I discovered Lukas Nelson by accident. I stumbled across Willie Nelson’s cover of Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe,” and I noticed the very unique voice of the man singing with him. I immediately wanted an interview and was shocked to discover that the man in question is actually Willie Nelson’s son. I then found out that Lukas fronts his own band called Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real. After listening to his latest record, “Wasted,” I reached out to his team and he kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions.
Can you tell me a little about how you connected with your current band?
I met Anthony at a Neil Young concert, and we became surfing buddies. He’s known our bass player for years, and I’ve known our percussion player from Hawaii. We’ve all known each other for a while.
Is it true you wrote Wasted while you were wasted?
Yes, I was pretty drunk [laughs].
I heard you’re not undergoing that songwriting formula anymore.
No. I quit drinking for a year. I’ve taken it way easier. I took a year hiatus from everything.
Has that helped your creative process?
I don’t think it made a difference. It’s not better or worse. There’s not a universal way [of writing].
I read that your dad gave you a guitar at 14.
I was eleven. And I started playing in his band at 14.
Do you think it was an innate interest being a son of a musician?
I think being around it kept my interest high. It was nature and nurture. I was immersed in that world, so it became second nature to me.
I know you grew up around so many legendary musicians. Did you know at the time that you were around such greats?
I always had a lot of respect for them. But it’s still just hanging around the house with dad’s friends. If I didn’t think of it that way it would get awkward. They’re just people, but they’re really inspiring people so they have good conversations that makes it really interesting to be around them.
I imagine you get really good advice with all those resources. I read that Neil Young told you to record this live to tape?
He told me about digital recording, actually. He said if you’re going to record digitally, do it to the highest resolution. But when we mixed the original tracks, we mixed it to analog tape. So we did both.
Do you often go to Neil Young for advice about your records?
I try not to bother him too much. I usually go to him for technical advice. I really try hard to figure it out on my own first, because I have a lot of respect for his kind, and he probably gets thousands of emails a day. I’m just another kid.
Are you partial to this album with that different recording process?
I like this one as much as all the others. But in terms of recording, it’s definitely a more mature recording.
I saw your performance on Jimmy Fallon with your dad. You looked so relaxed. Do you get nervous at all anymore?
Sometimes. I’m just better at not showing it. I try not to stress too much.
I know in a lot of interviews you get asked about living in your father’s shadow. I read something great that you said about how you don’t feel pressured to prove yourself. How do you get to that space in your head? Was it ever an issue?
No, it never was. I just don’t really think about it. If I spent my time wasting my energy on crap like that, [which] doesn’t really matter, I wouldn’t be the musician that I am trying to be. I’m still growing and learning, and I don’t really think about that stuff. I have to just keep writing and keep playing and getting better.
Do you get along with your father on the road?
We’re buddies. I’ve never had an argument with my dad. That’s not the relationship we have.
It’s my secret agenda in every interview to befriend my subject. And Langhorne Slim certainly made the list. His real name is Sean Scolnick, and he might be the most normal, down-to-earth guy I’ve ever interviewed. In doing my research for his new record, The Way We Move, I realized that we have a lot in common, which is a data-point that will surely help in our future friendship. We’re both Jewish, and we both exited five-year relationships that were subject to long distances apart. Because I’m egocentric, I made sure to ask about these commonalities, along with questions about his joyful, dance-worthy style of music that I’ve fallen in love with. Read below.
Do you refer to yourself as Langhorne, or do your friends call you Sean?
It’s different. Some call me Sean, some call me Langhorne, some call me Seany Boy, some call me Slim. I’ve got lots of names. It just depends on who’s talking to me.
Is it true you wrote this album while mourning a breakup?
I wrote a few of the songs after my wonderful ex and I broke up, but a lot of the songs were [previously] written. [When] we went into the studio to record the record, we had already broken up.
Is it difficult to record in such an emotional place?
It was a difficult period, but it was amazing to have that kind of release, and to feel it in such a raw, immediate way. Instead of leaping off a cliff, I had this creative outlet.
I assume “Someday” is directly about the breakup, right?
The funny thing is . . . we were still together. Maybe you’re breaking-up before you realize it.
Do you ever get a call from an ex who is combing through your songs and wants to know if it’s about her?
