INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY JACKSON WARD
With more than 8,000 likes on their Facebook page and photographic proof of it, JACKSON WARD is not a cult or a religion; it is a family. And their family is only expected to grow larger since the Richmond-based country band released their debut EP Goodbye Trouble earlier in January 2015. The six-man band led by lead singer/guitarist Tony Jackson also includes guitarist Jeff Richardson, guitarist/vocalist Bob Breckenkamp, pedal steel player/vocalist Doug Walls. drummer Jon Ward, and bassist Bryan Mitchell. From their antics both on and off the stage, JACKSON WARD bring the party to the local country scene, but they have the raw energy and emotion to back it up.
Since you guys are originally from Richmond, I know that your name comes from one of the neighborhoods of the same name in that area. Is JACKSON WARD where you all are from?
Tony: No, actually it’s a coincidence. My last name is Jackson, and Jeff’s middle name is actually Ward. But we were talking through band names for something that would be sticky. I’m a veteran, and I went by Jackson all through the years in the Marine Corps. We were actually looking around town at spots we thought we might open a studio or base our operations, and the name JACKSON WARD just jumped out at us. We’re not from Jackson Ward [the neighborhood], and it really is just a coincidence.
The neighborhood JACKSON WARD has also been the called the “Harlem of the South.” How do you feel that a country band fits into the music scene there?
Jeff: Jackson Ward [the neighborhood] and all of Richmond City is an awesome area, [as well as] rich in history, but basically we spend all of our time and attention away from the downtown area. We spend most of our time focusing on the county areas outside of Richmond. So as far as the music scene goes in Richmond, it’s a really nice music scene, and one part of that scene is country music. We seem to fit in right well.
Tony: We’re very new as a band. We’ve been playing together for about a year and a half now. Because of the genre we play and the fortune we’ve had of playing the shows we’ve had, most of them have been in the summertime in outdoors type of environments. We’ve been playing at campgrounds, next to the bay, and summer series on the West End of town. Going into our first real winter as an established band, we are looking forward to opportunities to play in the city since a lot of people who are fans of ours, or would be fans of ours based on the type of music we play, have moved back into the city so we can bring them a taste of where they came from in the suburbs or out in the counties of the country.
On January 12, your band released your debut album, Goodbye Trouble. Why did you choose this album title?
Tony: The lead song on the album is “Goodbye Trouble (Drink by Drink),” and the subject matter of the song is one of the standard, “Here are my life’s troubles,” that a middle-aged person might talk about person-to-person. We really wanted to frame it now as a “life sucks, hand me a beer” song, but if you take the opportunity and raise your beer in the air to be thankful just to be alive, and you make the choice to be happy about it [then things will be okay].
What are some of your personal favorite songs on the new album?
Jon: One of my personal favorites is “A Little While.” I think it’s the perfect crossover tune, but at the same time, it could be slated as a great summer anthem.
Bob: I’d agree 100 percent. I love that song.
Have you guys seen that post circulating around the Internet about the musician that layered six country songs on top of each other to prove they’re all the same? If so, what are your thoughts on that?
Tony: I have heard it and seen it. I feel that there was a point in time when your only outlet to hear music was on FM radio commercially, so you were at the mercy of what the program director decided was best for you to listen to. But today in 2015, from my perspective, the reality is you can hear what you want to hear in many different formats: FM radio, Internet radio, Spotify, CDs, and you can go on YouTube. One of the things with the digital age is you can find what you like, and for the people who choose to measure artists by some standard … as “cookie cutter,” … I would never take a shot at those people for doing what they do and the reasons they do it. It’s music — take it or leave it. You have the option to consume it or not. So I wasn’t a fan of that to marginalize or reduce the achievements they have made in music.
That being said, how does your music stand apart from other country bands currently in the local and/or national music scene?
Tony: In this band, we play some of the popular tunes, but what we really like to do is to mix it up. … Our album fits a theme that I think fits within our age range and our life experiences, but it does give you some variety. Up to this point, we have taken a bit of a different approach. We don’t spend a lot of time focusing on what our peers are doing, and it’s not out of arrogance or a desire to be different just to be different. We really have focused a lot on the people that have come out to support us and what they’ve asked us for, [as well as] what we observe them reacting to. From a musicians perspective, you get a lot of feedback from other musicians, but people that would spend their Friday or Saturday coming out to see you and hang out with you are really who we listen to. If we cover a song another band might cover, the reactions we get are different based on us tailoring our show to our crowd.
