The Artist Is Empowered: A Conversation with Lost Dog Street Band’s Benjamin Tod

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Melissa Payne

“My whole family is from Alabama. I’ve hopped more trains out of the (Birmingham) Boyles Yard – the CSX yard – than probably any other yard in the country,” recalls Benjamin Tod, frontman for Lost Dog Street Band. On January 21, the band will release  Glory – a 10-track collection of new material – on its own Anti-Corp Music record label. On Friday, January 14, Lost Dog Street Band (Tod, Ashley Mae and Jeff Loops), will perform at Saturn. Recently, Tod spoke with us by phone from his Kentucky home.

Southern Stages: Benjamin, thanks for your time today. We are really enjoying Glory. How did the body of songs take shape?

Benjamin Tod: Basically, all albums that I make are some combination of things from a decade ago to the week of the first recording. I have a huge stack of songs that I pull from when it makes sense to do so and they apply easily to the concept of the album. Throughout the process of recording, I end up writing just a banger for the album and get inspired to some degree through the recording. It’s kind of a mixed bag.

Southern Stages: Over what period of time was the album recorded?

Tod: I think it was started in December 2020  – it’s been a long time coming. Lost Dog albums are always really frustrating for me in comparison to my solo albums. I’ve got to lay down tracks and then I’ve got to wait on everyone else. Our bassist lives in North Carolina so he has to satellite his bass tracks from his home studio to Nashville and then we have to fit it all together. It’s a fire drill.

Southern Stages: Where is your home base these days?

Tod: I’m in Western Kentucky – Muhlenberg County.

Southern Stages: What was the Covid downtime like for you? Was it a prolific time, a relaxing time or something else?

Tod: I would say that I’m more in the twilight of my career – my writing has slowed down in general from when I was in my prime. Tracks like “End With You” – that was actually written two weeks before the Covid lockdown. A lot of my writing has an intuition, if you will. The first line of that tune is “In the wake of all that’s coming, it’s so good to hold you dear” is prophetic in some way. A lot of things that I write end up being that way. I guess years of traveling has given me a different type of intuition about the world around me. There are certainly some songs that I’ve written in the last two years that probably would not have come to be without the general situations of the Covid lockdown and the unrest and general chaos in our society.

Southern Stages: Given an artist’s life tends to revolve around travel, touring income and audience interaction, I can only imagine the upheaval of that unusual time.

Tod: I’m a lot luckier or – I don’t know what the word would be exactly – [in that] I’ve laid a foundation of music and publishing, so financially we can float. We can live off of the money that comes in month-by-month from publishing and royalties. A lot of my friends were not nearly as lucky. I’ve been on the road since I was 16 and I’m a homebody now. As far as the general psychology of being trapped here, it didn’t bother me at all. It gave me time to do some things – I had a surgery that I needed, I dealt with a lot of projects and I cleared 10 acres of land. There’s always something to do here.

Southern Stages: Your band is a success story in the DIY, independent music world. If you will, talk about the current climate and state of the industry.

Tod: I think back to the ’70s and how money was made back then. There was such a tight control on the viewership of music in general – you got radio royalties and you got record royalties. Now, you’ve got royalties from literally from thousands of subsidiaries of companies and there’s a hundred branches of Spotify. The power struggle within the industry really favors the artist right now, in my opinion, more than it ever has because an artist can speak directly to the consumer and it’s basically a perfect storm of free enterprise. People can go find what they enjoy and can support it and the artist can directly make the money. It’s kind of cut out the dinosaurs on Music Row and they have no idea what to do. I’ve been in multiple bad deals and came out mainly unscathed, but they’re clueless. They’re still trying to run the same program they were running 20 years ago. They have no idea how to make someone famous – I have a better idea of how to make someone famous than someone charging $50,000 to do it on Music Row.

Southern Stages: It’s great to hear that the gatekeeper has been removed, so to speak.

Tod: Yes, and It’s brought a revival in this music. I talk about this often, buy when we started doing this 10 years ago, this wasn’t cool, that Alt-Country, Outlaw thing. Now, it’s flooded and the artist is empowered.