They know that it is. I’m a man that hasn’t been with very many women. The last fifteen years of my life I’ve been in relationships. My ex knows exactly what songs are about her, because she heard me writing them.
Is it hard to sing songs that remind you of the time when you wrote them?
When I listen to [this record], it takes me very much back to that time and place, and I think that it always will. But it’s freeing. Even if you’re singing about pain, it’s a blessing to be able to create something that gets me through it. I don’t feel the heartbreak, I feel the release.
You raised the money for this album through PledgeMusic, which requires you to fulfill some very random promises to fans you’ve never met. I know you’re Jewish, and if I told my over-protective Jewish mother about the promises I’d have to fulfill, she’d kill me. Was your mother concerned?
I’m ten years into [my career], and my mother embraces it. [But] I remember the first time we ever got booked in Europe, she said, “Okay, wait a second. You’re going to Italy to play for some random people? How do you know they’re not going to kill you?” [laughs]. Now [my family] gets it. They knew I wasn’t cut out for a conventional job. Thankfully, they supported [me]. [They’re] still neurotic though.
You’ve toured with some heavy-hitters. Before you go on tour, do you think about whether you’ll get along on a personal level?
At this point it’s a little different. We’re in a position of picking who we tour with. [But] when we were going out with other bands, it wasn’t random. It already comes with a bit of a connection. There’s already a respect.
What about in your own band? Is it tough to be in close quarters for an extended period of time?
You learn each other’s eccentricities. It’s very much like a romantic relationship, but the romance is creative and musical.
How do you sustain a romantic relationship when you tour for 8 months out of the year?
I don’t know. People have told me it’s not feasible. But I did it the entire time I was a touring musician. It’s difficult to connect on a day-to-day basis, but I believe in it still. I’m a big, sappy believer in love. I feel like it’s just as difficult in different ways to have a 9to5 job and come home to each other every day. It’s a different set of challenges.
Do you have a favorite song on your new record?
The song that’s really meaningful to me is “A Song for Sid.” I wrote it for my grandfather. I’m very happy with it. You were asking if I’m brought back to the heartbreak or pain of a song that I wrote, and I am brought back [with that song], but in a beautiful way. It’s a tribute to him that he would probably feel proud of me for writing.
Watch below to see the video for Langhorne Slim & The Law’s single, “The Way We Move.” And thanks to Sean for proving that you can be talented and normal at the same time.
Fifty percent of my taste in music is about the music, and the other fifty percent is about an artist’s personality. And Jesse Elliott of These United States has a great personality. I’m admittedly a new fan of his music, which I discovered when I noticed his joint tour with Trampled by Turtles — another great band. Once I found his music, I played every These United States album for about two weeks straight, an obsession that was solidified immediately after listening to Crimes. And because of my insatiable desire to pick the brain of artists I like, I reached out to his team for an interview. I knew it would be good, but I couldn’t predict the extent of his openness. He’s not just a good musician, he’s an interesting guy. In fact, I might have a new crush. Enjoy the interview!
I know your band started with different members. Why the rotation?
In the beginning it was a matter of practicality. We had a lot of different sounds in our mind that we weren’t capable of making ourselves, so we had to recruit other people. I think it mostly came out of liking different kinds of music and wanting to interpret songs in different ways.
What made you stick with your current band members?
It’s still a little bit of a free flowing thing, because all the people I play with have always played in their own projects with other people. I think of it as a big extended family, and people are free to come and go as it makes sense for their own lives. That’s been good and bad but mostly good, and in the long term it keeps most of us as relatively sane creative collaborators.
I’d always liked Daniel Bedingfield, but he entered my interview-radar when my musician friends played his first album from top-to-bottom, while endlessly praising his songwriting prowess and vocal range. “He’s incredible,” they said. “You have to be great to get a number one dance track and a number one ballad on the same album.” When I discovered his very catchy new single, “Rocks Off,” the next day, I considered it fate and wanted an interview. I quickly found out that he’s gone completely independent, and I’d have to contact him directly. So I tweeted him, and he invited me to his show at Hotel Cafe the following week. Though Hotel Cafe is often a low-energy singer/songwriter venue, I knew his performance would be unique when he showed up in very colorful clothing, removed all the tables and chairs, and took the time to greet almost every fan that arrived. His charm and stage-presence won over the audience, who danced to both his new material and his most-loved hits. We scheduled an interview the following week, and I had an extremely long list of questions. Where has he been for the last eight years, how often will he be releasing new music, and whose idea was it to get naked at the end of his “Rocks Off” video? I figured I’d hold that last question until the end and only ask it if things went well, which they did.
