It has been two years since The Statesboro Revue's last record, Ramble On Privilege Creek, and the band is currently readying for the imminent release of their third album--the lively, groove fueled, and soulful Jukehouse Revival--on August 7th. Having returned from a successful run in Europe, front man and principal songwriter Stewart Mann graciously took the time to talk about the album, including its specific influences, the story behind the title and much more.
A few weeks ago you guys returned from your second incredibly successful run in Europe where you have an ever expanding fan base. How was the tour, and what makes going there so special?
It was our second tour over there, and we did pretty well. We played in some different towns and had some of our best shows in Sweden and Denmark, which was great considering we had never been there before. We were there for about two months, and we played almost every single day--close to forty shows in fifty days, which is crazy.
The people there appreciate music, and from what we gather, don’t get it very often. They were really appreciative of us being there and supported whatever we decided to do, even within one show, not just record to record. Some of the shows we played were on a Monday or Tuesday night, when you would expect there would be no one there, but they were almost sold out, which is pretty impressive. For some reason, they’ve really latched onto our music. We definitely love the folks over there.
Sounds like a great tour.
Onto the new record, Jukehouse Revival, which releases August 7th. A lot of artists say “this is our best album yet,” and listening to yours, I think that statement really rings true here.
I really appreciate that. We’ve yet to achieve a massive amount of success to the extent that none of us have to do any side work. We are playing our butts off trying to make a living, and to this day, I’m always nervous about what we do and the songs we write. You go into it trying to write the best songs you can and make the best record you can and just hope that people appreciate this record the same as, or even more than, the last.
We do feel like it’s our best work. Having done this for many years and having the time in between records, we always try to get better as songwriters, performers and musicians. You go into the studio, roll the dice and pick your ten, twelve or however many songs you put on the record; shoot for the stars and hope that you don’t disappoint anybody. Obviously, as an artist, you love the songs you put on a record and that’s why you put them on there; you think they belong there, but you never know until the record is out.
People are going to love it. Overall, it’s a pretty joyful album, both lyrically and melodically, celebrating life, love and especially, it seems, hard work. Do you think that’s a correct assessment?
That’s spot on for sure. I was telling somebody the other day, the music business is a struggle, and I feel like as I get older, I connect more with the working class, blue collar, 9-5 people even though I’m not that typical person. I definitely live that life where I’m struggling day to day, working as hard as I can and trying to survive. When I was younger, I was trying to write songs off of life experience, and when you’re crazy young, you just don’t have that experience yet. As far as writing songs from experience goes, I feel like as you get older you start to develop a better understanding of life, and are able to process information and everything around you a little better.
I have said a million times that there is the misconception that the business is all sex, drugs, and rock n roll. It’s obviously true that there are so many worse jobs I could have, but it’s definitely not easy. You have to be persistent and as with anything, you hope you get smarter, you hope you get better, and you hope you’re able to keep crawling as an artist to where you have a fan base, get to go to Europe and be able to play venues, like in Dallas or Raleigh, and get asked back. The fact that I’m still playing after fourteen years and haven’t been forced to quit or throw in the towel is a blessing. God gave me the ability to do this, and I think I speak for the whole band when I say we are humbled and privileged to be able to go out and play shows day to day and have even just one person show up.
And the fans are thankful that you are still doing it as well.
So being that it is record number three, was there anything that you did differently with this record than the previous ones?
It was a different approach. We went after different songs and had two co-producers, Gordy [Quist] and Scott [Davis] from the Band of Heathens. We self-produced the last one and just felt like maybe it was a good idea to bring in outside ears this time. We write the songs and play them every day, and sometimes I feel like there are other aspects to songs that only an outside person would be able to see and then be able to say like, “how about doing this or using this chord progression, or have you ever thought about saying this or doing that.” We definitely wanted that this time around, and we got that with having them on board.
The song themselves and their direction are a little bit different too. I feel like we continue to evolve, or try to evolve. I think the writing process is an extension of the creative brain, which is working based upon what’s entering your senses, and I was definitely listening to different types of stuff than say, before the other records, which I think is pretty evident when you listen. It’s funny how that works; if I want to write a certain type of song, I just immerse myself in certain types of music or certain artists. If I’m digging a new sound, I might say I want to write a song like that, and you don’t have to force it; it comes out naturally, which is crazy and awesome.
We don’t ever try to pigeonhole our sound or worry too much about being a genre, we just write what we write. We’re selective of what songs belong on a Statesboro Revue record, but at the same time, we’re open to the possibility of a whole lot of styles fitting within whatever it is the band is….and I still don’t know what we are at this point.
I don’t think you have to categorize it, it’s just good music, plain and simple.
But that was actually going to be my next question. Who were you listening to or drawing inspiration from when you wrote for this record, as you guys have such an incredibly unique sound that seems to draw from a lot of influences?
This time around we went two years without putting out a record, and a lot of new music has come out. For example, bands like Alabama Shakes, Gary Clark Jr, John Fulbright and Ray LaMontagne, and then you have Sturgill [Simpson] who has just blown the door open, to a degree, for traditional country music.