Southern Stages: With several albums under your belt, how do you comprise your setlists these days?

Tod: A lot of it comes down to variables with my health and also with intonation and things like that. I have nerve damage in my hands, so people will notice throughout a set that if I play a faster flatpicking song, I’ll have to immediately go into a softer fingerpicking song. It’s really slowed me down a lot. We have so  many songs from so long ago – if we don’t play “September Doves,” there’s a large portion of the crowd that will be upset. Any band that makes it anywhere runs into this issue. So, 30 to 35% of the set is out the window with standards.

Southern Stages: How do songs stay fresh and relevant to you after you’ve performed them hundreds of times?

Tod: Man, you’ve got some good questions. Really, there’s no way for me to gauge it. I will start playing a song and it will take me right back to when I wrote it. It’s nearly impossible to do that unnaturally. I always say it’s impossible to care about something you don’t care about. You cannot force someone to care about something they don’t care about – it’s impossible. But at least every four times on tour, one of those songs I’ve played a million times hits me right in the gut and I can feel tears behind my eyes. It does happen.

On Friday, January 14, Lost Dog Street Band will perform at Saturn. Advance tickets to the 9 p.m., 18+ show are $15 and can be purchased at www.saturnbirmingham.com.

 

 

Catching Up with Jocelyn & Chris

By Brent Thompson

Photo credit: Kiki Vassilakis

In addition to being sister and brother, Jocelyn & Chris are seasoned musicians to say the least. First performing together at ages 12 and 11, respectively, the sibling duo has spent years writing, recording and touring together. In early 2022, Jocelyn & Chris will release their new album, Favorite Ghosts. The duo is currently riding a wave of success on the strength of the single “Sugar and Spice.” Recently, we caught up with them by phone.

Southern Stages: Jocelyn and Chris, thanks for your time today. Where are you at the present moment?

Jocelyn Arndt: We are actually in the car on the way to a show near Boston – we are on the road.

Southern Stages: We are looking forward to the release of Favorite Ghosts. If you will, talk about the writing and recording of the album.

Chris Arndt: 2019 was a productive year for us – we’d been on the NBC Today show and we’d done a couple of national tours and we wrote most of this album and we recorded a live acoustic album that year. We were planning on releasing this album back in early 2020 but then obviously things got pushed back. We are really excited to finally get new music out there.

Southern Stages: It’s difficult to interview an artist these days without mentioning Covid and the upheaval that followed, mainly the loss of touring income and no audience interaction.

Jocelyn: Definitely. It was like one minute we had the whole summer planned and the next minute it was just gone. Thank God for the Internet because we would have had literally nothing to do if we couldn’t live stream. Nothing substitutes a good rock show, but we were able to live stream a lot and at least know that we were playing for somebody somewhere [laughs]. So that helped us get through for sure.

Southern Stages: Where was Favorite Ghosts recorded?

Jocelyn: The majority of it was recorded at White Lake Studios in Albany, N.Y. with the exception of most of the lead vocals, which were recorded at Clubhouse Studios in Rhinebeck, N.Y. It’s a legendary studio and they had some very choice vintage microphones.

Southern Stages: How does your songwriting process tend to work?

Chris: Jocelyn is definitely much more of a lyricist and a person who can write melodies and I live in the chords and the arrangements and the song structures. We fill out each other’s strengths and weaknesses really, really well. With each song, one of us will have a kernel of an idea – there may be a riff for me or a hook from Jocelyn. Once we have an idea that we think is worth building a song around, we bring in the other person and start throwing stuff against the wall until we have a song.

Southern Stages: Some artists say that the current musical  climate – with outlets such as iTunes, Spotify, Youtube – is beneficial given the instant accessibility of content. Others say that the current model makes it hard to be found among the crowd. How do you view the current state of the industry?

