Nine Days: "We Never Stopped Making Music."
Rock bands can have second acts, and Nine Days are on the verge of their own. Sixteen years after the release of their hit album, The Madding Crowd, the band, formed by friends John Hampson and Brian Desveaux in 1994 is finally ready to release the proper follow-up in the form of Snapshots. Much like their fans who first fell in love with them with their hit single, "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)," Nine Days have grown and changed considerably since their inception, but the same drive is still there. The goal? To create a record that they and their fans can enjoy.
Snapshots, which drops on July 8th may not be the direct follow-up to The Madding Crowd, but sonically and lyrically, it serves as the perfect continuation, even including a sweet sixteen version of "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)." In support of the upcoming release, Nine Days will be hitting the road for a short run of tour dates, including an upcoming performance in Denver, CO at Blake Street Tavern on July 30th. Read what John and Brian had to say about Nine Days' past sixteen years, the new album and more below.
Interview by Dom Vigil
You’re getting ready to release your new album Snapshots in July! How excited are you to finally have something new out for listeners to hear?
John Hampson: It feels great to have the proper follow up album to the madding crowd finally out – 16 years later!
Brian Desveaux: For me it's very exciting. Being in a band is not something every songwriter gets to experience. Especially one that's been together as long as we have. I live in Nashville and write all week long mainly for other artists. So this is my outlet to express myself as an artist and to be a part of something we've all worked for years to get to where we are. And get to play onstage and act like a kid again!
There are sixteen years between The Madding Crowd and Snapshots. How did you go about bridging the gap between the two albums and making them feel cohesive for yourselves and fans?
John: That actually was the mission statement this time around. We really did feel that we had some unfinished business after The Madding Crowd album, and we wanted to make a record that felt like a true follow up but also felt very 'of the moment'. It was a fun challenge. I think this is a really great album. It still has that same singer songwriter with a rock band vibe that we've always had. One of the things we did was to re-record "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)" as a sweet 16 version. It's just a little more raw, and it's a nice bridge from the old to the new.
Brian: Well there are 3 independent records before The Madding Crowd and a few in between then and Snapshots. I think bridging the gap was just taking the guitars up a notch again. Bringing some Rock back. Snapshots leans back a little to the sound of The Madding Crowd but is a bit more mature and wiser I'd say musically and lyrically.
It seems that once you’re involved in music, you never really leave it for good. What was the spark that made you want to start creating as Nine Days once more?
John: While we may have dropped off the radar in the grand sense, we never stopped making music, and we never stopped being a band, and we never stopped being friends. A few years ago we all just hit a point in our lives that we felt we could make nine days a priority again. We booked ourselves a small tour, started recording some new music and found new management. All those things combined to create this spark to not only record a new album but to really put it ourselves out there again.
Brian: 16 years after our biggest success I think we've all gotten a chance to live life outside of the band while never really stopping making music, but just not having the band not be a priority. I think we've all kind of come full circle as hopefully our fans have and the time just seemed right to put out an album that maybe is the follow up to The Madding Crowd.
Obviously you guys have grown up and changed quite a bit between then and now - how do you feel a different perspective on life and years apart has affected the subject matter and sound of Snapshots?
John: Lyrically, of course. There's a song on the album called "Snapshot," and it is a song I could not have written 15 years ago. It's a different perspective on life. There's also a song called "Star," which is quite literally a narrative follow up to "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)". It's the same guy singing about his life 15 years later, and now that girl (who cried alot) is his wife and they have a family. It's also all true, by the way. Sometimes life has happy endings!
Brian: Getting back to business after time apart again doesn't really seem it's like affected us much musically per say. I mean yes we've all grown as players individually, but the band has been playing together so long it just kind of knows how to function once we're all in a room. As far as subject matter, yes, you live life, you grow, you experience and you write about it. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger!
I think your single “Greenlight” kind of encompasses the theme of changing and getting older, as well. Can you tell us a little bit about the song and what inspired it?
