Saturday, June 29 at 7:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM)
Grammy Award–winning Jazz & Bluegrass Fusion
The 4-time Grammy Award–winning Béla Fleck and the Flecktones is a jazz/bluegrass fusion American band that consists of four powerhouse artists: banjoist/composer/bandleader Béla Fleck, pianist/harmonica player Howard Levy, bassist Victor Wooten, and percussionist/Drumitarist Roy “Futureman” Wooten. Their career spans 28 years and has produced hits like “The Sinister Minister,” “Flight of the Cosmic Hippo,” and “Big Country.”
Groundbreaking banjoist/composer/bandleader Béla Fleck has reconvened the original ‘Béla Fleck & The Flecktones’, the extraordinary initial line-up of his incredible combo. Rocket Science marks the first recording by the first fab four Flecktones in almost two decades, with pianist/harmonica player Howard Levy back in the fold alongside Fleck, bassist Victor Wooten, and percussionist/ Drumitarist Roy “Futureman” Wooten. Far from being a wistful trip back in time, the album sees the Grammy Award-winning quartet creating some of the most forward thinking music of their long, storied career. While all manners of genres come into play – from classical and jazz to bluegrass and African music to electric blues and Eastern European folk dances – the result is an impossible to pigeonhole sound all their own, a meeting of musical minds that remains, as ever, utterly indescribable. Simply put, it is The Flecktones, the music made only when these four individuals come together.
“All the different things I do come together to make a new ‘hybrid’ Béla’,” Fleck says. “Everybody else in the group is doing the same things, collaborating with different people, and pursuing a wide variety of ideas, so when we come together and put all of our separate soups into one big stockpot it turns into a very diverse concoction.” Fleck first united the Flecktones in 1988, ostensibly for a single performance on PBS’ Lonesome Pine Special. From the start, there was a special kinship between the four musicians, a bond forged in a mutual passion for creativity and artistic advancement. Three breakthrough albums and a whole lot of live dates followed before Levy decided to move on in late 1992.
“I wanted to do other things and there was no time to do anything else,” he explains. “We were probably playing 150 shows a year at that time – maybe more – and it was just too much for me. I’ve never, before or since, done any one thing that much!” Béla Fleck & the Flecktones persevered, playing as a trio and with many special guests, before saxophonist Jeff Coffin joined the ensemble. A succession of acclaimed albums and innumerable live performances continued to earn the band a fervent fan following around the world, not to mention five Grammy Awards in a range of categories.
Still, by 2008, the band had grown somewhat restive and embarked on a temporary hiatus. The seeds of change began with what Futureman calls the “paintbrushes of fate” as Coffin was invited to join Dave Matthews Band after the 2008 death of saxophonist LeRoi Moore. Fleck encouraged him to accept, believing the decision would rejuvenate both DMB and the Flecktones themselves. “We were ready for something different to happen,” he says. “We’d been in a kind of holding pattern. We had the same line-up for so many years that it was becoming ‘normal’, we were all drifting into outside things for new musical invigoration, and we were taking more and more time off between albums and tours.”
Each member had been quite busy with a variety of successful projects – including: Bela’s duet collaborations with Chick Corea, a trio with Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer (sometimes with the Detroit Symphony) and his expansive adventures in African music, documented in the acclaimed 2009 film and CD, Throw Down Your Heart. Victor’s solo band tours, camps, recording sessions, clinics and CD releases (including an incredible collaborative project with Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller called SMV, which yielded the album ‘Thunder’), and Future Man’s creation of his amazing Black Mozart project, and continued developement of new instruments.
Still, all agree that Flecktones music was beckoning them home. The band, which had always maintained a warm relationship with the gifted pianist/harmonica player, recruited Levy for a 2009 tour of the US and Europe, an experience he describes as “extremely invigorating and very energizing.” “It felt just like it did back when we first started playing together,” says Wooten. “Just with a lot less hair.” Upon the tour’s conclusion, the four musicians agreed to further explore the band’s possibilities, sensing what Futureman calls, “an opportunity to revisit the original scene of the crime.” “There were a lot of unfinished aspects to this line-up of the band,” Fleck notes, “in that it stopped right when we were peaking creatively.” For Fleck, Levy’s return enables the Flecktones to follow through on the original concept of a band “where each person was reinventing their instruments, where every one of us was a kind of mutant.”
