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Interview with OTIS
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Dale Myers (drums): I think to a great degree because I grew up into it, but more so than that, I always loved playing and being able to lock in with other musicians. There’s not anything like it and I’m very blessed to be able to do that. If I wasn’t into music I’d probably be asking the question “Do you want fries with that?” a lot.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Boone Froggett (guitar/vocals): I’m into a variety of weird stuff, haha! I love collecting vintage pulp cover paperbacks, Native American artifacts and I’m a horror movie fiend as well! I never miss an episode of “The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs”. It’s interesting as non-musical as these things are, it ultimately drives my creativity, which leads me back to picking up a guitar or creating a narrative for a new song. For me, music exists in all things.
How long has your band been around?
John Seeley (bass): Our first official album “Tough Times: a tribute to John Brim” came out in 2014. We had the name a while longer as a trio project that worked with various drummers for a few years prior but eventually added a second guitar and shortly after released the first full length album.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
BF: We’re based out of a small rural town in South Central Kentucky which makes for a really intriguing cultural perspective. Kentucky is known for its contributions to country and folk music Bill Monroe, Ricky Skaggs, The Kentucky Headhunters and so many more have originated from here. But we also catch a lot of other influences as we’re geographically located between Chicago and the Delta so blues is a natural influence, but we’re also just an hour and a half north from the ever growing “Music City” Nashville, TN. We’re truly placed in the melting pot of American roots music.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
BF: The credit for the name of the band goes to Greg Martin (The Kentucky Headhunters, Rufus Huff) & Dean Smith (Rufus Huff, Taildragger) Dean had seen a power trio in the early 1970’s called Otis In Louisville, KY, they never quite made it on the national scene but the name stuck with him. So we took their advice and adopted the name as our own.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
JS: It’s strange which shows become memorable and which ones fade into the noise. Many times it’s the moments before and after a show that can make a memory stand out. One of those is Burg Herzberg Festival 2019. It's as close to the 60’s as we’ve ever seen at a festival, there was a true peace and love vibe which we felt the moment we arrived. The music and performing aspect wasn’t even the best part from my personal perspective…It was meeting a man named Charl Barry from South Africa who sat with us and talked about life and memories he had made at festivals and concerts throughout his life in an unassuming and easygoing manner for the 2 days we were at the festival. He told stories of stealing rides on cattle trains into the next town to pick up the latest records released on vinyl as a youngster with just enough time to run back to the tracks to catch the train back home. He was one of the people I was looking forward to personally telling about our return with the new lineup but he unfortunately passed a few weeks before we made our announcement.
Other shows that stand out.. Playing a castle built in the 13th century in Caerphilly Wales, Ramblin Man Fair in the UK, opening for Wet Willie in Macon, GA and residency shows at the Big House ABB Museum. More recently we played two nights at a festival in Ironton Missouri that will easily become a favorite memory and opening for Blackberry Smoke.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
DM: I think my favorite venue to play at so far is John Browns On The Square in Marion, Illinois. I love the way that room sounds and the people there really seem to appreciate the music. A venue I’d love to play one day is The Baked Potato in LA. I have several memories of first learning to play and listening to some of my drumming role models such as Steve Gadd and Jeff Porcaro play there on several different live albums so it’d be really special to play that room.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
DM: I’d love to do a show with Gov’t Mule, Gary Clark Jr. and Tedeschi Trucks Band. So many of my musical heroes throughout those bands, man it’d be an honor to share a stage with any of them.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Alex Wells (guitar): Anyone starting out in a band, have fun and jam on the music that you and your bandmates enjoy. It's really easy for drama to head in without warning. Just have fun, it's not a competition, you don't have to be the best player in the band. If I had to give advice to myself at that beginning, it would probably be what my Dad told me. He always said to learn as many styles as you can. Every now and then I have to remember this as it's helped me develop into a more rounded player. Even if you don't like the music, there will always be one little thing in that genre that could bring back that flame instead of staying in a rut!
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
AW: Other advice that no one really taught me except wondering why some of my favorite bands separated or just disbanded all together would be that you should communicate with your friends/bandmates. No need for useless drama that could otherwise make you so sick that you don't want to play anymore and play the music that speaks to your heart. That did practically happen to me, I didn't want to play my guitar at all equally as not wanting to be in a band. Somehow the stars aligned just right for me to not throw in the towel.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
BF: When you go through the process of writing and recording a song you never quite know how it will touch people. And that was our experience with ‘Turn To Stone’. We adapted the song lyrically from a personal experience told to us by a friend and musically it was our first venture into channeling Stax & Motown soul elements into our song writing. I always liked the song, but it's always surprised me how many people say “That’s the one I was waiting for all night” or “That song changed my life”. For me, that’s the most rewarding part of all this - having the ability to affect someone's day or life and make a positive influence. It’s an experience that you can’t buy or predetermine.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
BF: Two of my favorite moments in our live show is playing ‘Shake You’ & ‘Home’ both of these songs are structured up to a certain point and by design there is room for improvisation each night. That type of freedom is something the band really thrives on and the crowd is responsive to this element as well. We may play these songs night after night but the jam sections give us a chance to provide a different experience. Request wise we know we can’t leave without ‘Blind Hawg’. ‘Change’ & ‘Rattlesnake’.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
BF: For us the creativity element is so natural and spontaneous. At times it’s hard to get through a rehearsal or sound check without coming up with a new riff or idea! Myself or Alex will sometimes bring a riff or idea in to develop with a preconceived direction and it always takes a different turn because the way we all play together is so unique. So, writing from the floor always produces the greatest result for us. We tend to find inspiration everywhere from music we’re listening to in the van, life experience and the greatest inspiration we find in one another. I’m always more excited about what the band will do with an idea as a whole rather than being focused on my own contribution. Just put the four of us in a room and we’ll do the rest!
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
JS: Sometimes decisions have to be made and everyone doesn’t always see 100% eye to eye in every situation. If there is ever a disagreement it usually comes from lack of clarity and with a few questions and answers it can be resolved…communication is always the remedy. If we understand one another and listen with open minds then there’s really not much that will cause a problem. Mutual respect is also key to any relationship and a band is no different. One thing that makes it easier to reach a consensus is a shared goal and musicians should always create, talk about, and establish a band's goal. Ours is to play rock n roll and have a good time. Write ,record ,release and perform our music to the best of our ability.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
AW: To get a message across in our music varies on experiences, what you're going through. The music should relate to the listener whilst also taking them out of whatever funk they may be in. It certainly has helped me out. Say you had a bad week at work, not necessarily brought on by anything but that it was just bad, being able to listen to that realness or fiction, just to get your emotions out or to just listen and hopefully connect with others would be a dream.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
BF: There’s so many cool things looming on the horizon, we’re headed to the studio in August to hammer out a new single and plenty of shows coming up. We’ll be in some new areas and headed back to see some old friends playing home venues as well. It's a really exciting time for us all the way around!