Since the release of Sevendusts’ 1997 self-titled debut, this southern born and bred outfit has continually grown with each release. With roaring guitars, intense rhythms and soulful vocals this band has become the type that you most likely stay a fan of for life. In 2004 they surprised fans by releasing the CD/DVD package Southside Doublewide, a stripped down live concert performance in their home town showcasing their unique down tuned style in a whole new light. Since that release fans have yearned for not just a tour, but a full-length release of Sevendust for the campfire.

Truly a band that that is all about their fans, they crowd funded the next Sevendust release, an acoustic outing that reached it’s goal in mere hours, proving that not only is rock not dead, but just how passionate Sevendust fans really are. The band followed suit with Time Travelers and Bonfires, a full-band acoustic album of new cuts and re-imagined songs from the bands lengthy catalogue that reminds with every track why this band is just that special.

A week before the band brings their Travelers and Bonfire tour to the intimate Culture Room in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, we sat down for a great conversation with one arguably one of rock’s best drummers, Morgan Rose to discuss touring, new music, the future and life.
Story by Matthew Pashalian
Photos: Scott Nathanson

You guys are on album 11, 12 if you count Southside Doublewide and Greatest Hits – with so many great albums and songs released and sitting in the vaults, where does the inspiration come from for such a wealth of material?

As you get older, just like anybody else we go through life’s good and bad and so every time we’re getting ready to write another record it’s another year or two of events that have happened. Sometimes it’s something that we didn’t want to talk about on the previous album that we’re okay with talking about now. I wouldn’t say we have an endless supply of things to talk about but we’ve always got a story, so we keep our lyrics close and we treat them as the most important thing about our band. We want to make sure that the things we’re talking about mean something to us. We’re not in the minority of going through things in life and that’s what I think makes people get so into our lyrics. We don’t write about a lot of cliché things. It’s hard to come up with anew topic or 11 or 12 new topics. We aren’t reinventing the wheel or anything, just giving an interpretation of what’s going on in our lives.

As evidenced by this crowd funded album, you guys have a pretty loyal fan base. In times where some are trying to put a coffin nail in rock, how surprised by you at how fast you reached your goal?

The reason why we did this was that we had been asked by a lot of people who support our band when we would do another acoustic record and tour. I can’t get into a lot of the specifics and politics of it, but we were planning on putting together an EP and doing the crowd funded thing to see how many people would really be interested in it. We wanted it to be something special and really get fans involved. To be honest, we don’t take the people who support our band for granted in any way. We were very confident in the relationship that we have with them. So when we went to our press people and said that we wanted to do this and they set a number up and we laughed at the number because we knew that that number would get hit really fast. They said well, there’s nothing wrong with that so if you want to do anything more with this then you can put the pledge number up, but we felt that the number was insulting to the fans. They thought we would hit the number in a few days, but we hit it in a few hours. We didn’t let it out there because that’s how they wanted to handle it. I don’t know why, but the number was hit so fast that it almost crashed the server so we laughed and said now what.

We figured why not make a full-length record and tour the album. The minute the numbers started to come in we knew it was going to be an album cycle. When a record company gives you money and tour support our support basically came in and surpassed what our record company would give us, or what any record company would give us. We have an extreme love affair with the people who support our band and they know it. That’s what made this thing such a beautiful experience. We did things that we had never done before, did private shows and had them involved. This was the one record that I can say that overall we may wrote songs that are about ourselves and our lives but this was really for the fans and we were really serious about putting forth the absolute best that we could for them.

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What was the most challenging part about writing and recording this record compared to previous efforts?

The only thing that’s really challenging is not trying to fix everything. We can go in here, write something, track it and say, ‘why don’t we try this instead. ‘With the last few records, to try and avoid that we would try to record the song immediately after writing the song. Instead of writing a bunch of songs, demo’ing them, listening to them a million times and critiquing tem to death and changing the parts and chords around we went in, write it and said, ‘that sounds good right? Okay, let’s go track it.’ It takes out that overthinking aspect of it. There are two sides to it – overthinking things can be an issue and not really knowing are the two big issues. We go in there and we’ll write it, play two or three times as a band and track it. It’s not like you really know what you’re doing; you’re kind of going straight off of feel and the first thing that comes to mind. It’s that old cliché that the first one is usually the best. We just live by it now. If we have any time we’ll second guess and do different things, but overall we write and record the songs really fast right now.

