it is a pretty good mix of stuff.
CB: I was listening to some of it this week. I love “My Life is a Wreck.” Can you tell me the story behind that song?
LM: Well, that is a semi-autobiographical piece. One of my greatest influences was T Model Ford and he recently passed and that song was based on a style he had on the guitar. His grandson Stud is playing drums with me now. That was the first song we did in the studio. That was his first song recording and I thought it was a great way to feature it. My music depends on a great drummer. Drums are so important to the music and he is one of the best. I have known Stud since he was like 1 years old. He grew up watching me play drums with his granddad. He knows the style of drums that I like, the raw, four on the floor, predator style, no messing around. Just raw and making people dance. By us knowing each other so long, he is like my little baby brother. We have this chemistry together that works so well.
CB: I watched some videos of you two playing together. It is super high energy and looks like a lot of fun.
LM: Yeah, that is the key to it all. We don’t have to hit a note exactly right or (do flashy) guitar solos. We just try to create as much … fun for the people as we can. We just want to see people party and have fun.
CB: How old were you when you picked up your first guitar?
LM: I was about 10 or 12. Before that, I really wanted to be a drummer. I used to beat on buckets and pots and pans, put the radio on and play along with them. I didn’t have any actual drums and I finally got a hold of a little piece of guitar. I didn’t know how to tune it or nothing, but I fell in love with the strings in my hand. It took a while to learn how to tune it because I didn’t have anybody around me to show me at that time. Once I learned how to tune it, I started learning pretty fast. It just became everything to me. I look at the guitar like some people look at The Bible. It is like a vehicle for something later. I leave Earth. I can go on a vacation in my backyard with a guitar. I can escape to a whole other world with it.
CB: I know you eventually moved to Mississippi after growing up in Missouri. How did you hook up with some of these great guitar and Blues players in Mississippi?
LM: I just made friends with them. They saw something special in me, I think. I wasn’t trying to blow them off stage. I didn’t ask them many questions, like how to do things. They noticed whatever they played, I could play back. They hadn’t seen too many white guys, or any guys, that could do that. So we just made friends. It was pretty easy. Those were the kind of guys I wanted to be around. They really took me in. They were really nice to me. They never said I wouldn’t be able to do it. There was everybody else saying, “You won’t be able to do it.” They were the guys saying, “You got it. Stick with it.”
CB: Alive or dead, what one person would you want to collaborate with if you could?
LM: That’s a good question. I think, you know what’s funny, there are a lot of people outside of the Blues I’d like to collaborate with nowadays. Of course, like, John Lee Hooker is one of my all time favorites, Howlin' Wolf, there are so many Blues guys. Out of living artists, I’ll tell you a guy I love right now, two guys I love, they are more like R&B. (One is an) artist named Lyfe Jennings, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him, he’s fucking awesome, he’s so sincere. Another guy is Anthony Hamilton who is a Soul singer. To me, even though their style is way different than mine, those are guys I really hear singing where I’m like, "Wow, they really hit the ceiling." You don’t hear it that much anymore. Everybody is using effects. You really don’t hear that wail in that voice. Otis Redding had that, you heard his voice and you just had to see him. You don’t hear anybody like that anymore. I know people wouldn’t expect that from me, but when I am riding down the highway listening to music, those are two guys I really listen to, that I look up to and would be great to collaborate with.
CB: That leads me into another question. There has been so much publicity recently around Pop music with Miley Cyrus and the VMAs. To me it shows how much more important it is to keep really authentic Blues music in front of people. What are your thoughts on that?
LM: I agree with that. I’m out here fighting the good fight doing what I can. It’s not always easy. People have to support what is going on. If people start throwing their money at garbage, you’re going to end up with a lot of garbage. I can’t speak for the next person but I can say this — there isn’t enough hours in the day to listen to great music. There is all the great music you can listen to. There is definitely no time for nonsense. I don’t waste time listening to stuff that sounds like garbage. That’s just me.
