Sevendust are no strangers to Cleveland.
“We love it!” confirms guitarist Clint Lowery, checking in from the road in early May.
The hard-hitting Atlanta quintet has played just about every venue in Northeast Ohio since their inception in the mid-1990s, growing their audience with each return trip. They teamed with Shinedown at Jacob’s Pavilion for Carnival of Madness last August, then doubled back to headline the first annual Ohio Metal Fest (with Asking Alexandria) at The Agora.
Missed those shows? Don’t worry. Sevendust are coming back to House of Blues on July 23rd.
The group—which still features (along with Lowery) singer Lajon Witherspoon, guitarist John Connelly, drummer Morgan Rose, bassist Vince Hornsby—kicked off 2014 by eschewing its usual groove-metal in favor of a laid-back acoustic album, Time Travelers & Bonfires. Following close on the heels of their acclaimed Black Out the Sun CD, the disc is front-ended with six brand new songs—but it also contains “campfire” versions of Sevendust classics like “Gone,” “Denial,” “Black,” and “Trust.”
By the time we spoke with Lowery about the project, he and the guys were already a couple weeks into the second leg of their “Evening With Sevendust” acoustic tour. The forthcoming makeup date at House of Blues (originally scheduled for June 1st) now falls at the end of an exhausting run across North American—and will find Lowery and company reverting to their electric guitars and massive amplifiers. Which means Cleveland won’t get to witness the stripped-down set.
We don’t think that’ll be a problem for Sevendust diehards. Still, it was nice chatting with Clint about bringing Time Travelers to life at Architekt Studios in New Jersey.
CLEVELAND MUSIC EXAMINER: Originally, fell smack in the middle the acoustic tour, but then we got nudged back to the end. Routing problems?
CLINT LOWERY: Just a scheduling thing. Yeah, a couple dates got shuffled around. But we’re excited, man. Excited to get back out to it!
EXAMINER: How was the Easter holiday for the band? Get any family time in?
CLINT LOWERY: Yeah, it’s great man. We were away, but whatever. We’re used to being gone over the holidays. We’ve got fifteen years in now. It was a good holiday, and the show was good, so everything’s on track.
EXAMINER: What prompted the decision to do a full-on acoustic project this time out?
CLINT LOWERY: Well, we’d done an acoustic tour a few years ago—it was called Southside Double-Wide: Live 2004—and we had a lot of people asking about whether we were going to do another tour like that. So we figured it would be cool to go into the studio and record some new tracks, and maybe retool some of the old songs. Everything kind of lined up, and then we got involved in the Pledge Campaign. That was a cool was to connect with fans, and to get them the product much earlier. We got that exposure, and we gave them exclusive insides on the process and everything. So it was pretty cool—the way the whole thing rounded off. It was awesome.
EXAMINER: You guys went the Pledge Music fan-funding route again, raising scratch for the new record very quickly and meeting your goal early on—all over the first weekend. You also offered some cool perks: Signed gear, autographed guitars, dinner with the band.
CLINT LOWERY: Yeah, it was super-quick. We thought it would be pretty good, because we love our fans. They’re all very supportive. But still, that was definitely humbling to see that happen.
EXAMINER: Time Travelers flows well, but is split between six old songs, and six new. How’d you decide which old songs to rework for the “unplugged” project?
CLINT LOWERY: We actually put a form up on Facebook asking people to submit three songs they’d want us to redo, so we pulled from that list. There was a couple we’d done for a long time that we thought we would solidify and track. It was a pretty…it was grueling at first, because there were so many options. We have like 130 songs in our catalog, so it was tough picking the ones we’d do. But with help from the people, it narrowed things down for us.
EXAMINER: How does the process change, going from aggressive, hard-rock Sevendust to the relatively quiet acoustic sound in the studio? How does the writing process change?
