Showing posts with label Interviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Interviews. Show all posts

Jul 30, 2021

Jesse Daniel: The Farce the Music Interview

By Kevin Broughton

If tomorrow brings me pain and strife,

At least I’ll always have those little simple things in life.

-- Jesse Daniel, “Simple Things”

Nearly eight months into what still feels for some reason like a new year, the pandemic  looms. In a good way, though. Have you noticed how many quality movies (no, not the comic book shit) have stacked up – even to stream? It’s almost like nothing got produced in 2020 or something. 

Happily, musical artists have stormed back, recording with purpose and vigor what was only written during the Lost Year, and re-emerging on the road with something to prove. Jesse Daniel’s Rollin’ On was critically hailed as one of country’s greatest albums in the early days of Year Covid. Cheated of a year’s worth of touring, Daniel rolled up his sleeves, though in a different way than he once did. Aided by partner/manager/harmony singer Jodi Lyford, he doubled down on the good habits that got him where he was.

And reunited with Grammy-nominated producer (and pedal steel ubermensch) Tommy Detamore, Daniel upped the ante with Beyond These Walls, a brilliant follow-up that shows there’s more than Bakersfield to this square-jawed caballero. Flexing the songwriting muscles he’d had a year to work in earnest, it’s fair to say Daniel has his feet firmly planted in the upper echelons of country music. 

Each one of these dozen songs is a sample of not just what country should be, but the best of what it is right now: Simple, joyful, sometimes sad, but almost always content. And most of all, real. 

If this guy’s not on Austin City Limits inside 12 months, something’s wrong. Let’s get to it. 

We last crossed paths in February of 2020… in “The Before Time.” You’ve been far from idle since then, though. Let folks in on what you’ve been up to besides losing your razor, brushing up on your Spanish, and hanging out with Raul Malo.

Ha ha. You know, I was just thinking yesterday about the last time we talked, and yeah, it was right before everything went down. Since then, yep, those things are all true. Got myself some facial hair, and I’ve done some stuff with Raul, but mainly I just spent the last year focused on turning inward. Jodi and I both decided to use that time as fruitfully as possible and line things up for the next year. We didn’t know how long it was gonna last, or when things would get back to normal; only that eventually it would. 

I’m glad we did that, because things seem like they’re getting back to normal. Other than that, just some outdoor stuff. A lot of fishing. 

Rollin’ On was a heavy dose of the Bakersfield Sound. Beyond These Walls strikes me as more of a Valentine to all of country music. Sonically, the dobro and mandolin – to say nothing of the accordion -- stand out in spots, for example. How determined were you to make a markedly different record this time?

I’d say pretty determined. I feel like people have come to know me – a California guy originally – as trying to carry the torch for Bakersfield; it’s what people have come to expect. I didn’t want to make something completely unrecognizable, but at the same time I didn’t want to make the same record twice. I love the Bakersfield sound, and all the other types of music that borrow from it. 

And I wanted to make a record – well, like you said, a Valentine – that captured more. There are so many great things about country music, with all the sub-genres and artists that I truly love. And I wanted Beyond These Walls to reflect that this time around. 

Your songwriting seems to have matured – and I want to get into specifics in a minute. But can you point to particular vision or sensibility that guided your approach to writing this time around? 

I appreciate that, man. I think one thing was definitely having that year-long gap allowed for more introspection, to really focus on the writing. A lot of polishing songs. That was a silver lining to this past year: really having the time to devote to each song. 

Another benefit of this last year to me -- as a music fan -- was being able to really listen to a lot of stuff. I’ve always been really into folk music, and now having lived in Texas for a couple years, you know, I’m nearby all these great Texas songwriters and the traditions that surround them. Listening to all that made me want to hone my own craft and really get better at it. 

So many of these songs are celebrations of the simple joys in life. They’re beautifully and efficiently done, but the glass-half-empty guy in me compels me to ask about a couple others first. Your overcoming a heroin addiction isn’t a secret, but it’s a subject you avoided on the last record. This time you lay it all out there with “Gray,” and I guess the first part of this rambling question is about the narrator’s point of view. Were these some of the words that a friend said to you, or more of a third-person perspective?

