Showing posts with label Kevin Broughton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kevin Broughton. Show all posts

Oct 1, 2021

Jeremy Pinnell: The Farce the Music Interview

By Kevin Broughton


When Jeremy Pinnell released OH/KY in the summer of 2015 to stunned acclaim, it felt like an entire career compressed into one knockout album. Hailed as a “Mind-blowingly good” (GregVandy/KEXP) and a ”tutorial on classic country music” (Popmatters), Pinnell’s debut immediately differentiated as authentic and unflinching. 


Dogged touring through Europe and the States and celebrated radio sessions followed, cementing Pinnell’s position as a no-fuss master of his craft. His 2017 album, Ties of Blood and Affection, presented a canny lateral move. Instead of doubling down on the stark themes and values of his debut, the sophomore album saw Pinnell finding comfort in his own skin, achieving the redemption only hinted at in his previous batch of haunting songs. 


If the third time’s a charm, Pinnell is all shine and sparkle on the Goodbye L.A. Produced by noted QAnon adherent and Texan Jonathan Tyler, the tunes buff the wax and polish the chrome on country music’s deeper roots. Rooted in his steady acoustic guitar, Pinnell’s songs are shot through with honest and classic elements. The rhythm section, all snap and shuffle, finds purpose in well-worn paths. The pedal steel and Telecaster stingers arrive perfectly on cue, winking at JP’s world-wise couplets. Here slippery organ insinuates gospel into the conversation. You can feel the room breathe and get a sense of these musicians eyeballing each other as their performances are committed to tape. And through it all comes this oaken identity, the centerpiece of his work. Honest and careworn, Jeremy’s voice can touch on wry, jubilant, and debauched -- all in a single line. At his best,  Pinnell chronicles the joy and sorrow of being human, which is the best that anyone could do. Goodbye L.A., nearly two years in the making, is a triumph. 


It was a pleasure to visit with Pinnell to talk songwriting, touring, sobriety and…mixed martial arts. 


This album has been in the can a while. Y’all recorded in February 2020, played a few gigs, and then the bottom fell out. What was the long layoff like, and did you use some of that time to tweak the mix or anything like that? 

Yeah, we recorded it and got it done just under the wire. This is probably a made-up story, but this is the way I remember it, anyway. We recorded the record and came home, and a week later I flew down to see Jonathan again and we recorded the vocals. I came back that Saturday, and I think the next Monday they started telling people to stay home.  But as terrible as this thing’s been for the last – almost two years now – we did have a little free time to do everything right, you know? 


Your producer said of you, before going into the studio, “He’s just out there grinding, playing three or four shows a week, driving from town to town. Jeremy’s really putting in the hard work, and his band has gotten so tight.” How long have you and this version of your band been together?


We’ve been going at it about two and a half, almost three years with this group of guys. Junior Tutwiler is on guitar and Charles Alley is on drums. And we switch out a bass player…kind of like the drummer for…


Spinal Tap?


…(Laughs) Yeah, Spinal Tap! Except in our case it’s the bass player, so you never know who you’ll end up with. But yeah, Junior – obviously, Kevin, if you’ve heard the record – you can hear how talented he is. And Charles on drums, he’s so good and has a real knack for just finding the pocket, you know? 


This is such a country album to me, and I guess that’s a tautology. But it reminds me of some of the “neo-traditionalists” of the mid 1980s like Steve Earle, Dwight Yoakum and Lyle Lovett, just in its authenticity. Who are some of the artists who’ve impacted you the most? 


For this record, I found myself listening to a lot of ZZ Top, like that “Legs” stuff…and there’s a Waylon record, Never Could Toe the Mark with that song “The Entertainer,” from the mid 1980s. There are lots of great songs on there like “Sparkling Brown Eyes,” and I just wanted a feel-good record. So many of those 80s albums were just fun records; people just wanted to have fun. And I wanted to try to bring that back. 


Normally I wouldn’t broach this, but the first sentence of the liner notes reads, “Jeremy Pinnell tried dying once.” Your past struggles with addiction are also mentioned. So, would you mind fleshing that out a little? How has your journey to sobriety affected your craft? 


