Commitment To The Song: A Conversation with Little Feat’s Bill Payne

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Hank Randall

Blending elements of rock, funk, country and Louisiana-tinged swamp music, Little Feat has melded these genres into a style of its own in a recording career spanning more than 50 years. But of all of the albums in the band’s extensive catalog, its first live release, Waiting For Columbus, remains the group’s preeminent recording. Currently, the band – Bill Payne, Sam Clayton, Fred Tackett, Kenny Gradney, Tony Leone and Scott Sharrard – is touring in support of the landmark album’s 45th anniversary. On Sunday, March 20, Little Feat will perform at the Alabama Theatre with Amy Helm opening the 8 p.m. show. Recently, Payne spoke with us by phone from his Montana home.

Southern Stages: Bill, thanks for your time today. When does the Waiting For Columbus tour kick off?

Bill Payne: We head out for rehearsals on March 1st and the first gig is on the 4th in Columbus.

Southern Stages: If you will, talk about the genesis of this anniversary tour.

Payne: Our management is Vector Management – which is based in Nashville – and Brian Penix is our day-to-day guy and he’s first one that mentioned it to me. We have a new band and I thought – after a year and a half of being hunkered down because of the pandemic – that if we were going to make a statement, that’s not a bad way to do it. Plus, on the musical front – putting all other considerations aside – this centers us in on the same set every night. We’re not replicating the album, though – we’re playing the songs in the order that they appeared on the original record, but it allows us to approach those songs even deeper then we already have as a new band and put our stamp on those tunes. That can be done primarily through the jams where we expand certain tunes or we revisit the instrumentation we have from time to time. We have also have a three-piece horn section with us – Erik Lawrence, Jay Collins and Steven Bernstein – who we’ve worked with before and they’re a great bunch of guys.

Southern Stages: You’ve literally played these songs thousands of times by this point. How have the songs stayed fresh and relevant to you over the years?

Payne: I love that question – I’ve had it a couple of times. I told this one guy – and not facetiously – when we sing “Happy Birthday,” how do we keep that fresh and alive? [laughs] You do it because it’s heartfelt. It really got me thinking about it because it is a great question. Like when we were kids watching the same cartoons  a hundred times, I think there’s part of being a musician that having that familiarity of a song or songs in our repertoire lends itself to the familiarity but wanting to dig a little deeper in how you want to being out the improvisational aspect to a song. It could be done through tempo, it could be done through instrumentation or it could be done with trading out verses with guests that come in to sing. But, ultimately, it’s about commitment to the song. It speaks very highly that the type of songs Little Feat has written capture your mind and your heart as well as your prowess as a player to play them. It’s fun to play “Dixie Chicken” for example and it’s fun to revisit “Two Trains.” “Red Streamliner” is challenging in an of itself – it’s challenging to sing. So the basis of the material itself is a really good jumping-off point no matter how many times we’ve played it.

Southern Stages: Some artists say that now is a great time to be a musician given the instant access to listeners via streaming services, satellite radio, YouTube and other modern outlets. Other artists say – for the same reason – that the current climate makes it difficult f0r artists to be found among the clutter. How do you reconcile the state of the industry in your mind?

Payne: I don’t know if there’s any reconciling it because it is what it is, as they say, but the notion of music gaining importance is the thing I find most interesting about everything. Finding it has always been somewhat a challenge, although radio had a more prominent place in that for a very short period of time in the late ’60s. But I react to a lot of things when people say, “Hey, have you heard this?” and that sets me on a path. It’s a very new world out there no matter how you slice it and I think those people that think it’s better for musicians are partially right. It’s tougher for musicians these days because you have to find your audience in order to try to make a living. Locally, that’s not necessarily a tough thing, but when you’re talking about nationally you need help. The music being so broadly available makes it a lot tougher. On the bright side of it – speaking strictly for myself – I’m on Amazon music and I’ve got to say that my library is chocked full of some of the best music in the world which I’ve never had access to before. The access to music allows us as artists to take genres – which is what Little Feat has always been into – and combine and share those genres. It’s like everything – it’s confusing and convoluted but there are some good parts about it as well.

Southern Stages: In addition to your Little Feat career, you have worked with a multitude of artists. Has writing an autobiography ever been in your plans?

