Under The Microscope – Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust

Sevendust-Time-Travelers-Bonfires

Sevendust are currently on a sweeping tour of the USA, but unlike their usually high-energy, heavy rock affairs, this tour is a rare stripped-down affair. For the second time in their career, they are again doing an acoustic tour, supporting their recent release Time Travelers and Bonfires (7Bros. Records). The new record actually charted on Billboard, which is a rare feat in this day and age and shows the bands staying power. They are in a good place with each other and with their lives. After some turmoil earlier in their career they seemed to have really fallen into a good groove, and it shows.

We started out our chat with Lajon Witherspoon talking about the current tour. A seasoned live act, Sevendust never skimps on the experience they give to their fans, no matter what kind of gig they put on. We asked about the state of the band during this run of “A” and “B” markets on the tour:

Everything is fantastic! We are in Joliet, Illinois, this morning. We’re at a pretty cool little bar/restaurant. An Italian place. Things could not be better. It feels good to be alive! (laughs) We have been on the road already for three weeks. The tour is going in extraordinarily, crazy, weird, with incredible energy every night. I can’t believe how big it is. Last night we played my hometown of Kansas City. Last night the Midland Theater was sold out, and it’s an acoustic show! It’s been like that everywhere. It’s been a great energy man, and I can’t believe what is going on. That being said, thanks to all those beautiful people out there who put us on. I just heard that we just made Billboard this week, and I’m so amazed. I gotta thank the Lord for that! It’s a beautiful thing.”

Sevendust USE FIRST Color2014ChrisBaird

Notorious road warriors playing over 250 shows per year, Sevendust live concerts are usually exciting and loud with the band jumping all over the stage. We asked if this type of tour was easier on the veteran band, contrasted to a normal gig:

It’s not a regular acoustic show. It’s an energetic show, and we take people on an emotional roller-coaster. It feels incredible. We brought a piano player on the road with us, it’s just great. It’s really interesting. He helps perform the new material, and we are having a blast!. The piano player is Kurt (Wubbenhorst), we brought him from the studio. He is one of the owners of Architect Studios, that we recorded at in New Jersey. We brought him out on the road because he played it on the record, and so we asked if he would like to come out on the road with Sevendust and be part of the show, and he said yes! And there you have it. We are actually doing all the songs from the (new) record. Then we bring back in the older songs. We do an hour-long first set, then we take a 15 minute break, and then we come back out and do like another 45 more minutes. It’s pretty cool.”

 

 

Although some might argue the point, Lajon feels that it is tougher to play “unplugged” than a typical rock show: “I think we are more under the microscope when it comes to this kind of show. You don’t have the loud guitars to drown out everything. You have to be really precise. It’s very simple and straight to the point. I like it better that way actually. It really shows our talent, more so than anything.”

 

The band took a novel approach to making the new album. In addition to the new originals they wrote, the band let their fans vote online to choose which older songs they should choose from. We next discussed the process of arranging the older material:

We kind of sat down the same way we are set up acoustically on the tour. We sat around and blocked out all the songs and worked on arrangements and we just slayed it. We would vibe back and forth like “that song is really slow” or “we need to change that arrangement, it’s too weird”. If you think about it like this: think of how long how long we have been playing some of these songs. I have probably sung some of the older songs differently over the last 8 years, and even more differently the decade before that. So if anyone can break these songs down and change them around, and do it differently, it would be us. It really did come easy. Now some songs we tried, didn’t sound good acoustically at all. Those songs we skipped. But for the most part we were able to nail it all. We are really happy with the way everything turned out.”

 

_DSC03117DLajohn01

 

Some years ago, amid rumors of the band perhaps going their separate ways, there was talk in the music press about Lajon exploring an R&B album. With the band on better ground than ever, we asked him if that project is still alive:

That is definitely still in the works. I just feel like I am taking my time on that. Sevendust still has so much stuff to do. I’m really busy as heck right now, we are all so busy. I always say it’s like playing chess, you have to pick the right time. But there is definitely music written for that, and I am always writing songs for it, so all in due time.”

 

With all of these bands from a certain era (the 1990s) reaching mature, veteran status; our talk turns to growing up, spending time with families, and time spent off the minutiae of the killing road:

I’m originally from Nashville, Tennessee, but I moved to Kansas about a year ago. I have lived in Kansas City for about a year, me and my wife just built a house here near Overland Park, and I love it a lot. My daughter is in school here, and it’s great. It’s really very cool. The community and the town has really welcomed me, and done a lot for me, and I love being a part of it. I really love it. It’s great. I like to ride my motorcycle a lot when I’m not on tour, and I have a five year-old daughter and a 14 year-old, so I’m a busy, busy dude. There’s nothing wrong with growing up.”

 

Sevendust on Facebook

 

KEITH CHACHKES