Definitely both. When I was writing it, I kinda went back and forth. Those were all things that family members and friends had told me. I had one particular friend who passed away and I went to his funeral last year…and there are just so many people who I grew up with…[pauses.] I don’t know if it’s something about that place in particular or if it’s everywhere, but the epidemic of drugs has just permeated into the culture there. I was thinking about that person when I was writing it, wishing I’d said some of those things to him like others had said to me before. 

I wanted to write a song about how serious addiction is, because a lot of people glamorize that stuff. And I can’t help but cringe when I hear it, as somebody who’s been there. I’ve been a drug addict, literally living on the street. I was a person who a lot of people who come to my shows would have looked down on back then: “Look at this disgusting drug addict,” you know? That was my story; I was that guy. So, I wanted to write a no-frills song that got it all out there. 

The darkness really gets emphasized with that final, loud minor chord. Were you putting a period on discussing this in song for the future?

Well, it definitely put a period on that song, right? That minor chord drives it all home.

It took me a couple listens to figure out that “I’ll Be Back Around” is from the point of view of a prisoner.  And, for that matter, that the title for the album is taken the chorus. But damn, dude, it’s a happy song! Has there ever been an uplifting prison ballad in the history of country music? How do you do this?

Ha! Something else I did during the gap was re-read Merle Haggard’s autobiography. And among the things he talked about was his time in prison, and I’ve sort of identified with Merle over that: Always being in trouble and being attracted to that sort of lifestyle. But then, he found his way out of that. I’ve spent time in jail and other institutions, and I have friends of mine doing time in legitimate prison, some who’ve been locked up since they were 18. So, I’ve always wanted to write a song that highlighted some of those things. And…I dunno, that bluegrass run just kind of came to me, and I’ve always wanted to do a bluegrass song, too. 

“Living in the Great Divide” is the only topical – or temporal – song I can pick out from the last two records. 2020 was certainly a tough year on everybody, and one that highlighted our great divides. Halfway through 2021, are you any more hopeful? 

I am in a way, yeah. It’s been nice to see the world coming back a little bit. There was a layer of despair…and just fear that everybody had that contributed to it. People were in fear of losing their livelihoods, their lives, their family members. Nobody knew which way was up, and I think that mass-hysteria type of thing took its toll on people and relationships. That’s where I was at when I wrote that song. 

You know, people getting their news from Instagram or Facebook or word of mouth…and for lack of a better term it’s just a shit storm, you know? I’ve lived a lot of different lives, and I have many friends with all kinds of points of view. And I’ve always been able to have discussions and come away – if not agreeing – certainly understanding the reasons why they have those opinions. That’s what I was trying to express in that song: We should try to understand each other better. If we’d use basic humanity a little more, we’d be a lot farther along. 

As a frustrated addict of bass-fishing, I have to ask if “Drop A Line” comes from a deep and personal place within you. It certainly seems a tad autobiographical. 

Oh, yeah, that one’s definitely personal. I spent a lot of time fishing this past year after not having done much of it in quite a long time, and basically fell back in love with it. The funny thing about that song is that I woke up one morning and the chorus was just in my head. It was kind of like a nursery rhyme…


…so I grabbed my guitar and started singing it, and Jodi said, “Write that down!” But for sure, I’ve spent a lot of time on the water when I should’ve been doing something else. 

How much Spanish did you take in high school, and what’s your connection to the Mavericks’ front man? 

I took a couple years of Spanish in high school, but for whatever reason, I was never really good at school. But my stepdad – he was married to my mom, and he’s the father of my youngest brother – was from Mexico. He spoke English but with a heavy accent. And we worked the flea markets; that’s what my mom and Luis did, making and selling metal art. So, we helped them. And the majority of the vendors and people at these things were Spanish-speaking, so we heard a lot of Mexican music – those great polkas. These guys would come out with perfectly starched Wranglers and tall hats. I just thought those Mexican cowboys were so cool when I was growing up. 

So yeah, it was my stepdad who really got me into that stuff. I’d attribute what little bit of Spanish I know to that. 

And Raul Malo?

Yeah, Michael Guerra who played on this album, too, was part of that group  [producer] Tommy Detamore put together for Rollin’ On…he plays for the Mavericks.