I notice your very colorful style of dressing. Is the wardrobe choice a product of being an independent artist now?
I used to think that you had to consider the opinions of the people that you’re working with, because they work so hard and they’re so successful and they’re making millions, so they must know what they’re talking about. It doesn’t really matter anymore. I think the make-your-own-decisions, do-whatever-the-fuck you-like [approach] is much better.
Did the label have specific demands about how they wanted you to sound?
Sure. That’s why they didn’t release anything for eight years.
The irony is that when you first started in the industry the label was something you were probably aching to be a part of.
No. Your first job for the mafia, you could become a Don, or you could try to get out, and they could kill your whole family. My version of that is eight years of my twenties.
How does it feel to now be completely independent?
Now that I don’t care whether I succeed or not — I hope that I succeed, I dream that I succeed — [but] I don’t have the same pressure. It’s tough enough fighting this world to get music out without having to fight the business side. I’m very glad that I did it, [but] I never thought it was a golden opportunity. I don’t get excited by success, I get excited by creativity. So when I wasn’t able to release anything, that was difficult. But it was good for me. Now I know what it’s like to desperately want to do something for eight years.
You must get a little excited by success, though.
I’ve had enough to satisfy me, and I know it didn’t satisfy me when I had it. It’s not success that’s ever going to make me feel good. On the day “Gotta Get Thru This” hit number one, it was my 22nd birthday, and I had my first kiss with this girl I had been chasing for two years, and I was certainly more excited about the kiss.
Is it true you wrote the song on the way to professing your love to that girl?
I wrote it in the morning crossing the Tower Bridge on the way to work. My feet hitting the pavement gave me the tempo. After an hour-long chat with my mom she said, “It’s very obvious what you have to do,” so I went up to [talk to her]. We were best friends, and we were trying to pretend not to be in love with each other.
Is “Secret Fear” from your new EP also about a specific girl?
Who’s the girl?
[He shakes his head to indicate he’s not going to tell me]. All my songs are true. As awful as it sounds, it’s that awful, and as wonderful as it sounds, it’s that wonderful. It’s a diary transcript.
Does the girl know it’s about her?
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard my song, “Wrap My Words Around You.” But it’s about whether it’s a good idea to tell a girl that a song is about her, because it can really play with the dynamics of a girl genuinely or not genuinely liking you. You can make a girl like you when she wouldn’t like you otherwise by writing a good song.
Is that a bad thing?
Yes. Because if you leave her, then it was all a lie. You can win someone’s heart and then leave her, and it can really hurt. It’s tricky. My songs have caused incredible devastation to a number of people. You can get absolutely into someone’s head with your song, and it becomes impossible to get out.
You didn’t answer my question. Does the girl know that “Secret Fear” is about her?
The beginning of that song is so shocking, what it says. I’m so frightened that any woman that I date will hear the lyrics and think I won’t be happy with her. It was a deliciously bad feeling writing that. I knew I could be fucking my life hard-core. I was getting-off on the danger. Imagine you’re lying in bed as my wife and thinking of those lyrics.
I also love “Rocks Off” from the new EP, and I like how different it is from “Secret Fear.” Is the variety on your records a calculated choice?
This idea of an artist having one sound is nothing I’ve ever connected with. I don’t think it’s a valid restriction, so no — I don’t think about variety, I just think about the song. I’m not trying to be clever, I’m just incredibly ADD.
I know you’re releasing EPs 3-5 months apart. Do you think this is the wave of the future in the music industry?
Everyone I’m listening to thinks so.
You’re in a family of musicians. Are there moments when you have to tell them to buzz-off?
We are the last people to hear each other’s music. We don’t like playing it for each other. An honest opinion might not have a place in your family. Is the point of family to criticize?
Were you ahead of your time with the social media transition in the music industry? You’re really good with replying to your fans on Twitter.
