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

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