“There’s a special thing that happens when the four of us get together and play,” notes Levy. “We all have the same attitude of trying to do things that we haven’t done before and coincidentally, no one else has either.” One thing was certain, however. The ‘original’ Flecktones were resolute that their reunion would not be rooted in nostalgia. The goal from the get-go was to drive the music forward to places where it might’ve progressed had things gone differently.
“I didn’t want to just get together to play the old music,” Fleck says. “That’s not what the Flecktones are about. Everybody’s full of life and ideas and creativity. I was intrigued by what we could do that we had never done before.” “Everybody’s still advancing on their instruments,” adds Futureman. “Everyone has grown over these 18 years, so it was an opportunity to realize some of what we were trying to do in the beginning.”
In early 2010, Fleck and Levy first began working on new material, teaming up for collaborative writing sessions at Levy’s home in Evanston, Illinois. Fleck was determined to establish a more inclusive environment as far as composition, to give Levy a greater stake in the writing process. “We hashed out a whole bunch of ideas together,” Levy says. “He would play things that he was working on, and I would go back into my memory banks and say, ‘I have this incomplete fragment that might work well with the band,’ or we would just improvise things together. It was inspiring, I think, for both of us.”
Their compositional collaboration resulted in a remarkable suite comprised of “Joyful Spring” and “Life In Eleven.” The former was originally conceived of by Levy while in his early 20s, while the idea for “Life In Eleven” had its genesis in the Flecktones’ first incarnation. The band had long wanted to explore one of Levy’s passions, the Bulgarian dance rhythm called Gankino or Krivo. “Almost 12,” a piece Victor and Bela wrote after Howard left the band had earned the Flecktones a “Best Instrumental Composition” Grammy in 1998. Still, the goal of writing a Flecktone piece – with Howard – using the unusual 11/16 or 11/8 time signature was, to Fleck’s mind, “unfinished business.”
“When we got together, the 11 idea came back up and Howard came out with something very Bulgarian,” he says. “I said, ‘It’s really great but it’s really fast and jumpy and complex. What if, halfway through, we dropped into a gospel 11/4 feel that was so natural, that you didn’t even notice it was in 11?’ It was an idea I’d had in my mind for some time, a way of playing something in 11 that didn’t confuse new 11 listeners, due to it’s complexity”
Songwriting was, of course, not limited to Fleck and Levy. Futureman’s solo composition “The Secret Drawer” serves as preamble to Levy’s evocative “Sweet Pomegranates,” and Wooten brought “Like Water”, which Bela helped to complete, which stands as a majestic representation of his flowing, pianistic approach to the bass. For his part, Fleck composed a number of new pieces while also delving into his back pages for “Earthling Parade” and “Storm Warning,” a track that had been a highlight of his live sets when touring with Stanley Clarke and Jean-Luc Ponty. Though he had not previously considered either composition for the Flecktones, the new line-up inspired him to give them a second look.
“Those pieces now seemed more intrigueing – with the original line-up,” Fleck says. “Not that they hadn’t been cool in other settings, but with Howard in the picture we could go quite deep into the complicated zone while still keeping them earthy and warm.” In September, the Flecktones met at Fleck’s home studio in Nashville for the first of two rounds of sessions. Where the band had customarily road-tested new material, working out the kinks in live performance, this time they did not have that luxury.
“We were writing some of the more complex pieces as we were laying them down,” Levy says. “But all of us have done so much recording outside of the group, where we’re used to seeing compositions take shape in the studio, that we were all comfortable with the process.” “We had to be very aware,” Fleck says, “because we were making final decisions almost from the start. But I think it yielded an improvised quality, an intensity, to the record. It was like, ‘Let’s make some good decisions and then commit to them.'”
In many ways, the album’s sound centers on the return of Levy’s piano and chromatically played diatonic harmonica, taking full advantage of the new melodic designs each brought to the Flecktones’ sonic palette. Known as “The Man With Two Brains” for his uncanny ability to play both instruments simultaneously, Levy has built a remarkably diverse resume over the past twenty years, including solo and session work, membership in Trio Globo and Chévere de Chicago, collaborations with classical violinist Fox Fehling, and founding Balkan Samba Records and the online Howard Levy Harmonica School. The equally restless Fleck hails Levy as “an incendiary player” who by his very nature forces the band out of their comfort zone.
