by: Thomas D. Mooney
That’s all I really have to say. You must prepare yourself for The Cadillac Black when you see them. If their self-titled debut record is anything relatively close to their live show, you’re in for a hell of a night. The first time through the southern blues rock record, it hits you.
You’re possibly going to get the craving to drink whiskey straight from the bottle. Possibly decide on developing a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit and the urge of never cutting your hair again. No worries. It’s a perfectly natural reaction. It’s just the music soaking into your bones. It’s very much the same way Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights and Taddy Porter make you want to sling beers across bars and go to sleep when the sun is coming up.
The Cadillac Black really rose from the ashes of their previous band, American Bang. After lead guitarist Ben Brown left the band, the three left, guitarist/vocalist Jaren Johnston, drummer Neil Mason, and dobroist/lap steel player (And bassist during American Bang days) Kelby Ray, decided to just carry on–granted in a slightly different vein.
While they did have a number of songs in the back catalog, they decided to scrap them and create something different from their previous band. The band’s debut record was self-produced and recorded in roughly a week. That time in the studio gave Johnston, Mason, and Ray the perfect mix of gritty and dark “country fuzz.” That organic sound is both refreshing and comforting.
The Nashville based Cadillac Black aren’t just a demand in bars and venues across the South, but their songs are very much desired by some of Nashville’s biggest country acts. Specifically, the Johnston penned ” You Gonna Fly” was taken to number 1 by Keith Urban. He’s also had songs cut by the likes of Sara Evans, Meatloaf, Jack’s Mannequin, Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley, and Tim McGraw.
We caught up with Neil Mason earlier this week as they were driving to the airport in Miami. The Cadillac Black will be playing tonight (November 3) at The Blue Light.
New Slang: One of the first things you notice from the record is that it’s a lot darker than the American Bang material. It’s more bluesy and grittier. Just has a much darker vibe to it.
Neil Mason: Yeah. I think that it’s kind of like where our first band Bang Bang Bang was going in that regard. There’s a lot of riffs, which we like to play some of that heavier stuff. We had a bunch of old songs that we could have thrown together for a record but it didn’t feel right. It was more natural for us to write a bunch of new stuff with a slightly different feel to it. And I think everything kind of a reaction. It’s kind of a reaction to what we were coming out of, having made the American Bang record, which was a little more on the pop side. And it’s kind of a natural reaction for the next thing you want to do.
NS: Now you guys are from Nashville and have many connections to the “Nashville Country” scene despite not really sounding like what the masses think “Nashville Country” is. There’s obviously a lot more music coming out of Nashville these days. But, you guys seem to be benefiting from those connections. Getting nods and recognition from established Nashville guys like Dierks Bentley and Eric Church. How’s that helped?
NM: Yeah, those guys are great. I think us being from Nashville and doing something that’s a little left of mainstream rock or country, I think it’s made it where we’re able to get attention from those guys. It’s kind of fresh and different to them. We’re pretty lucky to have gotten along with Eric and guys like that–as well as guys like Skynryd and ZZ Top and some others this past year. We’re kind of able to walk the line on where we get to play. We’re able to play with Dierks in front of a straight up country crowd of twenty-year-olds and then be able to go out with Skynryd which has a little bit older crowd.
NS: When you guys do open up for someone like Dierks Bentley, have you really had to win the crowd over or have they typically been real responsive and accepting from the get go?
NM: You know, we kind of do what we do every night regardless. Hasn’t really mattered who we’re playing in front of. I think that there’s probably some people out there who are completely confused and there are others who are completely excited because it wasn’t what they were expecting to hear. When you’re opening up for anybody really, it’s kind of the inevitable because they’re not necessarily expecting an opener. We’re just happy to be playing in the room. We’re going to what we naturally do. We’ve been really lucky so far though because it seems like it is working across all those different crowds.
NS: I know the debut record did just come out earlier this year and all. But, it does seem like you guys are all really in a real creative place right now artistically. When do you think you’ll be going back into the studio and getting something else out?
NM: We’ve already been working on new tunes. Been playing a couple of them live. I think the plan right now is to get back in there in December and start seeing where it’s at. Hopefully sometime in the spring we’ll have a new set of tunes out.
NS: Yeah. Do you think you’ll self-produce again or do you think you’ll bring someone else in?
NM: Yeah, that’s the plan right now, to just do it ourselves. You never know what may pop up, but you know, as of now we’re probably going to be doing it ourselves. We’re comfortable doing that and just going to see where it takes us.
NS: Yeah. I really think–not that my opinion really matters on the subject–but I really like when bands go in and do it themselves. I think it can keep things more fresh and can keep the material truer to its original state.
NM: Yeah. I think there’s several good reasons. You’re not diluting it. I think there’s always something said for having a producer for having a different prospective on stuff, but for us, we’ve done that numerous times and we’ve really wanted to get back to something where we’re making music and getting it out exactly like we imagined it.
NS: What’s the songwriting process like with you guys? Is it mainly you guys working around songs written by Jaren or is there a lot of stuff all done together?
NM: It’s a little bit of both. Jaren’s got a few on this record that he had written himself. Then he and I write together a lot. It kind of varies. Sometimes we’ll have an idea and we’ll throw off each other. Maybe it’s a lyric or maybe a little musical track. There’s no real rhyme or reason to it. We’ve been so busy on the road there’s not been a lot of time to write other than when we’re at home, which isn’t ever a lot of time. Jaren and I have also been doing a lot of outside writing as well. We’ve been trying to bounce ideas off each other every time we’ve got a minute to do so.