Yeah, so…I didn’t play music for a couple of years. There was a time when I…Kevin, I normally don’t talk about it much, but I don’t mind talking about it a little bit. Yeah, there was a time when I was broke and homeless, really with nowhere to go, just going from detox to detox, to homeless shelter. It’s funny, while we were recording with Jonathan, he mentioned being on Jimmy Kimmell’s show in 2010, and I laughed and said, “I was in a homeless shelter in 2010!” 


But for a guy like me, sobriety has been really good; a lot better than I’ve been to sobriety. It’s been a positive thing. 


Tell me about the guy in “Never Thought of No One.” Is he taking the first look in the mirror for a long time?


The way I wrote that song, I just imagined this character – I had the chorus and a piece of the verse – but I tried to picture a character who just couldn’t turn the corner. Because we’ve all been there, and felt like we can’t find our part for a given situation. Or we’ve known someone like that, who could turn the corner if they could just see their own part. It’s about being in denial without knowing you’re in it. Maybe I’m getting too far off track; but it’s about not being able to see your own faults. Somebody with just a blind spot, really. 


In the title cut, there’s an ear-catching line – “Hello L.A., you got some pretty ladies, but they don’t want babies and I do” – that makes me wonder if you ever spent time in Southern California. 


(Laughs) Yeah, so we were in L.A. and had just played a concert and were loading in the van. Just me and my buddies hanging out, and there are beautiful women everywhere. And I made the remark – or our drummer made the remark – that, “yeah, but they don’t want to have babies.” Sort of the most ridiculous thing, right? But I thought, “Maybe the girls back in Kentucky will want to have babies.” And I thought about it and, yeah, I’m gonna use that, because it just struck me as hilarious. And it’s kinda cool, so that’s how I came up with it. 


Tell me about recording under the conspiratorial eye of Jonathan Tyler….


(Laughs) I love it!


 …I’ll grudgingly acknowledge that he seems to have done some good work here. 


Yeah, working with Jon is such a positive, just being able to take his direction. And he has such an eye – or ear, I guess – for music, you know? It was really nice to be in the studio…you know, we came in with the songs, and he would listen and say, “Why don’t we try it this way?” It was just a positive atmosphere. If you know Jon, you know you’re gonna have fun. 


I’ve interviewed one artist who’s a Thai boxer, but I’m pretty sure you’re the first jiu-jitsu practitioner. How long has that been a thing for you?


It started at the beginning of the pandemic. I didn’t have anything to do, and the government was giving me money, and I always wanted to know how to fight. You know, you grow up getting beaten up, or maybe get in the random bar fight here or there, but that’s different than understanding your own body and how to interact with another human being. 


But yeah, I started at the beginning of the pandemic. It’s been about a year and a half. And I wish I had started at a younger age; I had no idea of the power of martial arts. It’s been amazing. I wish I could do it all the time, but I’ve got a six-year-old. You can kinda get carried away with it. There are a lot of times where I’d rather be in the gym training than playing music. 


Do you follow the UFC? Care to give a pick for Volkonovski-Ortega this weekend?


I am a big fan, and I like Ortega a lot just because of his jiu-jitsu.* I’m really excited about the Nick Diaz fight.


Yeah, that one ought to be good. It’s been such a long layoff for him.


Two hundred and nine months or something like that. 


Looks like you’ll be touring pretty solid for the next couple months. Will you be back out on the road in 2022?


Yeah, man. I was doing nothing but playing music up until the pandemic, and then went home. My wife and I have bills to pay, so I’m really looking forward to getting back out on the road as soon as we can. 


What else would you like the folks to know about Goodbye L.A.?


Yeah, we’re just really excited about it. We spent about a year writing and then rehearsing these songs at sound check. Then we recorded a few demos for Jonathan, and finally we got into the studio and made the record. And Sofa Burn records offered to put it out, and there was no one knocking on the door during the pandemic, know what I mean? So I was really grateful for their generosity in helping us get this record out. 