“When we play together, Victor, Futureman, and I all have to step up our game,” Fleck says, “because Howard is going to throw something unexpected at us, which in certain ways, puts us in an uncomfortable zone, but due to that, we have to push through – into our higher selves.” While prior Flecktones collections have often featured inventive and innovative instrumentation, this time out the band opted to stick to the basics. Fleck plays an assortment of banjos, mostly vintage, though an electric Deering Crossfire can be heard on “Prickly Pear” and a prototype 10-string banjo is featured on “Joyful Spring.” For his part, Wooten largely bypassed his famed assortment of bass effects, noting that the player is what truly matters.
“In my mind, the instrument is there to allow the musician to feel something and to express themselves,” Wooten says. “The music doesn’t come from the instrument, it comes from the musician. Whatever instrument allows you to express yourself the way you want to at that moment is the one you should play.”
That said, Futureman took the occasion to unveil a new prototype Drumitar, his MIDI-based device that allows him to trigger samples using his fingers. A central element of the Flecktones sound, the first version of the notorious instrument was on its last legs after more than two decades. More significantly, new advances in technology allowed for the creation of a Drumitar more in line with the drummer’s vision, featuring better dynamics and the ability to record his own spectrum of drum samples.
“Twenty years later, the fruit is really ripe,” Futureman says. “There are things that I was trying to do back then but the sounds just weren’t good enough. Now it’s actually swinging the way I always wanted it to swing.” For many Flecktones fans, the return of the original line-up allows a chance to see a band that many had never gotten to witness before. Indeed, a certain segment of the band’s base discovered them during the Jeff Coffin era and may not even be familiar with Levy’s membership.
“There are people who don’t remember the very beginning of the Flecktones,” Futureman says. “It’s like people that started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and never got to meet Captain Kirk. So here we go, the original crew of the Enterprise coming together on a new mission.”
Visionary and vibrant as anything in their already rich canon, Rocket Science feels more like a new beginning than simply the culmination of an early chapter. Where the band goes from here remains undetermined, but all four members agree that the promise of Béla Fleck & the Original Flecktones has yet to be fulfilled. “We’re going to have to have this experience together and see how everybody likes it,” Fleck says. “I know that we haven’t even come close to exhausting the possibilities with this record, but we sure went deeper than we ever had before.”
with special guest Mason Ramsey
Saturday, July 13 at 7:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM)
The Eli Young Band delivers an organic, live-show focused on their unique modern Country sound deeply rooted in Texas music.
The ELI YOUNG BAND has always been unique in modern Country music – a true band of brothers who play their own instruments, write their own songs and cling fast to their Texas roots. They’d even go so far as to call themselves “misfits,” but with their fourth major label album, FINGERPRINTS (The Valory Music Co.), they’re finally embracing what makes them different once and for all.
“With 17 years of experience comes a little bit of wisdom and freedom in knowing who you are,” says lead singer Mike Eli. “And what you’re really good at.”
Although their sound has evolved over time, what they’re good at has always been the same – organic, live-show focused Country dripping with authenticity and perfected in clubs, amphitheaters and stadiums from coast to coast.
Eli founded the band with guitarist James Young, bassist Jon Jones and drummer Chris Thompson at the University of North Texas in 2000, building a grass-roots fanbase that propelled each of their previous three albums into the Top 5 of Billboard’s Country Albums chart, with 2014’s 10,000 TOWNS bowing at No. 1.
Three No. 1 singles gave the band an edgy, romantically-charged identity (“Crazy Girl,” “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and “Drunk Last Night”). Their stable of hits collected Platinum and Multi-Platinum certifications that lead to Grammy and CMA Award nominations, Billboard Awards and an ACM trophy for Song of the Year (“Crazy Girl”). All of these accolades combined with their loyal fanbase and successful touring have resulted in over 500 million streams of their career catalogue.
Confident in their soulful, hearts-on-fire brand of Country, the group headed back into the studio to co-produce FINGERPRINTS alongside Ross Copperman and Jeremy Stover. Eight of the 11 new tracks were penned by the band members themselves. They’ve returned to a live-show-first mentality, trading in studio tricks for the “meat and potatoes” of a touring band; ringing guitars, driving bass lines, thundering drums and heartfelt, genuine vocals.
“There were so many organic sounds on those first records, and you can hear a lot of that in this album,” says Eli. “But mostly, I think it’s about passion and soul and believe-ability.”
