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Dirt Fest Preview: Chatting with Framing Hanley's Nixon

Nashville's Framing Hanley are hitting the music scene hard after a few year break where they left their old record label and struggled to put together a new album.

Framing Hanley
New Ocean Media

In April, the band finally released their third album, The Sum of Who We Are, on Imagen Records after raising money to create it through a successful Kickstarter campaign.

The album is a true labor of love and the band is overjoyed to be back out on the road playing the new material.

This weekend, Framing Hanley will be hitting Michigan for two big shows. Tomorrow night they will be playing Rock The Mitten at The Crofoot in Pontiac along with Andrew W.K., Kaleido and Of Mice and Musicians. The show is in support of Suits For Soldiers, who provide various types of help for soldiers struggling after coming home.

On Saturday, Framing Hanley will be hitting one of the stages at the Birch Run Expo Center for Dirt Fest along with bands like Killswitch Engage, Powerman 5000, Battlecross and Tantric.

Framing Hanley vocalist, Kenneth Nixon was happy to give fans a little preview of the shows and talk about everything the band went through to get their album made and where they go from here.

Q: You have a couple of Michigan dates this weekend on Friday and Saturday. Are you looking forward to playing those?

Nixon: We have a good time every time we come out and play there. That's actually where the band starting out touring so there's just a kind of feeling and reception that we always get there. It's one of those places outside of our own home state that we really love coming through and always feels like a home away from home. Every time we return to Michigan it's a treat. Now we have a Michigan-native in our band, our bass player Jonathan Stoye is from there so it's gonna be a good time. For as long as we spent on this album, and we did, it's really going to be a treat to get out there and play shows live. We just go out on stage with a lot of energy and it's like, well alright! The fun part is that coming to Michigan is almost like being on a whole other level.

Q: How did Friday's Rock The Mitten show come about? Have you toured with Andrew W.K. before?

Nixon: No, we're just opening for him this show. The show is in support of Suits For Soldiers and the people had asked us if we wanted to be a part of it and since we were going to be in the area for Dirt Fest, it worked out. We are really happy to be involved with this and the fact that Andrew W.K. is hosting the event means it's just going to be a big party, for sure.

Q: Then you are playing Dirt Fest on Saturday. There are a lot of great local and national bands on the bill. What sets are you looking forward to seeing this weekend?

Nixon: Killswitch Engage for sure. I'm really happy that Jesse [Leach, vocalist] is back with them and I'm a huge fan of that band. Nothing More is another band who has kind of just popped up here from out of nowhere and they are absolutely phenomenal from what I hear. They seem to do some cool stuff so I want to check that out. There's quite a few bands on there. They've got something for everyone. We're excited about it and I think we're a little different from all the other bands on the bill so it will hopefully be kind of cool to be the band that sticks out. It gives us a little something to prove.

Q: What song in your live set right now are you enjoying playing the most?

Nixon: Like I said, when you're at home not touring for as long as we were, every song is fun. I guess for me it would probably have to be "Collide". It's just a lot of fun and we just now made that one the opener of our set; little spoiler there! That kind of sets the tone for the rest of the show. Dirt Fest is a little bit of a smaller set so it will be cool to kick it off with that energy right off the bat, especially when you feel the song is the most fun in the set. It really does set the mood for the rest of the show.

Q: You mentioned all of the time and work that went into getting The Sum of Who We Are album out. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you chose to go the Kickstarter route?

Nixon: Yeah, back in 2012 we mutually agreed to part ways with our former label and basically we were just at a crossroads where we had material and no way to get it out there. Frankly we all had families and when that relationship with our former label was over, we had a bunch of responsibilities that we had to take care of first. The idea of asking our fans to help support us in making an album didn't sit well with us but a few bands that we were fans of had started using things like Kickstarter and Indiegogo and other avenues and it had worked. They found ways to include the fans in unique ways and making it something that they actually wanted to get involved in. I was like, ultimately if you look at is as a fan would as a consumer, if they are going to buy this cd, this is them kind of looking at it as a way for them to kind of be involved in a way where they are getting above and beyond just what the product is. As a consumer they are getting it at that same price but they are also getting other things like extra songs or a t-shirt and one guy got to name a song on the album that will be called that for the rest of our lives. So we just thought if we did some cool stuff that maybe some people would want to be involved but that being said, never in a million years did we think that the Kickstarter would raise as much as it did: over $60,000. That really made us step it up to a whole new level. These are people that invested in this may not say that they had a set vision for how good it should be, as silly as that sounds, but it made us try harder to please these people for sure. I mean, they spent their hard-earned money. There was a lot of re-visiting tracks so we can make sure that we had songs that we could stand behind and present to these people. So it took a lot of time. I'm not a person that typically believes everything happens for a reason but with the delay we ended up constructing an album that I know is the best work we've released in our career. Because of that, an indie label, Imagen Records, liked what we were doing and they came on board. Then after we knew that it was done, we decided to go back in a track a few more songs and see what would come from it, and this was after already recording thirty-five songs, but we ended up adding two more songs at the end and those ended up being the first two tracks on the album and ended up being released as our first two singles, "Criminal" and "Twisted Halos".