My drummer, Stud, he’s young. He was watching the awards the other night and I was laying on the couch trying to sleep. I didn’t miss much. The hours in the day are precious. I would use them wisely. You don’t have to listen to garbage. That’s about the best I can do. If anybody can make some money doing something, good for you, I don’t mean it the wrong way. If you ask me about serious music, there is great music out there being made. It is just underground. Maybe it is too real for people. I am not the expert on this type of thing, I just know what I like, I listen to what I like. Even when I was a kid in school, I was listening to way different music. I was listening to Lightnin' Hopkins and John Lee Hooker and would tell the other kids, “You have got to hear this. Check it out.” They just said, “Whatever.” I thought maybe when they grew up they would understand.
CB: What can the fans expect from you guys at the Southgate House Revival show?
LM: We are coming to rock y’all. We want y’all to come and have fun and dance and boogie. We want you to get in the groove and forget about everything in the outside world for a couple hours and get in the zone. We want to have a party for y’all. Being on stage can be the funnest thing in the world when it is going right. When it is going wrong, you just want to disappear. It is a funny thing. When it is right, it is right as a motherfucker.
Volbeat has been headlining huge shows in Europe for nearly a decade and now they are bringing their Metal sound to the States. In the position of up-and-comer again, they bring their high level energy to American, which has translated into sold out shows across the country. Currently Volbeat is touring on its new album, Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies.
CityBeat was able to catch up with new band member and former Anthrax lead guitarist Rob Caggiano in preparation for the band's upcoming show in Cincinnati to discuss the transition into a new band and his broad musical influences that have helped him evolve since childhood. He definitely has brings a strong, veteran presence to a band that was already rising to new heights. Check out Volbeat headlining the Rock Allegiance Tour at US Bank Arena this Sunday with HIM, All That Remains and Airbourne.
CityBeat: Could you tell me about the moment in the studio working with Volbeat on their new album that you realized you really could be in the band or it would be a good fit?
Rob Caggiano: They had asked me to be a part of it two weeks into the process of recording. So it was pretty early on into the whole thing. I think it really stemmed from the first meeting we had when they called me initially when I left Anthrax and put the press release out there. A couple days later I flew to Denmark and sat down with Michael and went over the tunes and then ideas for the new record. We ended up collaborating and making music together. It was such a fun vibe and such a great chemistry. I think that was kind of a catalyst for everything else.
CB: I saw you guys at Rock on the Range for the first time playing together. It was really amazing. What was your favorite Rock on the Range moment this year?
RC: We definitely had a really good time during our show. It was a lot of fun. Rock on the Range, to me, is one of the coolest festivals here in the States. It seems like America is catching up finally with what is going on in Europe with these outdoor festivals. Rock on the Range is very well put together, very organized, just very pro and well done. It’s always a good time. I did get a chance to see Lamb of God play, about half their set and that was killer. It was great to see Randy back up on stage.
CB: Has there been any hazing or initiation since you joined the band?
RC: Not really, I was doing all the hazing. It has been pretty cool, pretty seamless, the whole transition. The way it went down, it was very organic and felt very comfortable from the beginning. It has been cool. We are having a blast.
CB: I know it must have been a difficult decision to leave Anthrax which had been your job for the last 12 years. What were the factors for moving on?
RC: I just had this feeling of being stuck. I just felt like I was on a conveyor belt, doing that for so long. I still love those guys dearly and they are like my family. I just wasn’t happy. It got to the point where I just wasn’t happy and I was questioning myself and what I am doing here. What are we doing? What’s going to happen in the future? I just came to the conclusion I needed a change.
I think the main part of the problem was that Anthrax was never a creative outlet for me. By no choice of my own, that was just the way it had been. I think after all those years my heart wasn’t in it anymore and I needed something different. It was definitely an emotional, difficult decision to make but it was something that needed to be done.