Jocelyn: You’re right about the accessibility thing and the cool thing about streaming is that anyone anywhere in the world can find you. During lock down, we’d live stream and people would pop up in Australia and Norway and people were able to connect with our music in that way. There are some advantages to it, but there are disadvantages to everything as well. We are indie artists and we are doing this ourselves as are a lot of people out there. It can be really if you’re not a big major label to eek out a little space in the current landscape. The best thing we’ve found is to try everything and nothing beats a good rock show. We connect the most with people when we can actually get in front of them and play live. We try to use the digital aspect to help people find us in the real world which is where the real connection gets made.

Chris: I do love songwriting and being in the studio and crafting the music, but this summer we hadn’t done shows in basically two years and we pushed a radio single called “Sugar and Spice” that got played all over the country and it got played on Birmingham Mountain Radio. To do that radio single push and see people again, I did not realize how much we had all been missing it – it was so nice.

Southern Stages: How do songs stay fresh to you after you’ve played them literally hundreds of times?

Jocelyn: This album will be our eighth studio record. When we were playing gigs in high school, we had three original songs and now we get 90 minutes onstage and we have to pick and choose [laughs]. It’s a good problem to have but it’s a little weird. We do try to mix it up in the set and we don’t get to play everything all the time anymore and that keeps things fresh. We change how we play things a little bit and we don’t even notice how much we tend to do that until we listen back to the original recording.

Southern Stages: Not many artists have the ability to forge their careers with immediate family at their side. If you will, talk about that experience.

Jocelyn: It’s awesome. The funny thing is that neither of us has any perspective of music being any other way because from the very beginning we’ve been playing together. We realize how lucky we are – it’s a fun job, but it can be a really tough job. We’ve always been each other’s best friends and it makes it so much easier.

Jocelyn & Chris’s new album, Favorite Ghosts, will be available in early 2022.

http://www.jocelynandchrismusic.com

 

 

Review: Jason Isbell has Georgia on his mind

By Brent Thompson

When the state of Georgia went blue – politically-speaking that is – Jason Isbell became inspired to record an album of Georgia-related songs. The result is Georgia Blue, a 13-track collection that runs the stylistic spectrum. Aided by his trusty backing band the 400 Unit, Isbell also enlists a stellar guest lineup that includes Brandi Carlile, Bela Fleck, Adia Victoria, John Paul White, Julien Baker, Steve Gorman and Brittney Spencer. Along the way, the ensemble takes on James Brown (“It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World”), Gladys Knight (“Midnight Train To Georgia”), Drivin N Cryin (“Honeysuckle Blue”), The Allman Brothers Band (“In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”) and REM (“Nightswimming”). On Georgia Blue, Isbell and company accomplish the difficult task of being reverent to the material while placing their own stamp on some well-worn classics.

Review: The Nth Power returns with a message of hope

By Brent Thompson

Blending genres can be a dangerous thing, but The Nth Power has always used that concept to its advantage. On its latest album, Reverence, the trio – Nikki Glaspie, Nick Cassarino and Nate Edgar – still effectively melds R&B, rock and hip-hop into a style of its own. Joined by a stellar list of guest musicians including Ivan Neville, Maceo Parker and the late Kofi Burbridge, the band spreads its message of hope across the album on tracks including “A New Day,” “Spirits,” and “I Will Never Leave.” Co-produced by The Nth Power with Rick St. Hilaire and Will Bradford, Reverence is an apt title as the band expands its sonic horizons while remaining true to itself.

thenthpowermusic.com

 

Be Your Own Artist: A Conversation with Andrew Bryant

By Brent Thompson

As if being a musician forced off the road during the Covid shutdown wasn’t challenging enough, Andrew Bryant was working through the process of sobriety at the same time. But instead of reverting to old, unhealthy ways, Bryant went into the recording studio to grapple with his circumstances. The result is A Meaningful Connection, an 11-track, timeless-sounding effort that finds Bryant (formerly of Mississippi indie-rockers Water Liars) writing, recording, producing and performing virtually every instrument himself. The album’s sound befits its rough-hewn song titles such as “Drink Away The Pain,” “Fight,” “How It Feels” and “Truth Ain’t Hard To Find.” Recently, Bryant discussed downtime, home recording, his new album and the state of the music industry with us by phone from his Oxford, Ms. home.