Bob: I would say we also take a lot of songs and put our own flavor on them. There are several songs that might almost be unrecognizable if you hadn’t heard it before. The way we put a spin on it, or our flavor, we’ve had some great success with that morphing songs into basically our own.
What are some ways that you “add your own flavor” to your songs?
Jeff: On e of the main things, as far as our original music that stands out that may be a little different from the local or national scene, is some of the older style instruments that we brought to the table — reintroducing the pedal steel, which you don’t hear a lot anymore. On the album, you’ll hear some fiddle and banjo, and those are being layered on top of more mainstream type music.
Tony: We have the best pedal steel player in the world, Doug Walls. We’ve been very fortunate.
You guys seem to have a huge following, as evidenced by photos of your shows and your social media pages. How do you like to keep your audience engaged before, during, and after your performances?
Bryan: We call Jeff our hype man.
But what does Jeff do to keep the audience hyped?
Bryan: You just have to go to a show to experience Jeff (laughs).
Tony: Jeff really does get fully into the performance. He has a lot of fun on stage. It’s authentic, and it’s genuine. He’s not acting out.
Bryan: That man has the time of his life.
Tony: He enjoys playing music, and people really connect with him who are out there to party and have fun themselves.
Doug: He actually likes to go down into the crowd with his guitar, and they love that.
Jeff: I guess I’ll agree with those guys (laughs). One of the things we’ve said from the beginning is that we don’t have fans. We like to keep that word out of our vocabulary. That makes us something we’re not and separates us. We like to use the word “family,” and I like to think that every show that we do, no matter how many thousands of people are there, these are the same people that are in your living room and you’re having a family show. We like to have fun and keep them engaged, and keep everybody close. We’ve got a mindset to do that as a band, and it’s worked really well for us.
Do you have any plans yet to tour in 2015?
Jeff: We definitely have a bunch of plans for 2015. We’ve got 30 shows on the books right now; we’re in the process of possibly doubling that for next year. I would tell everybody to keep focused on the website and our Facebook page, and you can catch all of our dates that are happening on there.
INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY THE JUDY CHOPS
VIDEO BY DOUG STANFORD
American novelist Mark Twain once said, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough,” and the same could be said for good music. Inspired by this bourbon spirit, as well as country music, jazz, swing, and good old rock ‘n’ roll, THE JUDY CHOPS of Staunton, Va. are living proof that you can never have enough good music or whiskey, but they can certainly satisfy those cravings. Led by guitarist/vocalist William Howard, the rest of the band includes guitarist/vocalist Molly Murphy; banjolele player/vocalist Sally Murphy; violinist Anna Matijasic-Hennessy; drummer/percussionist Jess Bergh; trumpet and flugelhorn player David Boudouris; trumpet, saxophone, trombone, and euphonium player Richard Adams; and upright bassist Jims Hinkle. The band recently released their third studio album Minor Sunshine and is doing more innovative things with their genre than anyone else. We spoke with Howard regarding his band’s beginnings and how their name came from a hillbilly ninja, their love for whiskey, as well as their new beer which might make you want to kill some zombies.
While browsing your band’s website, I noticed that you have the Ohm symbol tattooed on the inside of your left forearm. What is the significance of that symbol to you?
It’s actually about my dad. When I was a kid, my dad used to live in California, and I lived on this coast. He would always send me letters, and that symbol was always drawn next to his name in his letters. I didn’t really know what it was when I was a kid, but I thought it was a cool symbol. He passed away when I was 21. My dad was covered in tattoos, so when I got older, I got that as a tribute to him, but he was not the most peaceful guy in the world (laughs).
Your band has been playing together since 2008, and your music combines a lot of unique elements that aren’t too common in modern music. Yet I feel drawn to the simplicity of it and the three-part vocal harmonies. Can you tell me how your band was started and why you chose this musical direction?
The main act was me and Molly and Sally Murphy, and then our drummer Jess [Bergh], and when we first started the band is was just that as our lineup. Molly, Sally, and I had been in a band called THE BOURBON SPECIALS out of Charlottesville, and the drummer Jess and I were in a band called HEART GETS MONKEY. Those bands kind of ran their course, and I was in the middle of both bands at the time. So I decided to take the best elements of one and the best elements of the other, and threw it all together. That became THE JUDY CHOPS. We kind of threw the rule book out at the beginning as far as genre. We didn’t really pinpoint anything. We just kept trying to learn whatever style or song we wanted to learn.