CB: What is your favorite guitar solo to play on the new Volbeat record and out on tour?
RC: I have two favorites. I enjoy playing the “Lola Montez” solo and the “Doc Holliday” solo.
CB: I know you have been producing for several years helping out bands and doing Anthrax and Volbeat records. Do you ever see yourself stepping out of Rock or Metal and producing other genres? There are a lot of collaborations happening right now with different genres of music.
RC: Absolutely. I never saw myself as a solely a Metal producer. To be honest, when I am at home, I don’t really listen to Metal. It’s probably because it is what I do all the time. My influences are really varied and I listen to so many different albums and genres of music. I just consider myself a musician. I put 100% of my heart into whatever I am working on. With all these different influences, I can definitely do a lot of different things and have done a lot of different things in the past.
CB: What are you listening to right now? What is influencing you?
RC: My favorite record right now, if we are talking about new bands and newer records, is this band called The National. I think (they're) phenomenal.
CB: They are actually from Cincinnati.
RC: Yeah, it seems like they are doing pretty well all over the world. Their new record is phenomenal. I think it is just great, the production is amazing, the songs are great. I have never met the band. I had heard the name but I had never heard the music. We were doing a record signing in Copenhagen and I asked one of the girls at the store what was her favorite record, what should I check out, what came in that is the new hot record. She said to get the new National record. I said “Ok, I’ll give it a shot.” She was right. I dig it. I like Lana Del Rey too.
CB: Do you ever plan to sit down and write your Rock biography?
RC: Maybe one day down the road. I don’t know if I’m ready yet.
CB: I’m sure you have plenty of stories. What is your craziest tour story with Volbeat right now?
RC: It really isn’t that crazy on the road with these guys. It’s pretty mellow. It is a very focused thing. We do our show … the thing about being on tour, especially with Volbeat, we are headlining a lot of these festivals in Europe so we are going on late. We get there early at these festival sites and have a whole day of nothing. It is kind of boring just waiting to go on stage. Nothing really crazy has happened yet but I will keep you posted.
CB: I am shocked you haven’t seen crazy things at the European festivals with fans.
RC: I guess it depends what you call crazy.
CB: Yeah, your idea of crazy may be different than mine. You may be like, “That’s totally normal.”
CB: What was the name of your first band?
RC: My first band ever was when I was 14 years old. We were called “Wild Heart.”
CB: Do you keep in touch with those guys?
RC: Kind of. I saw the other guitar player recently in Florida. He has been a friend of mine forever. The rest of the guys I have not spoken to in a long time.
CB: Do you play any other instruments?
RC: Yeah, I play drums. I play keys. I do our programming when I need to. I just make noise basically. I can pretty much get anything to sound decent. As a kid, I started out playing drums so that has always been in my heart. I went to the guitar from that.
CB: Your parents were supportive of the drums in the house?
RC: Well they bought them. Yeah, my parents were huge supporters of my music. My Dad is really into the music thing. It was definitely a very healthy atmosphere growing up for creativity and inspiration. There was always music around which was cool.
CB: I started hearing about Volbeat and listening to Volbeat about two years ago when they were just coming to the U.S. Obviously they are huge in Europe, beyond headlining. What do you think is the biggest difference so far in the U.S. shows and the European shows?
RC: In the U.S. it is very much on the rise, the shows over here are getting bigger and bigger and bigger. With them, we did two legs, two U.S. legs and every show was killer. Back in 2010, that is when I first met these guys with my other band, The Damned Things, they took us on tour. That’s when I first heard the music and met the guys and became friends. Even that tour was sold out every night. It was an awesome tour. Volbeat is definitely on the rise in America. In Europe obviously it is crazy. It is just a really good feeling all around. There is a lot of excitement about this band and the new record, just good vibes.
Shinedown has been touring on its most recent album, Amaryllis, for the last two years and has just started its Carnival of Madness tour to complete touring on the record. It is the band's biggest, brightest and loudest tour yet. With each album, Shinedown's rocking sound shows bigger energy and different sides, as well as different looks.