I really like them! I have an amazing social media coordinator. I told her I didn’t have the time and energy to reply to my fans on Facebook and Twitter. She said, “That’s incredibly sad.” She said so many people are finding a way of interacting with their true fans through this. She’s like a Twitter evangelist. So I started replying, and I now wake up in the morning so happy to see what people are talking to me about. I realize that it’s the beginning of peeling away the wall of managers and record company people that are supposed to protect the artists from their fans.
I read a tweet about your “Rocks Off” video where a fan called it misogynistic, and you said that you’d seriously consider the criticism. I found the exchange very funny.
It is misogynistic. It’s an expression. Art doesn’t have to be balanced.
Whose idea was it to be naked at the end of the video?
Me! I wrote this thing! I’m trying to say something behind that video, and one of those things is that I don’t give a fuck about clothes or what I’m wearing, and I desire to be naked in all my music and in this interview. And also — guys getting stripped by girls . . . I think that’s quite funny.
I’m not sure I’d have the guts to be fully naked in a video.
That’s the point. I found the guts to be naked in a video in front of the planet, and in my next video I’m completely naked, underwater, in fire, and spinning. It’s not a perverted thing. I’m a nudist. I’m naked all the time.
My other favorite song on the new EP is “Don’t Write Me Off.”
Thank you. That’s something that’s very important. There’s a whole crowd of people that want the piano stuff, and there’s a whole crowd of people who just want the rock stuff. [One guy will] say, “Daniel, nobody likes that falsetto.” Then the other guy will say, “The best thing about you is your falsetto.” So if it’s really moving me, and I’m feeling the energy of everything flowing through my veins, then I’m going to release it.
Listen below to Daniel Bedingfield’s EP, Secret Fear — Stop the Traffik, and watch the video for his new single, “Rocks Off.” Note: Be sure to stay tuned for the end of the video — that’s when he gets naked.
I requested an interview with Macy Gray thirty seconds into listening to her cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Maps.” I didn’t need to hear more. I knew the album would be good. When she agreed to the interview, I was elated — and nervous. I’m always intimidated by people I admire, but as soon as we began talking, everything changed. Her friendly, down-to-earth personality put me at ease. She’s just so damn likable. Read below, and buy her Covered album immediately. You will not regret it. Watch her “Smoke 2 Joints” video at the end of the interview.
What made you decide to make a cover album?
I wanted to do a cover album for a long time. I saw that Nina Simone did a cover album, My Way, by Frank Sinatra, and I thought it was so cool how she took it and made it her own thing. It was a challenge for me to see if I could do something like that.
How did you select the songs for the album?
There were four or five that we showed everyone, and the rest were really spontaneous [choices]. It was really off-the-cuff. I’m a fan of all the songs, but mostly it was the lyrics that I could make personal to me.
Is there less pressure on you as an artist when it’s not your original material?
The songs are completely redone. It was still really creative and challenging. We were all really nervous about whether the artists were going to like them.
Did you get any feedback from the artists you covered?
Me and Dave Stewart went back and forth on Twitter, and I said, “Did you send [“Here Comes the Rain Again”] to Annie [Lennox]? He said she loved it, and I felt better. My producer, Hal Willner, is good friends with [Metallica], and apparently they played it over and over again.
I love the Nicole Scherzinger skit on the album. Is that based on your personal experience in the industry of people telling you to change?
Oh yeah. I get suggestions all the time. People are always telling me what I should do next. Everybody’s always saying things like I need to make a dance record or change my afro — stuff like that. It’s crazy. But I’m really proud of what I do. I’m not The Beatles, but I really like the stuff that I’ve done.
Did Nicole immediately agree to do the skit?
Nicole’s a good friend of mine, and she does these impressions. She can impersonate anybody. She actually does a really good one of me. I told her the idea of what the skit would be about, and she just kind of ran with it.
I was surprised by her Britney Spears impression. It was so accurate.
I know! She should do that all day! She sang a song like Alanis Morissette, and you would swear it was her.
Some of your promotional shots for this album are so beautiful. Do you like promoting your albums, or is it a necessary evil to being in the industry?
It always depends on [my mood]. Sometimes I’m just not in the mood. I hate taking pictures, but I have this photographer that I’m really comfortable with. But if it was up to me, I’d just make music, have my label put it out, and go on with my life.
Is it true that when you first started in the industry you were not a fan of your own singing voice?