Payne: Yeah, it has and I have and I’ve backed off for various reasons and now I’m back into the mold now. I think I could actually have a place to put it. I like to do research as well. In memoirs, a lot of people just shoot from the hip – “Hey, this is what I remember and what I don’t remember is more that what I remember” in a lot of cases. I like the advantage as a writer of being able to go back to certain people and say, “How do you recollect this?” Fortunately, I wasn’t in and out of drug clinics trying to kick something so that will not be a part of my biography. But there’s a lot there. I’m not a purist – I’m an artist that dabbles in different genres always with respect and inquisitiveness. I want to expand my voice and I don’t want to constrict it.

Southern Stages: Are you still involved in commercial photography?

Photo Credit: Polly Payne

Payne: I am. Not to the degree that I was, but it’s still part of who I am. I like it as another means of expression.

Southern Stages: What are the long-range plans for the Waiting For Columbus Tour?

Payne: This is going to be a year-long tour and it looks like we’ve got June and part of July off. So, there are some breaks in the action. For a couple of years, I was going back and forth between Little Feat and The Doobie Brothers and that made for a lot of time on the road. Groucho Marx used to say, “I like my cigar but I like to take it out every now and then” [laughs].

Southern Stages: The songs on Waiting For Columbus are obviously part of your musical DNA by this point. With that said, do you ever find yourself revisiting old recordings to brush up on the material?

Payne: That’s a great question. In Little Feat – and with the Doobies too, for that matter – I occasionally have to go back and listen to something. The arrangements have morphed over the years and I like to start with the way we play things now instead of going back to 1977. It’s a long history – the original group was Lowell [George], myself, Roy Estrada and Richie [Hayward]. I have to think of it in musical terms rather than the personalities that were involved. It’s a matter of the music taking precedence with the personnel you have at the time.

Code-R Productions Presents: Little Feat at the Alabama Theatre on Sunday, March 20. Amy Helm will open the 8 p.m. show. Tickets are $34.50-$59.50 and can be purchased at

Huntsville: The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band performs at Sidetracks on 2-26-22

By Brent Thompson

Photo courtesy of the artist

On Saturday, February 26, The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band will perform at Huntsville’s Sidetracks Music Hall. The trio is currently touring in support of its latest release, Dance Songs for Hard Times. With its self-described “front-porch blues” sound, the band has garnered praise from Rolling Stone, No Depression and American Songwriter to name only a few. Showtime for the 19+ event is 8 p.m. and advance tickets can be purchased at

Two For The Road: A Conversation with The Waymores

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Lindsay Garrett

Country music has had no shortage of stellar duets that shared lives both on and off the stage. Tandems including George and Tammy, Johnny and June and Glen and Tanya quickly come to mind in this esteemed category. The Atlanta-based duo The Waymores – Kira Annalise and Willie Heath Neal – continue in that team tradition and will release its sophomore outing, the timeless-yet-timely Stone Sessions, on April 8 [Chicken Ranch Records]. On Saturday, February 19, The Waymores will perform at Birmingham’s Dave’s Pub. Recently, the duo spoke with us by phone from their Atlanta home.

Southern Stages: Kira and Willie, thanks for your time today. We are really enjoying Stone Sessions. How did the album’s material take shape?

Kira Annalise: We wrote a lot of Stone Sessions during quarantine. That’s not to say that some of those ideas hadn’t been around for a while – they just kind of came to fruition during quarantine. A lot of songs, like “Road Worn,” is very quarantine-heavy – it’s all about the feelings that came out of being trapped in the house and not being able to do what we love doing. A lot of them came to light during the lockdown.

Willie Heath Neal: There are a couple that kind of popped out like “Heart Of Stone.” Kira was going through a hard time being a parent and I was thinking about how much she is always giving, giving, giving – I just picked up the guitar and wrote that song. The same went for “Die Right Here” – I just started kicking around this idea [about] people that always say they’re going to do something and never do and and I wrote a chorus and half a verse and within 30 minutes we had a song. Some of them took a long time and some of them just popped right out.

Southern Stages: You already touched on my next question with your last response, but I was curious if you used the lockdown period as a prolific time or time to rest. It sounds like you used that time to be productive.

Willie Heath Neal: Yes, and I think a lot of our peers did as well. Once the quarantine was done, everybody had new albums ready to go.

Kira Annalise: Yeah – what can else can you do with all this free time? Not all of it was prolific – we tried to live it up while we had some time off. We came from touring about 200 days a year and we were set to step foot on a plane two days after everything hit – we were about to do a U.K. tour. They started cancelling flights and cancelling travel and everybody thought “Oh, it’s going to be a couple of weeks or a month.” We were bummed about that one tour and then we had to settle into this new place of being at home and not knowing what to do with all of our free time, so we just wrote.

