J. Roddy Walston and the Business is a constant presence in our office’s music rotation. The band manages to uniquely blend elements of Southern Rock, Americana, and classic blues, and has achieved a cult-like following the old fashioned way – through hard work and relentless touring. On the heels of the release of their third studio album, Essential Tremors, we caught up with the band’s frontman and multi-instrumentalist, J. Roddy Walston, to learn more about the new album and to hear about life on the road.
The band’s new album, Essential Tremors, was released in September. How was the recording process and how has the reception been?
The big difference is that we took time off the road for a year and lived normal lives. We were able to write a lot of songs and had the time to construct them and pull them apart. We’ve always pulled them apart, but we would write songs in only a couple of days while touring – which was great because we’d be ready to play something new. But with this record, we could sit on something longer and had the time to really write, which was awesome. The reception of the album has been great and there’s definitely more of a buzz with this album versus our previous record, particularly immediately. Some of the buzz, I think, has to go with the hard work that we put into promoting and touring our last album.
You’ve been on tour for the last couple of months, how’s it been going?
This has been our first tour with a record that has had any significant radio play happening. At the shows, there’ll be a mix of people who have been fans of the older stuff and an obvious chunk of people who only know some of the songs from the new album. It’s been interesting from town to town – some towns are mainly old die-hards and there are other towns where I don’t know any of the people in the audience. Generally we would start an old jam and people would be really stoked because they haven’t heard us play it yet or have been wanting to hear us play it for forever, and other people would be like, “Oh this is cool,” and then we’ll play a new song and the audience would freak out. It’s been really interesting.
There’s a video posted on Instagram of you going to town on the piano. Your shows seem to be full of energy, what drives you to keep giving it your all, night after night?
I’m just kind of reactionary to music and some of it’s just the way I interact with it. If you came over to my house and I thought something was awesome, I would probably jump up and ram my fists through the air and dance around. We were talking about this earlier on the tour. As far as rock music goes, some bands, for whatever reason, stopped writing music that people wanted to move to and created an atmosphere where people don’t feel comfortable moving around at their shows. I care if the audience moves around and this definitely gives us energy back; it’s the other part of the equation. This is my reaction to my music and then also, our reaction of what the audience is putting back at us.
I would say the crowd is one of the main variables. We don’t necessarily have a set list. We don’t have lights. We don’t have a sound guy that we travel with. There’s no set of anything that is going to happen. The crowd is one of the main variables of how explosive the show gets. We’re still going to do what we’re going to do, even if people seem to not care, but if people seem to care and participate in it with us, it turns into something completely different and way more powerful.
Have there been any standout shows on the tour?
Baltimore is one of the hometowns of this band, and the show was pretty off the charts. We had No BS! Brass Band open up for us and played a giant club of 1,100 people. It was crazy. I think for the crowd and us, it was amazing and the energy was uncontrollable. There were a bunch of other cities like San Francisco and Austin… places where the last time we were in town, we were playing to 10 people, and this time we’re selling 300-500 tickets. That’s always one of my favorite moments. It’s been a tour of those kinds of moments, which has been crazy for me.
Since you’ve been on the road, have there been any great meals or places you’ve checked out.
We were just in New Orleans and the food, architecture, drinks, people, and vibe — just everything about that place is completely unique and there’s really no place like it in America. It feels like it’s in its own world.
There’s this place called Maurepas, which is an awesome little spot in the Bywater neighborhood. They make all these crazy bitters and tonics that they mix into their cocktails and the food is a variation on Cajun cuisine. Two blocks from that there’s a great music store called Euclid, which was amazing and had all sorts of records.
The tour is in its final leg, are there any reaming shows that you’re looking forward to, and is there anything that is coming up in the next few months which you’re particularly excited about?
The Richmond show is going to be crazy because it’s Halloween night and everyone will hopefully be dressing up – I know we are. The 9:30 Club; getting to headline this venue is a big step-up moment for any band. We have a big sold out show that is happening in New York.
The record is also getting released in Europe and we’ll travel over there and support it, which has been a long time bucket list goal for our band, so we’re pretty stoked about that. Once you step on the treadmill of touring when a new record comes out, it’s not really a matter of, “Here’s the beginning, here’s the end,” it becomes a matter of we get a break for five days here, we get a break for two weeks there — then we’re back on the road. We’re just trying to just keep going through the holidays.
It seems like we launched this thing and we’ve been part of the running start for the last month or so. Now we’re about to toss it off the cliff and see if it can fly. I’m interested to see how it really starts to pan out in the next 3 to 4 months… that’s what I’m most looking forward to.
J. Roddy Walston and the Businesses’ new album, Essential Tremors, is out now available on iTunes. Check their tour schedule to see if they will be coming to your city and keep up with the band on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
*All photographs courtesy of Instagram