We ended up becoming friends after that. And I think Michael sent a copy of Rollin’ On to Raul, saying, “I played on this kid’s record.” Raul ended up liking it. We got in touch with him, and ended up doing a couple shows with him here in Texas. So, it was all on a real “friend” basis. So that song, “El trajabador,” which means “the worker…”

Yeah, I know a few Spanish words myself. More than Peggy Hill…

…Ha! Yeah, so I wanted to send it to him and see if he’d be interested in singing on it. In my mind, I heard him singing on it, and singing harmonies. Long story short, he said he’d like to do it. He recorded his part at his home studio.

2020 has been called “The Great Pause,” at least by a couple artists I’ve interviewed recently.  Assuming we don’t have another one of these for a while, what’s next for Jesse Daniel, best-case scenario? 

Best-case scenario, our plan is to put out this album on July 30, and just tour the hell out of it like we’re making up for lost time. And we’re gonna be on the road the rest of this year and most of next: West coast, Midwest…and the goal by late 2022 is to hit Europe.


One selfishly hopes that Brother Daniel can squeeze in the American South between the Midwest and Europe.

Buy Beyond These Walls today, wherever you purchase fine music. 

Jul 29, 2021

Road Dispatch / Tennessee Jet

Tennessee Jet

We caught up with Tennessee Jet before his July 24 show at the iconic Eddie's Attic in Decatur, Ga. and discussed a range of topics, including touring post-Covid, his forthcoming album (South Dakota,) and whether there's a movie in there somewhere. There's also a video of his Whiskey Myers' cut "Bury My Bones" below the interview.

Jun 11, 2021

A Conversation with Adam Greuel of The High Hawks

Photo by Ty Helbach

By Kevin Broughton

The word “supergroup” gets overused to describe side musical projects, but it's apt and well-earned when it comes to The High Hawks. 

With nearly 150 years of collective touring and playing between them, Vince Herman (Leftover Salmon), Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth, Blue Sparks From Hell), Chad Staehly (Hard Working Americans), Adam Greuel (Horseshoes & Hand Grenades), Brian Adams (DeadPhish Orchestra) and Will Trask (Great American Taxi) have maintained a generation-spanning presence at the forefront of the roots music scene for over two decades.

What’s striking about this collaboration’s first, self-titled LP is that it bears little – if any – resemblance to what fans of the foregoing bands are used to hearing. There is some serious, cosmically inspired symbiosis afoot. 

Indeed, the baker's dozen of songs – released today -- that make up their debut have the strong identity and cohesiveness of a band three records in to their career. The summery, fiddle-infused opener, “Singing a Mountain Song,” with its self-referential line – “Soaring like a high hawk across this mountain top,” -– acts as a kind of mission statement for the whole collection. There's a lot of good feeling and optimism in these grooves, from the celestial cowboy vibe of “White Rider” and the revved-up Cash rockabilly of “Bad, Bad Man” to the catchy, sauntering “Do Si Do,” which sounds like a great lost Grateful Dead track. Then there’s the spare, emotional cover of Woody Guthrie's “Fly High,” and “Just Another Stone,” a moving ode to love's redemptive power. Throughout, the creative hand-offs between four songwriters and four distinct singers all come together to channel influences from bluegrass to folk to reggae to cosmic Americana, into a singular, appealing voice.

That unity, though, comes not from a shared musical vision or taste, but genuine affection for one another. These are guys who just wanted to hang out and jam, but before they knew it, this side project had become a thing. 

We caught up with singer/guitarist Adam Greuel (Horseshoes and Hand Grenades) on his way to the trout stream, and it kept coming up, again and again: He is positively joyful at what the High Hawks – even early on – have become. We were also able to tip him off to an alt-country classic.

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades – taking into account all the genre-bending that goes on in Americana – can fairly be called a bluegrass/jam band. None of your songs on this record could fairly be put into that category, and I don’t hear a bunch of Leftover Salmon influence either, for that matter. Was this album a chance to if not step out of your comfort zone, at least spread your wings a little?

Yeah. You know, with the High Hawks – one of the cool things about this band – we came together without any inkling of what the band might sound like. We really enjoy each other’s company and playing together and making this record was really just a way to spend more time together. And I think when we get along together as humans, as friends, that translates well to making good music. 

And sure enough, we got together and there was that musical openness to a degree that the songs played the band, so to speak. When you’re all open-minded about where the music can go, it allows all of our collective influences into the melting pot and produce a creative sound. So, the open-ended nature of the High Hawks was probably a breath of fresh air for us all. 

