The Blackfoot Gypsies ascend to new heights on their latest full-length, To The Top, which was released April 14th via Plowboy Records. The Nashville-based foursome – Matthew Paige (vocals/guitar/mandolin/violin/banjo), Dylan Whitlow (bass/piano/vocals), Ollie Dogg (harmonica/bird whistle/vocals) and Zack Murphy (drums/worldly percussion/vocals) bring grooves and grit a plenty on the passionate fifteen-track outing that blends Blues, Country, and good old Rock and Roll. Ahead of a busy touring schedule, Zack Murphy kindly took some time to speak about the record.
To The Top is your third album and second as a foursome. How did you and Matthew initially connect and then later bring in Ollie and Zack?
I met Matthew back in 2012 after he moved to Nashville. We really hit it off from our first jam and ended up touring and putting out an album together. We basically had everything written for the second album [Handle It], but before we went into the studio to record it, we hooked up with Ollie and Dylan who were just a natural fit with what we were doing. We toured for two years behind that record and then wrote this new one, To The Top, which is really the first album the four of us had worked on together from its beginning.
To The Top shows varied influences from Country and Southern Rock to the Blues and more. As a drummer, what’s your background?
I always wanted to play the guitar, but my parents wanted me to do something a little less rock and roll, so I started playing music -the violin- when I was three. At twelve I inherited a drum set from my grandfather, so I put the violin down and focused on drums. I was constantly playing in various bands before I moved to Knoxville for school, but when school was done I knew that I wanted to be serious about pursuing music and moved back to Nashville. I wanted to start a rock and roll band and ended up playing around town, but no one had the same desire to do it until I met Matthew, so us getting together was a no-brainer.
Since there are four of you, how is songwriting approached?
Matthew does the bulk of the songwriting. He typically comes in with a song in various stages of development and we figure out the arrangements in the rehearsal room. We’re the type of band though who works out a song by playing it live and even after we have them recorded they’re always changing. I feel like our songs and shows are ever evolving which makes it fun because I’ve been in bands where we’ve played the same song the same way every time - which can get really old.
Yeah, I imagine keeping it fresh and interesting for yourself is important since the songs are played so frequently. Speaking of songs, "Velvet Low Down Blues” is one of my favorite tracks. Is there a story behind that one?
We’re all huge Lou Reed and Velvet Underground fans and that’s a song for Lou Reed written the day, or the day after, he died. We were in Chicago at the time, Matthew and Dylan wrote it, we started playing it, and the rest is history.
The album closes with "Why Should I Try." Is there any particular reason that you guys placed it there?
It tied the album together and seemed like a good one to go out on.
And what about the album's title? Why did you choose to call it ‘To The Top’?
Maybe three years ago, we were a backing band for another band, Vinny and The Jets. We were in a restaurant at like 3 am when this guy looked at us and said, ‘You guys are obviously in a band. What’s the name?’ We told him and he kept repeating “to the top” over and over again, which just was really funny. It became this inside joke which then became a mantra for the Blackfoot Gypsies, so we titled the album after it.
Now that the album is out, what are your plans for touring? Will you play regionally or expand?
Right now, the immediate plan is to hit the Southeast and Mid-West, but one of our goals with this record is to go to the West Coast. We’ve gone everywhere but not consistently, so something we want to start to do is build an audience by playing places more frequently so people get to know us.
Finally, I always like to know what you’re listening to. Is there one recent release you’d recommend others check out?
I listen to a lot of classic albums, but I recently saw this band, MOTHERSHIP. They have a new album High Strangeness that I’ve been listening to pretty consistently. They’re a little on the heavier side and are just a great live rock and roll band.
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Purchase To The Top HERE