Paul Sammon talks to The Cadillac Three ahead of their UK tour starting this Friday.
With Neil Mason’s wife having only just given birth to baby Theodora (Teddy May) I was joined by the remainder of The Cadillac Three and, in the words of Meat Loaf… Kelby Ray and Jaren Johnston ain’t bad.
SSC – I was first exposed to your sound in 2014 when you opened for Eric Church. I know I was blown away. How did you feel that went?
JJ – That was one of my favourite tours cz it was such a crazy experience. We’d only done one show in the UK at that point, but all in all, that was our first experience after touring the States for the whole of our existence. Y’know, every crappy bar in America and then getting to see the crappy bars all over there, too. We were really excited to be touring with our buddy, Eric. It was pretty cool for him, cz he’d gone from playing arenas to 500 seat clubs again, so it was kinda fun to see that, too.
SSC – You’ve done Sonisphere with Metallica and you’ve played Download in the UK too, so it almost begs the question, are you a rock band or a country band or doesn’t it matter?
JJ – Ah, c’mon. Don’t do that. You’re not in America, they label everybody over here.
KR – Yeah, you don’t have to label everybody over there. That’s what we love about you guys. We just get to be ourselves and whatever you wanna call us, just call us that.
JJ – That’s what’s fun over there. You can kinda ride that line. There’s some people doing that here in the States but over there, y’know, we can play that C2C thing and then you can play with Eric Church, or you can go play right before Aerosmith at Download. I guess that’s what’s neat about our band. We get to play both sides cz we love country music, but we love rock n’ roll
SSC – You do seem quite comfortable riding both horses. Where do your influences come from?
KR – All over man. I mean we grew up on a lot of the 80s and 90s country music and then we started listening to the rock stuff, Metallica, Rage Against The Machine. Funk music, jazz, soul. Really just kind of all over the map, that’s why we have so many different stylings in our music. It’s cool that we get to express all of those influences in our music.
SSC – Do you see a difference between country crowds and rock crowds?
JJ – Meh. I see a difference between crowds over here and crowds over there. You guys over there are more attentive. Not sure how to explain it as much but there’s definitely a noticeable difference. There’s more of you over there. We’re bigger over there in the UK. I guess country fans wanna be all up in your world. They wanna absorb your life into theirs. It’s a lot of the meet ‘n’ greet kinda thing. Rock n’ roll fans don’t really care, they just like the music.
SSC – Historically we’ve spoken to artists that remark UK crowds know their whole album, front to back, note for note and not just what’s playing on the radio at the time.
JJ – Yeah, that’s f’sure. And that’s very fun for an artist that’s worked their whole life to create bodies of work for people to enjoy whereas it’s a little more shallow over here where, if it’s not really on the radio they don’t know it. They just sit around waiting for the one song. And that’s ok, don’t get me wrong, that’s part of it but it is really fun to get over there and play a B-side to your second record that I barely remember and there’s people singing along to it.
SSC – Would you say you’re more akin to being a live band or a studio band? Which do you prefer?
KR – I would say both. We like being in the studio and being creative, working on arrangements and doing something that’s gonna last forever is amazing and then creating something that’s just gonna last for an instant on stage in the improvisation and the jamming and all that stuff. Being able to do that just with the three of us, that’s something you can’t get very good at unless you do it a million times. That’s a lot of fun for us, too so I’d say 50/50.
SSC – So, your last two albums are a lot more funky and a lot more chill. How did that change in sound come about?
JJ – That started happening, I guess, when we were halfway through Country Fuzz. I don’t know. I guess I just started looking for something different. Nothing in particular. I was looking back and remembering how much I loved John Schofield. I guess you could see it on the back half of Country Fuzz, The Jam and Blue El Camino we were tapping back on our ZZ Top, hinting at some of those funkier chords but still keeping the riff and that kinda lead to a lot of down time with the pandemic and the Tabasco & Sweet Tea record.
That thing started taking life at the end of that tour, like right before the pandemic hit and it was pretty much written and recorded in sequence. We’d never done anything like that. It’s the most cohesive record we’d ever done.
If you go back and listen to our old records (which I don’t) there’s a lot of cool songs but not all of them fit together. They’re not all this glued together body of work whereas Tabasco & Sweet Tea was meant to be a hillbilly, hippy DJ set where everything is connected, and it flows through to the end, and it takes you on a ride.
We were gonna try and release that record as one song for 99 Cents or a $1.29. Unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out the logistics of how to do that because of the DSP’s (Digital Service Provider) and so we gave it away for $3.99 during the pandemic. We’re pretty proud of that one.
SSC – You’ve got over a decade of music to choose from. What can we expect to hear when you come over this time?
KR – All of it
JJ – We’ve been on the road a lot lately. Did a west coast run and some Canada dates and digging deep on the older catalogue stuff but, y’know, we’re about seven songs deep on the new record so we might be pulling some of that out, y’never know. We’ll see.
