Widespread Panic Rolls On – Toledo City Paper

After 27 years on the road, it is safe to say that Widespread Panic is a master of its trade. With a repertoire of hundreds of original and cover songs and a passionate fan base following them across the country, they are one of the leading rock bands touring the US today. Their energetic brand of southern, funky rock’n’roll changes genres in the twinkling of an eye and is held together by the chemistry and improvisation of the band. We spoke to bassist Dave Schools and drummer Todd Nance before their Fall Tour 2013 pit stop in Detroit on Tuesday, September 24th at the Fillmore.

Still getting a sense of anticipation for the excitement before the fall tour starts? What happens between now and when you take the stage? Any rituals before the tour?

TN: I can never sleep the night before we leave. That’s one of the great things about it – it still feels like it used to. Nowadays the pressure is a little bigger than it used to be.

DS: Before the first show we do a detailed sound check and maybe a little rehearsal. Try to get our sea legs back and see what everyone did too. I check out the new gear – you never know what new toys Jimmy is [lead guitar] or sunny [percussion] will bring.

What was your performance highlight of the year – widespread panic or something else?

DS: For me personally, it was a really big deal to play with John Fogerty. My parents bought me those 45s when they came out, the Creedence songs. So I would be about four years old and I would hear “Down on the Corner” and “Run through the Jungle”. Creedence was one of the first rock and roll bands I ever heard, so it was a huge moment that came full circle. John [Fogerty] was as nice as good and loved that he had the chance to practice a little with Jimmy and JB [vocals/guitar].

What was the best concert you have seen this year?

DS: You know, that’s a two-part answer. Jimmy and I went to Derek and Susan’s house [of the Tedeschi-Trucks Band] the night before the Wanee Music Festival. They played us something from the new record that wasn’t quite finished. But we heard some new songs from the studio and we were really impressed. I didn’t think they’d have the guts to release new songs on Wanee, but they actually did and they were great. I think Derek and Susan are one of the best things in music right now – they’re kind of old school soul revue. So that was a really great concert.

Dave, I saw that you came up with a new side project called The Hard Working Americans. Tell me about the new band.

DS: It’s a band that we put together around Todd Snider. He’s a folk singer in the manner of Jerry Jeff Walker and John Prine who were his mentors, so to speak. He’s been recording and making records for about 29 years, so he’s about my age. We have known each other for a long time and just wanted to do a few things together. In the end we formed this group of special musicians – Duane Trucks on drums, Neal Casal on guitar and Chad Staehly on keyboards – with the whole idea of ​​making an album with covers. There are many songwriting friends Todd knows, whether they’re from Nashville or elsewhere in the country. We made these songs, but we deconstructed and reinvented them. It’s kind of like how Led Zeppelin reinvented blues melodies and invented things like “Whole Lotta Love”.

You recorded the album at Bob Weir’s TRI Studios in California, where Bob Weir is streaming a free concert on tristudios.com on Wednesdays. Why choose TRI for the album?

DS: It’s a really big studio with two big rooms. The room where we do the TV show is a very special room that has been equipped with a Constellation sound system. This means that the whole room has microphones and speakers are embedded in the ceiling and walls. So we can play quietly and don’t need monitor wedges and headphones. It basically sounds like we’re playing in your living room. So TRI is a pretty great toy – it hasn’t been used a lot as a recording studio. It’s geared up for hi-definition, modern technology, and streaming, but we can run the sound through Bobby’s old-school stuff, which makes it sound warm and real. It’s an amazing facility really – I live half an hour away so I can go down and do anything. I was actually down there this weekend to record a few songs with my dad that he wrote and released in the ’70s. Bobby did a really great job and created this environment for us.

What are some of your favorite songs that you play live?

TN: My standard answer is “the next one”. I really like them all – there really isn’t a song I’m afraid of playing. I know it sounds like bullshit, but it’s true [laughs]. But you know, my favorite might be Space Wrangler. But I’m always excited to see what we’ll do next.

What have you heard lately What’s on your tour playlist?