Speaking of influences, I’ll go out on a limb and guess y’all are all fans of The Band? I mean, Vince is channeling Levon from beyond the grave on “Goodnight Irene,” so should I assume they’re a common thread that runs throughout y’all’s eclectic tastes and influences? 

Yeah, without a doubt. In the modern-day, greater Americana/bluegrass/rock ‘n’ roll genre, how could you not be influenced by the likes of The Band? The similarity, I think, that I see most distinctly between the High Hawks and The Band is the influences. A lot of the sources of inspiration for The Band are there for all of us. Another big similarity is that there’s a plethora of different songwriters and singers. And that’s a big part of who we are. 

By Jake Cudek
The term “supergroup” is probably pretentious, and “side project” is kind of ho-hum. If Golden Smog was a supergroup, I’d say The High Hawks qualify. Have y’all figured out how to describe this collaboration? 

It’s a band. (Laughs) And you know… “supergroup” or whatever, we came together because we all liked one another and formed a band. It’s raw and it’s natural. We got together at Vince’s – he lives up in the Colorado mountains – and man, we booked a run of shows in Colorado and a run of shows in the Midwest before we had ever played a note together. 


Yeah! That’s how the High Hawks took flight and found an identity. It created a really unique experience, knowing we all wanted to be in the same room together. What came out was really natural. 

We’re seeing albums now that were stacked up and in the can during the pandemic; when and where did y’all record this one?

We recorded at The Silo in Denver, and it was basically in the beginning days of the pandemic. It was January, right before everything got weird. As far as the pandemic itself, I don’t know that it had a huge impact on the release of this record. It did give us some time to think about how we wanted to do it. And we had the time to go back and do some real, quality mixing and mastering. 

People called the pandemic “the great pause,” and it gave us a chance to reflect. “How do we feel about this thing,” you know? It gave us the time to know that we were releasing an album we could be proud of, because we put our heart and soul behind it. 

It sounds like the recording process was pretty organic. Did y’all record most of this stuff live? 

Yeah, we recorded all of it live. And that was natural and a lot of fun. It’s rare that I want to listen to an album I’ve made, once the mixing is done. You’ve heard all the material so many times you think, “Okay, well that was good,” and you feel like you’ve done a good job and never listen again. But this High Hawks album – partly because of the diverse songwriters – I find myself listening a lot because I just like it! It sounds fun and takes you on a really cool ride. 

But the recording process itself…Will, the drummer, and I are the younger fellas in the band; I’m 30 right now. And I’ve been listening to Tim and Vince and Chad since I was in high school. And to be in a band like this where I can truly learn from some people who have already influenced my musical understanding is really a joy and a pleasure, and I’m really grateful for that experience. And the fact that there’s such a large age difference puts a cool spin on The High Hawks, too. Because there are differences there, but there are also similarities. And I found that my attitudes toward music can be challenged by Tim or Vince in the studio. At times, there attitudes can be challenged by mine. And when respect and love are present. It can be a really cool thing. 

I’d like to ask you about a couple of your songs. “Home Is” sounds like something straight off the Jayhawks’ Hollywood Town Hall. Tell me about that tune. 

Well…I’ve never heard that album. I’ll look forward to listening to it.

Oh, my Lord! It’s the Jayhawks’ third album, from around 1992. Just a fantastic record.

Wow, man. I’m gonna dig into that one. Thanks for the tip! But yeah, the song “Home Is” is really influenced by some of those (Robert) Hunter/(Jerry) Garcia ballads…

Okay, yeah. I can totally make that connection now.

Yeah. You know, I play in a high-energy string band, so sometimes at home I find myself clinging to classical music, or maybe some slow-moving ballads. Songs like “Days Between” or “China Doll.” I have a friend named Peter Kahn, who’s a poet and lyricist down in Milwaukee. We went to college together, and we’re really close friends. He and I wrote that song together, and often times, I can put together these songs and relate them to his life and his experiences. And those shared experiences tie us together, really without even talking about them. There’s just a connection. 

So, I took that song to The High Hawks, and the first time we played it, I thought, “I could not be happier with the way this sounds.” 

That’s so awesome.