Southern Stages: Andrew, thanks for your time. Where are you right now?

Andrew Bryant: I’m at home – I haven’t ventured onto the road since 2019. I really wanted to at several points throughout the year and said, “I’m going to wait and see what happens.” Every time I did, my friends’ tours kept getting cancelled.

Southern Stages: I can’t imagine the upheaval of being a touring musician in a time where the live music industry was completely shut down.

Bryant: Most of my time has been filled with doing all the other things involved with music – like updating my studio and things I put off for a long time – and just writing a ton and playing every day. You kind of get out of the habit of it at home when you play on the road a lot. When you come home you just don’t play as much and you realize you haven’t picked up your guitar in a month. I really tried to build some home habits of playing every day and trying to write as much as I can and record as much as I can. I’m just going up into my studio and recording covers just for fun to keep myself playing different instruments. When I don’t have anything to do, I find something to do with music. That’s what really keeps me going.

Southern Stages: Do you have touring plans for this year or are you likely waiting until next year?

Bryant: I think I’m going to shelve it until next year. I’ve got a few people I’m talking to and I might do something this fall, but the Delta variant hit Mississippi pretty hard and now it looks like it’s hitting other parts of the country. I hope I can get out there and at least do a few shows this year. I held off on a lot of that because the vinyl for my new record was supposed to be here in August and it got pushed off until October, so I’m just now looking at getting my merch in within the next couple of weeks.

Southern Stages: We are really enjoying A Meaningful Connection. Were the songs on this album newer compositions, older ones or a mixture of both?

Bryant: I would say probably only three or four of the songs I was working on right at the end of 2019 and early 2020. Covid had started without us knowing it about the time I started writing for this album. About 75% percent of it was written during lockdown and 100% of it was recorded during lockdown.

Southern Stages: Do you still tweak songs at the 13th hour even after you take them into the studio to record them?

Bryant: At that point, it was like 50-something hour tweaking [laughs]. When you’re at home and doing it yourself, you tend to overthink things anyway and, if you don’t have anything but time on your hands, you’re going to try different versions. I tend to write a song and I hear where I want it go loosely in my head and I just follow that. But there are a couple of songs on the record – like “Fight” – which is a different type of song for me in that I only had the one line “I don’t want to fight anymore” and I just had the riff. I went into the studio and said, “I’m going to see if I can make something out of this.” That song was just made on the fly. I had a couple of songs that I cut off that I thought weren’t just quite good enough.

Southern Stages: It sounds like you’re pretty savvy in the producing and engineering areas.

Bryant: I guess so – I have my own self doubts about it, but I tend to get it done.

Southern Stages: Along those same lines, do you enjoy the process of making records at home instead of being on a budget in a traditional studio with the clock ticking?

Bryant: Yes, and there’s a lot of positives with that but there are also some negatives. For example, I’ve already pretty much written my next album and I’m really missing going into a studio. The thing about going into a studio is having the [scheduled] time – it can be good for you. It forces you to make decisions and it can be more natural. Whereas, when you’re working at home – and I have friends who are producers who work at home and we talk about it a lot – sometimes you just overthink it and you need to get it out of your room because you start to do too much.

Southern Stages: So a deadline can be a good thing.

Bryant: The deadline is crucial.

Southern Stages: Some people say that now is a great time to be an artist given listeners can find your music so easily via Spotify, Youtube, iTunes, satellite radio and other modern outlets. Others say that – for the same reason – it can make it challenging to be found among the crowd. How do you view the current musical climate?

Bryant: That’s a great question. I guess I agree with both of those points. I really like the fact that anyone can try their hand at it and get it out there. When I was growing up in the ’90s, it wasn’t like that and it was hard to make a demo and burn it on CD and get it in the hands of a label. You can be your own artist now which I think is great. I sell a lot of records and have a lot of fans overseas and I’ve never been there. I have people email me and send me messages from all over Europe and Australia. A friend recently messaged me and said, “Hey, did you know they’re playing you on the radio in Melbourne?” and I said, “No!” [laughs] and I’ve never been there. For the type of artist that I am, it’s a real positive thing and I really love it. It keeps me going.