Can you explain the back story behind your band name?
If you do a YouTube search for “judy chop” you will find another guy names Diemon Dave, who is a redneck, hillbilly ninja, and THE JUDY CHOPS is actually referencing that video. It’s a move he does on his ninja training video. He says, “You got your karate chop, and your judy chop…” (laughs). We needed a quick name for our first show, and we had just watched that video. So we were like, “What about THE JUDY CHOPS?” (laughs). Since then, it stuck for six and a half years.
I really like your song, “I’d Rather Be Drinking Whiskey,” as it is my preferred spirit as well, and I know you guys sing about it very frequently, as well. What is your personal favorite type of whiskey?
It’s hard to say exactly. I’m a big fan of Bullet or Buffalo Trace. Those are my two favorites. I guess it grew out of that band THE BOURBON SPECIALS. We kind of had an affinity for whiskey in that band, and I guess it stayed on with this band.
How does your latest album Minor Sunshine compare to your other two albums?
The other two are a little more country music based. They are more in that vein, I guess you could say. Minor Sunshine was a lot more rooted in jazz or swing, and even gypsy jazz a little bit. It was written with those minor key elements. This album isn’t a concept album per say, but it was definitely a little bit more conceptual in terms of the way we thought about it. It’s mostly in minor key songs, but they either have some kind of major tonality (laughs). It’s also kind of a play-on-words, the title Minor Sunshine. It starts in the minor key, and it moves throughout the album and becomes a major key (laughs). It’s homage to that light and dark idea.
In order to fund the creation of Minor Sunshine, you created an Indiegogo campaign, and some of the incentives included private house shows, writing a song, and “fan swag packs.” Have you made any progress yet on doling out these rewards?
We’ve done a couple of the house shows, and we are slowly giving out the rest of the physical awards. The very last piece of that puzzle is going to be the vinyl. We kind of had to wait til the very last minute on that one, but I think the vinyl will go into production sometime this week. We are hoping to get everything out by October 24, and the vinyl stuff will go out six weeks after that (laughs).
Have you started booking yet for your nationwide tour?
We haven’t yet. The next big piece of that puzzle is going to be securing a better vehicle. Ours is still running, but it’s definitely not running very well. We are hoping to coast out the end of the year on this van, and our first priority for 2015 is getting a new van. Then we can start thinking about how far we can go out (laughs). That’s kind of always been our limit in terms of our touring radius — how far can our van make it there and back.
This Friday, you will be playing the release party for Three Notch’d Beer’s new “Zombie Killin’ Ale.” Do you have anything special planned for that show?
We did a big roll out when Three Notch’d did the beer, and this one is our Staunton, Va. beer roll out show. Baja Bean Co. is one of the neighborhood bars in Staunton, and the rest of the band is all from Staunton. So we have a strong, hometown tie to that place. That will also be the kick off for Halloween too, so we will probably do more of our spooky songs, and that will probably serve as our main Halloween show as well.
Are there any bands from Virginia or Washington, DC that you would like to give a shout out to?
We’ll shout out to one of our friends. They’re called TWO TON TWIG from Falls Church in the Northern Virginia area, and we actually share a member. Our violinist we had on our last album moved up to Falls Church last year to teach orchestra, and she has been playing with them since she moved up there. We’re getting ready to hopefully do some touring together.
INTERVIEW BY SHELBY BAKER
PHOTO AND VIDEO BY TRAVIS FERRELL
ALBUM ART BY JERR MEDIA
For those interested in new music with an old twist, look no further than CABIN CREEK. The band, which consists of David Hall (Lead Vocals/Banjo/Guitar), Blayne Laures (Drums/Percussion), Travis Ferrell (Vocals/Guitar/Harmonica), and Eric Dzik (Upright Bass), is a group of friends with the intention of writing pure, simple music. Their music is alternative with a distinguishing folk and country twang; sort of like a blend of MUMFORD AND SONS and JIMMY EAT WORLD. The band draws influences from a range of musicians including new age acts, such as JOHN MAYER and OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW, as well as string bands from the early 1900’s.
