It seems a little hard to believe that Sevendust has been around for over 20 years, because the band has remained vital to the hard-rock scene.
Their live shows are renowned for being high-energy experiences, and their music, melodic and metallic, is stunningly fresh. The group’s latest album, All I See Is War (Rise Records), is a heavy and soulful renewal of the members’ resolve to always, in the words of frontman Lajon Witherspoon, “bring the heat.”
The band isn’t just beloved by their fans. They started the second leg of a U.S. tour today (Feb. 6) as part of a bill — Tremonti, Cane Hill, Lullwater and Kirra — that also contains some admirers. Cane Hill vocalist Elijah Witt, who loves the group as well, says, “We’re stoked to be on tour with some of our idols. Sevendust are so sick.” Tremonti leader Mark Tremonti (who’s also lead guitarist of Creed and Alter Bridge), adds, “Sevendust are some of my oldest friends in the business and one of the best live and most influential bands out there.”
One of the main reasons Sevendust is so highly regarded is Witherspoon. His voice is one of the greatest in rock: a powerful roar tempered with a soulful rasp that, at times, recalls Terence Trent D’Arby. Songs like “Black,” “Denial,” “Enemy,” “Unraveling” and “Decay” became hits not only because of their punishing grooves, but due to Witherspoon’s passionate tenor.
Witherspoon spoke to Billboard from Houston right before the first night of the tour and just after returning from ShipRocked, an annual rock-themed cruise that features over 20 bands (this year’s lineup also included Papa Roach, Motionless in White, Nonpoint, Nothing More and Skindred). “Still feeling a little bit wobbly, but looking forward to this tour and ready to jam,” says Witherspoon. Of ShipRocked, he observes, “We have fun. We bring the wives. We play twice: once on the top deck and once in the theater. It’s a bit of a vacation and just a great party.”
When All I See Is War was released in May 2018, the album was streamed in its entirety on YouTube, an interesting choice in an age of stealing music and YouTube-to-mp3 converters that are easily found online. But Witherspoon argues that it’s an imperative: “These days, you have to have your finger on the pulse of social media. It draws the music listener in as a viewer to see videos that you have because you don’t see them on MTV anymore. YouTube is a great avenue.” As far as potentially losing revenue goes, he laughs in response. “Well, I don’t have any money in the first place, so why should I start now? But at least the people are getting the music and enjoying it and coming to these shows.”
When asked how fans are responding to the new material, he is excited. “The reaction has been great. And we’re so happy with it. This album is driving, and the fans have really embraced it: We’re playing the new songs, and they’re singing ’em back. So it has been a great response. We were in the U.K. not too long ago, and the response was great there, so we’re really excited about it.”
Witherspoon and his bandmates also were excited to work with producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette (Alter Bridge, Tremonti, Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators) on All I See Is War because “he was able to bring a lot to the table and really hone in on us. He said, ‘Let’s see what you got, but let’s not get too crazy’ … Not only is he a great player, he’s a great writer, his melodies are great, and he’s a friend. He’s a brother of ours, so that made it easier for us.”
The album was recorded at Baskette’s home studio, Studio Barbarosa, in Gotha, Fla. “We were the first band to live in his house with him. So it was great to wake up and have breakfast and do whatever you might do and then go straight into the studio,” recalls Witherspoon. “And just to watch him work and the way he puts everything together. It was incredible, and I enjoyed every day going into the studio to sing. Not saying I haven’t felt like that before, but this time it was really fun.”
Witherspoon says that before entering the studio with Baskette, Sevendust had written over 50 songs. “We had so much time off, which was great — we got to go home and be fathers and husbands, and go to the daddy/daughter dances — but when you’re away from it for a little bit, the creative juices are just flowing.” The band picked 12 songs for the album, but it recorded “a few more than 12. We still have a lot of stuff in the pocket.” When asked if there is a new album from those sessions to follow this one, the singer says with a laugh, “Absolutely. We’re already talking about it right now, figuring out dates when we’re going to start writing for it.”
Sevendust just released a video on Jan. 23 for the song “Risen” that is currently impacting active rock radio. It was filmed during a Dec. 2, 2018, concert in London at the Brixton Academy and directed by Dan Sturge. The video captures the energy and excitement of a Sevendust show in stunning slow motion. While Witherspoon flails his impressive dreadlocks, bassist Vinnie Hornsby and guitarists Clint Lowery and John Connolly jump about while drummer Morgan Rose steadily pounds his kit. It’s the fourth video from the album, for which Witherspoon gives the band’s new label, Rise Records, credit. “The label has been so great. They’ve really been behind the band. We haven’t done videos in so long I forgot they still did them. It’s been fun for us to be involved and get so many done for this album. It’s exciting.”
Thus far, the videos have been fairly straightforward clips with no storylines: just Sevendust performing, which the band prefers. “Yeah, we like to jam, and we like people to see what’s going on and capture that moment when we’re onstage, and what better place to do that?” offers Witherspoon.
So far, Sevendust have released four singles from All I See Is War: “Dirty,” “Not Original,” “Medicated” and “Risen.” But one of Witherspoon’s favorite songs from the set is “Moments.” “I think that was a later track that we recorded. It almost didn’t make the final cut, but I fell in love with that one since the first time we played it. I’ve been flying the flag to have that song become the next single.”
In the meantime, Sevendust will cross the country on a 22-date tour that wraps March 3 in San Antonio. For more information, visit sevendust.com.
Feb. 6 Greenville, S.C. @ The Firmament
Feb. 8 Greensboro, N.C. @ Blind Tiger
Feb. 9 Norfolk, Va. @ The NorVa
Feb. 10 Baltimore @ Rams Head Live
Feb. 13 Huntington, N.Y. @ The Paramount
Feb. 14 Boston @ House of Blues Boston
Feb. 15 Providence, R.I. @ The Strand Ballroom
Feb. 16 Sayreville, N.J. @ The Starland Ballroom
Feb. 18 New Haven, Conn. @ Toad’s Place
Feb. 19 Poughkeepsie, N.Y. @ The Chance Theater
Feb. 20 Buffalo, N.Y. @ The Rapids Theatre
Feb. 22-23 Flint, Mich. @ The Machine Shop
Feb. 25 Columbus, Ohio @ Newport Music Hall
Feb. 26 Chicago @ House of Blues Chicago
Feb. 27 Columbia, Mo. @ The Blue Note
March 1 Wichita, Kan. @ The Cotillion
March 2 Oklahoma City @ Diamond Ballroom
March 3 San Antonio @ Vibes Event Center