Southern Stages: Any future plans for Water Liars?

Bryant: We’re pretty much doing our own things now. We still keep up and we talk, but it’s not something that’s on our radar.

https://andrewbryantmusic.com/

The Human Connection: A Conversation with The War and Treaty

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: David McClister

The husband and wife duo of Michael Trotter and Tanya Blount – better known as The War and Treaty – can authentically sing about hope as they are living examples. Suffering from PTSD following his time serving in the Iraq War, Trotter persevered – thanks to Blount’s encouragement as detailed in their song “Five More Minutes” – and the duo has garnered the attention of listeners, critics and peers alike. Currently, the band is touring in support of its 2020 release Hearts Town. On Saturday, October 16, The War and Treaty will perform in support of Lauren Daigle at Huntsville’s Von Braun Center. Recently, Trotter and Blount spoke with us by phone from a tour stop in Atlanta.

Southern Stages: Michael and Tanya, thanks for your time today. How did you hold up throughout the Covid shutdown?

Tanya Blount: We’ve actually been really grateful to be able to have Zoom and figure out ways to connect with the fans. It’s been challenging, but it’s been rewarding at the same time. It’s bittersweet.

Southern Stages: Was the time away from performing a prolific time as far as writing or was it more about taking a  break?

Michael Trotter: We definitely wrote and demoed and rehearsed a bunch. We had a bunch of family time which was really cool – we hadn’t had that in a long time. We did live concerts online and honed in on what we wanted things to be like going forward.

Southern Stages: We are really enjoying Hearts Town. Are the songs on the album newer compositions, older ideas or a mixture of both?

Trotter: Definitely a mixture of both.

Blount: We would actually perform those songs for two years prior to recording the record on the road. So it’s kind of one of those records where the fans really wanted certain songs. We write them and we go out on the road to test them out with the fans. If they like them, we stick with them. If they don’t, we put them away for something else.

Southern Stages: How does your writing process work? Do you tend to write more at home, on the road or whenever inspiration strikes?

Trotter: Because I write in my head, I write everywhere. The lyrics and music happen right up in my head and it can happen at any given point in time. When the spirit moves, the spirit moves.

Southern Stages: Not a lot of artists get to experience their career with their spouse by their side. If you will, talk about the unique opportunity of doing this together.

Trotter: It’s been a wonderful thing. I’ve been threatened a lot by Tanya [laughs] – it’s been a new development in our relationship.We have two blankets and two comforters now – his and hers!

Blount: He keeps telling stories [laughs].

Southern Stages: Some artists say, due to technology, that now is  a great time to be found via outlets including Spotify, iTunes, Youtube and satellite radio. Other artists say that it’s a challenging time to be found among the crowd. How do you view the pros and cons of the current climate?

Blount: We realize that we’re a touring band – a live show band. We really don’t pay too much attention to that. Spotify numbers and iTunes and all of that stuff can be manipulated because it is technology. We just keep the focus on the fans and they tell their friends and families about us. Like most artists, we are using social media but, at the same time, we realize that we are a touring band.

Southern Stages: How do songs stay fresh and relevant to you after you’ve performed some of them literally hundreds of times by now?

Blount: I’d have to say again that it goes back to the fans. Every crowd is different – it’s giving them an experience and allowing yourself to experience them as well. To keep it fresh, we understand that it is a joy and a gift to be able to stand in front of them and feel them and have this incredible exchange of the human connection. To feel that every time, it’s a high that you can’t really explain.

The War and Treaty will perform in support of Lauren Daigle at Huntsville’s Von Braun Center on Saturday, October 16. Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. show are $29.50 – $126.00 and can be purchased at www.ticketmaster.com.

 

 

A Broader Lens: Catching up with Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Clara Balzary

In a recording career spanning more than a decade, Dawes has released a string of timeless-sounding albums. With songs including the anthemic “When My Time Comes” to the ’70s A.M. radio strains of “Time Spent In Los Angeles” to the Yacht Rock polish of “Feed The Fire,” the quartet has managed to stay reverent and relevant at the same time. On Wednesday, September 8, Dawes will perform at Avondale Brewing Company. The band is currently touring in support of its 2020 release Good Luck With Whatever (Rounder Records). Recently, Taylor Goldsmith – the band’s lead vocalist, guitarist and principal songwriter – spoke with us by phone from his Los Angeles home.