Southern Stages: How would you describe your songwriting process? Do you sit down together, bring ideas to each other or finish songs on your own?

Willie Heath Neal: Yes [laughs]. From my side of this – and Kira can give hers – I had a career before we started The Waymores and I had about five albums out as Willie Heath Neal and I had just hit a wall with songwriting – I thought I was a halfway decent songwriter  and I hadn’t written anything in years. Kira was writing all these great songs and then I thought I’d said everything I had to say and I was really sad about it. Then I would come up with a line and she would add a line and, next thing you know, I was writing again. So, she gave my songwriting CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver all at the same time. Now, it’s a process – I’ll either get a melody or a couple of lines and play it for her and she’ll just spit out another line. So, it’s a little bit from column A and column B. We have a whole catalog on her phone – we’ll write a lyric going down the road or one of us will say something and we’ll say, “That’s a song lyric – write it down.” Sometimes they pop out and sometimes we craft them.

Kira Annalise: It’s rare that we sit down specifically to write. To have a writing session – that’s not something we purposely do, but we are never not writing songs if that makes sense. We’re always thinking about songwriting and writing in our heads. Willie is more one to craft some pieces. I’m the one that just verbally throws everything out and says, “Make it into something gritty” [laughs]. He’ll do some things own his own and bring them to me and I’m like, “Let’s cancel all our plans for the next two nights.”

Willie Heath Neal: When the song starts and we know we’ve got something, it’s like giving birth – you stop everything. She’s right – we’ve cancelled plans.

Southern Stages: Do you find that songs are still tweaked even after you carry them into the studio for recording?

Willie Heath Neal: Absolutely.

Kira Annalise: This one was a little bit different just because our players were not in the studio with us this time because of quarantine and Covid and everything. Our players worked remotely, so there was a lot less of kicking ideas around and that camaraderie that you build in-session. But we are really blessed with incredible and giving players that are willing to work with us. I was taught early on – and I’m pretty sure it was by Willie – that once you go to the studio, the song should be complete and ready and now we’ve kind of thrown all that to the wind and we get in there and rely on a lot of dynamics coming out in the moment.

Willie Heath Neal: What I mean by [the song should be complete] is you should have 90% of the structure of the song down – studio time is expensive and it’s not like we have a big budget. Don’t go into the studio and write the song.

Southern Stages: I assume that one of the toughest parts of being touring musician is having to say goodbye to loved ones when you go on the road. However, you two get to experience a life of touring together.

Willie Heath Neal: When Kira and I met, I had an album coming out and I was on the road like 200 days a year. We always make the joke that I had I not been on the road, we probably wouldn’t had lasted [laughs]. It would always sting – I didn’t want to be away from her and she didn’t want to be away from me. I always tell people it’s hard to go on the road and have your wife at home mad at you – now I go on the road and she’s in the passenger seat mad at me [laughs].

Southern Stages: Some artists say now is a great time to be in your position given accessibility to listeners is easier than ever and fans can buy your music in a matter of seconds. Other artists say that the current climate makes it difficult to be found among the crowd with so many music outlets available. How do you view today’s music industry?

Kira Annalise: Wow, that’s a really great question. It’s a blessing and a curse. The blessing is having all this instant access to your fans. But, in that same breath, it’s an absolute curse because people feel like they’re deserving of constant access to you. It can be really overwhelming – all of the different markets that you can put your music on. I manage The Waymores and trying to keep up with all of the new trends is exhausting.

Willie Heath Neal: As far as recording music with today’s technology, the beautiful thing about it is anybody can make a record and put it out. The terrible thing is that anybody can make a record and put it out. That freedom comes with prices and we get lost in a sea of crap sometimes – there’s a lot of good stuff and there’s a lot of stuff that’s just garbage that you have to weed through to find the good stuff.

The Waymores will perform at Birmingham’s Dave’s Pub on Saturday, February 19. For ticket information, visit




Toronto Troubadour: Catching Up with Wild Rivers’ Andrew Oliver

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Samuel Kojo

Dubbed “Indie Folk,” “Indie Rock,” and “Contemporary Folk,” Canadian trio Wild Rivers offers a harmony-laden sound that would be as equally at home on ’70s A.M. radio as today’s adult alternative stations. On February 4, the band (Khalid Yassein, Devan Glover and Andrew Oliver) will release Sidelines [Nettwerk Music Group], a 10-track recording produced by Peter Katis [The National, Death Cab for Cutie]. On Tuesday, February 8, Wild Rivers will perform at Saturn. Recently, Oliver spoke with us by phone from Toronto.