TN: I’m a big fan of satellite radio. I love the outlaw country and the deep tracks stations. These are the two stations that I listen to a lot. I also hear a lot from Townes Van Zandt and John Hiatt. Also check out Rosanne Cash [Johnny Cash’s daughter]. Some of the songs and arrangements she does are just amazing – I think she might surprise you.

DS: Jonathan Wilson, his record was called ‘Gentle Spirit’ and it’s really great. Add in Neal Casal’s “Sweeten the Distance” record and you have this whole California stoner-surfer thing that goes back to Jackson Browne and David Crosby. I know Jonathan is going to come out with a new record that I’m very excited about. Otherwise I just pour things through. But I’ve worked so hard on projects that I listened to them and made sure I get it right.

Tell me about how you played with John Fogerty at the Lockn ‘Festival. How was that experience for you?

TN: We rehearsed on Friday evening before the festival. [Fogerty] thought Jimmy Herring was just the greatest thing in the world. He let Jimmy loose a little and we had a lot of fun out there. Because the songs were so short, we really got the chance to jam – I think that was the best thing about the show.

Back to Panic, how do you create the setlists? Take turns, wings it? How exactly do you choose the order?

DS: This is something I’ve been trying to do lately because I can just get it to Jimmy faster. He likes to have a little more time to work on the melodies. I do it in the front lounge of the bus, usually on the way to the venue. Sometimes you see friends there who make suggestions and sometimes I just get so nervous and let JoJo [keyboards] Do it [laughs].

Panic hasn’t been to Michigan since the 2011 Fall Tour when you played at the Fillmore in Detroit. Is there a difference between the viewers in the north and the viewers in the south that you normally play for?

TN: You know, Detroit has always been pretty good to us. We used to play at St. Andrews Hall and always had great shows there. The crowds in Michigan remind me of the crowds from the south – very exuberant. You are in.

What’s the best part about touring and being on the go?

TN: Making music every night is the best. We all still get along great so we enjoy going out and playing. This is what we do.

DS: Those specific times when something really special happens on stage that wasn’t written into the setlist or discussed beforehand. You know, one of those magical moments that everyone gets – that’s what it’s worth. To do the same thing every evening is insane to me, or at least it would be insane. I love it when we get to one of those moments where we jump off a cliff and sweep the audience away. It’s the moments of surprise. Sometimes it is a graceful respite from a complete and utter train wreck. Without the possibility of total atonal madness, nothing beautiful could ever happen.

At what point in your life did you know you wanted to become a professional musician?

TN: That happened to me a couple of times as a child. When I was in 5th grade, I got a guitar and took guitar lessons. And when I saw Lynyrd Skynrd in 1975, I knew I wanted to do that.

How do you spend your break from widespread panic? What do you do when you are not on the road?

TN: I like to go fishing [laughs]. I live in the countryside just outside of Athens, Georgia. I go home to really relax. I have a pond on my land – I like to go fishing, watch the birds and hang out with my wife and three dogs. For me it is either fully on or fully off.

DS: Lately it’s just hanging around the house hanging out with my wife and dogs. You know, trying to keep things growing and keep the fruit harvest and things. I just enjoy having a home in a beautiful place and being a great person to share my time with. It makes it pretty hard to take to the streets, but there is a balance.

What advice do you have for upcoming bands out there trying to make it big?

TN: It takes a lot of perseverance – if you want to do it, you really have to immerse yourself in it. Hopefully you have some talent and play with the right people. You have to have chemistry with the other people in the band. It takes a lot of things to click – it’s not just talent or luck.

DS: I’ll tell you exactly what Peter Buck from REM told us when we were on the rise. He said, “keep your deadlines”. He went on and said, play the gigs, play the pizzerias, play the bowling alleys. Play whatever you can play and just go on stage and do your best. That’s what people pick up on, and fans can pick you up anywhere. And it definitely worked out pretty well for these guys. They played their part in pizzerias and bowling alleys, and so did we. But you accept it. Come on every stage you perform, ready to play and on time.

Widespread Panic plays the Fillmore in Detroit on Tuesday, September 24th. Tickets are $ 40, doors open at 6:30 p.m., Showtime at 7:30 p.m. More information is available at www.widespreadpanic.com

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