That is true. My voice has always been peculiar. When I was little they always made fun of me. But as you get older you get over stuff. When I started singing . . . it took me a long time to like it. I actually worked on it a lot to get to the point where I liked it.
You entered the industry before the social-media generation. Was it a difficult adjustment?
I actually get a kick out of Twitter. It’s crazy that you can have conversations with your fans. It’s an easy way to let people know about your record.
I had a few friends in Rio de Janeiro at the Back 2 Black Festival who said you killed it. I heard the other artists dropped out.
Prince dropped out at the last minute. That’s one of the reasons I agreed to do the festival, and then he dropped out [laughs].
Do you get nervous for big performances like that?
I still get nervous. I used to get really sick before my shows, and I got over that, but I still get butterflies.
Is it true you don’t read your own reviews?
It’s hard to get around it now, because everything is online, but [negative reviews] still affect me.
What music are you listening to now?
I really like Jack White’s The Dead Weather record, and I like Wiz Khalifa and J. Cole.
You’ve collaborated with some big-hitters in the past. Is there anyone on your wish-list for future collaborations?
I really want to collaborate with Kanye West. I’m always jealous of the people he puts on his album. That’s my big dream.
I fell in love with Monsters Calling Home almost immediately. I saw them perform at The Mint in Los Angeles, and I emailed lead singer Alex Hwang minutes after the show. Since then, I’ve shamelessly stalked them around Los Angeles, and then I took the stalking to the next level and invited Alex to Brick & Mortar Recording for an interview. He kindly complied. Listen below, and watch their new video, “Fight to Keep,” after the interview.
There’s a very valuable playlist in my music library entitled, “Music That Makes Me Happy,” and Eric Hutchinson has been on it for years. While playing his first album for the 500th time, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if he had a second album? Where’s he been? I want more Eric Hutchinson!” So I googled him, and my prayers were answered. He released his follow-up, Moving Up Living Down, on April 17th, and he achieved the rare feat of surpassing the quality of his debut. Because I’m The Dishmaster, and I have an insatiable need to pick the brain of everyone I admire, I requested an interview with the man himself — and he kindly agreed. Read below, and catch the video for his hit single, “Watching You Watch Him,” at the end.
I was a huge fan of your first record. I know you did the first record on your own and now you’re on a label. Do you have a preference?
I still consider myself an independent artist, but this way was a lot easier. I got to concentrate on the music and the writing and the singing a lot more, and I got paired up with some really great producers. I worked with Martin Terefe and lived in London for a month, and Mike Elizondo who I lived with in LA for a month.
Does the creative input from a producer ever create friction?
You have to find the right person. We had a few people that didn’t work out, but the most important part is the creative flow with the producer. Mike had pictures of The Beatles all over his studio, and The Beatles are probably my favorite of all time, so I had a feeling right off the bat that we would get along. It’s a really fun, creative vibe. Never for one second did it leave my head that here I am making an album for Warner Bros. Records, and how is this my life?
It’s been a few years since your first record. What’s the reason for the time-gap?
I toured for so long with the first record. It was sort of an unorthodox release, because it kind of came out on its own, and then it came out again when Perez Hilton sent it out, and then Warner Bros. picked it up. So I was just touring and touring. And then finally I came home to New York and got to process everything and started writing my record. I know from the outside it probably feels like a while, but I’ve been busy the whole time.
Did you know that Perez’s post would create such traction?
I was in LA and went to sleep, and the next morning I woke up, and my phone was blowing up. Within the day it was in the iTunes top five. It was a really great moment. Perez has been very supportive and continues to be very supportive.
I read that you went broke making your first record. Was there a definable moment where you thought, “I can make a living doing this.”
I had been making a living, but I went a little too far making that record. I feel a real privilege to be able to do this, but I got a lot of very lucky breaks.
One of my favorite songs on your record is “The People I Know.” It’s a really upbeat song with sad lyrics. Is that an intentional juxtaposition?
Yeah, it’s something I learned from The Beatles. It helps the medicine go down, if you will. I try to cram big ideas into a three-minute pop song, and if you do it with an upbeat feel it’s easier to process it all.
There’s a lyric, “I’ve got a sister who I barely see,” in “The People I Know.” Is that a literal lyric? Did she hear it and say anything to you about it?