Yeah! It’s just such a cool thing. The Universe has these confirming moments, you know? When you’re on the right path, the Universe can give you a little nod, and you’re like, “Yep! Keep on going!” And I’ve often felt that with The High Hawks. 

Like you walked into a studio to cut that song, and there was a great band waiting for you.

For sure. And I know that’s the case with all the fellas. These songs just came to life. You know, Tim Carbone – who plays with Railroad Earth – he doesn’t really sing, and they don’t play many of his originals. He’s an incredible songwriter! There are a couple of his songs [“Just Another Stone” and “Blue Earth”] on the album that are really phenomenal. And the same with Chad and Vince: just some really cool songs. And it’s awesome to see all these songs come to life – like I said earlier – through that High Hawks filter.

Now that I think about it, “Trying To Get By” is a little Jayhawk-y, too. But between it and “Heroes and Highways,” it seems that finding one’s way is a theme in your writing, at least on this album.

Yeah, I suppose so. We’re all evolving beings. Some things stay the same, but I have a hard time believing any of us really remain exactly who we were; we change every moment with experience. I think we’re all trying to find our way, trying to be the best person we can be for the world around us. And some time we find these sorts of…spirit guides, I guess, and we’re really lucky when that happens. Sometimes it can feel as if the Universe guides us to a group of people when we need them most. 

And I think that’s the case with all of us in The High Hawks: We all needed this band in one way or another. And that’s part of the magic. It’s gratitude for the Universe bringing us together. And hopefully for the people who hear it, they’ll get the little cosmic nudge they need.  

I’m going to rephrase my final question because the course of our conversation has mandated it. This album isn’t a one-off, is it?

(Pauses) I do not believe so. 


Nah, not a chance these boys are done. This album is so good, you’ll wait impatiently for the next one. 

The High Hawks is out today on LoHi Records and everywhere else you might consume music.

Apr 16, 2021

Back Around: A Conversation With Zach Schmidt

By Kevin Broughton

You don’t know Zach Schmidt. 

“Who in the world is this guy, and why have I never heard of him?” was my initial reaction after a run through his second full-length album, Raise A Banner, out today. The explanation? Well, it’s complicated. 

Through no fault of his own, Raise A Banner sat on a shelf for more than a year. Despite the delay – perhaps in a silver-lining moment – the album’s themes are now more apropos than ever: fighting through hardship, finding truth in a world of lies, enduring personal loss. Produced by 400 Unit guitarist Sadler Vaden (on a mini hot streak behind the glass himself) and backed by Vaden’s bandmates, it’s a record whose overdue time has come. 

The thoughtful and humble Schmidt has been waiting for this moment; he’s made a record without a weak cut on it, and it’s borderline criminal that he remains unsigned. Smart money says that’s about to change.

Nah. You don’t know Zach Schmidt.*  But a whole lot of folks are fixin’ to. 

It was a real pleasure to catch up with Schmidt and discuss fence-building, finding inspiration in lawnmower boys, and the secret to finding the best harmony vocalist.

Let’s do a little level-setting. This record – and you, for that matter – seemingly came out of nowhere. You’re from Pittsburgh, and you self-released albums in 2013 and 2016. Beyond that, could you fill in some biographical details, personal and professional? 

I’d be glad to. So yeah, the EP I put out in 2013, I released that right before I moved to Nashville. I was living in Pittsburgh, working at a sh*tty job and playing music every night. I was extremely emotionally exhausted. I grew up in Pittsburgh. I love the town and love to go back, but it wasn’t the right place for me; things in my life just weren’t in a great spot. 

So I moved to Nashville at the end of 2013, and throughout that time I was putting tours together and doing my own solo thing…driving around the country. A couple of years later, we put out my The Day We Lost The War album. I didn’t know anything about releasing a record, so I just put it out there to see what would happen. And with this one, I’m trying hard to get some press and radio; seeing if people will dig it. 

There’s a real heartland feel to the whole album, and several of the ballads – like “Go My Way” and “I Can’t Dance” – give off a Steve Earle vibe. Who are your songwriting influences? 

Steve Earle is a huge influence of mine. I love all those Texas songwriters: Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, James McMurtry. All those guys are huge to me. When I was writing this record I took a deep dive into John Hiatt’s catalog. I had never listened to John Hiatt before; I don’t know why, but he was one of those guys who had always eluded me. My wife’s family loved the record Walk On. After that one, I just dug really deeply into all his stuff, trying to soak all that up while I was writing. 

