Thursday, April 29, 2010

Interview: Andy Brewer of Taddy Porter talks the 'Southern sound'

Andy Brewer embraced the "Southern sound" early on.

"I remember as a kid driving to go fishing with my dad and hearing Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers, and loving it," said the singer for Stillwater, Okla.-based rock band Taddy Porter.

"I remember the songs sounded pretty and explained what we were doing at the time. I was just fishing with my dad, and it all fit together. I like holding onto the nostalgia of that."

He's not alone. Southern rock is entering a new era of appreciation. Just look at the upswing of Southern-flavored bands on the radio: Kings of Leon, Blackstone Cherry and the Black Keys.

Soulful groups like Taddy Porter are hotter than ever.

"I think Southern rock has been around for awhile, but it wasn't really prevalent in today's music, except for country," he said. "But now, I hear lots of bands coming up that have a Southern sound. It's great."

Taddy Porter, which plays shows in both Grand Rapids and Flint this week, has a fuzzy-warm success story that starts with the guys playing tiny, 10-person shows in Oklahoma and ends with them landing a tour with major-label rockers Saving Abel.

That tour was a turning point.

"When we were out with Saving Abel, they brought big crowds," Brewer said. "We were the opening band and didn't think we would get a positive reaction because we're a different genre. But they dug us."

MySpace plays and Facebook fans went up. Way up.

"After that, we realized this was something special and that we could get to a point where we could hold the crowd in our hands a little bit," he said.
On the agenda now: Finishing up the band's yet untitled full-length, due out in April or May.

The album's debut single, "Shake Me," harnesses a close-to-the-bone, gritty blues-rock sound with heart.

Also on the horizon: Rock on the Range this May. The two-day hard rock, alternative and metal fest is held every year in Columbus, Ohio, and the 2010 lineup includes the Deftones, Slash, Limp Bizkit, Rob Zombie and, yes, Taddy Porter, among others.

It's an honor. Even for a Southern guy.

"I had actually never heard of the festival until I found out we were on it, because we're not from around there," he said, laughing. "But I researched it, and the acts that play it are major. Plus, it's just a huge show."
By Anne Erickson, Gannett NOISE/LSJ

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Interview: 'Addicted' to Saving Abel

After Saving Abel first recorded the hard-hitting song "Addicted," the Corinth, Miss., guys thought it was good, but set the demo aside because it didn't seem to fit the band.

"If you go back and listen to our initial indie release, we sound more like a Matchbox 20-meets-Wallflowers band - really poppy," guitarist Jason Null said, chatting by phone from a Nashville recording studio. "So when we came up with this bit of heavy rock, we couldn't use the song."

When Saving Abel started getting serious label interest, Null remembered the song and brought it back. And it's a good thing he did. "Addicted" climbed to No. 2 on the Mainstream Rock chart last year, breaking the band on the national scene and landing the guys tours with major players like Nickelback, Hinder and Papa Roach.

Null says "Addicted" shaped the direction of Saving Abel's sound and the route the guys took musically. Now their mindset is heavier and edgier - full of brash lyrics, catchy melodies and seismic guitar riffing.

"I can remember Skidd (Mills, the band's producer) playing the song for us after we had tracked it, and we just kind of looked at one another and were confused for a second," Null said, laughing. "We were like, 'Is this really us? Is that where we're going as a band?'

"We really thought that song was going to be great for us from the beginning."

Hard rock, by its nature, is a tough, in-your-face genre, and Saving Abel's music is no different. Part pop metal, part fist-pumping rock, the group connects with heavy music fans and adds enough ballads ("18 Days") to go co-ed.

Saving Abel got together in 2004 with Null, lead singer Jared Weeks, guitarist Scott Bartlett, bassist Eric Taylor and drummer Blake Dixon. In typical rock-story fashion, the guys held day jobs while recording music on the side and promoting the group one hole-in-the-wall gig at a time.

"The last job I held right before I signed the record deal was a manager for K-Mart stores," Null said.

Even after the guys recorded tracks and booked shows, they still needed a name. Null finally came up with "Saving Abel" during a late-night reading of the Bible.

"I was up working on some band stuff, and I was online, and it must have been a line from some sort of Christian magazine, but I can remember it read, 'There was no saving Abel from his brother Cain.' And those two words together just jumped out at me," he said.

As Saving Abel's members can surely attest, being in a platinum-selling rock band has its obvious advantages. But it's also a lot of work.

That said, Null says all the touring, all the late nights and early mornings, all the press demands, all the head-numbing pressure - it's all worth it.

"I think I can speak for everybody in the band when I say that this is what we've always wanted to do: tour and play music for a living," he said. "It's like in anything that you do: You get tired sometimes, but I'd much rather be tired and be playing music for a living."

The common thread of Saving Abel's 2008 self-titled debut is the lyrics, which come straight from the guys' personal experiences. That includes "Addicted."

"Jared, our singer, wrote that about his high school sweetheart in Corinth," Null said. "They had broken up and got back in touch after a few years had passed and just hit it off.

"I can remember he came in one night and was excited that he ran into her. Evidently, they had a good night together, because he sat down and was like, 'Man, I have this melody in my head.' "

Null considers the band's current single, "Drowning (Face Down)," a personal song, as well.

"'Drowning' was one of those late nights with the band writing in the basement, and at the end of the night we were winding down and playing some stuff. The guitar lick intro you hear on that song is something I've been playing since I was a kid and never did much of anything with it," he said.

"But in all, the song is about life's up and downs."

By Anne Erickson, Gannett LSJ