Sevendust is getting close to 20 years – for you, what would be crowning achievement, all-time favorite song that the band has wrote?

Oh man, that’s funny. My favorite song that we’ve written is one that I had very little to do with. I think my favorite song is “The Wait.” As far as depth goes it goes back to what I was saying before – a lot of people have written about death and losing someone important. Somehow or another, this song took on a different feel to it. It is about that, but it’s about the wait of watching someone go and knowing it’s going to happen and reminiscing and talking about being there for them until the end. It was this frame of time where everybody lost someone within the past 16 months who were all tremendous influences in life – I lost my Nana, Clint lost his dad, John lost his dad, Lajon lost his grandmother. Everybody lost someone. You can’t go and write Angels Son again or another one of these songs about losing somebody. We try not to be that band, but this took a different take on it and really hit home with all of us.

We have write a lot of songs that are really universal about what we have been through as a band and individuals, but this one really hit us hard. It took me a while to be able to even play the song without falling apart and occasionally someone in the band might fall apart depending on what’s going on that day. That’s probably the song that has affected everyone the most, definitely me. Any night Lajon will go into the outro singing acapella and it can be really emotional. For maybe a week or two my drum tech would just get up and hand a towel next to the kick because he knew the second the song was over it was like a gasp. Just give me the towel, let me get the towel on my face and try to not be so dramatic in front of everybody and not let everyone see me fall apart because it was hardcore.

Sevendust toured with the reunited Coal Chamber last year. Being that the band usually either closes with, or plays the song towards the end of the set, was it hard or kind of humorous to play “Face to Face” with the subject matter of the song actually in the building? I wasn’t expecting to talk to you which make this question a bit awkward for me.

We didn’t play it every night, but that song is one of those songs that have been in and out of the set for a while. There are a million songs and we can’t play them all. The funny part about is that that whole thing was a publicity disaster. I wrote the song and we did an interview one day where I was asked about the song and they asked who the song was about. I said that it was about nobody in particular. But somehow or another during the interview at the time I was like you know, Dez [Fafara] and I weren’t the best of friends for a while so somehow the words got twisted to the song being written about him. I immediately called my record label and was like, how the hell did this happen? They were like hey any press is good press, but that’s not how I am. I’m very vocal but I’m not about calling this guy out and it’s not true. The song is not about him. It got out and Dez, offended and rightfully so retaliated. Back then there was a lot of partying, alcohol use, agro, and crazy and all of a sudden he retaliates and I retaliated on his retaliation and it was a big thing. There was about six months of mudslinging and then all of a sudden it went away and it was the end of it.

It wasn’t that long after that I saw him in Australia and we hung out the whole time. I’m close with him and his family, his wife and kids. We hung out the whole time and we barely talked about it. Then he was like hey listening, I think that I’m going to put Coal Chamber back together, and it would be a crime if we didn’t go out and do it together. I’m like hey, I’m all in, let’s definitely do it There had been all of this time of us being close, hanging out and talking and then we get out there it’s a big question of how it’s funny how no one talked about it and then it’s like, hey these guys hate each other! Meanwhile we’ve been having dinner and playing with the kids the past few years. So it was really easy. We talk every now and again and both of these bands talk, so it’s funny. A long answer to a question; but no, nothing weird.

Last year in Orlando there was, probably one of the most interesting bills with Sevendust, Tremonti, Projected, and Eye Empire as this ridiculously huge show for anyone who is a fan of you guys to see all of these intermingled bands. I spoke with Brett [Hestla] a few weeks before that and was curious if there was ever any talk of Dark New Day being thrown onto the bill since pretty much everyone but Troy [McLawhorn] was there.

Actually Clint wasn’t there either, he was having a baby.  We ended up having Eric [Freidman] and B.C. [Kochschmidt] playing guitar in his place. It was really cool though because it didn’t feel like a real show, you know? There was just one drum kit up there and we all used that and move it around a bit and kid around and it just felt like back in the day playing a local show with all of our buddies sharing all the same gear and switching out playing each other’s instruments. It was totally cool, but we were missing Clint and Troy.