Kathleen Edwards, I’m a huge fan of hers. Lucinda Williams. Just too many people to really put my finger on one. All those folks have had a deep impact on me. I’m really glad to hear the Steve Earle comparison, though. I’ve loved his songwriting as long as I can remember.  

You’ve said that the album was “written from a place of uncertainty.” It was in the can and ready for release last year, only to be derailed by the pandemic, which certainly rings of uncertainty. A pretty good example of life imitating art, huh? 

Yeah, it really does. And in fact, we had the record done a year before the pandemic and tried to put it out. But we had two failed record deals that fell through for one reason or another, and a couple other labels that basically wanted to own me and everything I did for the rest of my life. And it just wasn’t worth it. 

And really, we wanted the record deal for the money, because it’s hard to put out an album as an independent musician and get people to hear it. We wanted a little bit of support behind us, and it just wasn’t working. I kept waiting, hoping that something was going to sort itself out, but at the same time getting ready for a self-release at the end of 2019. And then…here’s 2020, coming in hot. 

We were all set to go to South By [Southwest] in March, and that was the first thing on my calendar that got canceled. 

What a kick in the nuts. 


I’m gonna skip ahead a little here, because I had a two-part question, the first sounded rhetorical, but wasn’t: “How in the world are you not on a label…”


 “…and how did you come to the attention of Sadler Vaden?” You can take the second part, since you’ve covered the first. 

I’ve known Sadler for a little while through friends around town. Nashville’s a small town, so you run into everybody one way or another. And I met Sadler through my buddy Aaron Lee Tasjan; I met him right after I moved to town. A couple of years later – I think it was on my wife’s birthday – we were out and I was talking to my buddy Paul, who manages the band Shovels And Rope. I was basically talking his ear off, complaining how hard it is to get a record made – this huge, daunting task. 

It was the first time that I really wanted to work with a producer specifically. You know, I wanted to take these songs out of my head and get them into the ears of somebody who cares about them. Paul told me that Sadler had started producing and wanted to work on more and more stuff, so he passed my number along to him. A few days later I got a call from him at 8:00 in the morning. They (Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit) were in Australia, and I think he was sitting by the pool or something.

He said, “Send me the songs you’re working on. I’ll take a listen and see if we can figure something out.” I think I sent him 18 songs.  A couple days later, he called me back and said he’d booked the studio for two weeks, we’d meet for a couple days beforehand and then just go do it. 


Yeah, after complaining about it for so long, it all fell together really quickly. 

For the last year, I’ve asked every artist I’ve interviewed, “How have you made things work, or ends meet, during the pandemic?” Indulge me, and maybe you’re the last one I have to ask.

Yeah, that would be nice, right? 

When the pandemic first hit in March, my wife and I took off for Pennsylvania and stayed in a cabin for two months. We packed for two weeks, hoping for the best – everyone was hoping it wasn’t gonna last for long. We quickly realized that was not going to be the case and came back to Nashville.

I started building fences with a friend, another guitar player in town. He and I had both done construction over the years, so we just put ourselves out on Facebook: “We’re gonna build some fences. Who needs one?” Word spread, and we started doing that. I also worked at a warehouse for a denim brand here in town. Between those two things I was able to totally shift my life from anything music-related, to having more jobs than I cared to.  

A guy (or gal, in Morgan Wade’s case) could do worse than having The 400 Unit as a studio band. How much confidence did that give you, recording with such a top-flight lineup?

(Pauses) Well, when we first got into the studio and started to work on the first track, I got out my guitar and we were sitting in the control room. I laid it down for the guys, and the first song we recorded, we took the very first take from it. So that alone speaks to their level of professionalism and how great they are together as a band – and individually. And honestly, there couldn’t be nicer guys out there. It was an honor to work with those guys; they really are the best around, in so many ways. 

I didn’t know them beforehand and they didn’t know me so at first, we were trying to figure each other out. But after that first take, everything felt great. And we had to do everything pretty quickly, because [drummer] Chad [Gamble] lives in Alabama. He was coming up every day to play drums, so we only had him for a few days. We had to work efficiently, and those guys knew how to do it. 

What was the studio dynamic like, in terms of the arranging?

