Red Wanting Blue will be headlining the final Songwriters In The Park show on Friday, August 24 in Red Bank, NJ. They'll also be returning to their regular haunt, The Saint in Asbury Park, on October 14. Led by lead singer Scott Terry, the band is fresh off their network television appearance on The David Letterman Show. I was able to catch up with Terry, a former Jersey boy from Moorestown, as he drove his band's tour bus across Indiana for a gig in Indianapolis. We fought bad cell phone connections and racing truck drivers, but managed to talk about a ton of things.
This is part 1 of the interview where we discuss the Letterman appearance and the frustration of the struggling years: the years when a band is seemingly on the break of hitting it big.
For those of us who have followed Red Wanting Blue for a while, it's nice to see the band finally getting some breaks. Tell me about your appearance on David Letterman. What was that like?
Oh man, that was nuts. It was a great experience. We had a lot of lead up time -- more time than I thought we would. I always thought that kind of stuff was booked relatively quickly, but we had a couple of months' notice, which was great because we were able to build a story up about it. It let us get a lot of people's attention -- those who would otherwise say, "Yeah, I know that band". Suddenly, everyone does a double take. They're like, "David Letterman? Holy shit!"
The show was great. The staff was amazing. They were really professional, great to work with. We had a great time. They were really nice to us. We never got a chance to meet David beforehand. He's not actually there for the rehearsal; he watches it on a screen, so we didn't get a chance to meet him until the world watched us meet him on the show. We had heard that he can be kind of cold if he doesn't like the band, but with us he was very nice. He offered Dean money for his drums!
Did he talk to you guys after the show?
He gets out of there pretty quick. We spoke to him for a moment and then he was off, but he was very gracious and his staff was great. They let us stick around there. Audience members who wanted to come up and say hello were allowed to come up. I thought that was a really nice gesture. So, fans and people who came far distances just to be in the audience for our show were able to get photos with us on stage. I got to sit at the desk with the band and took some photos. They even gave us the cue cards that said, "This next band is from Columbus, Ohio making their national debut with us."
Very cool. Did anyone pull out an impression of Ed Sullivan saying, "And now... right here on this stage... Red Wanting Blue?"
(Laughs) No, but the whole time we were there we were all walking around kind of quietly enamored of the fact that this is the studio that the Beatles played in. This is the stage where the Ed Sullivan show took place. It was really something else.
It was cold in that theater though, no joke. It was like a meat locker. Dean said it was 48 degrees in that studio. I guess Letterman does that because he doesn't want to sweat or have his guests sweat. But the experience was great and we had such tremendous support there. I couldn't believe how many people in the audience were fans of our band. The staff actually told us that they were very happy with us. They said they were surprised by how many people in the audience came to see us. Typically they said nobody cheers beforehand except when they hit the applause button. And they don't get the kind of response we got unless it's someone huge like U2.
Letterman is obviously shot in New York City and you're originally from New Jersey. How cool has it been for you to have your parents not only be able to catch your shows in the area, but watch as the band develops a solid following in their backyard over the years?
Its been really, really awesome. When you go after this kind of work, it's definitely not the road to making lots of money. There's a part of me -- though I know this is what I was meant to do and what I love doing -- there's always a part of you that would love to make your family proud. My parents are super supportive and very proud, but I think about them bumping into the parents of kids that I grew up with at the grocery store in the town that I grew up in. I imagine its like, "Oh really, your son is a dentist now, that's wonderful. He's married too? Just moved into a new house and has three kids now? Wow, that's really great. Well, Scott's still in the band, not married, no kids, and still playing music."
Sometimes I feel like I really want to do well for them so they understand that their son is doing this because he loves it and it's what he was meant to do, he didn't screw up, he didn't make a mistake. It's not a mistake for him to keep playing. He does what he does very well. This Letterman thing has been sort of the cherry on top of building our fan base along the East Coast where I grew up originally. We're at the point where we've had publications write about us lately -- suddenly, everyone in the town that I grew up in is aware of Red Wanting Blue, who we are, and what I've done. That makes me very happy on a personal level. And it makes me happy to reach out to music lovers out there with the hope they can make a connection with the band and become fans. It's been very rewarding.
That frustration definitely comes across in many of your lyrics. I used to think it was largely the frustration of the music industry, but it seems like a lot of it might be personal frustration as well.
Yeah, I think it's a little bit of everything; it's not just any one thing.
