Everything But a Cold Day Memory For These Southern Gents: A Conversation with John Connolly from Sevendust

Everything But a Cold Day Memory For These Southern Gents: A Conversation with John Connolly from Sevendust

“Cold Day Memory” marks Sevendust’s eighth record, a record that shows that the Atlanta product are far, very far in fact, from slowing down. The record also sees Clint Lowery, one of the bands original lynchpins, return to the fold, and to much fanfare, and to much success. As you’ll read, Lowery was a much missed piece of the band’s ultimate puzzle.

Though the band is eighth studio efforts into this thing, “Cold Day Memory” is a rejuvenating release for the boys, and should please just about every fan of the band, new or old, purveyors of the bands early works, “Sevendust” or “Home,” or fans late to the party so to speak of the bands newer albums, “Next” and “Alpha.” The record is a return to form somewhat for the band, one that has them not only sounding like they did nearly a decade and a half ago, but also recording in the same way as well.

Well, if you’re chomping at the bit to bite into this thing, then by all means enjoy my time with longtime Sevendust guitarist/vocalist John Connolly, and our conversation that touches on most everything “Cold Day Memory” involved, as well as what it was like to tell Sonny Mayo he was no longer a member of the group, to what the band did in order to foot the bill for some legal issues.

Get eXposed Music: Can you tell me if there is a story about the title of your new album “Cold Day Memory?”
Jon Connolly: There’s a song on the record called ‘Here and Now,’ that was one of the earliest songs we started working on in the demo stages of the album and one of the lyrics from the original version of that song was ‘Cold Day Memory’ and we never used the lyric because we came up with a cooler melody, but it was kind of one of those things that never was forgotten, but we set it to the side because we didn’t know what we were going to do with it. Once we got up to Chicago to record and went through our cold day experience up there, it just seemed like a fitting album title when we got all the way down to the end. It really worked to sum up the whole experience for us. Working with our producer Johnny K. was great, his studio was great, but were used to warm weather being from Atlanta – were used to sunshine, sand, palm trees and stuff like that, and we’re definitely not used to snow or anything like it, so it was an adjustment for us. “Cold Day Memory” was really a fond little remembrance of our time making the record.

GE: How did you go about deciding on Johnny K. to help out on the record?
Connolly: He was one of the names on our short list when we were going into figuring out how to make this record. We went into demo mode and wrote and wrote, and then once we realized we had the record we wanted, we just sat around and threw some names out. There’s a million different people that we could have used, and he was one of them. He fit all of our criteria really – he had the studio and had worked with a lot of our good friends, like Disturbed, Soil, Drowning Pool, and they all had good experiences working with him, so we figured we’d give it a try. Going to Chicago might have been a mistake (laughs), but we got a great record out of the deal. Its really all about timing when you sit down to pick a producer and luckily for us the planets seemed to align with Johnny, and stuff like that usually doesn’t happen. With him it worked out perfectly, and it wasn’t very difficult for us to get a schedule together.

GE: Can you tell me a little bit about the recording process of “Cold Day Memory?”
Connolly: Every record is a little bit different but I think the more records we make, the more we realize that the first couple of records have this certain vibe to them, and you cant recreate what you’ve done before but you can look back and think, and ask yourself ‘what did we do back then that we’re not doing now?’ or vice versa, and at the end of the day we came down to one thing we didn’t do anymore – we didn’t jam anymore. We jammed on the road but when we got back home, it was hard because we were in all different parts of the country and couldn’t really meet when we wanted to, so when it came time to make this record we decided we just had to get in a room and jam. We wanted to jam for the sake of jamming, to get back in front of everybody and not record tracks on your own. This band is so much stronger when you get all five members throwing their two cents in. It was really cool to get back in the room with each other. It was important for us to get back to doing that. We did that for about a month, until we basically had a dry erase board full of working titles and songs. We knew at that point that we felt comfortable enough to head into the studio and record an album with those songs that we could be proud of. From that point we took all of the work we had done, brought it up to Chicago and broke it down and went back through the recording process again. It was a very organic process – the songs didn’t come out over-rehearsed, but we knew them confidently enough. The whole thing was really natural, and it all stemmed from all of us getting back in the room together. It was just like we did it back in the day. We needed that face time with each other. It makes for better music, and at the end of the day everyone in the band gets to put their stamp on it