The latter influence is something that is unheard of in the current wave of music and is what makes their sound so unique. String music is classified as an old-time ensemble consisting of mostly string instruments, which the band exhibit through a range of instruments from the banjo to the upright bass. We spoke with Hall and Ferrell to learn more about the band’s unique string-based sound, the musicians that inspire them, and what they have planned as a follow-up to their self-titled debut record.
How did the band come together?
Travis: The band came together when David and I moved to Fredericksburg. Our previous band broke up, and we hadn’t done anything for a long time and we wanted to start a string band. Both of our families grew up on that. We started writing music, and we ended up calling our old drummer, Blayne. We also needed a bass player, one who didn’t play electric bass; we wanted a double bass. Eric came down to Fredericksburg after we hadn’t seen him for like seven months. We ended up showing him what we were working on and he loved it. He agreed to buy a double bass and the rest is history. CABIN CREEK is our previous band reborn with a new sound.
What inspired your band name?
David: We were sitting here at our house one day, and we were thinking of what we should call the band. We wanted a name that represents the band but also [a name that has] a nice ring to it and everything. We decided to do some research, and I studied coal mines. In West Virginia, which is where one side of my family is from, there was a mine where my grandfather died, and [I was] looking at the history to see if I could get a good band name. There was a cabin creek mine nearby, and we thought it sounded perfect. It worked, so we decided on that as our name.
You guys recently posted a video of a stripped-down version of “Belong”. What is the meaning behind the song?
David: Obviously, it’s talking about belonging. But it’s also about where you belong and figuring it out on your own, not someone telling you. It also talks about alcoholism and a lot of other topics, but in good ways.
How would you describe the “CABIN CREEK” sound?
Travis: It’s the sound of David’s brain producing a song and then my brain helps his brain finish the structure and production aspect, meanwhile, Eric and Blayne are grooving in the rhythm section. This is all done with guitars and banjos. It’s weird.
In January, you guys released a self-titled LP. What was the general theme or inspiration?
David: It’s about the years from 2012 to 2014, and it was some of the hardest years of our lives. Except our drummer, it was the best time of his life. For the rest of us, it was a really hard time.
Travis: The general inspiration was heart break and finding yourself.
What band or musician inspired you to create music?
Travis: More recently for me it’s probably JOHN MAYER. He’s a big influence, as well as NORAH JONES. On a side note, I can’t stop listening to NAILS or MANDOLIN ORANGE.
David: JOHN MAYER is a massive influence for all of us. In recent years, THE AVETT BROTHERS have influenced me. We also get a lot of writing influence from really old music that you don’t hear too much about, like THE STANLEY BROTHERS, CLARENCE ASHLEY, and DOC WATSON.
Are you guys working on new material?
Travis: That’s pretty much all were doing now; were working on the full-length record. We aren’t playing too many shows at the moment.
David: For the new record, we’re going to Knoxville to record it in July. It’s going to be about 14 songs, and titled Saturday 6.
For more updates on CABIN CREEK, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and check out their recent self-titled EP on Bandcamp. Also, be on the lookout for their next album, Saturday 6, which should be released later this year.
INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK
PHOTOS BY THERESE KEIL PHOTOGRAPHY AND PHILIP EDWARD LAUBNER PHOTOGRAPHY
Though she is only 20-years-old, SAVANNAH VALENTINO is way beyond her years in terms of her songwriting prowess and natural ability to capture deep emotional responses through her music. Raised in Richmond, Valentino has taken inspiration from the local environment, it’s diverse population, and fused it together to create her own unique brand of folk for a new, younger generation. After performing at this year’s South by Southwest Festival, Valentino is on her way to be one of the top need-to-know artists in the country, and she hasn’t even released a debut record yet! I had the chance to catch up with her to get to know her better and see what she has in store for the folk music world.
Congratulations on playing South by Southwest this year. Was this your first time performing at the festival?
Yes it was.
What were some of the highlights this year?
It was cool being able to walk around and feed off the energy of the crowd. There were [hundreds] of people on both sides of the street. Also, it was really cool being able to play out and meet new people, as well as see friends that I have met before. A radio DJ from Norway that I met in September came just to see me play.
How did you get started playing music and writing your own songs?
Since I was 14, I listened to a lot of folk music, and I wanted to put my own experiences into pretty songs.
And the rest is history (laughs). Who were you listening to at that time that influenced you to start writing?
Other than folk music, I listened to CONOR OBERST of BRIGHT EYES, ELLIOTT SMITH, GLASSJAW, as well as old alternative bands.