So, we’re really excited for people to hear it. It’s the culmination of a lot of long nights away from home, making hardly any money. Yeah. It’s time. 



Goodbye LA is available today everywhere you stream and purchase music. 



*While Mr. Pinnell has made one of the best country albums of the year, this doesn’t necessarily carry over to UFC predictions. 


Aug 25, 2021

Rest In Peace, Charlie

By Kevin Broughton

A few weeks before I turned 12, Mom said, “Grandmama wants to know what you want for your birthday. They’re coming down.” Because “Beast of Burden” had been all over the pop stations in Orlando, I said, “A Rolling Stones album!” On the happy day, I greedily went for the flat, album-shaped object first, shredding the decorative paper. 

“Thank you, Grandmama and Grandaddy!” Scanning the back cover, though, I may have looked perplexed. There was no “Beast of Burden,” or even “Satisfaction.” And who was this weird, jumpy guy on the front? 

I didn’t know who Mick was referring to before “Honky Tonk Women” when he said, “Charlie’s good tonight, innit?” It would be many years before I appreciated the greatness of that live album, recorded over several nights in New York and Baltimore in 1969, before the release of Let It Bleed. I’d be in college before I realized how sublime the Mick Taylor years were. 

But listening to some of these raw, menacing cuts – “Stray Cat Blues,” a nine-minute “Midnight Rambler,” “Sympathy” – it was all over, man. At 12, I was a Stones guy for life. (Beatles guys were, and remain, pansies. Sorry.) Three years and change after that birthday, I'd see The Stones on the Tattoo You tour at what was then called the Tangerine Bowl. The opening act, Van Halen, showed me spandex style. Then I lived substance with the greatest rock band ever. 

But that image of a joyous, goofy, leaping Charlie Watts – flanked by a donkey – that’s the icon I’ll always associate with the beginning of my rock ‘n’ roll education. 

He was a jazz drummer in a blues band. He took no shit from Mick. One night on tour, the up-late, partying front man rang Charlie’s room. “Where’s my drummer?” he demanded, laughing. Charlie got out of bed, changed into a suit and tie, knocked on Jagger’s door and punched him square in the mouth when it opened. “Don’t you ever call me ‘your drummer’ again,” he said. “You’re my singer!” And then went back to bed. 

Charlie Watts (and Ringo, for that matter) would be overshadowed by a couple of game-changing contemporaries, Keith Moon and Ginger Baker. But if you ask any great drummer today to name the masters, Charlie’s name (and Ringo’s) will inevitably come up. To find out how unique and vital Watts was to the Stones’ sound, ask his mates. 

“Most bands follow the drummer as he sets the band,” Bill Wyman said. “In our band, Charlie follows Keith.” And it’s so true. Keef, a/k/a The Human Riff, would kick off “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” or “Street Fighting Man,” with a signature hook. Charlie jumped in, Wyman filled in the pocket, and it was just magic. It also has this weird vibe that a song might go off the rails any minute.

Yet they sometimes followed him. Who but a jazz master could kick off “Paint It, Black” and maintain that manic tempo? What sets the table on “Sympathy?” A seductive, hypnotic groove that still raises the hair on your neck as you think of it right this minute. 

“Everybody,” Keef said, “thinks Mick and Keith are the Rolling Stones. If Charlie wasn’t doing what he’s doing on drums, that wouldn’t be true at all. You’d find out that Charlie Watts is the Stones.”

He was. I’ve cried plenty today, and I’m not done. This one hurts, and Mick & Keith should shut it down now. Thank you, Charlie, for being the backbone of my favorite band. Thank you, Grandmama, for setting the table.

And thank you, Martin Scorsese, for this precious footage from 2006. The perfect sendoff. 

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.

Jul 26, 2021

Veteran Mississippi Bluesman rocks Roswell

Former and per chance yet again Blue Mountain frontman Cary Hudson graced the From The Earth Brewery in the ATL burbs with three sets of his own brand of blues. Here he channels Blind Willie Johnson with “God Don’t Never Change,” which he covered on his 2005 album The Phoenix. (Video: Kevin Broughton)

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.


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