GE: So, the fact that all members of the band contribute doesn’t make it a more complicated process?
Connolly: Sometimes it does. There were plenty of songs that we made three or four completely different versions of, lyrics and all, and one in particular we really, really liked every version of the song which made it extremely difficult to make a final decision but I’d rather have too much than not enough. It’s nice to have everyone around and in the studio to help out if you happen to get caught on a certain part or whatnot. You know, anybody really can step in and help out and knock it out of the park. It’s real easy to get lost when you’re making music, and sometimes you don’t notice things until someone else is there to point it out to you. And the older we get, the more receptive we are to each other. I don’t even know sometimes who wrote what part to the songs. We don’t fight nearly as much as people might think we do. At the end of the day we just want the best song that we can possibly write. The hardest thing about this band is being willing to take back parts you’ve written and just gracefully step out of the way. Everyone might think with us that if you have too many cooks in the kitchen things won’t work, but it’s not that way at all. Johnny was freaked out by the process, but hey, that’s the way Sevendust does things.

GE: And it definitely paid off because you got a pretty solid record out of it.
Connolly: Yes, for sure, and it has the same vibe we used to have back in the day. Its much different when you can look your bandmates in the face while you’re recording, and I think the record is better for us enduring that process.

GE: Now, I had read that during the recording process of the record you guys would leave the studio to play shows, and then return to record more. Also read that Clint [Lowery] was against this. What did that do you, and what did that do for the record?
Connolly: On one side of things I’d like to say that, yeah it gave us a chance to be unplugged, and while there is surely some of that there, it’s hard to switch gears honestly. We’re neurotic, we the type of band that puts in 15 hours in the studio when we have 12 allotted, and while it might not be all of us in the studio at once, everything is going. It’s really hard for us to pack up all of the gear that we need, and to be quite honest with you, I think everyone of us was against doing it, but I think Clint was just the most vocal about it. We had to do it though because we weren’t going to pay the bills just sitting around day in and day out. Fortunately we just got done with some lawsuits with an ex-manager and some very expensive business stuff, which was the last load of laundry so to speak. It sucked but we had to pay the attorneys to get us right again. It was a necessary evil but had fun playing those shows. We actually had some disastrous experiences with some of the dressing rooms and toilets overflowing and exploding, and its definitely not fun to come back after a show to see all of your clothes covered in it. But hey, in this band, even the bad days are good days.

GE: Speaking of Clint, tell me about how you brought him back into the band and just what he brought to this record?
Connolly: He brought tons; he brought the other half of what this whole Sevendust thing is all about. It’s made up of him as much as its made up of anyone. He needed to get himself right and get his life in order and get himself to a place where he wanted to come back and wanted to come back for the right reasons. We wanted to forgive and forget and just let it be water under the bridge and just move on. We knew going into this record that he was going to be a huge asset because he is the missing link, the missing piece of the Sevendust puzzle really. No disrespect to Sonny at all, but Sonny wasn’t there from the beginning. Clint was involved in our initial chemistry as a band, and not to mention he is a phenomenal songwriter on top of everything. Clint is just an integral part of our sound. There’s just no weakness with the guy – he is a phenomenal singer and guitarist too. Everything he adds to the mix is an enormous contribution, even if he doesn’t think so himself. When we did that first record, this is the five guys that did and now we are doing it all over again. We may be a little bit older and there may be a few more gray hairs but at the end of the day we still do this because we love to do it. Its great having him back it really is and it’s great seeing the fans. Life to too short to deal with all of the bulls**t really.

GE: How did Sonny take the news?
Connolly: It wasn’t easy, he wasn’t happy. A lot of people were confused by the timing of it – honestly, they ask us what we are doing since we just made ‘Hope and Sorrow,’ just got back from Australia and were getting ready to make this record, and you’re going to do it with Clint and not Sonny, so really, why would you do that. We didn’t just want to jump into the room and start writing. It was a conscious decision to bring him in at that time and it was really tough for all of us because we really liked Sonny and really liked having him around. He came in at a time when we really needed him, and he came in and filled a really big pair of shoes. It definitely wasn’t our proudest moment to have to do something like that, but we knew it was a decision that we needed to make.

GE: What will you be up to for the rest of the year?
Connolly: We are trying to leave the country as much as possible for this record. We are trying to put together a full blown headlining run at this point but it is too early to tell really.