Here's part 2 of my interview with Scott Terry of Red Wanting Blue. In this half, Scott talks about the need for artists to leave the basement and hit the road; how staying in Columbus wound up benefiting the band; and his love for 8-tracks.
"Pour It Out" to me is almost like a sequel of so many of your songs that serve as reminders for bands to keep going. The line "you've got to take it town to town" is like an extension of the line in "Where You Wanna Go" that says "you can't be in the circus if you don't want to leave town."
One of the reasons I ended the album with "Pour It Out" is because I wanted the record to go out on a high note and, more importantly, because the last album ended with "The Band". There are a lot of people out there buying albums that don't listen to the whole record. They may listen to a couple of songs or make it through the entire record a few times, but that's it. Musicians are usually the ones listening to Side B. Musicians know you've got to top load the record with the songs you think will be more commercial and the more AOR and album styled music will go on the back half.
"The Band" was a musicians' song. That was a song for other guys in bands. "Pour It Out" is also very much a song for other guys in bands because we know a lot of bands that go out there and do what we do and try really hard. But we also know a lot of bands that don't do it. You run into people who are friends and it's like your band is great, but you've got to get out there. You've got to get out and let people know who you are. You can't just sit around in your basement trying to write a hit song and hope that the world discovers you that way. Even if you did write that hit song, who's ever going to hear it? No one's going to find you, you have to go out and meet people more than halfway. You have to find fans and make people listen to you.
It takes a very long time. Here we are, after all this time, just starting to get some of this country's attention. And that's with us going out playing 150 shows a year for however many years we've been doing this. That's why the song says, "It's not enough to make it up, you've got to take it town to town" because you can't just sit in your basement, record your shit, and be like ‘come check out my song' -- you've got to get out there and prove that you've got something worth singing about and worth listening to.
Are the things happening to the band now -- the David Letterman appearance, the festivals, Rock Boat show, Superbowl Village show, etc. -- are these things you always thought would happen if you just stuck it out?
Yeah, I guess to some degree. I think musicians are all romantics; we're all working our hardest because we think that tomorrow may never come. It's in our nature. And I certainly think that I'm more of an optimistic romantic. We've stuck around for so long because I really believe we're going to turn a corner. After 2,000 corners, we're going to turn the right corner and have things start going our way and reach a tipping point. It'll either be that or it's going to be really clear that this is not what we're supposed to be doing. But over the years there's just been too many small signs saying ‘don't give up, you guys are doing the right thing, don't give up.' So, we feel like we're here, we've put all of our money on the table and hoping that some luck will start coming our way.
Do you think that staying in Columbus, Ohio has helped you? Has it actually been more of a benefit that if you had moved to say New York or L.A.?
Yeah, I think so. One of the things I learned early on is that bands only seem to survive on the coasts. Bands will live in the big city and tour up and down the coast, but when they try touring across America it's like shooting to get over. A lot of bands will say that touring the country is really hard. Many just can't find a way to make it work, they can't survive in the fly over states -- Middle America.
We always thought that if you can make it work out here, you ought to be able to make it work anywhere; if you can build an audience and be successful out in the middle of America, you should be able to take on the coasts at some point. We're a bit of an anomaly that way. Most bands can't survive in the middle, we've not only survived here for a long time but we're starting to do well on the East Coast. The West Coast is still a little far for us. Once the price of gas went up a few years ago we had to reconsider our efforts in going out there because everything is just so far apart. But I'm excited that we're going to be getting out there again soon.
Is your record label ok with you staying in Ohio?
Yeah. The fact is that we're on the road so much and because of my personal relationship -- Jenna (Scott's girlfriend) lives in New York -- so, we're out there quite a bit.
I think the label sees our story and understands it to be a very unique story and the label is young enough and believes in us. The rules to this industry are being changed and rewritten every day, so who's to say that we're doing something the wrong way or the right way?