Southern Stages: Andy, thanks for your time. Are you still in Toronto or are you on the road yet?

Andrew Oliver: We are in Toronto. We are at our friend’s studio recording a couple of acoustic versions of some of the songs that are about to come out. We head out on the 27th – we have a show in Pittsburgh and then we’re out for a few weeks and we’ll see you in Birmingham not too long after that.

Southern Stages: We are really enjoying Sidelines. How did the album’s material take shape? Are these newer compositions, older ones or a mixture of both?

Oliver: It’s a bit of a mixture. About two years ago, we went down to L.A. for four months and just wrote and stayed in a house together. Most of the songs came out of that stretch of time. There are one or two that were written well before that and just didn’t make sense on any other project. It took a long time to get it all together and we recorded it in a bunch of different places.

Southern Stages: Do you find that songs continue to evolve even after you carry them into the recording studio?

Oliver: For sure, especially this time. We were working with a producer named Peter Katis, who’s done The National and a bunch of stuff where there is a lot of texture and sonic elements. We were pretty adamant about honing in on the core of the songs before we went into the studio, but definitely at the last minute we threw a bunch of stuff against the wall in terms of arrangements and adding synth sounds and guitar parts.

Southern Stages: How did your band get connected with Peter?

Oliver: We’re always on the lookout for producers and we are all nerds in terms of reading all the credits of our favorite albums and he has been on our list for a while of people we wanted to work with. We went out on tour with a band called The Paper Kites a couple of years ago when we were starting to formulate the idea for this album. They had just done their latest album with him. We were opening for them and he came out to one of their shows and we met him briefly and got along. When we started to look for producers for this album, he was our first choice. It worked out great.

Southern Stages: You play several instruments. Do you tend to write mostly on guitar, keys or something else?

Oliver: I’m mostly starting from guitar and occasionally keys.

Southern Stages: How would you describe your band’s writing process?

Oliver: We had multiple ways of doing it for this album. Khal had three or four of the songs pretty fully-formed before he brought them to us and he does some writing sessions in Nashville – we were fortunate to get some other writers’ input on the songs. Dev had a couple that she brought in – I believe she originated “Amsterdam” by herself and brought it to us. And then about half the album was us just sitting in a room together.

Southern Stages: Are all of the band’s members still based in Toronto?

Oliver: We are for the moment, yes.

Southern Stages: Was the Covid lockdown period a prolific time for you, a restful one or some of both?

Oliver: I’d say all of the above. It hit us at a weird time. We had basically just started recording with Peter in March 2020 when Covid started. We had driven down to Connecticut to his studio and were all set up to be there for almost a month to knock the whole record out. About halfway through it, they were talking about closing the border so we came home and put the record on pause. It was not a very clear process. We went up to a cottage for a couple of weeks and recorded it ourselves and Peter would remotely produce. We would send what we’d done that day and he would give us his feedback on it. We ended up finishing the album at this studio in Kingston – a college town in Ontario. We are so used to being on the road most of the year, so there was the silver lining of getting a lot more time with our families and friends. But it came at a tough time in the record process and we ended up making it work.

Southern Stages: Did you enjoy the process of recording yourselves?

Oliver: It was fun and it’s something we’re all interested in and we all mess around on our own on stuff not related to the band. But we usually leave it up to the professionals when we go to record as a band, so it’s something we’d been wanting to do for a while – to take more control over that part of the process. We learned a lot and spent a lot of time fixing technical issues, but it was fun.

Southern Stages: Some artists tell me this is a great time for the industry in that music can be easily accessed and purchased. Others say that the flood of content and outlets makes it difficult to be found among the crowd. How do you view the current climate?

Oliver: I hear it from both angles. We got lucky – our first album came out as Spotify was becoming a big thing and we got swept up in it and got lucky on getting on playlists. When we play at a show, about 90% of the people there found us on Spotify or a similar streaming service. So, for us it’s made our whole career and it’s been great. But there’s so much supply that everything feels a little less important.

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

Oliver: That’s a good question. It doesn’t always [laughs]. We try and change them up pretty often – we’ll do it more stripped down or have a more upbeat version or a solo section. We’re lucky that we are at a point now that we have enough songs that we can cycle through on different tours. We went out a couple of months ago and the setlist we’re doing a couple of weeks from now is quite different from that one. It’s about finding ways to change it and keep challenging ourselves.

Wild Rivers will perform at Saturn on Tuesday, February 8 at 8 p.m. Advance tickets to the 18+ show are $18 and can be purchased at

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



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.



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.


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.