The Legendary Shack Shakers (JD Wilkes on piano, harmonica and vocals, Rod Hamdallah on guitar and background vocals, Fuller Condon on upright bass and Preston Corn on drums), the band Stephen King described as dynamite and guitar legend Jeff Beck called "a cross between the Yard Birds and the Sex Pistols," released their new album, After You’ve Gone, earlier this year.
With After You’ve Gone, the band delivers their swampy, rowdy, blues and punk influenced rock-n-roll while Southern Renaissance man Wilkes channels a dark arts shaman to recount the Southern Gothic folklore of his home. Colored by the devastation of his recent divorce, the album starts and ends with a Voodoo curse and tells a cautionary tale of forgiveness, just like any good murder ballad. As adept at expressing the heart-wrenchingly personal as he is at spinning Southern folklore, Wilkes allows songs of fury and forgiveness to flow like the same phases that are lived in times of loss and recovery. Here Wilkes answers the Essential 8.
Did you have a musical mentor? Who was it and how did they influence you?
One of my biggest heroes is Lee Sexton from Letcher County KY.
As a banjo player, I had always aspired to meet this old master who had learned how to play before the birth of Bluegrass. To me he was like Elvis, a hero so inaccessible I’d never get to learn from him. After all, here was a guy who had been recorded and archived by the Smithsonian in the 1950s...a star in the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter, etc.
One day I just decided to call the operator and see if he was listed. Sure enough, he was. I rang him up and he answered with a booming “yeeeELLO?!”.
I couldn’t believe my luck! It wasn’t long before I was asking him if it was ok to meet him and he just replied in that friendly, old hoarse, country twang “Come ON!”
He was and still is a great mentor and an important, living American legend.
Where do you draw inspiration from when writing? Books, Movies, personal experience, other musicians?
I draw inspiration from local and regional folklore, the culture and blood-memory of my kith and kin, dreams, visions, nightmares, misremembered history and intense personal experiences.
When/where do you do your best writing?
Best ideas come in the morning while showering, but I have to hop out to write them down because, I find, that the ink and paper tend to get wet.
Many melodic ideas come to me in dreams though. So I record them, sleepily, into my smart phone recorder. However, half the time, upon listening back the next morning, they’re all just groggy, unrecognizable groans. Absolute unlistenable gibberish!!!! But every once in a while I’ll catch something cool.
Do you write about personal experience/experiences of others/observations or stories?
I write about both. Maybe it’s easier to write stories about yourself if they are rooted in true experience, but embellished all to hell. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
What’s the best advice you have ever gotten from another musician?
“Work on your timing, white boy!”
What’s the best advice to give to a musician just starting out?
“Get out while you can!!”
What’s your favorite food on the road?
Indian food. (See next question...)
Do you have any touring tips?
Start memorizing where all the secret, lockable, one-seater restrooms are nearest to every venue you play. But don’t tell anyone else in your band! Not even if they beg you.. Remain strong.
Hey guy, it’s all about affording yourself some “me” time and stretching that “career” of yours out a few years longer. You’ll find that you’ll need these pathetic, little creature comforts more as you grow older and increasingly meaningless in the business.
The Legendary Shack Shakers are touring in support of their latest release on Last Chance Records, After You've Gone, including a stop at Hill Country BBQ in Brooklyn on November 4th
Saturday, November 4th
Hill Country Live, Brooklyn
345 Adams St, Brooklyn NY
Advance tix $15, day of show $18
Doors 8pm, showtime 9pm
For all dates and more information visit HERE
Purchase After You've Gone HERE