“I didn’t even realize it was Friday,” laughs Lajon Witherspoon in the midst of yet another dizzying tour as the singer and his band push their eighth album Cold Day Memory out the door/ Not everything has gone right in Sevendust’s sixteen year history, but the band finally has founding guitarist Clint Lowery back in the fold and is seeing its biggest chart resurgence in years. Perhaps that helps explain what has the singer with the aggressive vocals in such a relaxed mood as we chat about the band’s past, present, and future…
I didn’t hear the words “Cold Day Memory” anywhere in the lyrics of the album.
We used the title just because it fits more with the experience that we had in Chicago during the winter season while doing this album. There was a song too that we had started that was called Cold Day Memory, and it just kind of fit perfect with the experience. We really never left. It was winter and it was snowing the whole time, and the memory of that album will probably be something like that.
What took you to Chicago? Was that just because Johnny K lives there?
Johnny K, he had a massive studio, and we didn’t realize at the time that it was under construction, but we made it work. And it was really cool to be able to wake up every day and record your album and go to bed at night, you know we did the schedule from twelve to twelve every day, so went in there and got busy. It was cool. Johnny K was a great person to work with, because we looked at him along with other producers, but Johnny K worked with a lot of people that we liked.
Chartwise, I’m told that Unraveling is off to the best start of any single you guys have ever released. Does that surprise you?
For me, the whole radio thing, I think it’s timing a lot of times, you know? But the song is great. I still think there’s other songs that could be on the radio that would do good or even better from this album.
As long as the people that are out there that come to see us and buy these albums that are understanding what we’re doing and they’re enjoying it, that’s who’s coming to these shows year after year. That’s who’s coming to these shows during a recession. That’s who’s keeping music alive.
You guys have been pretty open about the fact that you had a lot of financial things hit you a few years ago. With all that behind you, does that change your mindset when you’re going to make new music?
It’s funny you ask that, because even though we’re a long ways past that stuff, a lot of that stuff is still festering, you know, because you still have people from the past. We had one guy that just sued us, we were recently just finishing that up. It’s behind us but it’s still there, you know what I mean? I think it drives us to make sure that we continue to work harder and harder to get those hands out of our pockets.
I wouldn’t say we weren’t comfortable, it was just something that we never really thought about doing, just because it was so many writers in the band. This time we stepped out of the box with everything. We stepped out of the box with going down different angles with the songs, using Johnny K as a producer, and saying hey man, this guy writes great songs, and he could probably help us, and writing together with people is always cool, man. That’s exciting to get someone else’s fresh air into a song.
The first minute of the first song on the album is an instrumental guitar feature. Was that intentional to feature Clint and make it clear that he’s back?
I don’t know if it was intentional to make it clear he was back, but I know when we were doing the song, the first thing I said was “Man, why don’t we just jam it right there, why don’t you just play the guitar like you play it?” Maybe it was, because Clint is such a good guitar player, but we didn’t mean to do it.
John’s a great guitar player too, but Clint just has a different twang, you know? John was a drummer, so he’s more of a that back end rhythm beat jamming, slamming.
What was it like to be in the studio with Clint for the first time in so many years?
We actually set up in my house, in my theater room, for about a week and did a few songs, and it was great. It was just me, Clint, and Corey, guitars, the microphone was set up, the studio was set up in the house, and we just did some lyrics and went over some ideas, and it was cool, man. It was exciting because you think about him not being in the band for several albums, and him coming back and being back in this family that he wanted to be in the whole time he was gone, and we wanted him to be back. So it was like some brothers that hadn’t seen each other for five years that really love each other and maybe saw each other in passing and tried to be the bigger, the stronger guy, and maybe said hello and maybe gave a hug, but not really said much after that. So it was really exciting to be able to, you know “Hey man, I love you, you’re back.” This is it. This is the real deal and how it’s supposed to be.
This is your eighth album, sixteen years or more, that’s a long time for a band to remain together under any circumstances. What do you think your secret is to your longevity?
If I wasn’t doing this, what would I be doing? I’d probably be in the barn. We’ve got Tennessee walking horses. I love them, that’s my passion, the horses and stuff, but music is a magical therapy. I think what’s kept us together is being brothers. Because we talk about each other and we get in our fights, and I’m mad at him today and he’s mad at me, you know. But ultimately I think we all knew that this dream came true to us because it was all of us. It’s not one person. It’s us together that did this. I think after we sit back and look at each other, it’s like wow, we’re still around. We might not be the biggest band in the world, and everyone might not know us, but regardless, we’ve stuck it out, eight albums, which you don’t really hear that a lot anymore. It’s an accomplishment, if not to anyone else, then to me and to my heart. I love doing it. I feel like with Clint being back in the band, it’s almost like a new start.
