Any metal fan worth their Devil Horns can agree that for almost 20 years now SEVENDUST has been delivering a potent combo of great albums and killer tours. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to get a sit-down with singer Lajon Witherspoon at Trees Dallas a few hours before their acoustic show supporting newest record Time Travelers & Bonfires. We reviewed the album and that gig last month and we loved both. So now, here is our interview with LJ, guys. Check it:
Lajon: That was amazing. We didn’t know what to expect. I remember we had a band meeting and we had heard other bands talk about his type of venture and we said, “You know why don’t we try it and see what could happen with it?” you know? The whole thought of not our fans, but our family and friends that support this band being a part of it and helping make it was a great part of the reason why we did it and to see it happen within 24 hours, 48 hours, the response was incredible, man. I say thank you to everyone out there because we wouldn’t be on this tour or having this album if it wasn’t for everyone that did the pledge. That’s what it’s all about.
Amps: And you always refer to your fans as family. Well, the family really stepped up.
Lajon: Yeah, man. You know what? I think of it like this, I’m 41 years old now and I signed a record deal when I was 21. I see those people that were there at the beginning and that are here now, and they have kids and it’s a family. I have kids and we all have common ground. I know this guy that I’ve known since 1997 and I know HIS kids, you know? His daughter’s dating a guy who I may have to rough up a little, you know (laughs)? It’s gotten to the point where it’s like a family reunion when we have a show, that’s what it feels like.
Amps: What is it, though? The fan base is rabid, this is my sixth show, and I can’t go to a SEVENDUST show without making four or five new friends!
Lajon: It’s awesome. What’s weird about that is we’ve done that Shiprocked thing and it’s turned into a whole different family, like, “We’re the Shiprocked Family!” and it’s branching out, it’s amazing. I just think when we have a show it’s all about meeting and enjoying the music. And it’s like I say, if I wasn’t in this band I would still wanna be around music and saying hello to people that are at the show. The people who come to see SEVENDUST, I would wanna meet them if I wasn’t in the band, you know? I think, or at least I hope that we give off that energy.
Amps: Time Travelers & Bonfires…tell me about the writing and recording of a record that was essentially by the fans/for the fans.
Lajon: It was incredible. I’ve always said that I feel like we’re time travelers and it was really cool to be able to incorporate that and revisiting these songs is like traveling back in time, too. So for them to pick the songs and for us to put them together is great. I feel like the songs that everyone picked they sound like new songs in the format they’re in, which was beautiful, and then to write six new songs, it was a great energy. We recorded at Architekt Music in Butler, New Jersey, which is an incredible place, it’s our energy. We did Black Out the Sun there, it’s kind of our hub. I work with different bands there, so do Clint (Lowery) and Morgan (Rose). It’s a great little spot with nothing much goin’ on except the Murder Bar which we wrote a song about kind of down the street. And my place I like to go to is Trackside ’cause they have a secret top shelf there that not a lot of people know about, but it’s the best. It was great, we really had a magical energy, we went in and we didn’t have anything written for the album so that was what was even cooler about it.
Lajon: Oh, no way. Tell him I said, “What’s up” man.
Amps: Now that you do it all yourselves with 7Bros. Records is the mindset different when you go to write and record because you’re not under any label pressures?
Lajon: Nah, we were never really under pressure when we wrote anyway. Maybe at the very beginning but we don’t take shit now. We’re too old for people telling us what kind of songs to write (laughing), you know what I mean?
Amps: On this record, if you HAD to pick a favorite of the ones you re-worked, what would it be? And then what about a favorite new song?
Lajon: Oh my God! That’s hard because…umm, “Crucified” I love. “Denial”, “Black”, I like all of it! The new songs, “Come Down”, “The Wait”…I’d say those are my two new favorites, but all those new ones are rockin’ and I can’t wait to play them.
Amps: SEVENDUST is one of those bands that really translate well acoustically, though. I’ve had the album on REPEAT all day.
Lajon: Well, thanks man. We try. I think a lot of the songs start from acoustic but you definitely feel more under the microscope when you’re acoustic.
Amps: What’s next for you after this tour?
Lajon: (Laughing) this tour’s not gonna be over man! They keep adding dates! I know we’re going into a second leg after this. We’ll take a two week break, come back out for the second leg, and I think they’re adding a little summer run, all electric, I think. I can’t wait, we’ll go out for a month just wrecking everybody again, and I can’t wait. After we been sittin’ down on these stools, even though I can’t sit on ’em, it’s not a regular acoustic show ’cause I gotta get up and rock it!
Amps: Almost 20 years since the first record…a lot’s happened, both good and bad. Births, deaths, label nonsense, but with everything that has gone on, how do you think it’s changed you as a writer, performer, and most importantly as a person?
Lajon: Hmmm…I don’t know. I feel like if there’s any advice I can give to a young band it’s to first off be a businessman or businesswoman. We kind of lost ourselves with that being young and getting our dream of signing a record deal and touring the world as a band. That was our dream and we kind of lost that this guy had his hand in our pocket, and that person had their hand in our pocket and at the end of the tour you end up with a Chico stick and a couple of t-shirts from other bands and this other cat’s driving a Jaguar. You have to keep your eye on what’s going on. It’s changed me, not that the business has made me jaded, but it’s made me more aware and you have to take your time with people. There’s a lot of things that happened to where you’ve gotta keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on.
Amps: Black Out the Sun to me is the best work you’ve done since the one-two punch of Seasons and Next. Did you guys know you had a special record on your hands when you were making it?
Lajon: (Excitedly) oh, wow! Seasons is one of my favorite albums and we were just talking about it! And yes, definitely, we did. I think it kind of lapped over into Time Travelers, that whole energy that went into this, too. It was the same spot and that same vibe that we needed; that’s what we feed off of, you know? I think everybody’s at, not the top, but a good part of their game, if that makes any sense. ‘Cause I don’t wanna say, “Oh, we’re at the top of our game” We’re at a good point where it’s clicking like a piston.
Amps: Say something to the SEVENDUST family.
Lajon: Hey, this is LJ. Thank you guys out there. We love you, I love you tremendously. God bless you all and thank you very much. We all are Time Travelers and we’ll see you out there on the road and all over the place. God bless!
I am a SEVENDUST fan since day one. And I will continue to be a fan forever and ever amen. LJ was so super-nice and this conversation only cemented my belief that he is one of the most genuine guys in hard rock and metal today. This band is one of the FEW that I drive to the store on New Release Tuesday and start banging on the doors at 9:57 a.m. for. And that will never change. Pick up Time Travelers & Bonfires if you haven’t already, you’ll see what I mean.