[Hang on for one second Gary because I want to give you my full attention, but there's a semi that's right next to me trying to do battle with me on speed. He's not faster than me, but he's trying to be. I just want to get over and get out of his way... Oh my God, what is this fuckin' guy doing? Get away from me dude!]
It's a little bit of everything. Those songs are written about the frustration of having to try to fit into a mold. I think there are a lot of options for people in this day and age. There are a bunch of different jobs out there, a lot of things people can do. I think it's a very brave thing to know what you want to do, find what you're passionate about, and go after it. That has so much to do with the name of the band and what I was about from the very beginning. The name of the band means going after something that you are not designed to be. Take primary colors, one will not be the other. But it's our human condition to fight and to try anyway; it's what got us to walk on the moon and touch the bottom of the sea. It's that type of perseverance and stubbornness like man was not born with wings, but we're going to learn how to fly anyway because we're passionate about it. It's how I feel that you're only on this planet once, if you're passionate and know what you want to do, you should go and do that and that should make you successful. It should make every day of your life worth living because you enjoy what it is you do. And if you can figure out a way to make money off of it and be financially secure in the process than that's the ultimate bonus.
Far too often I feel like people are stuck doing things that they have to do. Whether that means they say, "Well, we got married too soon and had kids too early and now even though I want to be a race car driver I have a family and have to focus on them." There are just so many obstacles out there. Too often people are doing something that they have to do as opposed to something that they want to do.
I've heard you use a term that I often use; you've called yourself a "Lifer" with regards to being a musician. I'm a lifer in the publishing game. It's always good to be doing what you feel you were meant to do and I applaud you for following your dreams.
Everyone has a different idea of what success is. For me, the biggest thing is that I know this is what I love to do. Songs like "Finger In The Air" or even the track in These Magnificent Miles that says "I don't want to hear it"... I know I write about that kind of stuff a lot because these are the struggling years, not just for me but I think for everybody. And especially for people my age, the early 30-somethings. We're all trying to figure out how to live in America in the 21st Century. I think everyone has these feelings. Maybe I feel the desperation and the temptation because I don't personally have the emotional weight of having a family waiting to have food on the table or children waiting on me to dress them and send them to school. The band and I have put that off for a different time in the future when we can have families and raise kids.
We always feel like we're sort of on the brink... where you're so close you can taste it. And that just makes you work harder. It's like you're almost there and you're always working. We always seem to be three-quarters of the way across the lake.
I think you really get a sense of that struggle in your songs, but a song like "Walking Shoes" seems somewhat optimistic to me. It talks about the struggle, but sort of looks forward to the future as well with lines like, "We are cursed to be travelers in search of fame, so when we hit the Hollywood hills we're gonna scream our names, hoping one day it will echo".
Yeah, but that song is bittersweet man. It really is. The line, "when I see your dog smile, I cry inside a little but its just so much to touch, but never enough to hold." That's very much how we live. It hurts me to know that we can't have a dog. We've even talked about it. "How cool would it be to have a dog on tour?" Yeah, it would be great, but it wouldn't be right for the dog. That song, in particular, was kind of inspired by my buddy John's dog named Daisy. He showed up at our show in D.C. and he was like, "hey, come over and say hi to Daisy, I've got to drop her off at my sister's before the show." I was like, oh man; you brought your dog with you. Oh God, that's so cool. I miss having -- those are the types of things that make a home a home: having plants in your windows, a dog and life in your house when you're not there... It's like that's so nice. We don't get that stuff. These are the kinds of sacrifices you make when you're on the road.
So, the song is kind of bittersweet. It's like I love your dog, I wish I could have my own, but I can't. There are definitely pros and cons to this job. "Pour It Out" is a song that's not really like a "Finger In The Air" kind of song. The sentiment behind that song... there's far more optimism in "Pour It Out" than I think people sometimes want to give it credit for having. I feel -- and I have felt over the years -- that there has been a bubbling, a percolating of this band slowly but surely over the last few years. We've noticed that we're starting to be received on a national level and that's why I titled the record, From The Vanishing Point because we've been on the road so long. The title of that record actually was a tip of the cap to Bruce (Springsteen). I originally wanted to call the record, Greetings From The Vanishing Point but that seemed a little cheesy. It's just that we've been living on the road for so long that it's the home we've known the most out of the last 15 years.
End of Part 1
L-R: Scott Terry, Mark McCullough, Greg Rahm, Eric Hall Jr., Dean Anshutz. Photo Credit: Jenna Pace.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.