You’re on 7 Bros. Records, which is tied in to a major label but it’s still your own label. What kind of advantages does that give you?
A lot more things are in your control. You don’t have a whole staff telling you what to do. You might have a few people telling you what their opinions are, you listen to them and you take it with a grain of salt. When you’re more in the machine, things are mentioned to you and it was given to you like you had a chance to think about it and say what you felt, but ultimately they would make the decision [laughs]. And then they’d blame you for it if it didn’t go right. With this, we have a lot of control. We can say yay or nay, and things come to us first.
I’m not saying it was always like that, but I can tell you this and I can stand by it: TVT Records, thank the lord for them. Sometimes I even hate that they left, because without TVT, Sevendust would never have been on the map. That was the only label we got gold albums with was when we were with TVT Records. So something was working with the machine when we were with them, with that label, you know what I mean?
Even though they went under or whatever they did, or for whatever reason they did that, they still knew how to work the industry and put us in the face of people. We had informercials on TV. You couldn’t get away from it. So it was a really cool machine, and I would wish and I would like for one day for 7 Bros. Records to actually exist like something like that.
You mean in terms of signing other artists.
Definitely. That’s the plan, is to sign other artists. It’s just that we’ve got to get the water out of the ship first before we can start doing stuff like that still.
Would it primarily be bands that are in your own genre?
Oh my god, no way man. I’ll sign a country act in a minute, cause that’s the next thing I plan on doing. I mean if you can tap dance and whistle real good [laughs], if you’ve got some background singers I might try to give you a contract. All kidding aside, for me, that’s something that I find very interesting and cool is for me to be able to have the power one day to sign acts. Because if you listen to the music I listen to, I am a lover of music. If you have conviction and you mean it, I’m signing it.
So that would be a great thing do to. And no, not necessarily just rock bands. Country. Jazz. Talent. Solo acts. All kind of stuff.
I see you playing in Atlanta on April 30th. You guys are one of the biggest rock bands to ever come out of that town. What does it mean to you to play a show back home?
That’s always a crazy town to play because you see everybody from the third grade friends to your boss from Pizza Hut that you haven’t seen in a million years, and it’s cool. For me personally I wish there was more of a scene in Atlanta. It took forever I think for Atlanta to even recognize us as a band from Atlanta, because we never really played.
I remember leaving years and years ago with Creed, and we were in a van, and we didn’t come back home for a year after that. And I remember playing the Midtown Music Fest, and that was so big to us. For a band like Sevendust to just be signed, and to play something like that, you’d have thought we’d have been able to stick around home and soak in some of the glory, but we left and didn’t come back home. And we stayed gone, which was great for us because it built up this incredible following around the world, and I think it took Atlanta a little while to even recognize what was going on.
So now it’s really cool to, at least from the people that we’ve grown up with, respect the fact that we’ve been working for awhile, and the radio stations too now.
On the strength of lead single Unraveling, new Sevendust album Cold Day Memory is off to the races on the iTunes charts today. After debuting at #1 on the iTunes rock chart, the album is now climbing the overall album chart and is currently at #2 behind the Glee album, making it the top selling non-soundtrack album in the United States today.
The early chart dominance of Cold Day Memory, which suggests that the album may be on its way to significantly outselling other recent releases from the band, coincides with the return of longtime guitarist Clint Lowery to the band after a several year absence. Beatweek recently spoke with Sevendust lead singer Lajon Witherspoon about the new album and Lowery’s return, in an interview which will be part of our April 27th issue.
photo credit: Jeremy Adamo
Veteran active rockers Sevendust are set to release their eighth studio album on April 20th, entitled Cold Day Memory, on their own 7Bros. record label. The new album is preceded by a single entitled “Unraveling” which has cracked the top twenty on the active rock chart prior to the album’s release.
Beatweek will be interviewing Sevendust lead singer Lajon Witherspoon prior to the release of Cold Day Memory; readers who have questions they’d like us to ask during our interview with Lajon should submit them in the comments section below.