CityBeat was able to catch up with bass player Eric
Bass to discuss life on tour and the close bond the band members have,
even after all these years. Shinedown will be tearing up the PNC
Pavilion at Riverbend on Saturday night on its Carnival of Madness tour
stop with Papa Roach, In This Moment and Skillet. (The concert is sold out.)
CityBeat: You guys have really been successful with the last couple albums. You have been on the Billboard charts for over two consecutive years. Did you ever expect that would happen?
Eric Bass: Did I ever expect it? I always hoped it would happen, I guess. You work really hard. We have this thing we say: "Keep your head down, stay humble and move forward." We are blown away by the success. To be honest with you, if you had told the 17-year-old me this was what was going to be happening, he’d be ecstatic. I can’t say that I expected it to happen. We wanted it to happen. We worked really hard for it. We are not surprised, I guess you could say, because of the hard work. It is a true blessing to be able to do what we do and have the success we have had.
CB: The band has been touring constantly. How do you make time to write new songs on the road?
EB: We actually don’t write on the road. We like to separate the two. We go home when we are done with this tour. We will lock ourselves away for a year and write as many songs as we can. Then, when we are done with that, we will go out and tour again and complete the process. We wrote “Diamond Eyes” on tour because it was for a movie soundtrack. That was the first experience we had with that. It worked out and everything went well with it. We work really hard when we are on tour. We are a go-go-go all day long band with interviews, meet and greets and that sort of thing. So there is really not a lot of time to get in and be creative like that. We prefer to separate the two and that creates the situation where each record is pretty different from the others because they are different times and you are not overlapping time periods. You are separating into blocks. It makes the records really interesting.
CB: I have photographed you on your last couple tours. Your shows have grown larger and larger with more pyro and turned into huge Rock shows. How did you guys prepare for Carnival of Madness?
EB: Well we started talking about it two or three months ago and we said, “It’s not going to be small.” That was the whole thing. We were going to make it as big as we could possibly make it. We are bringing our whole sound system with us. We are bringing our own lights. We are bringing our own pyro. We basically have carnival performers that are out with us. It is just a conscious, concerted effort to, every time, step your game up. We have sort of become known for that when we do these big headlining runs. We don’t want to disappoint anybody. People paid good money and want to see a great Rock show and that’s what they are going to get.
CB: You actually have carnival performers on stage with you?
EB: We actually do, yes. It’s going to be fun. I think everybody is going to really enjoy the show.
CB: The first show was this past weekend. How is it going so far?
EB: We are one down. We have the second one tonight. The first one was great. Internally, we found a couple things we could do differently, do a little bit better. We are definitely going to do that. The first show was great. The crowd was very receptive. It was awesome. I think tonight is going to be even better. Then the Cincinnati show, by that time, we will be well-oiled machines and veterans.
CB: Shinedown has a huge social media presence. Why is it important for you guys to stay connected to your fans in that way?
EB: Because the fans are the reason we get to do what we do. We never forget that. The fans are the boss, the most important thing. The fans buy the tickets, they buy the records. I have to say, and it’s going to sound cliché but it’s not meant to be, we have the best fans. Our fans are ridiculously loyal. We like to keep up with them. We actually know … you would be surprised how many fans we know. I’ll see fans at meet and greets that I will know from Twitter. We keep up with them and we know what’s going on. We like to hear what they have to say. They are going to let us know if something is not right. They will let us know if they don’t like something, if they like something. It’s a great tool to utilize as well. You get instant feedback on what you are doing.
CB: What are your hobbies outside of playing music all the time?
EB: It’s kind of funny. I say all my hobbies become my jobs. I produce records. I do a lot of songwriting. I engineer, mix records. A lot of my hobbies have become my job.