Southern Stages: Taylor, thanks for your time. How have you and your band held up throughout Covid?

Taylor Goldsmith: We’re good. It’s an intense time. Everyone’s safety comes first so we are trying to act accordingly. Some people want to complain about that, but that’s how we have to do it. Obviously, no one has all the answers but we’re being as safe as we can based on the info that we have. The idea that we get to go back out and play shows is awesome. It’s a strange first step forward but we’re very excited.

Southern Stages: Of course, each of us took our lumps during the pandemic. But I always think about the impact on artists in particular whose lives are based around travel, touring income and audience interaction. It must have been quite the upheaval.

Goldsmith: Music was the first thing to go down and it seems like the it’s the last thing to come back. My wife’s [Mandy Moore] an actress and her show has a protocol at this point that everyone can get onboard with, but group gatherings are a different thing so it’s been tough. It’s taken a lot of time, but it’s given us a lot of perspective and a lot of gratitude for the jobs we have – we won’t be taking it for granted.

Southern Stages: We are enjoying Good Luck With Whatever. Are the songs on the album mostly newer compositions, older ones or a mixture of both?

Goldsmith: Sort of a mixture, but that helped us find out what the album should be. We had the song “Still Feel Like A Kid” and we tried it for [2018 album] Passwords and it didn’t work because we tried it as a midtempo ballad. But it did give birth and direction to Good Luck With Whatever. Good Luck With Whatever became a manchild’s reckoning with adulthood [laughs] and that song became the thesis statement for everything else. Even though it’s light and humorous, I feel like it’s one of the most honest songs I’ve ever written.

Southern Stages: Did the album release get altered due to Covid or was a fall 2020 release date always the plan?

Goldsmith: That was always the plan. We recorded it the year before and it was all written and recorded before Covid hit. We had the idea to take the year off and give our fans a break because we’ve just toured so much. We thought, “Here’s a chance to record this record and put it on ice” and everyone did it. We actually recorded another record in November and now we’re sitting on that one. Because we’ve been home so much, our recording schedule has gotten ahead of our touring schedule.

Southern Stages: If you will, talk about the experience of forging your career with your brother, Griffin, alongside you in the band.

Goldsmith: It works because we put that first. We all want to go play music and make records, but if it gets in the way of something somebody wants to do and it starts harming relationships, then it doesn’t matter. It’s not even a democracy where three guys want this and one guy wants that. We just keep talking it 0ut until we are all 100% on the same page. Whenever a band is falling out of love with each other, the audience is the first to know it and you can tell when it’s a business. We try to make sure that our relationship is as healthy as it ever was because that’s what makes any band have a shot at being special.

Southern Stages: How do you feel about the current musical climate in the age of Youtube, Spotify and satellite radio? How do you reconcile the accessibility with being found among the flood of content available?

Goldsmith: When I try to step back and take a look at it through a broader lens, it seems like the leaders of a generation and cultural icons will be happening less and less because, like you said, there is so much available. If you’re an American kid between 20 and 30, there are so many people that can represent the way you think and see the world artistically. I think that can really be a cool thing. If you go in certain circles and ask who Jeff Tweedy and Phoebe Bridgers are, they’re going to look at you like “Who are you talking about?” In other circles, those are going to be icons forever. We all have a chance to find our audience in new ways. I feel a very strong connection to the Dawes community, but I know when I get on a plane there’s not going to be a single person that knows who I am and I think that’s really cool. As long as we all manage expectations and understand that there’s room for pop music and cutting-edge hip-hop and Taylor Goldsmith with an acoustic guitar all in the same world to varying degrees but still having a space, I think that’s a quality of this time we’re living in and worth celebrating.

Southern Stages: You’ve played some songs in your catalog hundreds – even thousands – of times by now. How do older songs stay fresh and relevant to you?