Sadler and I put a lot of that together beforehand. A lot of the songs I wrote just on the acoustic guitar, and he didn’t change too much other than on a couple of songs. I would go in, play them for all the guys, and Sadler would tell everybody what to do. And because they’ve played together for so long and he knows all their styles, he was able to communicate what he wanted quickly. And so we’d just go in and give it a shot and see what happened. 

I’m a sucker for great harmony vocals. Tell us a little about Jackie Berkley. 

Jackie Berkley is my wife. 

So that’s the connection! 

Ha, yeah. We were married last October, but we’ve been together seven years. We met at this amazing little bar in town called Santa’s Pub, on a Sunday night where I’d been playing with a country band. Sunday nights before the pandemic, we were Santa’s Ice Cold Pickers, doing good old country music from 7:00 to 9:00. 

We’ve been together ever since. She’s been a singer all her life. She’s a great singer and performer. And cheap labor, you know? 

(Laughing) Yeah!

She has a choice, but she chooses to grace me with her talent every day. 

The title cut has a swampy feel that reminds me a little of Brent Cobb. What’s the story of that song? 

That song…long story short:

The first house I lived in here in Nashville, we had a next-door neighbor with two sons, and we used to pay them to cut our grass. Super nice kids, and one day when they were finishing up, I asked them, “So what did you buy with the money?” And they said they had given the money to their dad, “for his medicine.” 

And he was a nice enough guy, but he didn’t take super good care of those kids. He typically was just drinking all day long. So that’s a very unfortunate story, but those kids are what inspired that song: Just feeling kinda hopeless for those kids and their future. And wanting to do the best you can for them, as a relative stranger; not being able to help in a significant way. And the dad played it off as “not the Christian thing to do,” judging him for the way he lives his life. I wasn’t trying to judge, I was trying to look out for the kids; I didn’t think it was right to take their money from them, no matter how he ended up using it.  

One other cut I have to ask you about: “Concrete Dreams,” with its strong Mark Knopfler groove. What’s up with it?

Honestly, it just kind of came naturally to the song. I have always played that song in a very percussive way with the acoustic guitar. When we recorded it, Sadler went with the Strat and it just kind of had that feel to it.

After the fits and starts you’ve experienced in getting this album released, have you allowed yourself to set expectations about what will happen next? What’s your best-case scenario?

Best-case scenario? I would love to get back out on the road and play some shows. I expect…I guess the best way to put it is, I hold great expectations over myself, I know what I’m capable of, and I know what I want to do. But I think as far as the record goes, I’m trying to curb any expectations so as to avoid disappointment, and just be grateful for the fact that this record is coming out. It’s not just going to sit on a shelf somewhere; people are gonna be able to hear it. 

And you know, with anything like this, it’s hard to do that, especially now that people are starting to get back out there. Stuff’s still getting canceled. But I really just want to play music for people, whatever that may look like in the future. 

So y’all haven’t mapped out a tour just yet? 

No. I have two shows right now, one in July and one in August. That’s the only thing on the books as of now. Our booking agent was the first person laid off when the pandemic hit. Seems like once South By was canceled, all the booking agents got laid off, so we don’t have anybody in that corner for us right now. Hopefully that’s one of the things we’ll be able to line up. I’d love to be able to hop on somebody else’s tour and open some shows; I think that would be the best thing for me right now. 

I’m hoping it all comes back soon. I’ve got my two shots and I’m ready to go. 

What else would you like people to know about Raise A Banner? 

(Long pause) I think I would like people to know, as the person who wrote the record, that I really put everything I had into these tunes. I’m really proud of the record we made, and I hope that people will just give it a chance. I think that’s all I can really add. 

I think you’re about to be ridin’ a rocket ship. This thing is top-flight.

Well, thanks, Kevin. And you know what? I keep telling people this, too: The silver lining of having this record take so long to get out is that I’m ready to go back in the studio any time. I don’t think it will be five years before we put another album out. 


No, it surely won’t. Don’t bet against this guy. 

Meantime, buy this thing at at Apple Music, Amazon or wherever you purchase fine music. 

*Integrity compels me to admit that I cannot claim credit for the clever opening line of this piece. I found it on a tee shirt in Zach’s store, where you can also buy the album on vinyl, or download it for a mere ten bucks. 


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