John: I wrote that song with Brian and this Nashville songwriter named Phil Barton. Phil is a friend of ours, and a great writer. That song is just a great moment of collaborative energy. It started with this pulse idea, and we knew we were pushing for this anthem. It is definitely a song about seizing the moment, and the idea of the green light being a symbol for "go". It's a simple idea, but it just works so darn well. I love the line about how you should live life like you won't get a "rewrite"- it's a good mantra to live by.
Brian: "Stand up, All in, Here we go!" "If life's about moments make em count" "Here Goes Nothing" Just John and I and a friend chatting about life. You don't wanna grow older and look back at missed chances you may have should've taken.
For Snapshots, I know you worked with cowriters for the first time. What do you feel that other writers have been able to bring to the table?
John: Well, like I said, Phil just brought a great energy. He's such a positive person and such a positive influence that it's hard not to get caught up in his infectious energy. I also wrote a couple of songs with Zac Maloy, who was in the 90s alt band the Nixon's, as well as being a big Nashville writer now. Zac and I just hit it off really easily. I think we have a lot of the same sensibilities as writers, and we were really able to bounce the lyrical and melodic ball back-and-forth. You're challenging each other when you write together – you inspired each other and you want to come up with something just as good or better than the other guy. I feel like the past 20 years as a songwriter prepared me to be ready for that Nashville challenge.
Brian: For me I've been doing the co-writing thing for about 9 years now here in Nashville. Took a while for me to get used to but now I love it. It's more fun getting together with people and writing songs than writing alone. Someone else may play or say something you may not have thought about. And vice versa. Or will pull something out of you you may not have on your own. You feed off of each other, trading off that energy. It was great doing this with the band.
What was it like to work with Jim Scott for this album? How do you think he affected the sound?
John: I loved working with Jim! I am a huge fan of a lot of the records he did – Wilco, Tom Petty, Grace Potter. I knew that sonically he was going to make a very organic, three-dimensional, real rock band record. I also knew that he was going to be a "gate keeper" in the sense that he was going to be the last set of ears through which the songs would have to pass the test. Jim did not disappoint. He challenged me to arrange the songs better, and to make sure that the lyrics were solid. In the studio he was a total wizard. On day one of tracking, we threw down the first song and walked into the control room to listen. We were all completely blown away by how fully realized it sounded right from the get-go. That's how we love making records and Jim took it a step further.
Brian: Jim was awesome! He's made some great music! We picked songs from many that the band and Jim thought were right for us and fit on this record. Hashed out some arrangements in pre production and then just hit the studio. We always go in the studio and play as a band while recording. Jim got the sounds and best performances out of us! And usually told me he didn't like that last guitar take of mine.....HE LOVED IT!
What challenges did you face when working on the album? What was the most rewarding part about writing and recording?
John: There's always a creative challenge when you're making a record with a band. You're trying to get everybody to agree, but you also want to make sure that you're not smoothing off all the edges. The other biggest challenge is simply time – how much time can you afford to be in the studio? How much time can you spend working on that guitar part? And how much time should you devote to a mix move before you're destroying the spontaneity of the moment? Those are always a challenge and they become part of the performance of making a record.
Brian: Always time and money. I think it was our old A&R friend who said you never really finish a record, ya just run out of time and money. And of course life gets in the way at times. I remember finishing some last vocals and even a guitar solo here in my apartment back home.
What would you like fans, both new and old to take away from Snapshots?
John: To feel like we delivered a great record. To feel like we gave them the record that they wanted from us, but not without pleasant surprises. That would feel especially great because it's the record we wanted to make.
Brian: I just hope they like it. We do! It's a record we're really proud of. And it sounds great blasting on the car radio!
You have a few tour dates coming up surrounding the album release - are there any plans to hit the road more extensively once Snapshots is out?
John: The best laid plans of mice and men… We would love to get out there and tour more, but it will be a matter of demand and supply. If there's demand, we'll supply it.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you would like to add?
John: Thank you for taking the time to read this! Hope to see you on the road somewhere…
Brian: If 1 out of every 10 people in the world, or even just North America buy this record? We'll come play every city for free!