How was GLASSJAW an inspiration for you?
It gave me a lot of inspiration because the music is full of so much emotion, loneliness, and heartache. On one of their albums, there is a hidden track that is slow and sad, which inspired me a lot.
You have more facial piercings than any other country or folk singer I have ever seen. Has it ever worried you that people might not like your “pierced” image?
Not at all! I have tattoos as well, and my fans love me and my style because I am who I am. Also, they help set me apart. I recently played at the Folk Alliance International in Kansas City, and though sometimes there is predominantly an older crowd, there are always people there of any age or demographic at any show I play.
What is one of the most personal songs of your set, and what is it about?
One of my most personal songs is “Painted Lover”, and I wrote that as a letter to someone that I didn’t get the chance to say directly related to a situation we were in together.
Can you tell me what kind of situation that was?
It was one of those “romance gone wrong kinda deals”, and I took all the hurtful things that happened and wrapped it up into a song. The lyrics are so specific that anyone who has been in that situation will know what I’m talking about.
I heard a rumor that you will be performing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon soon. Is that true?
Not yet, but if you hear something let me know (laughs).
I was trying to find some recordings of your songs, and I was only able to find the two on your MySpace page and some recordings of performances on YouTube. Are you working on an EP or full-length album?
Indeed, I am working on a full-length. I haven’t touched that MySpace page since I was 15, but it’s cool to know that is still out there. I have a couple newer recordings on my personal Tumblr. I am about half way through the writing process, but I still need to polish a few of the songs and write some more. There is no tentative release date yet, but we plan on recording it either in Nashville or Austin either in the fall or next winter. I have a good team around me, and we are not trying to rush it.
When you ultimately do release it, where will it be announced?
When it comes out, you will know (laughs). We are working on getting a website up, and we will also be making announcements over Facebook. We will have hard copies and digital copies, mp3’s, CDs, and vinyl.
How did growing up in Richmond affect your outlook on the world, life, etc. in terms of your songwriting?
I love Richmond! It’s a fantastic city, and the people are amazing. I get inspiration from the river at Belle Isle, the Church Hill area, and even the trains that come through the city. I worked at an overnight diner in downtown for a while, and it helped me to see the city in a completely different light.
LIST COMPILED BY JOE FITZPATRICK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
It has been a crazy year in the Virginia music scene, but we would not have it any other way. Every genre was on their game this year from metal to EDM to punk to country, and everything else in between. There were so many great albums put out from some of the best bands, DJs, rappers, and solo musicians this year, but we have narrowed down our picks for the top 10 albums of 2013. Here they are, in no particular order.
DOWN TO NOTHING Life on the James
Arguably one of the best hardcore records of the year nationwide, these Richmond boys are doing Virginia proud with this hometown inspired album. Specifically, songs such as “Dirty South” and the title track “Life on the James” are all about the Virginia hardcore scene, and life in RVA. What’s not to love about that?
THE LAST BISON Inheritance
In October of this year, THE LAST BISON released this record as their major label debut with Republic Records, and though it only has five songs, it is one of the most heartfelt records I have ever heard. The opening track “Switzerland” really sets the tone, and with over 70,000 plays on Soundcloud, it is easily the crowd favorite.
HONOUR CREST Spilled Ink
Virginia Beach’s biggest metalcore sensation HONOUR CREST also had a major label debut this year on Rise Records. The highly anticipated follow up to their previous album Metrics leaves listeners decimated, yet still craving more. Listen to “Glaciers” for a taste of the raw power that the band unleashed on this album.
THE GREAT DISMAL Clay Manor EP
One of the few female-fronted bands in Virginia, THE GREAT DISMAL have really captured something with their debut EP. Though the songs are mostly sad and angry, they express things that everyone deals with everyday, especially in their song “Vultures”, which deals with vocalist Sarah Camdens personal struggles feeling like an outsider as one of the few girls in the scene. However, this record shows that Camden is just as good as the boys.
IAN MARSH Self-titled EP
Though he is known by most people as pop punk founder of COWABUNGA!, singer/songwriter IAN MARSH also has a heart for writing country music that has dwelt inside him since he was a boy. In February, Marsh finally let his country side project out into the public with this four-song EP, which has recieved rave reviews. “It’s All Good” is my personal favorite song.