One thing I've noticed over the years is how the band has been great in building a brand identity. From fantastic packaging with the CDs to turning each stage into your own personal home, you do things that make people remember the band. What would you say to an indie artist about how to build an identity? Did your identity just transform over time or was this planned out to a degree?
Well, I think that goes back to what we talked about earlier about being a lifer. I think the development of your own personality and your own branding comes out of necessity at some point. If I was talking to an indie band I would say just be honest and forget about trying to be cool. I'd be lying if I didn't say that for years it was very important for the band and the people around the band to think about being cool. But in the end, you've just got to be yourself.
Speaking of being yourself, is it true that you're really rocking an 8-track player?
Oh yeah, absolutely!
When did you pick that up? I'm a few years older than you and it was before my time.
Well, my parents always had vinyl and I think later on had tape cassettes, but they also had 8-track tapes. I remember being a little kid -- maybe between the ages of four and seven -- and just staring at the Kiss Destroyer 8-track tape cover and being fascinated by it and remember listening to old Barry Manilow on 8-track. People listen to vinyl differently than they listen to an mp3 player or CD. It's interesting and something that really fascinates me. If you put an 8-track player in your kitchen -- unless you're running through something like a best of the 70s compilation -- you're going to listen to a whole record while you're washing the dishes. You'll listen to an entire record by The Carpenters or a whole Doobie Brothers album. You can't change it, all you can do is pump it to the next track or next program of songs; the technology gave you no choice but to actually invest in the music. So, you're going to listen to even more of it than you thought you would. It's the same with vinyl. People will listen to the entire Side A at one time. Yes, you can listen to just one song and change the album, but a lot of people will simply listen to the whole thing. We don't really do that anymore. People will listen to a track and then move to a different song or different artist. I actually think the 8-track player may be one of the best designs, because it never stops.
For me, knowing that when the new Loggins & Messina came out people were listening to it on one of two ways is important. I think it's important as a musician and a songwriter to not only listen to the songs that your forefathers wrote, but to listen to them on the machines they expected people to listen them on. It's kind of funny that nowadays, when people get done recording their record they're not burning a disc and putting it in their car to hear how it sounds they're putting it on the computer to hear how it sounds on laptop speakers because chances are most people will be listening to it that way.
If you buy Red Wanting Blue album on vinyl, it comes with a download car so you can download the tunes and put them on your phone. The record will sound a hell of a lot different through headphones on your phone than it does when you put that vinyl on to the crappy mono speaker record player that you got in elementary school -- the little carrier one. Try listening to the song "Walking Shoes" on that crappy record player... it's actually my favorite way to hear the song!
I love that you guys are putting out vinyl, any plans for an 8-track?
Oh, I've looked into it. There's a place in Florida that will re-spool them. I've found some really great 8-track tapes on eBay. But what sucks is that sometimes they get old and dry out, so you may be totally digging the 8-track and after you play it through once it'll just snap on you. I had a Jackson 5 Greatest Hits and Carole King's Tapestry bust on me. My favorites right now are two I found on eBay: The Last Waltz Part 1 and 2 and Simon and Garfunkel's Concert In Central Park.
Those two were great concert moments for sure. You had a rather special concert moment show up on the recent "Live At City Winery" disc when your girlfriend was kind of dragged on stage to help you with "Step Right Up". How did she like turning up on the disc?
I got seriously grilled for that one! Yeah, she was not prepared for that, but I knew she was going to do great and she did. Afterwards, she was like ‘Why didn't you tell me? We should have practiced. If you told me and we practiced, I would have been so much better.' I'm like, if you went up there and really acted like you knew what you were doing it would not have been as awesome. The magic of that moment was that you were scared and nervous and didn't know what you were doing and it sounded great!
That's what we're always looking for. If you're a music listener that's listening for perfection and you're listening for flawless perfection, I don't know if we'll ever be the band for you. We're always looking to find a moment, coddle it, and turn it into something that can really be remembered. For me, that's the best thing in the world.
L-R: Eric Hall Jr., Greg Rahm, Dean Anshutz, Scott Terry, Mark McCullough. 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.