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MUSIC: Rejuvenated Sevendust returns to Salt Lake

September 17th, 2013 Posted in Arts and Life

By Paul Christiansen

SALT LAKE CITY — “We’re old enough and we’ve matured to the point where we’ve realized that nothing is forever,” said John Connolly, rhythm guitarist for and one of the founding members of alternative-metal band Sevendust. “But as long as you take care of something, you can get some miles out of it for sure.”

sevendust, John Connolly photo, courtesy Kelly Lloyd PICTUREConnolly and his fellow Sevendust bandmates will take the stage Thursday night at In the Venue in Salt Lake City.

“Honestly, we’ve played Salt Lake so little,” Connolly said. “I don’t know that much about it. I think we’ve only been there once or twice over the past few years. We’ve got a lot of friends in Salt Lake that usually make road trips out to see us when we’re in any of the neighboring states, but it’s exciting to get back there now. We love Salt Lake.”

The members of Sevendust have certainly found longevity since first coming together in 1994, exercising an ability to “take care” of themselves and finding success with several charting albums — most recently with the release of “Black Out the Sun,” the band’s ninth album.  “Black Out the Sun” is Sevendust’s most successful album to date. It reached the No. 1 position on the Billboard Top Hard Music Albums charts during the first week of its release in March.

Before recording “Black Out the Sun” at the end of 2012, Connolly said the band members were in need of a change of pace and the opportunity to “take a break” from Sevendust.

“That’s the thing for us, taking breaks and taking the time off when we got to that point,” he said of the band’s time away that lasted nearly a year. “It gets frustrating. No matter what you do, if you do something too much — it can be your favorite thing on earth — you kind of lose that perspective. Us taking some time off and then hitting the studio, that was our way to kind of hit the reset button.”

In their time together, Connolly said the bandmates have learned the importance of knowing when to get away from each other and how to best read each other, as well as taking time for other things in their lives.

“If you’re pissing somebody off, figure out what you’re doing,” Connolly said. “Honestly, I think we just wanted to moderate everything. It used to be  on the first album cycle you’d hop in the van and you didn’t care about being gone for seven or eight months. But you also didn’t have an eight-year-old daughter, so you’ve got to kind of fit everything into the bigger picture.”

While Connolly didn’t allude to any major turmoil or conflict within the band, he said it’s sometimes important to simply step away from something in order to appreciate it fully.

“How important is the band, really?” he asked. “Well, you’ll know when you don’t have it there for a minute. Then you go ‘All right, you know what, I definitely took it for granted.’ But sometimes you just need to check yourself. So that’s kind of the way we look at our career. It’s like ‘Let’s take care of this because it’s too special for us to piss away for something stupid.'”

Connolly believes the band’s time away was also good for its fans. He said “charging up the fan base and having the band back at a full 100 percent” both fed into each other when the band returned for performances.

“It sounds funny when you tell people,” he said. “But sometimes it’s like ‘Maybe we don’t need to be coming back to your town five or six times in the next year. Maybe we need to give you a break, the same way we need to give ourselves a break. ‘”

During the band’s hiatus, which lasted from fall 2011 until September 2012, most of the members tried to broaden their musical horizons in different side projects. Lead guitarist Clint Lowery and drummer Morgan Rose branched out with their hard rock band Call Me No One, recording and releasing the album “Last Parade” in June 2012. Connolly and bassist Vinnie Hornsby banded together with Scott Phillips, drummer for Alter Bridge and Creed, and Eric Friedman, the former guitarist for Submersed, to form rock supergroup Projected. They released the album “Human” in June 2012 as well.

Connolly said looking at and exploring music through the eyes of a different project only benefitted Sevendust when the members came together in September 2012 to write and record “Black Out the Sun.” The members had learned how to throw the weight of a whole band on themselves individually, and they had learned how to carry that weight.

“It’s a lot easier when you get back with Sevendust and you have the support group of everyone,” Connolly said. “That’s not to say you don’t lean on people when you do a side project, but I think if anything, it taught us some new skills to add to our skillset.

“You always want to bring more to the table for each record — at least I do,” he said. “I know most of us in the band really feel passionately about not doing exactly the same thing every time. I mean, ACDC’s not going to write a different kind of song, and there’s a certain thing about Sevendust that’s very inherent in probably all of our songs. But still, you want to push yourself.”

Working on music not meant for Sevendust helped Connolly to better appreciate his bandmates — specifically vocalist Lajon Witherspoon.

“I’ve always wanted to be a singer, and I never really got to the point where I felt confident enough until I spent some time kind of sitting behind one of the best in the business and taking notes,” Connolly said. “I’ve had quite a few shows up close and personal with Lajon, and it’s cool because I think I have a better understanding and appreciation for what he goes through when we make a record now, just from doing it on my own.  It’s really easy to grab another guitar when you break a string, but if you push yourself vocally you have to take a knee for a minute to let it come back.”

Sevendust plans to begin recording an acoustic album at the start of 2014, inspired by a 14-show run of tour dates the band played during promotion for their 2003 album “Seasons.”

“We wanted to go and do, like, a Storytellers thing but we didn’t want to do the normal Sevendust show,” he said. “We wanted to give something different, so we figured we’d try the acoustic thing and see how it goes. We said, ‘If we ever do that again, let’s actually make it the full deal. Let’s actually have a record to go around it.'”

The band will play an all-acoustic tour — if not multiple tours — centered around the acoustic album after recording completes, Connolly said. A complete track list hasn’t been comprised yet, but fans of the band can expect both new and old songs to be featured on the album.

“We’re talking about doing something along the lines of five or six new songs and probably five or six revisited older songs,” he said.

Connolly is confident for the band’s future, but like he said, “nothing is forever.” He said the acoustic album and accompanying tour could push the band to its limits as it morphs from a metal behemoth into a softer, more intimate entity.

“We love doing the full electric thing, but the acoustic thing puts out a different vibe,” he said. “We’re just going to play it by ear, one record at a time.”


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