9/STRIKES TIGER Massive Roar
Though this is not technically an album, I would be remiss not to include this series started by the DJ phenom 9/STRIKES/TIGER, which began earlier this year. Currently on it’s 10th installment, Massive Roar is 9/STRIKES/TIGER’s most popular podcast. His unique mixes of electro house are tearing up clubs and bars in both Northern Virginia and Washington, DC in the best way possible.
LOGAN VATH Better Man or Ghost
Hailing originally from Nebraska, singer/songwriter LOGAN VATH was brought to Norfolk with the Navy, but it was here he found a home in the local music community, which helped him form a band with other local musicians to record this record. In my interview with him in early October, he told me that songs such as “This Far From Home” are very representative of this transition, and it touches on his desire to find his voice in the local music scene to help him follow his dreams.
RDGLDGRN Self-titled LP
Another debut record. 2013 was clearly a break out year for new Virginia artists, including RDGLDGRN from Reston. Their unique variety of indie go-go attracted rock legend Dave Grohl’s attention enough for him to play drums on the whole record. From there, the band played the full 2013 Vans Warped Tour, and have been attracting the attention of fans worldwide. The recorded is full of star power with Grohl’s drumming and even a collaboration with the legendary Virginia recording artist and producer Pharrell Williams on their track “Doing The Most”.
MAKESHIFT SHELTERS The Cautious End of Things
You guessed it, a debut record. Though this band is formed of musicians from the bands CAUST, LOUD?, and singer/songwriter ELLA SOPHIA, when they come together, they produce something magical. According to bassist Phil Edfors, the songs on this record are “cathartic songs about situations about to erupt,” which may be good or bad depending on which song you are tuning into. I recommend checking out “Overflowing”, which is the final song on this short but oh so sweet record.
RANDOM HOLIDAY Space To Grow
Last but certainly not least is the sophomore album of this pop punk powerhouse whose members have recently relocated from Winchester to Richmond and Virginia Beach. The distance however only makes them stronger. This album is an emotional roller coaster with high energy anthems like “Heart Grows Colder” and soft acoustic ditties, such as “Walk Before You Run”. With both highs and lows, this album is a home run.
INTERVIEW AND PHOTOS BY JOE FITZPATRICK
Better known for playing rhythm guitar and being the brain behind the music and business end of pop punk giants COWABUNGA!, Ian Marsh from Reston has been working on getting back to his roots with a genre far from his pop punk project—county music. Raised by his step-dad on cowboys and southern twang, Marsh always admired country even as his band was at the forefront. Now, he is making his own path on the dusty trail and venturing to new musical grounds where he feels more at home. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Marsh about the ‘little things’ that inspire his music and his outlook on life.
How would you describe your sound?
I like to keep things simple. I don’t try to do too much. It’s just me and my guitar. It’s different, but its what I like to listen to so I try to emulate that. I try not to try too hard, its basically just me talking (laughs).
What country artists do you like to try to emulate?
Well I grew up listening to a lot of ALAN JACKSON, and when ERIC CHURCH came on the scene, I have been really focused on his way of doing things. I also incorporate any country songs i like that I hear on and off the radio.
How did you originally get into country music?
My step-dad pretty much raised me on it. Whenever we were driving in the car, it was on. When I got older, I got into hardcore, pop punk, and metal, but country was always universally appealing to me. Now, it’s my jam (laughs).
What is it about country music that makes it ‘universal’?
It’s not abrasive, and it doesn’t offend. Well…it doesn’t offend most people anyways (laughs). Also, it’s easy to relate to, and you can actually understand it, unlike some metal and hardcore music. I have always said that the most important thing in any good song is that someone can listen to it and instantly relate too it. Those are the songs that I like the best.
How would you describe your songwriting process?
It’s kinda evolved over time. I started writing songs when I was 15-year-old, and then it was based on the music first, and then the lyrics would follow that. In COWABUNGA!, I wrote both the music and the lyrics and then brought it to the guys, and we tweaked it as needed. Now, I start with an idea first, then I progressively write down ideas for riffs. Next, I come up with the lyrics, and then I write the guitar parts based off my ideas.
You have released four songs so far, but do you plan to record and release a full record or another EP any time soon?
Well I have eight new songs now that I’m still fine tuning, and I want to do another EP or two of four tracks each. The good thing about being a solo artist compared to playing in a band is that there is no pressure to get something out quickly, and I don’t want to rush it either.
Which of your songs has the most meaning to you, and why?