For me, sometimes inspiration isn’t even sparked by a current band, but rediscovering older music. Like, if I’m in the house having a drink and decide to put on J.J. Cale or Jim Croce, who are two artists I was definitely listening to over the course of the last two years, I found myself rediscovering their music and hearing different things. Then, all of a sudden, I’m like, I want to dig further in, and I buy another record of theirs that I don’t have and maybe become inspired by that. I was also listening to some boogie-woogie stuff like Chuck Berry, and there’s really no reason for it….sometimes you just find yourself at a record store, or you are cleaning out a drawer, and you come across some record you haven’t heard in a while and wonder who those artists are influenced by. Then I look into that and find someone I’ve missed, someone I might not know, but someone I probably should....which is usually the case. My brother [Garrett] and I always talk about who we listen to, but he’s worse than I am, to a degree, because he obsesses over bands when he discovers a new one. He listens to everything they ever put out, for months at a time. He takes a different approach, but I think it’s awesome because you start to develop an ear for the little intricacies they use in songs.
Your songs definitely blend that boogie, rock, blues and swampy sound, but there is one song, “Last Ramble” that’s like the breather on the record and takes a more serious tone. What’s the story behind that song?
I had the initial idea for the song on my phone, but I sat on it for a while. I always try to go back over and look at what’s on my phone and thought that this idea didn’t fit the record, necessarily, but for whatever reason, this random, unfinished song kept popping into my head. I tend to go with my gut on things and thought that maybe that was a sign that I should explore it. Gordy and I talked about co-writing, and he’s a great lyricist and musician, so I said to him, see what you can come up with.
A lot of these artists that I listen to are getting older and passing away, like B.B. King and Levon Helm, and you wonder what went on in their minds as they got older, if they realized that they have a legacy and if they thought about that or not. The song’s not necessarily only about musicians either. I feel like our generation loses it a bit, but older generations...I don’t know if they necessarily wanted to leave a legacy behind, but they sure did. Garrett and I had a grandpa who passed away two years ago. This grandpa of ours, he went out and built soccer fields in small towns, he built a restaurant and was on the city council; people will remember his name for a long time, and I thought, gosh, if I ever move on, quit playing music and am no longer on the earth what will be my legacy be. I think some of the stuff in the song is drawn from personal experience, and songs that are that personal to me, I don’t really play publicly, and I don’t want on the record, but the first ten times I listened to it, I got goosebumps. I know that’s probably a good sign, but those type of personal songs are the few and far between, hard to come by songs. Most of the time you are just writing a story or something more off the cuff that is not so serious, but that song is definitely the opposite of that. Gordy and I wanted to capture the essence of life the best way we possibly could, saying one of these days we won’t be here anymore, but don’t cry for me when I’m gone. That’s kind of the idea behind “Last Ramble.”
It’s a moving song that captures those sentiments well.
Now, Jukehouse is not a word many people are familiar with, how did the title of the record come to be?
This happens for everything we ever do, like song titles, album titles, even the band name. The last record was titled Ramble On Privilege Creek because our grandma lives on Privilege Creek, and our granddad had a band called Able Man and the Blue Bonnet Ramblers. This time we decided to not make the title necessarily so personal. We tossed around ideas based on songs we had and which direction we were going to go musically. We thought about using a song title, but I didn’t know if any of those titles captured the full record. Sometimes they do, and for some bands its definitely easier to say, let’s just go with a song title and move on, but with this record, I felt like the way the song took shape and the influences coming to life were really a throwback sound. My idea with this record was like when I first started the band, I wanted it all to be groove oriented and to just have people move. I didn’t care what kind of dancing it was, knee tapping, leg shaking, two steppin', hand clapping, dancing by themselves or whatever, it didn’t matter. The sound in my mind for this record was like an old school juke joint, like “Every Town” or “Tallahassee.” I put myself in that place and pictured what those songs would have been like if they were written in the 50s, 60s or 70s, where they would have been played and who would have come to the shows. I was hesitant to do the “revival” part because of Creedence, and the word revival is a pretty typical word, but jukehouse is not a typical word—a lot of people don’t even know what that is. So the band went back and forth for like a 100 emails and texts firing off names, and we settled on Jukehouse Revival. So far the response been good. It definitely has a ring to it and fits the sound we put on the record.
It absolutely does! So finally, are there plans for any album release shows?
We typically have multiple shows in different towns. The record is officially out August 7th, and we’ll probably have the first official show on the 6th or 7th. Making a record is definitely hard work, and we’re just so fortunate to be able to even have done that. You know a lot of bands can play shows, but don’t have the money to make a record, so for us to be able to have this as our third record, it’s an accomplishment. We’re very proud of it, proud of the sound and proud of the band for having the perseverance to stick with it and not ever really giving into trends or trying to fit a mold. We stay true to ourselves and try to get better as artists and songwriters. I can’t wait for people to hear it.
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