"Most of all you just have to make sure that the ride doesn't end because there's nothing better than seeing the country through the eyes of a rock and roll band."
Every now and then you see a band that reminds you just how crappy radio has become. You'll be listening to the singer on stage and you'll wonder why you haven't heard of them before. Each song sounds better than anything played on your favorite station that day, yet you have know idea who they are until you ask the bartender or person next to you. Red Wanting Blue is one of those kinds of bands.
Fronted by lead singer Scott Terry, Red Wanting Blue has worked the indie music circuit since 1996 becoming one of the most popular bands in the midwest. Using their home state of Ohio as their base, the band saves up enough to tour around the country. They give every they've got on stage night after night, town after town. And while they still dream of making it big, right now they'd be happy simply keeping their vehicle in one piece.
"The first show of this year we were in an ice storm and we wound up totalling our trailer," said Scott Terry. "And we had just fixed it the day before coming to New York City, which was on Saturday, (this interview took place on the following Monday) after getting it the day before. Saturday afternoon - on the way back some guy wasn't paying attention and totally smashed into the van. He was looking at an accident and somehow managed to hit every side of our vehicle with the exception of the back. But he did take out our trailer again, so I count that as four sides. Our trailer is hanging out in Paterson right now. Oh and somebody stole our spare tire - only in Paterson! I thought that only happened in Newark, but apparently it happens in Paterson. And then we also broke down in Jackson, Wyoming and that's a debacle that we're still living."
The band is comprised of Scott Terry, guitarist Epp, bassist Mark McCullough and drummer Mark Stepro. Terry and Epp met as undergrads at Ohio University and started the band with two other guys. After four years, it was obvious that the others didn't have quiet the same determination that Terry and Epp had, and so replacements were found.
Red Wanting Blue has already released six full-length CDs including their latest, "Pride: The Cold Lover" which came out last October. With so many radio-friendly tunes, you'd think the lack of radio airplay would be the band's biggest gripe but it's not. It's the perception that people have about unsigned bands that seems to cause the most frustration.
"A lot of people have the preconceived notion that unless you're signed you must not be any good," explained Mark McCullough. "It's getting past that point where people can actually listen to you. There are a lot of independent bands around the country that are working hard, making great music, and they need to be supported."
Offers of record deals have come to Red Wanting Blue, but the band has chosen to pass on them for now. It's a combination of not finding the right deal and hearing horror stories from their friends who have been burned by the music industry.
"We have so many friends that have been in bands that have gotten signed and I would say that 2% have actually gotten a good deal," said Scott Terry. "So, we feel that we should just do what we do and if someone comes to us we have a great team - we have great management, booking agents, entertainment attorney... If someone comes to us that's terrific, we'll talk with them. But, at the same time, we're not holding our breath. We would have been blue a long time ago."
The band takes solace in their ability to draw extremely well throughout the midwest. Even as an unsigned band, Red Wanting Blue nearly sells out giant venues like the House of Blues in Cleveland - something that many national acts have trouble doing.
They have a steady schedule of midwest shows that help provide the fiancial and mental backing to continue around the country. It would be very easy for a band like Red Wanting Blue to simply be a big band in their region, but they want more. To get it, they have to balance playing in front of hundreds alongside playing in front of tens and twenty; they have to go from being the headliner that people look forward to seeing to being just another band from out of state dropping through town. The nature of the game.
"It's all about touring and I believe the grassroots approach to playing in a band really does work," adds Scott Terry. "It works better and is more powerful than anything else. It's unfortunate that you can't be in a million places at once thus radio seems to win, but if you can play in front of people and they actually are listening than you come back. Most of all you just have to make sure that the ride doesn't end because there's nothing better than seeing the country through the eyes of a rock and roll band."
Somehow, the band has remained very consistent with their plan throughout the last five years. They tour steadily all but two months of the year. One of those months will be used for studio time, the other for quick jobs as bartenders.
"No one expects to make huge sums of money, but it would be nice to have enough to be comfortable and not have to sweat when we get home," said Mark.
"As long as we can keep the van going it's the best thing in the world," said Epp. "It's like this constant motion. It's what you want to do with your life. You just get on the road, play all these shows, and it's the thing you look forward to. The worst thing in the world is coming off of a tour where you've been out for a month or so and then all of a sudden you have to go back and assimilate to a regular life. You're just waiting to go back out again."
You can listen to cuts off of Red Wanting Blue's last CD on AsburyMusic.com's new online radio station. It's band like Red Wanting Blue that led us to create the station in the first place.
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.