Goldsmith: One thing I’ve been doing more recently is playing with the set list. We just went on a little run and played three nights in a row and I made sure that we didn’t play any song twice. We also try to play a little bit with how we play it. One night recently, I played “When My Time Comes” just on acoustic guitar and let the audience sing most of it. But if you told me I had to play a song the way it sounds on the record for the rest of my career, I’d be thrilled to do it. I think the fans reignite it each night – it’s like they’re doing it for us. The fact that they respond to it the way they do and sing along with it – I’m feeling their excitement from it. We have seven albums and if we’re in the same city for two nights, we’re okay with giving two completely different experiences.

Dawes will perform at Avondale Brewing on Wednesday, September 8 with special guest Erin Rae. Advance tickets to the 7 p.m. all-ages show are $32.50 and can be purchased at www.avondalebrewing.com.

Please Note: Per the artist’s request, please note this show is requiring all fans to provide PRINTED proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event OR full vaccination for entry. All fans must have received a negative COVID-19 diagnostic test within 72-hours before entry to the facility and provide printed proof of a negative result prior to entering the venue. Or, be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (at least two weeks after final dose) and have the option to provide proof of vaccination – either the original vaccination card or a printed copy of the vaccination card. Unvaccinated fans under 12 years of age will be required to take a COVID-19 diagnostic test within 72-hours before entry to the facility and will provide printed proof of negative result prior to entering the venue. Unvaccinated fans over 12 years old with a valid medical restriction & medical note will be required to take a COVID-19 diagnostic test within 72-hours before entry to the facility, and will provide printed proof of negative result prior to entering the venue.

Review: Watchhouse gives us familiar faces with a new name, expanded sound

By Brent Thompson

Changing the name of a band more than a decade since its debut release – especially a band with a loyal following – is a bold move to say the least. With that said, welcome to the bold new world of Watchhouse, formerly known as Mandolin Orange. The duo of Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz has recently-released its self-titled album under the new moniker and there are evident changes beyond the name. Released on Tiptoe Tiger Music/Thirty Tigers and produced by Josh Kaufman (The National, The Hold Steady), the album’s nine tracks find the duo exploring sonic territory beyond its trademark contemporary folk sound. Themes of parenthood, isolation and climate change are set to a lush, even jazzy, sound. Watchhouse should serve the band well as existing fans will stay onboard and new ones will be made along the way.

Bigger Than Us: A Conversation with Maggie Rose

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Ford Fairchild

You could call Maggie Rose’s musical style soul, pop and country and you’d be correct. In a recording career that spans more than a decade, the Nashville-based singer has proved adept at melding several genres into her own unique sound. Her latest album, Have a Seat – produced by Alabama Shakes’ Ben Tanner and set for release on August 20 – finds Rose leaning heavily into her soul side. This is most fitting given that Have a Seat was recorded at hallowed FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. On Thursday, August 12, Rose will perform at Saturn. Recently, she spoke with us by phone from her Memphis tour stop.

Southern Stages: Maggie, thanks for your time. We are looking forward to the Birmingham show. When did the tour begin?

Maggie Rose: We started on June 15 in Annapolis, Md. – the Have a Seat tour was kicked off there. It’s been really fun.

Southern Stages: Are you seeing any new parts of the country on this tour?

Rose: I have pretty much criss-crossed this country as much as one can do it [laughs]. The only state I haven’t been to is Alaska. Hopefully, someone will invite us to perform in Alaska sometime soon.

Southern Stages: Being an Alabama-based publication, we are excited that Have a Seat was recorded in Muscle Shoals.

Rose: It made it very special for me, too.

Southern Stages: If you will, talk about about the decision to record at FAME Studios.

Rose: Ben Tanner definitely accelerated my interest in recording there, but I was at an event that Halley Phillips – Sam Phillips’ granddaughter – put together called Music Row to Muscle Shoals around December 2018. I had gone to FAME before to write, but I didn’t understand the sanctity of that room. You can feel the energy in the room and it was nice to get a little distance between me and Music Row, where I’d recorded all of my previous projects. It’s analog – it’s not bells and whistles and things that make you go down a rabbit hole. You just make great soul music there.