Last month AXS TV aired a part of Sevendust performance at the Gotham theatre from this tour. Are there any plans for a release of the full-length show?

We’re actually looking at doing this major, major DVD next year where we’re going to film a heavy show and an acoustic show in New York. It will be a free show and we’ll bring in massive amounts of pyro, lights and just do this one monster show for all of those people who have supported us for so long will have a way to be able to see us the way that they always thought that we deserved to be seen. We’ve never gone out there and performed with bombs blowing and dragons blowing fire and craziness. So the discussion was we would go in and do this massive show with one night acoustic, and the next the heavy show to blow out. We’ve already found a bunch of the B-roll stuff for that that we’re eyeing for next year Right now we’re just looking or the best time to go and do that but at the moment, it’s looking like early next year.

Since you mentioned next year, what plans does 2015 hold for the band besides this massive DVD filming?

This is the beginning of us being busy again for a little while. We’re going to finish up this tour that we’re doing – the last leg of the acoustic run, and then New Year’s Eve in Vegas, and then January we’re hitting the studio to record the next record and go away. We’ve had these discussions today about how we’re going to record the record, and we might completely go on radio silence. We don’t know exactly what we’re going to do yet but we will definitely be going in the studio in January to record the next record and then not tour it until the summer and release the single in May or June. That’s kind of the plan right now.

You’ve been in this industry now with Sevendust for what’s getting close to 20 years now. What advice would you give to the 1997 version of yourself at this stage in the game?

Oh man!  Pay attention to who is working for you a lot closer than we did. Actually, 1997 wasn’t so bad, it was after that. We had so much advice given to us – watch out for the drugs, alcohol, watch your money and the people that are working for you and we just didn’t do any of it. We were way too busy being busy, enjoying ourselves. We’ve been lucky enough that we’ve built such a loyal group of people who support this band that we can still do this and it isn’t over for us. It’s so strange that we’re still relevant and it’s a testament to the people who have supported us for so long and spend their money to see us. We owe everything to them. That’s the one thing that we did great. I think that we wrote some great music and put 110% into the live shows that we did. The greatest thing that we did was aknowledge the people who cared about us from the beginning and let them know that. They’re here – and now they’re kids are here. Now it’s like, damn man, this is generational now. This can go on for a while. So the advice would be to watch what’s going on around you and keep an eye on the people who are supposed to be taken care of you. This business is ugly – if you aren’t paying attention to what’s going on you can be eaten up really quick and we were. We were lucky that we were five strong minded, determined little southern boys that weren’t going to allow any obstacles to stop us. We just kept firing and plugging through and finding a way to keep doing what we’re doing.

I guess the same advice goes for someone who is just trying to break into this industry as well?

Yes – Appreciate the people who care about you is number one. Whether it starts with two people and rises, pay attention to those people because those are the ones that care. We have a weird mutual respect where we don’t have to be accessible all the time; we used to be, but we’re not in our 20’s anymore. You know, I might need a nap today or I’m dying from the show from the previous night. Nobody takes things too personal from us now; they know that if we can do it we will. Just appreciate those people and make sure that the people who you are in a band with are people that you want to spend time with because if you get lucky enough to do what we do for a living you’re going to spend more time with them than anyone in the world so you better love them.

There have been a lot of rumors the past year that our upcoming album will end up being kind of a last hurrah for the band – as a long-time fan myself I’m hoping that there’s no truth to these rumors.

No way, our thing is record by record. Like everybody else we’ve all gotten older, we have families, and it comes to a point where your kids come to an age where missing any part of their life is tough. That’s the time where they need their father home and you have to protect them and try to help guide them in the right way. It’s a lot harder to do from the road, so our tour schedule will soften a bit. We’ll still tour and record records, do what we do but won’t tour for like two years straight anymore. We sat down not too long ago and said hey, we love each other, still want to be around each other and play music. We don’t do this for the money; we do it because we care about each other so what better way to make a living then by doing something you love with the people you care about. We’re at a stage where do finished the last album, it went well, we still love each other the same so we’ll do another record, tour and see how it does and if people still care that’s where we’re at. We’re here now because people still want us around and we love playing for them. As long as they are there, the chances of us being around are high.

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