Interview by Robert Cavuoto
Live Photo Credit: Dhruv Kumar
Sevendust will be releasing their 13th album, Blood & Stone, on October 23rd via Rise Records. They are a band that continues to push the boundaries of their sound, which they have made their own for more than 25 years. Lajon Witherspoon, Clint Lowery, John Connolly, Vince Hornsby, and Morgan Rose have raised the bar with Blood & Stone with songs like “Dying to Live,” “Feel Like Going On,” and “Desperation.” Songs that capture the band’s musical diversity without missing a step of being metal! Their new music fits perfectly alongside their most popular songs that have become the cornerstone of their live performances.
Sevendust is synonymous with power, precision, and perseverance. Throughout their 25 year career, they have shaped, refined, and steadily broadened their style of metal. They continue to power ahead through the changing musical landscape; to deliver a melodic supercharged CD.
I had a fun and fascinating interview with the energetic Lajon Witherspoon about the creation and diversity of the band’s new album, how he was able to power through a cover version of Soundgarden’s song “The Day I Tried to Live,” and what fans can expect from their live streaming concert on October 23rd.
Pre-order for the album can be found here: https://RiseRecords.lnk.to/BloodAndStone
Tickets to the live stream show can be purchased here: https://nocapshows.com/artist?name=sevendust
Robert Cavuoto: I’m glad you are putting out music for the fans during these difficult times. It provides us with a sense of normalcy. Was there any discussion to hold off on releasing the album and to wait for better times?
Lajon Witherspoon: That’s exactly what happened. We were lucky to record this album before the pandemic happened. I don’t think we would have come out with the same album under the stress; of what seems like happened overnight while trying to navigate through life. We had the album done, and then the tour dates to support it got shut down, and we were left are dealing with a whole lot of “what ifs.” So we shut down like everyone else, and we sat. It got to the point that we needed to put something out for our fans as a band, which we call family. How ironic that the Soundgarden songs “The Day I Tried to Live” really was in tune to what we were dealing with. Without having a release date, we decided to put that song out. Things still didn’t change, so we got a release date even though we were asked to wait until 2021. We are not that type of band; we are going to keep putting music out for our family and look to do another album after this!
Robert Cavuoto: I would imagine that when you do tour, you will be doing songs from both albums?
Lajon Witherspoon: [Laughing] That’s a good question, “What are we going to do?” I’m glad you mention that because it’s scary, I think about it every day when I wake up, “What is going to happen in the next steps of our career?” This is our career; it’s not a hobby. This is what we made our life out of, and it’s a scary thing to think about how we are going to make it. A big, big part of that is touring is being in front of people where they want to see you and buy the product and support. What’s going to happen? It makes me pray, and I pray every day.
Robert Cavuoto: This seems to happen every 100 years, and I believe it will eventually get better, so we can go back to normal.
Lajon Witherspoon: A hundred years before, people weren’t knuckleheads and did what they had to do not to infect anyone. They still don’t want to wear a mask. The world is spiking back up, and everybody is worried about their jobs, but musicians and theaters are going to be the last to go back to work! We have to do the right thing so we can get back to normalcy.
Robert Cavuoto: I completely agree! On this album, there are some diverse songs and tempos like on “Dying to Live,” “Feel Like Going On,” and perhaps “Kill Me.” Tell me about the importance of providing those different dimensions to your album, and are you instrumental in refining the songs, so they do work for you as a singer?
Lajon Witherspoon: That’s what we do. I think it’s crazy that we have to go in and paint the same picture on the same canvas each time. I feel that we have done enough albums where you can’t say we are not heavy. I think it would be very silly of us as grown men and artists to stay one avenue. Let’s show them what we got. Let’s give them some heavy stuff, let’s give them some melodic stuff, and let’s put some melody over this stuff. We can do it now; we have enough heavy hitters. I think it’s good to have an album that can tell a story and be diverse. It’s what I wanted to do, and it was great to have our producer Elvis Baskette and his crew to police it at this point in our careers.
Robert Cavuoto: Earlier, you talked about the Soundgarden cover tune. The song stays fairly true to the original. Was there any discussion on the treatment of the songs and whether it was going to be a tribute or reinvent your own version?