Co-writing with some of Nashville’s hottest hit makers like Ashley Gorley, Lori McKenna, Ryan Hurd and Shane McAnally, that honesty is paired top-notch song craft and vivid imagery.
The album’s FINGERPRINTS title comes from a fist-pumping anthem about a smooth romantic criminal, but its meaning invokes the band’s quest to unmask themselves. No two fingerprints are the same, and their newest collection represents the most personal music they’ve ever made.
“So many of the songs we were writing and connecting with felt personal,” Eli continues. “So many songs came from a place of passion, and something I just really wanted to say.”
New single “Skin & Bones” is a prime example. A tender, epic love song built on real-life devotion and decorated with a dash of Tejano flair, it’s a direct reflection of Eli’s enduring love for his wife, Kacey.
“Walking into the writing room with Phil Barton and Lori McKenna was such a treat,” he explains. “I felt in my gut we were gonna walk out of that room with a special song, and it turns out we did. My wife and I have been together for a lot of years now, and there comes a point where so much of who you are is intertwined and connected. You sometimes lose that line of where they end and you begin.”
Meanwhile, the band was keenly aware of longtime fans’ thirst for “old school” EYB, and their calls on social media led to one of the project’s most nostalgic and heartwarming standouts, “Old Songs.” A feel-good anthem about days – and tunes – gone by, the song celebrates happy memories in a way that harkens back to their first Gold single, “Always the Love Songs.”
“When somebody says, ‘We love the old stuff,’ so much of that is built around the memories that come along with the old songs,” Eli says. “When you hear one, they come back right away.”
Backed by harmonica and perfect for a campfire sing along, Carolyn Dawn Johnson provides gorgeous backup vocals on the track, as she does on another laid-back, life-is-good ballad – “God Love the Rain.” But the band was also excited to revisit its rocking side.
“I think we pushed ourselves to dial it up a notch,” Young says, flashing a playful grin. “Maybe that’s why a lot of this reminds us of our earlier days.”
Songs like “Drive,” “Once” and “The Days I Feel Alone” will energize established fans and newcomers alike, while the clever “Never Land” offers a soaring fairy-tale head fake.
An irresistible groove defines “Never Again,” and even songs the band did not write – of which there are only three – feel incredibly true to them ... just like some of their biggest hits. “Heart Needs a Break” is so catchy it can’t be ignored.
“The first time you hear it, you’re singing along,” says Eli. “We were lucky with ‘Never Again,’ ‘Heart Needs a Break’ and ‘Saltwater Gospel.’ We knew right away that we needed to record those, and songs like that seem to end up like ‘Crazy Girl.’ They’re undeniable.”
What’s also undeniable is the band’s unique connection with fans. Even through sonic evolutions and changes to the Country industry, their obsessive following has continued to grow as “Saltwater Gospel” became one of the best reactions from Highway listeners all year on SiriusXM. And that they put on one of the best loved liveshows around – the very fingerprint of the Eli Young Band itself.
Maybe that makes them misfits, but so be it. This is who they are – some of the last true brothers of the road.
“We’ve been through everything together,” Eli says. “We’ve had this inner support system even before we had families of our own, and I think we still turn to that. Whatever the road is in front of us, our friendship will always be the priority.”
This summer, the road will take them from California to Maine, headlining shows with a set of brand new – but classic sounding – Eli Young Band tunes. And it will likely be just as much fun for them as it is for fans.
“We still look at each other as college buddies – not business partners,” says Young. “We get to share our lives with each other and we’ve done some really cool stuff, and our music has been the greatest byproduct of that.”
Friday, July 19 at 7:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM)
80s Powerhouse Rock
80s Powerhouse Rock Sensation Night Ranger returns to the Sweetwater Performance Pavilion for an epic night of rock-and-roll greatness! Their impressive rock catalog includes legendary hits such as "Sister Christian", "Don't Tell Me You Love Me", "When You Close Your Eyes", "(You Can Still) Rock In America" and more.
With more than 17 Million albums sold worldwide, over 3500 live performances, and a radio audience that exceeds 1 Billion. Night Ranger has both epitomized and transcended the arena rock sound and style well beyond that era. With multiple songs that have significantly impacted popular culture, Night Ranger continue to expand their ever-growing fan-base. The band is proof that powerful songs, plus accomplished musicians is the perfect formula for continued success.