Southern Stages: How did you first connect with Ben?

Rose: I was introduced to Ben Tanner through my publisher and he knows the Muscle Shoals sound and FAME Studios so well. He’s such a great producer and plays with the Alabama Shakes, of course. He was able to help me – in addition to the musicians from Them Vibes, who I tour with – put together this really eclectic band. David Hood was part of it, [former Bonnie Raitt guitarist] Will McFarlane, Zac Cockrell from the Shakes played bass on a bunch of tracks and we had people from Brittany Howard’s band. It was this awesome collection of people young and old – some of them super established in their careers and some of them just getting to play in that room for the first time. The energy was kinetic – you could feel how excited everyone was to be there and it was such a collaborative effort. It was a magical memory to make before we all went into the lockdown. It just made me appreciate the songs even more because I knew what a special experience it was and I was grateful we got achieve it.

Southern Stages: You are based in Nashville these days. Where are you from originally?

Rose: Originally, I grew up in Maryland – right outside of D.C. – and I’ve lived in Nashville for over 13 years now.

Southern Stages: Are the songs on Have a Seat mostly newer compositions, songs that had been around for a while or a combination of both?

Rose: All of the songs for this record were written within a six-month period. Once the seed was sown that I would cut my record at FAME, I think subconsciously I went into my writing and collaborations knowing that I wanted to incorporate that soul and R&B that you hear from so much of the music that has come out of that room. There is a lot of political contention that inspired the themes of these songs – I wanted to write about inclusivity and communication, but also being an individual and making room for everybody. So all of the themes written into these songs became even more relevant to me when we were all put in this pressure cooker of the pandemic and polarizing rhetoric. It felt like these songs evolved in meaning because of everything we went through and it influenced the sequencing of the album.

Southern Stages: Obviously, everyone took their lumps throughout Covid. But I can’t imagine the upheaval that artists endured with no travel, loss of touring income and no audience interaction. Frankly, I was expecting to hear more tragic stories like the one we heard about Justin Townes Earle.

Rose: Yes, and the Justin Townes Earle situation was devastating and I know a lot of people that didn’t make it who were in proximity to the artists. It really humbles you and you realize it’s so much bigger than the individual – it takes a village to do what we do. To give the music away, you need the audience in front of you. The venues that we love have staffs that aren’t going to have any work. It just makes you realize that everything we’re doing is part of something way bigger than us.

Southern Stages: How do you feel about today’s musical climate in the age of Spotify, Youtube, social media platforms and other outlets?

Rose: I think there are pros and cons for that level of accessibility. How much is too much? You want to keep some level of separation between your daily life and what you’re doing in your art form. When everything locked down, having that avenue to stay connected with people and give them some regularity in a time of such ambiguity – like doing a stream every Friday – was something you could count on. It felt like a gift. I was also forced to connect with people through social media that I hadn’t ever done before. I started this podcast called Salute the Songbird where I interview all these women in the industry that I love – some of them are legends like Nancy Wilson and other people are artists that I want more people to know about. I don’t know that I would’ve really forced myself to listen if all of this hadn’t transpired. I think it was about being quiet and being a conduit for these conversations and not being the subject of them. It goes hand-in-hand with this album and what the songs are about, too. Let people speak their minds and show them love, even if you don’t agree with everything they say. That’s what we should be doing for each other.

Southern Stages: Thanks again for your time today. In closing, is there anything specifically you want us to know prior to the Saturn show on August 12?

Rose: The band I tour with, Them Vibes, also has their own awesome original material and they do a set before I do. And Dylan Hartigan opens up the show – we met him when were out with Kelly Clarkson. He jumps up for a song and he’s just phenomenal. We’re a big family rolling down the road in this bus and it’s three-stop shopping.

Maggie Rose will perform at Saturn on Thursday, August 12. Them Vibes and Dylan Hartigan will open the 8 p.m. show. Advance tickets are $15 and can be purchased at www.saturnbirmingham.com.