After two albums, seven charted radio singles, and co-bills with some of their musical influences, Saints Eleven returned with their latest offering Coming Back Around on January 13th. The project, produced by Walt Wilkins, contains eleven songs – ten originals and one cover - that chronicle heartbreak, love and life on the road. Frontman Jeff Grossman kindly took the time to talk about the album, share stories behind the songs and more.
It’s been said that this record reflects a different, wiser you, how so?
Well, I think I’ve grown as a songwriter. This record is still Saints Eleven, but it’s a more grown up version of us that shows a softer side.
All of the originals were penned by you. Are you writing from personal experience, the experience of others, stories or a combination?
They’re all from my own experiences. I don’t really know any other way to write because I think it’s easier to make the audience feel what you feel when what you’re singing comes from your heart and soul.
I think that's definitely something the audience picks up on.
When you bring a song to the band then, is it largely completed or do they help tweak it?
When I bring a song to the band, it’s pretty much finished. We dig into it, see what works, and try and make it a better song, and if we’re not feeling it, we toss it and start over. We never try to force anything – we all have to feel the song because if we can’t feel it when we’re playing live, it’s hard to expect the crowd to feel it.
The album was co-produced with Walk Wilkins. How did you connect with him?
I heard some of his previous records that he’s recorded and produced and when I saw him one time at a venue, I got the nerve and approached him. He said to send him some songs, which I did, and he ended up really liking them and said he’d love to work with us. Walt brought out the best in the songs, added the finishing touches and made the record sound great.
The album is titled Coming Back Around, which is also a track on album. Is there any significance to that?
I think Coming Back Around is a good title because as a band, we’re coming back around to our roots with this album. It’s not a traditional country record - it has a little more of an Americana, Bluegrass, and honky-tonk sound. When I was writing I was coming back to where it all began and writing songs that were influenced by what I listened to growing up.
In addition to the originals, there is one cover, "Cryin’ Time," why did you choose that particular song?
I just love that song. The way we did it is nothing like the original, which was real slow and pretty; instead we worked it up with a honky-tonk Dwight Yoakam sound that the audience really enjoyed live. So I said let’s throw an extra tune on the record and see if people like it. And so far, everyone who has heard it has enjoyed it.
I love the honky-tonk feel of it.
Is there any significance to bookending the album with “My Heart” and “The Same?”
When I think about ordering a record, I think about making it flow so that a person will want to listen to it front to back - and those songs just worked well in that order.
Another one of my favorites is “Let Them Go,” a story of alcoholism on which Courtney Patton shares vocals.
This song is based on someone I know who had a really hard time struggling with alcohol to the point where it caused problems in his marriage and life and he ultimately drank himself to death, unfortunately. The song needed the perfect female singer and since Walt knows Courtney well, he asked her and she said yes. She and I harmonize well with one other and I think she did a wonderful job.
The record came out on January 13th. What are your plans for the first few months of the year?
We’ll be hitting the road as much as we can to spread the word about the new record. There’s a lot involved like visiting radio, interviews and such so it’s a pretty busy time for us. We’re not necessarily playing but doing stuff people might not otherwise see. I love being on the road, even if it’s for radio or interviews, because I enjoy getting to meet people and talk about what’s going on. It’s why we do it.
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