Night Ranger have earned widespread acclaim, that includes multi-platinum and gold album status while leaving their indelible mark on the music charts with a string of best-selling albums (Dawn Patrol, Midnight Madness, 7 Wishes, Big Life and Man In Motion). Their popularity is fueled by an impressive string of instantly recognizable hit singles and signature album tracks, including legendary titles such as "Sister Christian", "Don't Tell Me You Love Me", "When You Close Your Eyes", the anthemic "(You Can Still) Rock In America", along with "Sentimental Street", "Goodbye", "Sing Me Away", and "Four in the Morning".
Over the years, the band's music has made notable contributions to and been featured in many different areas of media and popular culture. The band was one of the first big "video" bands on MTV, with over ten number one hit videos. Night Ranger songs can be heard in TV Shows like, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, American Dad, Glee, Grey's Anatomy, Parks & Recreation. The band have also had music featured in video games such as, Rock Band, Guitar Hero and Grand Theft Auto, plus hit Broadway musical Rock of Ages, the Oscar-Nominated film Boogie Nights, and other feature films such as Friday the 13th, Teachers, Sixteen Candles, and The Secret of My Success. Night Ranger can also be heard throughout JBL’s "Hear The Truth" brand campaign.
Night Ranger is Jack Blades (bass, vocals), Kelly Keagy (drums, vocals), Brad Gillis (lead & rhythm guitars), Eric Levy (keyboards) and Keri Kelli (lead & rhythm guitars).
Thursday, July 25 at 7:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM)
70s & 80s Party Rock Cover Band
The Yacht Rock Revue is everything the late ‘70s and early ‘80s should’ve been: massive sing-along soft rock hits, tight bell-bottom jeans, impeccable musicianship, polyester shirts, glorious vocal harmonies, sunglasses at night, breezy dancing and sax ... lots of sax. It’s pure Escape (The Piña Colada Song).
The Yacht Rock Revue is everything the late ‘70s and early ‘80s should’ve been: massive sing-along soft rock hits, tight bell-bottom jeans, impeccable musicianship, polyester shirts, glorious vocal harmonies, sunglasses at night, breezy dancing and sax ... lots of sax. “They’re a trip down memory lane that skips all the bad neighborhoods,” according to Robbie Dupree. It’s pure Escape (The Piña Colada Song.)
From Hall & Oates, Kenny Loggins and Michael Jackson to one-hit wonders like “Brandy’” and “Baby Come Back,” YRR brings stadium rock energy to the music you love from your dentist’s office. Hundreds of songs - many of which would be the original artist’s encore - keep audiences guessing what’s next. But they know every word, and Toto’s “Africa” has never sounded so good.
The Yacht Rock Revue has defined and popularized a genre that was a fringe guilty pleasure when the group played its first show as a basement bar band in 2007. Fast forward to 2018 and it’s just like quinoa - a few years ago nobody knew about it but now all the girls love it. Yacht Rock has a dedicated SiriusXM channel and YRR sold out Atlanta’s 6,500-seat Chastain Park Amphitheatre. A national tour partnership with Live Nation and the SiriusXM Yacht Rock Channel has the Yacht Rock Revue primed to reach a record number of soccer moms in 2019.
YRR has gone far beyond the “tribute” category by regularly joining their heroes on stage: John Oates, Eddie Money, Little River Band, Pablo Cruise, Gary Wright, Robbie Dupree, Matthew Wilder, Elliot Lurie of Looking Glass, Juice Newton, Ambrosia, Starship, Bobby Kimball of Toto, Player, Jeff Carlisi of .38 Special, Steve Augeri of Journey, Al Stewart, Albert Bouchard of Blue Oyster Cult, Rick Derringer, Walter Egan, Bill Champlin of Chicago and Denny Laine of Wings have all played their hits with YRR.
Yacht Rock Revue has set sail on music cruises (of course) with Train, Weezer, Kid Rock, Kiss, Heart and the Zac Brown Band. From the Playboy Mansion to the NCAA Final Four, Santorini to Costa Rica, Cabo San Lucas to London - these guys are the captains of smooth, internationally.
YRR has won accolades ranging from “Best Place to Get Drunk With Your Dad” to “Best Overall Music Act in Atlanta” to “Best Place to Start an Extramarital Affair,” and has been name-dropped by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Pitchfork, the Guardian UK, Spin, TimeOut New York, Billboard, MTV.com, and (probably) your mom at her last cocktail party.
with special guest Royal Tusk
Wednesday, August 7 at 7:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM)
Rock 'n' roll legend, lead guitarist of Guns 'N' Roses, and acclaimed solo artist, Slash is bringing his Living The Dream '19 tour featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators to the Sweetwater Performance Pavilion!
