Sevendust Guitarist John Connolly Discusses Acoustic Album, Touring + More
It has been a huge year so far for Sevendust, and they kicked it off by being a part of ShipRocked 2014 where they debuted some new material off of their acoustic disc ‘Time Travelers & Bonfires,' which has since been released. The band is not only touring in promotion of 'Bonfires,' but also their most recent plugged-in album, ‘Black Out the Sun.’ For a full list of both electric and acoustic tour dates, go here.
Loudwire had the opportunity to sit down with guitarist John Connolly during the band's recent stop in New York. He talked about ‘Time Travelers & Bonfires’ and the experience of their acoustic tour, plus he also chatted about his early brushes with acoustic music and how certain artists influenced him growing up. Check out our interview with John Connolly of Sevendust below:
It’s pretty cool that it’s just Sevendust for this acoustic show.
It’s “An Evening With…” so there’s not a whole lot of racket going on. For better or for worse we’ve had some opening bands, some I look back on now and it’s like, “Man, we subjected our audience to that.” So I think our crowds are actually a little thankful. It’s pretty easy with just the one band on tour. Usually we have three or four other bands on tour and we have to negotiate the schedule and be fair to make sure everyone gets their time. With this we roll in at our leisure. We were kind of nervous about it at first. I was like, “I don’t know if this is going to go over, we might need an opener” but it’s been cool.
As a guitarist, how was it for you to not only delve into the new songs on ‘Time Travelers & Bonfires’ but to also revisit and re-invent the older tunes. As a long time Sevendust fan, when you guys played ‘Crucified’ acoustically on ShipRocked for the first time I didn’t realize it was ‘Crucified’ until the lyrics kicked in.
That was pretty intentional. It was kind of just a means to an end. We were looking at the list for the album and even more we were looking at the live setlist. It’s really easy to pull out the obvious ones -- this one’s acoustic throw it in -- and then you realize, “Wow this is a really mellow show. It’s all down. There’s no up songs.” It’s easy to go down that road because the more acoustic stuff is sad introspectively.
‘Crucified’ is one of my wife’s favorites songs and she was laughing like, “How are you guys going to do ‘Crucified’ acoustic?” It was totally cool because it gave it a breath of fresh air. Not to give us credit where credit’s not due but it’s sort of like the best Sevendust cover band in the world covering Sevendust. [Laughs] That’s what it felt like, like we were covering Sevendust.
It was funny when they were like, ‘We want to release ‘Black’ as the single,” and I was like “Are you guys kidding me?,” and they were like, “We think a new acoustic version of ‘Black’ is the way to go.” It’s like there’s six new songs. Pick a new one and they were just like, “Nope, radio wants ‘Black.'” It did okay but we’re ready to put a new one out there. There’s six good songs on there, any of them deserve a shot.
There’s an argument all the way around. One day I might not be feeling a song and then I click on Facebook and there’s 10 people telling me that one is their favorite song so what do we know? We write it, we put it out there, everyone loves all of them. It’s a great place to be in.
When you were growing up, were you into the electric guitar first or the acoustic?
You know, I think it was always acoustic first. I remember being 3 or 4 years old rolling around the living room and I don’t remember specifics but I remember my parents' favorites were Neil Diamond, Simon & Garfunkel, Elton John – there was always that early ‘70s, kind of folk, not really pop but almost pop music. It was always acoustic driven, there was hardly any electrics in them. That was my earliest memory, when I associate sitting in the backseat of the car lookin’ at the cows going down the road, I remember hearing Carly Simon and there were always acoustic things.
For me it was always acoustic first. I didn’t know an electric guitar was an option for a long time. My mom had an acoustic in the house and she could play a little and then she grew her nails out and couldn’t play at all so then it sat there and collected dust. Once I discovered bands like KISS and Aerosmith, obviously electric guitar was a pretty integral part of it. I went down the electric road once I got to it but it was always acoustic first.
Did you go to shows growing up at all? Was there one in particular that was memorable to you?