CLINT LOWERY: On the one hand there’s less pressure, because there’s more of an arrangement. There’s lyrics, there’s melody. We didn’t want to just redo the songs with acoustic guitars. There were a couple songs that I would strum, like “Crucify,” and I always liked having this kind of swing feel to them. So we went for the different approach. Some of the artists you see—cover bands and stuff—you hear them put their own spin on things. So we’re covering our own band, trying to give a different look to what we do. We give people the same song, but with a different twist. It’s not just acoustic; there’s a whole different feel, different tempo, everything.
EXAMINER: I recall reading years ago, I think it was David Bowie who remarked that the true test of a good song is when you strip everything away except for the lead vocal and a single guitar or piano. If it still holds up when stripped-down, then it’s a good song. And you definitely get a sense of that with the tunes on Time Travelers & Bonfires.
CLINT LOWERY: Oh, yeah. David Bowie was right about that, for sure!
EXAMINER: Were the new acoustic songs written on the road? I mean, given the band’s rigorous tour itinerary, it’s hard getting a sense of how you and John and the guys found time to keep writing.
CLINT LOWERY: I had three ideas going in, musically, that I already formulated on the music side of things. The main parts—the chorus and verses and bridges. Then we’d put it together as a band in the studio. There were also a few preexisting ideas. John had a couple, like “The Wait” and “Bonfire.” He’d written those. And I wrote the song, “Under It All.” I wrote the music for that while we were in there. So there was at least full one song born while we were there. I would also write a bit while Lajon was tracking vocals on a couple songs, so then we’d have even more.
EXAMINER: So right now the tour is all acoustic?
CLINT LOWERY: On the tour now? It’s all acoustic. No electric at all.
EXAMINER: But with Cleveland rescheduled for July 23rd….
CLINT LOWERY: That’s an electric show. Full electric.
EXAMINER: Sevendust recently did another radio interview with Bob Coburn on Rockline. The show isn’t syndicated on any terrestrial station in these parts anymore, but I loved listening to that show as a teen and hearing all my favorite bands discussing their latest albums and taking phone calls from fans.
CLINT LOWERY: Bob’s a great guy, man. Hell of an interviewer. A class act all the way.
EXAMINER: You guys also headlined the Shiprocked! 2014 Cruise again, and played with Five Finger Death Punch and Three Days Grace. You’ve done the boat tour thing a few times now.
CLINT LOWERY: Yeah, it’s like we’re like the house band for that thing! We’ve done it four years in a row, and it’s been great. Every year they kind of get it more locked in. They’re getting some really good artists on it. This past experience for me was the best. There was this new boat called the Norwegian Pearl. The way the thing was set up was great, and we had an amazing time. And we’ll probably do it again.
EXAMINER: Do you practice at all on the road? Loosen up before shows, maybe?
CLINT LOWERY: Of course! There are times where I’ll practice before I go on, do some scales or whatever. But that’s a good maintenance for me, as far as my skill level. Or daily, I’ll just play for a good solid hour. That keeps my chops up a bit. Especially with the acoustic—practicing on those strengthen my muscles for the tour.
EXAMINER: What’s next on the horizon for Sevendust? The current tour takes you deep into the summer. Can fans expect another “plugged-in” record next year?
CLINT LOWERY: Yeah. Obviously, we won’t put a new record out this year. But we’ll start the process again early next year, in terms of writing it. But we’re going to tour for a couple more months, then shut it all down for the holidays. I’m guessing it’s going to be more on the aggressive side, since we’ve explored the melodic side of the band. By the time we get to doing the new record, I think we’ll want to do a super-heavy record! So it’ll be fun.
EXAMINER: Sevendust have a couple live CDs / DVDs in the can already, but I’d imagine fans would enjoy a film documenting this acoustic outing. Or maybe something to celebrate the band’s 20th anniversary?
CLINT LOWERY: All that is happening. Full-bore electric and acoustic. A live DVD, a history of the band. All that will happen. Absolutely!
Sevendust, Gemini Syndrome, Silent Scream. Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at House of Blues Cleveland (308 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland OH). Tickets $42.00 reserved balcony seating / $31.00 general admission. Doors at 7:00pm, show at 8:00pm.
Advance tickets here: http://www.houseofblues.com/cleveland/events/eventdetail/?viewNav=/event...