It’s been four years since we last heard new music from SLASH. But the guitarist has hardly spent that time relaxing—far from it, in fact. First, there was an 18-month, 20-country world tour in support of the second SLASH FT MYLES KENNEDY & THE CONSPIRATORS album, 2014’s World On Fire, which saw the band play to packed houses everywhere from the U.S. to the U.K., Europe to Australia, South America to Southeast Asia. Then, almost immediately after the tour wrapped in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve, 2015, it was announced to the world that the guitarist, after roughly two decades away, would be rejoining Guns N’ Roses in an historic reunion with Axl Rose and Duff McKagan. Since then, SLASH and his Gn’R band mates have crisscrossed the globe on multiple arena and stadium jaunts, playing to millions of fans the world over on what has been a record-breaking tour.
But even with all the reunion activity, SLASH’s band was never far from his mind. “I always planned on getting back together with the Conspirators as soon as possible, and continuing on with what we started,” he says. Which brings us to LIVING THE DREAM, the new full-length offering from the group—which, in addition to SLASH and singer KENNEDY, also includes bassist TODD KERNS, drummer BRENT FITZ and, making his recorded debut after several years of live work with The Conspirators, rhythm guitarist FRANK SIDORIS. The album, their third overall following World on Fire and 2012’s Apocalyptic Love, is possibly the band’s strongest collective statement to date. From the barnstorming, high-octane riffery of opener “Call of the Wild” to the wah-drenched funk rock of “Read Between the Lines,” the haunting majesty of “Lost Inside the Girl” to the swaggering deep-in-the-pocket Seventies grooves of “Serve You Right,” the stately, quasi-classical melodic themes of “The Great Pretender” to the massive hooks and anthemic, singalong choruses of first single “Driving Rain,” LIVING THE DREAM packs a compendium of sounds and styles into 12 tightly arranged and sharply executed tracks, all of it shot through with SLASH’s trademark electrifying and dynamic riffing and high-wire, lyrical solos.
“It’s a natural progression from World on Fire, for sure,” SLASH says of the new album. “I think it has a little more diversity—some of the ideas are not really what I would consider to be predictable.” At the same time, he adds, “The record is also a bit more structured, with songs that are shorter and more to the point than last time.”
KENNEDY concurs. “I don’t know that there are as many of those sort of ‘epic sonic journeys’ that we took on the last record,” he says. “Although there are songs that take you on a trip, like ‘Lost Inside the Girl.’ But overall a lot of these songs—things like ‘My Antidote,’ ‘Read Between the Lines,’ ‘Slow Grind’--they’re pretty precise statements, and they definitely fall in line with the type of sound we’re known for. There’s a certain type of sonic calling card that we’ve developed over the years, and you can hear it front and center on this record.”
“It’s just a snapshot of where we’re at,” SLASH continues, summing up LIVING THE DREAM. “Which is what we’re going for with each new album—to be present in what we’re doing and come up with something that is representative of and reflects this moment in time.”
For SLASH and the band, this moment in time has been unlike any in their past. The seeds of what would become LIVING THE DREAM were first planted back on the World on Fire tour, when SLASH began bringing in material for the band to work on at soundchecks.
“Historically, the way we write is we’ll be on the road and I’ll have my guitar with me, coming up with ideas sitting in the hotel room or in the dressing room or even sometimes on the bus,” SLASH explains. “When I have something, I’ll bring it to soundcheck and I’ll start jamming it out with Frank and Todd and Brent. Then Myles will start humming ideas into the recording apparatus on his telephone, and that’s how the nucleus of these songs will start.”
“I can tell you that’s the way it happened for some of the early songs, like ‘Lost Inside the Girl’ and ‘Serve You Right,’” KENNEDY says. “We were touring Europe in 2015, and at soundchecks Slash would start playing one of those riffs and everybody would jump in. I remember grabbing my phone and singing some ideas into it right then and there, just being really excited about those two tracks. And at that point there were pieces of a few others, like ‘The Great Pretender’ and ‘The One You Loved is Gone.’ So we were definitely embarking on the songwriting process for a new album.”