SSC – Do you ever see a time when you might re-record some of your American Bang material as TC3?
KR – No I don’t think so. It was a moment in time. To us it feels like that was 50 years ago, so it was just like we were kids. It’s fun to look back on it but I don’t think we wanna take the time to go back. It’s too much fun to come up with new stuff.
JJ – Definitely not. It’s just too hard. Now, with our touring schedule and our writing and producing outside stuff and, y’know, kids. Throw kids in the mix. It’s like, when in the Hell would I have time to go re-learn that sh*t?
SSC – Jaren, you’ve written for a shed load of other artists – Jake Owen, Lee Brice, Meat Loaf and, of course, another Long Road headliner, Drake White, a Six Shooter favourite. How did that come about?
JJ – We met years ago on the road, and he cut a song of mine called Livin’ The Dream and he was also on Big Machine Records before us. We’ve been friends ever since. We started working at a production level I guess right before the pandemic and it was cool man. We did this record called The Optimystic that everybody loved and is excited about. He’s a very special artist y’know? Whatever genre you wanna call him they need that. He’s very important to Nashville and I think he’s doing pretty well over there [in the UK] too. It’s exciting for him.
SSC – So, you’re pretty much closing the show on main stage on the Sunday at Long Road. How do you feel about headlining alongside other acts like LOCASH and Sara Evans? There’s over a dozen people before you throughout the day.
JJ – Kinda used to it to be honest (he laughs)
KR – Nah, that’s like the first time we’ve done that over there, so that’s pretty cool.
JJ – We’ve played the weirdest line-ups here in the States lately. They throw things like this together for State fairs or radio shows and you’ll be like playing with one of your favourite bands from the 90s that are playing right before you and you’re like, “What? They sold 5 million records.” But that’ll be fun. I was talking to someone that’s coming over there, Sam Williams is touring with Marty Stuart, and I think the neat thing about that is when Chris Young and all these big superstars come over there and they see us playing on the same slot or after them, that’s pretty fun cz we’re all really good friends and they see that the work we’ve put in over there is paying off.
A lot of these country artists are scared to go over there cz it’s so easy for them to make money here in the States and you’re gonna lose money the first couple times but if you commit to it and something starts happening, you take advantage of it and you go and embrace those loyal fans over there I think it’s amazing what you can do and that’s what the three of us always wanted to do.
SSC – When we do see American artists come over, they’ll often only do Glasgow, Manchester in the middle, London at the bottom and then go home. You guys are doing eight or nine stops with the festival as well. Who decides that generally?
JJ – Yeah that’s us. Neil is the brain work on that one to be honest, working with the agents. But also, when we go over there, we like to make the most of it. If we’re taking that eight-hour flight then a kid in Glasgow wants to see us as much as that kid in London so, y’know, lets play some shows. Let’s drink some warm beer and eat some fish ‘n’ chips, let’s go.
SSC – After your set at the Festival, will you be hanging with the crowd at all?
KR – I don’t know, man. We might, we might not. We take it all day by day and we’ll see how we feel.
JJ – When we come over to the UK we kinda like to hang about in Camden and we just run around down there. It’s kind of our little digs cz we’ve got to know that area and it’s kinda fun.
SSC – How’s your Planet Rock radio show going?
JJ – Ah, it’s great. We record it every week and it’s been crazy but also therapeutic cz it gets us together at least once a week to talk about music. And we do it when we’re on the road, too. It’s really cool for Planet Rock to give a band that platform. We can let you guys know when we’re coming over, too. It’s kind of a reincarnation of our Country Fuzz Radio thing we did for a while, and we just needed a bigger platform. So, we play music from a lot of our friends, a lot of the stuff that influenced us, some of us.
KR – Another reason we love the UK is cz there’s not a US station giving us a radio show where we can play what we want.
SSC – A controversial question to end on. The Beatles openly admitted they were under the influence when they wrote some of their songs. Do you guys like a “puff, puff, pass” when you’re writing?
JJ – I mean Kelby smokes all day long I think (Laughs)
KR – I smoke and drink a decent amount but when we’re writing I don’t think it happens as often.
JJ – I drink but, again, not so much when I’m writing cz then you think everything you do is really good. “Oh my gosh, I’m brilliant – pass me another beer.”
KR – Then there’s days like “Wait, this sounds terrible.”
SSC – Guys, this has been a buzz. We all can’t wait to see you when you come over. Looking forward to it.
Friday 26th O2 Academy Glasgow, Glasgow,
Saturday 27th Manchester Academy 1, Manchester
Sunday 28th Stanford Hall, Lutterworth
Tuesday 30th Newcastle City Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne
Wednesday 31st O2 Academy Leeds
Friday 2nd Cardiff University Students Union, Cardiff
Saturday 3rd O2 Institute Birmingham, Birmingham
Tuesday 6th Roundhouse, London