The first show I went to was John Denver. [Laughs] I was like 5 or 6 years old. He had a big old acoustic guitar and never put the thing down. That’s all I remember he was out there playing acoustic. Even the stuff we’ve been listening to on the road like the Civil Wars, I’m a huge Civil Wars fan and they get by without a drummer -- it’s just him and her and an acoustic guitar and the truth.
It’s cool to be able to break it down to the nuts and bolts and people ask all the time, “It’s got to be a challenge with Sevendust” and honestly it’s not because a lot of these Sevendust songs started on an acoustic guitar that was just laying on the couch in the living room. That’s usually when you’re inspired to get an idea, it’s not when you’re physically doing something. If I’m in there and I’m riffing out, I’m doing something nerdy that I can only appreciate -- my mind is occupied trying to pull off what I’m doing.
I’ll be sitting there watching TV, the switch gets flipped and the light bulb goes on. ‘Enemy’ is the perfect example of a song that started completely on acoustic guitar. It’s ironic that we don’t do that one because that one was acoustic first then went electric. A lot of the songs start with a basic idea, it’s not like you have to reinvent the wheel when you do the acoustic thing. You just treat it a bit differently because you don’t have the distortion and all the effects and stuff to, I don’t want to say hide behind, but it’s almost like you’re exposed in a totally different way. You’re more under the microscope for sure. You have to think bigger on the instrument because you have less tools at your disposal.
What does the rest of 2014 hold in store for you an Sevendust as a whole?
It’s a little of everything. It’s kind of weird because we’re still doing ‘Black Out the Sun,’ a little bit even though we’re in the middle of this. We have about a month, a month and a half of electric dates in late July and August right up to the beginning of September. There’s a second leg of the acoustic tour, there’s no Southeastern dates, there’s no Atlanta, no Florida at all, no Carolinas, so we’re going to look at doing a third leg that covers our home base. It’s really weird to be from Atlanta and not tour there, everyone’s like, “Uh, hello? So are you from Atlanta?” so there will be a third leg and then after that I don’t know.
I know our management was looking at a handful of potential options; there are a lot of bands doing some acoustic things now. Never had it donned on us to actually partner up with somebody to do an acoustic tour with another band but it would definitely be something we would look at. Even if it wasn’t for two or three months, it might be cool to hop on a tour with someone for two or three weeks. So if something like that were to come up, I could see us doing more of the acoustic thing.
Other than that, I think the acoustic thing is going to be what it’s going to be, not to sound negative about it by any way shape or form, it’s not going to go a full album cycle like we normally do. We get to pick and choose when we do this, we can do this all the time especially that we have a record to do it with. We could announce two or three weeks worth of dates on the drop of a dime especially if we’ve done a lot of electric stuff or we’re looking at overseas stuff or take a break from one thing or try to transition from one thing to another. It’s the perfect way to stay in contact with our fan base with something different. Here’s the kicker, a lot of people are being introduced to Sevendust for the first time this way. They don’t know that we exist the other way. [Laughs]
Even though you guys perform acoustically, there is in no way a lack of energy. I will never forget that acoustic show on ShipRocked early this year.
Yeah, the planets just aligned with that one. I think the ship was ready for something like that, not to knock the straight up electric thing. I thought our electric show was good too. I thought the acoustic show was a little bit more special. It was totally different, totally stripped down and then to do ‘Decay’ at the end electrically was fun. We had talked about doing something like that on this one but everyone’s expecting it, they’re expecting that move. Let’s just do what we said we were going to do and let’s not play ‘Face 2 Face’ for the love of God at least for a couple of months.
With all of this touring, what is one thing you must have on tour with you? It cannot be electronic.
That’s a tough one. I used to think I was pretty low maintenance and then I look through my bag and there’s a lot of crap that I need, a lot of it is electronic. It would probably have to be my running shoes more than anything just so I could hit the gym or do whatever. Oh wait I’d probably bring the amp, it’s battery operated but then I couldn’t plug anything into it. [Laughs] I’ll just go with the running shoes.
Watch Our Part 1 of Our Interview With Sevendust on ShipRocked 2014