Lajon Witherspoon: Good question; Sevendust is not known for doing a lot of covers. We have been in the band for what feels like a million years and thought we should do one, maybe something fun and funny. Morgan suggested, “My Sharona.” I was like no way, absolutely not, I don’t even know what that means [laughing]. Then Elvis, who is like a band member, suggested “The Day I Tried to Live,” and everybody was like hell yeah! I responded, “Who is going to sing it?” They looked at me and said, you’re going to sing it. I was like, no way I can fill the shoes of Chris Cornell’s voice. I was so stressed out about doing the song that I prayed. I decided not to go in there and sing like Chris or try to outdo him because I can’t. I went in there decided to do it the Lajon Witherspoon way because I know how to sing like him [laughing]. We know how to be Sevendust, and that is what we did. We kept true to it. When I went in to sing it, I thought about his legacy, growing up with his music, how it was to see him in concert, and then I thought about, Oh my God, how he passed away. I thought about him as a grown man as I’m around his age, his kids, his wife, his family, and put all that energy into singing the song.
Robert Cavuoto: It a terrific tribute to Chris! I love the guitar phrasing on Sevendust songs; I feel it allows the lyrics and your vocal melodies to soar. How important is that phrasing to Sevendust’s sound, and how instrumental are you in ensuring that the songs breathe?
Lajon Witherspoon: That’s one thing about Sevendust; we still write together. It’s so much fun to be in a band where everyone writes music, and we know each other so well. If anyone needs help to get over a little hump, there will always be someone to help them get over it because someone will always come up with something. It’s always exciting.
Robert Cavuoto: My favorite track was “Desperation” it’s such a Rock & Rolling steamroller of a song; what can you tell me about its creation?
Lajon Witherspoon: I think our best songs come together when we are jamming in the room together. That song came from one of those sessions. There are a few songs that Morgan, John, and I wrote together, and five of those songs are on the album. “Desperation” came together in the studio when we were at our best and focused. We can tell by looking at each other if something is working or something is not working because someone is looking a little weird. That song was created in the room together, feeding off each other at our best. It’s the reason that we are still together. When we get together and write, I feel like we go back in time to when we were kids first starting out. It gives me that energy even after 20 something years. I still get glimpses of us in my head before we had facial hair; no one had grey hair, nobody had kids, and nobody back was hurting [laughing].
Robert Cavuoto: I don’t have the liner note; which song has your biggest imprint on it?
Lajon Witherspoon: Since this album has been pushed back, I removed myself from it and will wait until the listeners have it in their hands before I start to listen to it. I want to listen to it like them on the first day, October 23rd, when it comes out. I want to feel it fresh, which makes it more exciting, so I don’t get tired. It’s something I have always done. So my favorite song on this CD is every one of them. Of course, I’m working on the songs that we will play at the live streaming event on October 23rd.
Robert Cavuoto: After being apart from each other for so long, how will you prepare and rehearse as a band for the show? Do you live close together?
Lajon Witherspoon: We all live a million miles apart from each other. We will all fly in a day or two early at an undisclosed location where we will rehearse and then play the show. We have never been known to rehearse for more than a day. We will get together; we will laugh, tell old stories, and then start jamming – we got this!
Robert Cavuoto: Will you be playing the new album in its entirety, or will you be playing the greatest hits with new songs sprinkled in?
Lajon Witherspoon: Oh my god, I guess at this point, you can call them the greatest hits [laughing]. We will be doing 17 songs, including some of the new ones. It will be a butt load of stuff right in your living room or wherever you are going to watch it.
Robert Cavuoto: Being such a visual and energetic band, will you find it challenging not to have an audience to feed off?
Lajon Witherspoon: I don’t know, you tell me [laughing]? It’s going to be weird! I’m going to look at those cameras and feed off the energy knowing that our beautiful family out there is watching and supporting us. They can stand up in their living room to watch the show – lookout for that lamp and don’t knock your grandmother over [laughing]. It will be different, but it will still have the elements of Sevendust getting down and grooving. No matter what, we will bring it even if it was on the back of a pick-up truck in a Mcdonald’s parking lot. Once we get together and turn on those instruments, it’s going to happen anyway.
Robert Cavuoto: I read that you are working on a solo album. Have you used this lockdown time to get creative and work on some songs?
Lajon Witherspoon: Yes, I have. I’ve been working with Sahaj from the band RA as one of my partners for this solo album. I have an album worth of material, but we want to do four or five more songs and take the studio down to my farmhouse for a week or so to work on them. It’s crazy to be at this point in my career that I say, “I’m looking for a record deal for a solo album,” but there has been a lot of interest in it so far. I can’t wait for people to hear it. If you like Sevendust, then you will like it as well.