I am a golfer. I enjoy golf a lot. More recently, I have started building model airplanes. I needed a quiet hobby I can sit in my house and do. It is something I have found solace in. It may be a little geeky, a little nerdy, but it is fun.
CB: You actually co-wrote “I’ll Follow You” correct?
CB: I love that song. I know it is the new single and it is out, but what is the story behind the song?
EB: The story of the song is pretty interesting. The piano part I had for a couple years. I had been playing it in sound checks. We don’t write on the road, but if it’s something someone in the band hears, “Hey remember that. Record that.” We are pretty in tune with that sort of stuff.
We were out on our acoustic tour that we did on the end of our last record cycle with Will Hoge, a great singer-songwriter from Nashville. Nobody had really said anything about the piano thing I had, so I thought maybe it will be good for Will.
So I hit him up and said, 'On the next day off, I want to show you this piano piece I have got and we can write a song.' He gave me his number and said to give him a call. I gave him a call the day of, I called him like three times, never went to voicemail, never picked up.
The next day, I was like, “I called you three times.” He said, “It never came through. I don’t know what happened.” That day at soundcheck, Brent was like, “What’s that thing you are playing?” I was like, “Man, I have been playing it for three years.” He finally woke up to it. We actually had the recording that day at sound check kind of going through the song. Some of the lyrics are actually in there from that first time we ever played it through, he and I.
If you fast forward six months when we finally wrote it, finally sat down and wrote the song, it happened seamlessly. We wrote it in like two hours, the whole thing was done. Lyrically, it is about the person in your life who is your best friend, your spouse or your girlfriend, your boyfriend or someone really close to you, that person you will always be there for and they will always be there for you.
CB: The band took a different turn on the latest album, playing with the full orchestra. How did that concept come about?
EB: We talked about how Madness had a lot of string-sections stuff. We just talked while we were writing the record about how to make this record a little bigger and a little more grand. That was the first thing that came up, we need to do something with horns and full orchestra, rather than just string sections.
It was fun. It was a blast to be in there to watch that stuff be recorded, watching your vision come to life was amazing. There is very little that we do that is not a conscious decision. We kind of see what we want to do next. We were talking about our next record the other day on the bus. We will probably start working on that next year. We already kind of got an idea for it of what we want it to be. It is pretty phenomenal to have this type and level of instruments on something you have worked on. You pinch yourself every once in a while because it’s so cool.
CB: You guys have been together for some time. Are you all still friends? Do you still hang out?
EB: It’s pretty funny, we love each other so much. We all still ride the same bus even though we don’t have to. We, all four of us, camp out in the same place. We work out together every day. We eat together every day. We really are brothers. We have our moments of getting agitated with each other and angry with each other. There is something different that I don’t see in a lot of bands we travel with. There are some, but they are few and far between. You get a group of people that genuinely like each other and genuinely get along.
I can count on one hand the times I have been up in someone’s face in my band, that I have been that angry with someone. We just don’t get like that. We talk things out. If there is a problem, we sit down and we are very honest with each other. We don’t harbor any animosity toward each other for anything.
“I’ll Follow You” is out right now and is a song Brent and I wrote. Everybody in the band is happy as hell about that because it is doing well. “Bully” is a song Brent and Zach wrote, and I was happy as hell that was doing well. A lot of people get caught up in the unimportant stuff, like who makes more money or what’s going on with this or who’s more popular in the band. We don’t care about that stuff. It’s about the band, the entire group. We all really care about each other. We hang out when we aren’t on tour. It is really a blessing.
CB: It is amazing you guys spend so much time together and it is still like that. There aren’t many people I could spend 24 hours a day with?
EB: We see each other more than we see our wives and girlfriends and our families. We are married. We have to get along. There is no way around it. You can tell on stage. We smile at each other on stage. We joke around. We throw picks at each other. It’s genuine. It’s not an act. You can tell bands on stage that don’t like each other, and you can definitely tell bands on stage that do, and we are one of those bands that really like each other.