Q: Both seem to have done pretty well and the reception of the album as a whole seems to be going well.

Nixon: It's been awesome! It feels good when you do this much work and effort and to go through the things we went through and see people respond so well. It's gotten a lot of positive reviews and the people who were involved with the Kickstarter project seemed to be happy with the final product.

Q: If you had to choose one thing that makes this one stand out from your other albums, what would it be?

Nixon: Well I think the title says it all. This album is really a collaborative effort or a sum of all parts. All of the band members put a lot of work into the album and then our fans really bailed us out when for all intents and purposes it looked like it may have kind of hit a dead end. Those people really supported us and believed in us and made connections with these songs that we never imagined. That's the beautiful thing about this that we never envisioned as a rock band. When you start out you don't really think about making songs that are going to stay with people for the rest of their lives but for some of these people that's something special that can never be taken away and for a band that connection makes everything worth it. For us, this album is really a way for us to tell the story that this really is us and you. During the three years of working on this, we wrote songs about things that we were going through and I think it really represents us as a band as well as what our fans mean to us. We never plan on doing another Kickstarter but it's something very special and a time that we will never forget. We want our fans to know how special they are to us.

Q: Moving forward, where do you see the band going?

Nixon: You know, hopefully we will make another album in two years. It's kind of like experiencing things for the first time all over again because things had quieted down a lot. I've seen some magazine articles asking where are Framing Hanley and now it's like here we are and I think it's kind of a re-introduction for people who may have heard of us when we released "Hear Me Now" or our cover of "Lollipop". So it's really good and it's re-invigorating right now. It's a very inspiring time and I mean we haven't stopped writing. We've kept it going through all of this and it's fresh and inspirational. Hopefully we can continue this cycle over the next decade or more and maybe the fan base grows. That would be awesome.

Q: What do you think has changed the most for you as a band since you first started out?

Nixon: Well I think we're definitely a better band in a lot of ways than we were seven years ago. I watch videos and we look pretty goofy to me. I mean we started out when we were kids so we were pretty wet behind the ears and hadn't really been outside of our small town. We learned a lot from some of the other bands we went out with like Evans Blue. Our very first show was with them at the Machine Shop and it was a sold out show. We definitely weren't ready but that's part of the reason why we love to tour because we know that you learn to be a better band that way from other bands that are out there doing what you're doing. We were always looking to become more seasoned and add more to our show and become better musicians. Yeah, so we are definitely a much better band than we started out.

Q: Will you be releasing any more singles from the album?

Nixon: Yes, there's talk about "Collide" being next. I'm not sure when. We are really pushing the "Twisted Halos" single in the UK right now so it's one of those things where the label may see how well it is doing and decide to release that in the U.S. instead. We'll see how it goes. Now that we have a label involved, we have management to make those decisions and I just get to sit back and be a musician. I haven't done that in a long time.

Q: Is there one place in particular in the world that you still want to get out and play?

Nixon: Well we're going back to Europe and we've been lucky that our sets over there have always gone well. There's a nice UK fan base over there but surprisingly we have never gone to Canada. We'd love to go to South America and see the Brazilian fan base down there, or as we like to say, family. Obviously we'd like to go to Japan as well. There's a number of places we haven't hit yet.

Q: Now that you are back out on the road, what's your favorite way to pass the time when you're not on stage?

Nixon: Man, fantasy football season is going to be starting up pretty soon so that's gonna take up all my time. Yeah that helps pass the time. I have a little boy, a four year old, and when I have any downtime I try to be home as much as I can. It's hard sometimes on the road. When we are out there though, it's definitely all football and we are all huge hockey fans and we play all the NHL games on the video game consoles. We like to kick each others butts on the bus.

Q: What do you think was the best thing you did starting out that helped you grow your fan base?

Nixon: I don't know. I mean there's not a mentality about our band, we're just us, and I think fans see that. There's no front for us to put up and no character for us to be; we're just five dudes that love to play music that are lucky enough to be able to do that for a living. We are able to play it live for people who are passionate about the music for itself. We have always tried to let people know how much their support means. I think that's one thing that a lot of bands start out not acknowledging that; they let the rock star status go to their heads. Just be yourself and be real and be loyal to those people who are loyal to you.

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