Of the stuff that I have put out so far, I like “Little Things” and “It’s All Good” because of the people they are about. I also have a new one that I wrote about my step-dad that’s pretty cool.
In the chorus of “Little Things”, you sing, ‘It’s the little things in life that stay important.’ What are the ‘little things’ that inspired this song?
It’s basically about having someone there for you at all times, to text, call, go out to the eat, and just spend time with. I wrote it about my girlfriend Suzy.
I know that in the past year, you played your first show in Richmond, but do you plan to play any more shows in the near future?
Yeah some opportunities have come up, but it’s kinda nerve-wracking for me to play on stage by myself so I would really like to find a full band to play with. I also want to build up more material.
What venues in the area would you like to play?
I think Jammin Java would be possible, but I need to figure out where it would be appropriate because I don’t just want to play before pop punk and hardcore shows for the rest of my life (laughs).
Are there any other bands or solo artists from Virginia that inspire you?
I really like BRIAN GLENNON‘s solo shit. He used to play in COWABUNGA! and when he left to play his own music, he made it look pretty easy. We are still good friends, and it would be awesome to play a show with him.
INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK
PHOTOS BY CHESBAY 360
Ever since Jeremy Harrell could pick up a guitar, he has always had a passion for music and expressing himself through passionate, heartfelt lyrics. Combining his soulful musical background of his youth with a little bit of country and a little bit of rock and roll, the members of CORBIN DALLAS have crafted something special that has caused fans to connect with their music on a very personal, intimate level. I was fortunate enough to talk to Harrell about his band’s humble beginnings, recording with Lucas Borza of HONOUR CREST, and their too be released debut record.
How did you originally get into playing country music?
Honestly, it just kinda fell together like that. I started off playing acoustic by myself and I eventually added in my band members over time. My drummer and bassist have played together over the years, and our guitarist played bass with me before, but we thought he would be a better guitarist for us. They are really great guys, and we wouldn’t be the same band without them.
What is the meaning behind the name CORBIN DALLAS?
I am a pretty big Bruce Willis fan, and in the movie The Fifth Element that is the name of his character. When I saw it, I thought that would be a great name for a band, and it just stuck.
What do you think sets your music apart from other country bands in the area?
Well as cliché as it sounds it’s a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll. We never sought out to write strictly country music. I grew up listening to Motown and the blues. When I write, I am not trying to write about the birds and the bees. I just let it come out, the music takes on a life of its own.
What are some common themes of the songs you write?
Relationships, happiness, the good stuff, the bad stuff, heartbreak, and the road behind. Basically memories. I don’t really like to write the “partying stuff”. I prefer the “passionate stuff”. I just hope people can relate to the music and take it they want to take it.
Recently, you have been recording with Lucas Borza of HONOUR CREST. How did you go about selecting him to produce your music?
Lucas and our drummer have been long time friends, and we started recording with him when he was just starting out and looking for experience. We were basically his guinea pig band. We set up in our drummer’s living room like a bunch of nerds. Now he and his band are joining Rise Records, and we are really happy to have him be a part of what we are doing.
I saw on your band’s Facebook page that you reached 500 followers yesterday. How supportive have your fans been since you formed CORBIN DALLAS?
Pretty good. The number of fans we have has been growing rapidly and coming out of nowhere. I wish I could step outside of myself to hear what they are hearin’, but its growing really fast. We’ve been really lucky with it lately.
I also noticed you will be performing at this year’s Vets Fest. How important is it to you and your band to support our nation’s military veterans and active duty armed forces?
It’s very important to us. We approached the coordinator Faith Conlon about playing, and she was more than happy to add us to the lineup. We really wanted to be a part of it to pay our tribute to the veterans, and we are honored that we get the chance to play it.
What are some other bands from Virginia that inspire you that others should listen to?
HONOUR CREST first and foremost. They are out there doing what they do best and doing it very well. Also, REVERY from Virginia Beach. Our manager is in that band, and they are a great group of guys. People should also check out THE STEPGODS from Virginia Beach on Sacrifice Records. They are more experimental and “earthy”.
How soon do you expect your debut record to be released, and what can your fans expect from that album?
We have been talking back and forth to Sacrifice Records, and we are possibly going that way. If we do, the record, which may be named after our song “Let’s Ride”, will be out around January. We only have three more songs to record until we are finished all 10 that will be on the album.