I had a talk with her about it. It’s sort of true. My sister did live down the street from me, and I didn’t see her because I was on tour all the time. And then one day I ran into her on the street, and it was a weird moment. It’s a weird moment when you recognize someone that is that close to you and you see them on the street out of context. But I get along with my family really well, and they have been very supportive.
But you gave her the heads up before you released the song?
I did, yeah. She likes [the song]. The other thing that’s really cool about that song is I play it live and people come up to me afterwards and say, “I have an estranged relationship with somebody.” That’s when the music really feels special.
Do you ever have a revelation about your lyrics in hindsight and think, “Wow, I must have been really sad and not even known it?”
All the time. There are certain songs where I think, “I don’t even know what I’m writing,” and then I look back, and it’s so clear. That’s one of the good parts about the album. Having some time to release this album, I got a lot of perspective on it, and I could look at it clearly and think about which songs I like and what I wanted to say.
When you play live, do you have a venue preference? Do you prefer a smaller, intimate venue to a large stadium?
As long as the crowd is excited, that’s where the magic comes from. I could play to 50 people or 5,000 as long as they’re are excited about the tour.
You’ve performed on some really great late-night shows. Do you have a favorite performance?
The first time I played The Tonight Show. It was my first time on TV. It just felt really cool.
Do you still get nervous for those performances?
Not really anymore. I’ve performed so much at this point that I’m kind of used to playing. I really want to play Saturday Night Live. Maybe I’d get nervous for that.
What music are you listening to now?
A band I got really into is Los Lobos. My plan is to get them to come play on my next record. I love Vampire Weekend, the new Black Keys record, and Kanye West.
Who chose “Watching You Watch Him” as the single for the record? Did you write it and think, “That’s the hit?”
A lot of times I’ll have to [do something] and stop writing, but every now and then I’ll write a song and I just can’t leave it. I was supposed to meet a bunch of friends to watch a football game, and about ten minutes into writing “Watching You Watch Him,” I just knew I couldn’t go anywhere, and I called them and told them that I couldn’t come. I really love that song. To me, I can just picture driving through the desert on a road trip and blaring that song really loud.
UPDATE: Aaron Barnhart made his goal! He’s currently making his record at Brick & Mortar Recording and will release it to his fans shortly.
UPDATE: Aaaron Barnhart is $770 short of his goal. He has until May 4th to make it happen! Click here to donate.
When I launched The Dishmaster, I had a dream of using it to highlight up-and-coming artists. And when those up-and-coming artists are also personal friends, the process is doubly joyful. Today’s highlight includes the very talented Aaron Barnhart, who is in the process of recording his second album, and he’s using Kickstarter to raise the funds. For those unfamiliar with Kickstarter, here’s how it works: The artist sets a monetary goal and a deadline of when he has to achieve that goal. If he doesn’t raise the funds by the deadline, all of the money is returned to the donors and the artist gets nothing. It’s a great way for underground musicians to raise money for a product they would otherwise never be able to create. And because I have a die-hard love of both music and Aaron Barnhart, it’s time to ask my readers to contribute to making his record happen. He’ll be recording it at Brick & Mortar Studios in Los Angeles, and he has so far raised $2,290. He has until May 4 to reach his $3,500 goal, and you can make it happen. Click the link below to contribute to his new album. Also, click the second link to listen to an interview with the artist himself, and click the third link to listen to a live recording from the new record.
The Lumineers did not come across The Dishmaster’s desk by accident. I’m on a constant hunt for new music, which includes an overloaded news feed flooded with music blogs and magazines. But with all that research, I rarely find anything worth listening to. You can therefore imagine my shock and happiness when I found The Lumineers. I discovered them through Paste Magazine, who voted them one of “The 20 Best New Bands of 2011.” I immediately listened to their EP, followed by playing their Daytrotter session on repeat. When I reached out to their team for an interview, I was elated when they invited me to their “Ho Hey” video shoot, which was filmed at a broken-down, old hospital that is also the home of some familiar movies, including Saw and Pearl Harbor. Though I was briefly afraid that ghosts might attack me, my nerves were immediately calmed when I met the band. They had been shooting all day and somehow still managed to sustain their fun, laid-back energy. I’m told by their manager that they revved up their dedicated, suspender-wearing extras with a live performance prior to the shoot, and it’s no surprise that everyone loved it. These guys are good. Our interview took place a few days later. They answered all my questions with the right amount of humility and honesty. In fact, after forty minutes I said, “I’ll let you off the hook. I’ve kept you way too long.” The band then said, “No, ask us anything. Keep going if you have more questions.” I took their bait and held them hostage even longer. Their self-titled debut album hits stores April 3rd. Enjoy the interview, and watch their “Ho Hey” video below.
