The Atlanta rockers go acoustic on their new "Time Travelers & Bonfires" album. "We went in full guns blazin', man"
Sevendust, frontman Lajon Witherspoon points out, "is an electric band." But a decade of warm feelings for "Southside Double-Wide," the Atlanta hard rockers' live acoustic album, planted the seeds for the new "Time Travelers & Bonfires" studio set.
"People liked ('Southside Double-Wide') so much and have asked for so many years for us to do it again that we had a meeting and said, 'Hmm, why don't we do an acoustic album and see what happens," Witherspoon tells Billboard about the PledgeMusic-funded album-DVD combo, which comes out April 15. But the presence of electric guitars and a full-fledged production make "Time Travelers...," which the group recorded during January at Architekt Studios in Butler, N.J., more than a standard unplugged endeavor.
"We went in full guns blazin', man," Witherspoon says. "It was serious work. It was a serious project. We wanted to come different and bring the different sound and still have that acoustic element there but give it some salt, too, and keep it in that Sevendust vein that we're still gonna be able to have a good time and stand up and jump around and not do it in the same vein people are normally used to."
"Time Travelers..." mixes six re-recorded Sevendust favorites chosen by fans ("Gone," "Denial," "Trust," "Crucified," "Karma" and "Black") with a half-dozen new songs written specifically for the project. "We didn't go in with any material. We wrote songs while we were there, and that's what's the magic was about this," Witherspoon says. "We'd go in the studio and work from 12 noon to 12 midnight every day except Saturday, so you can imagine a lot of work got done." The quintet kept two studios going and ideas flowing ("It was like a busy beehive," Witherspoon says) and was happy to take material such as the new "Bonfire" into previously uncharted areas. "I remember saying, 'Is there a way we can give that more of country twang?' " Witherspoon says, "and Clint (Lowery) did the 'bah-wah-wah-wah' on his guitar and we got excited and were like, 'Omigod, that's exactly what it is!' That was a special day."
Sevendust enjoyed the PledgeMusic aspect of the project, too, according to Witherspoon, getting 93 percent of its goal during the first 24 hours of the campaign's launch in November. Well-monied fans were able to pledge $10,000 for in-home acoustic concerts, while others could secure lunch with the band or signed lyric sheets. "We'd seen so many bands using this Pledge thing, I just said, 'Yknow, what, guys, it'd be awesome to see if we could do this and take it out of the machine per se and see what would happen,' " Witherspoon recalls. "It amazes us. We felt like it was our family and friends out there helping us to do this; it's their album as much as it is ours, and that's what's cool about it. I can't wait to do this again."
At the moment, however, the group is deep into its acoustic-flavored An Evening With Sevendust Tour, which is currently booked into late June with more dates -- some of which will be in Europe and some of which will be full-scale electric shows -- on tape for later in the summer. Sevendust is also celebrating the 20th anniversary of its formation this year, which Witherspoon says is "just crazy, man. To still be in this music business and the industry and have people still come out and see us, it's incredible. It's a blessing for me to be able to say I've had this job for this long. It hasn't always been a dream. There's been a couple nightmares here and there. But I wouldn't want to do anything different."