The plan, according to SLASH, “was that we would finish up the World on Fire tour, take a little break and then go right into preproduction and get started on a new record.” Which, of course, was not quite what happened. Instead, the Guns N’ Roses reunion was announced, and SLASH went directly into rehearsals with that band. As Gn’R hit the road, KENNEDY reconvened with his other group, Alter Bridge, for an album and tour, and eventually began writing and recording his solo debut (Year of the Tiger). Any work on a new Conspirators record was put on indefinite hold.
It wasn’t until December of 2017, in fact, that SLASH, with GN’R on a break, returned to L.A. and resumed writing in earnest for The Conspirators. In addition to the songs that had already been worked up, he used his time at home to write a few new ones, among them the slinky rocker “Slow Grind” and the track that would become the album closer, “Boulevard of Broken Hearts.”
Then, in January of this year, SLASH and The Conspirators finally came back together in a rehearsal space in L.A. to pick up where they had left off years earlier. “I wouldn’t even call what we did rehearsals,” SLASH says. “It was really about just getting back into shape after being apart for so long.” But even as the band was finding its groove again, the new songs kept coming. The barnstorming “Mind Your Manners,” powered by a turbocharged SLASH riff and a double-time rhythm, was written on the very first day of rehearsal. “I just sort of came up with it on the spot to give us something to warm up with,” SLASH says. “It was the very first thing we jammed on. And from there we fell back into revisiting the old songs, polishing them up and getting the arrangements together. Then we rehearsed everything and jumped into the studio and started recording.”
The LIVING THE DREAM sessions, which commenced in late March, saw the band reunite with producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette, who also helmed World on Fire. But while the producer stayed the same, the studio this time changed, with SLASH opting to move operations to his newly active recording facility, Snakepit Studios. “At some point a couple years ago I bought a small residential property in L.A. and put together a rehearsal space and studio,” he explains. “It has a 16-track digital board, and we did pretty much everything there except the drums. It’s just a very homey and cool and cozy spot.”
“The environment there is definitely ‘SLASH,’” says KENNEDY of Snakepit Studios. “It’s got a lot of the things that over the years I’ve come to equate with him—dinosaurs, pinball machines, photos of guitar players like Rory Gallagher and Keith Richards on the walls, stuff like that. It’s a vibey hang. It was good for the creative process.”
To demonstrate just how good for the creative process it was, KENNEDY points to the lyrics to one new song, “Serve You Right,” which he says were partly inspired by a painting hanging on the bathroom wall at the Snakepit--“a picture of this kind of devilish nun,” he says. “That’s the only way I can describe it.”
“It’s actually a masturbating nun,” SLASH clarifies, then laughs. “I’ve never talked to Myles about it, but the lyrics he came up with for that song, which are insanely suggestive for him, I knew they were influenced by that picture.”
Dinosaurs and devilish nuns aside, the sessions at the Snakepit went quick. Recording was completed by early May, at which point the album was mixed and mastered…and then held, as SLASH headed back on the road with G’NR for a European tour. “That was definitely a weird feeling,” SLASH says. “I’ve never done a record where I’ve had to wait four or five months for it to come out after we recorded it.” He laughs. “Now I understand what actors feel like after they finish shooting a movie…”
As it stands, that pause will be the last extended break for The Conspirators for the foreseeable future. The band will be heading out on the road in September for what will be the beginning of a lot of touring across a lot of the world. “We’re going to do the U.S. this fall, and then I’ll be out with Guns N’ Roses in in November and December,” SLASH says. “Then we’ll get together and do Europe, and after that it’ll be South America, Australia…we’ll try to hit as many places as we can. Because as much as I enjoy the writing and recording process, when I’m creating music it’s always with the intent that it should be played in front of an audience. For me, that’s always the endgame--to get out there with the band and perform the music live. That’s what I love the most.”
You could say, then, that SLASH is, in fact, living the dream. But he’ll only laugh in response.
“Well, you know, the album title is actually meant to be a sarcastic statement about the world we’re living in at the moment,” he explains. “I never wax political on records, but it was just something that came to mind—this tongue-in-cheek thing directed at social political events across the globe.”
That said, SLASH continues, “If you do take it in the literal sense, then, yeah, making records and touring and getting up onstage every day and playing music with these guys, that is the essence of living the dream. And that’s why I was always dead-set on getting back together with this band and continuing to do this. And I always knew it would happen. Because The Conspirators story is not over yet.”