As the daughter of a dentist, I’m intrigued by your name. How did you come up with it?
Wesley Schultz (Lead Vocals, Guitar, Piano): We stole it. We were playing at a place in Jersey City and they accidentally called us the name of a band performing the following week.
Why the move from New York to Denver?
Wesley: We wanted to move to the middle of nowhere and write songs. It was pretty random. We wanted to go somewhere new and cheap. It’s an absurd proposition to tour and live in New York. We wanted a low overhead. But we didn’t expect to find the really great music scene [in Denver]. There was a huge community of musicians.
How did Neyla join the band?
Neyla Peckarek (Cello, Piano): I just finished school and I had nothing on my plate and didn’t know what was next. I got a teaching degree and they don’t hire a lot of teachers in [December]. I checked the musicians page of [a Craigslist ad]. They sent me a couple of tracks and it was a pretty natural fit right away. I wasn’t looking to be in a band at all. It forged naturally. They wanted to go on tour, and I said yes.
I can’t remember where I was when I first heard Sister Hazel’s biggest hit, “All For You,” but I certainly remember singing it excessively. In fact, I’ve played . . . Somewhere More Familiar hundreds of times. So when my good friend – Rob Columbus – told me he was playing drums with the band for a few of their shows (because their regular drummer, Mark Trojanowski – had a baby), I immediately asked if he could land me an interview. He asked, and the band kindly agreed. I’ve never been more nervous. I spent the entire day immobile on the couch thinking of everything that could go wrong. Rob attempted to squash my panic by assuring me that the band members are “five of the nicest guys he’s ever met,” but nothing worked. Finally, I met the band. It became immediately clear that Rob wasn’t exaggerating. We did the interview in their dressing room at the Los Angeles House of Blues prior to their show. When we began, Ken Block (lead vocals, acoustic guitar) hilariously turned things around and started to interview me. Andrew Copeland (rhythm guitar, keys, vocals) laughed and said, “isn’t she supposed to ask the questions?” Thanks to Ken — I loosened up. It’s nice to meet a band with the perfect combination of success and humility. Enjoy!
I love that you still play the songs that made you famous. I know a lot of bands that get angry about playing their biggest hits. Is it difficult to sustain the energy playing those songs so many years later?
Ken: We’re fans of music, too. There are artists that we like to see, and we want them to play the songs that we love. People ask us if we get tired of playing “All For You.” It’s so fun to see how much it continues to resonate with people so long after that song came out. It’s more a feeling of gratitude that people still care and it can still make people sing every word no matter where we are in the world. And one of the things that’s so gratifying about our fan base is that they sing along to [our news songs, too].
Andrew: Even if they don’t know the words, they’ll just move their mouths as if they know the words. That’s even more fun to watch.
When you write a song about a tough personal experience in your life, does it reopen the wound every time you perform the song?
Andrew: There are certainly times when you fade back to something that reminds you of that time. It takes you back to what inspired the song.
Ken: There’s one song that I wrote that we had done for years, and after Andrew lost his dad he said he couldn’t do it anymore.
Andrew: He wrote it about losing his younger brother to cancer. I sang it with him forever, and I was always amazed that he could make it through without much of an issue. And when my dad passed away, I tried to sing it a couple of times and I couldn’t do it.
What song is that?
Ken: It’s called “Running Through the Fields.”
What about you Ryan? I know you wrote songs about your divorce. Is it difficult to keep singing those songs after you’ve healed?
Ryan Newell (lead and slide guitar, harmony vocals): The songs definitely helped me get through [my divorce] at the time and put my feelings into music. It’s like therapy. But I don’t go back to that place from where they came from. Once they went into the song they took on a life of their own. I don’t relive it every time we play the song. They don’t have that weight anymore.