THE CADILLAC THREE
It may be a ballsy move for The Cadillac Three to name their new album LEGACY, but if any country band has the shared history to lay claim to such a weighty title, it’s the longhaired trio of Nashville natives.
Singer-guitarist Jaren Johnston, drummer Neil Mason and lap-steel player Kelby Ray have known one another since they were teens and have been sharing stages together for nearly 15 years. This summer, they’ll headline their hometown’s most famous venue, the Ryman Auditorium, just a few blocks from where Johnston and Ray sat in high-school math class daydreaming about one day playing the legendary hall. Johnston’s connection to the Ryman goes back even further: his father has been a drummer at the Grand Ole Opry since Jaren was a child. And now he has a son of his own, who, like his old man, will be well-versed in all the sounds that make up both Music City and The Cadillac Three, from country and blues to rock & roll.
So, yeah, “legacy” looks good on this band.
“We’re trying to build something and do it our way, which is always harder,” says Johnston. “If you’re going to leave something that people are actually going to remember, you can’t take the easy way. So we took all of our history, mixed it with the energy of The Cadillac Three and put it into a record that makes sense of where we’ve been and where we’re going.”
After nearly a full year on the road in support of 2016’s BURY ME IN MY BOOTS, their first full-length album recorded for Big Machine Records, the group returns with a more mature perspective. Johnston, Mason and Ray have experienced a lot on tour, whether opening arenas across the country on Florida Georgia Line’s Dig Your Roots Tour or headlining their own consistently sold-out string of sweaty club and theater shows in the U.K. and Europe. As they prepare to head back in November for another big run, for The Cadillac Three, the old saying really is true: this band is huge overseas.
“Europe showed us that we should bet on ourselves. It was a big gamble the first time we went over there,” says Mason, “but the shows and the fans have continued to grow.”
“And going overseas reinforced that we wanted to get more music out more quickly,” adds Ray. “They go through singles really quickly over there. They want more, more, more and that encouraged us to go into the studio, knock this album out and keep going.”
All that travel, from city to state, country to continent, could decimate a lesser band, but it only served to creatively inspire the mighty TC3. They wrote many of the 11 songs that make up LEGACY on the road, cut the tracks on rare days off in Nashville and then recorded all of Johnston’s vocals – one of the most “country” voices in the genre – in the back lounge of their bus in between shows, adding a crackling sense of vitality to LEGACY. They also produced the album themselves.
OPENING FOR THE CADILLAC THREE: 7HORSE
7Horse began as a hypothetical: What if, longtime band mates Joie Calio and Phil Leavitt thought, we bury our musical past and see if we can discover rock ’n’ roll’s Ground Zero? That question having been explored in bold fashion on their 2011 debut “Let the 7Horse Run,” the blues duo returns with an even deeper sense of purpose on the follow-up, “Songs for a Voodoo Wedding” (due June 10). The larger question: What if the mission were not to locate rock ’n’ roll’s chewy center, but to find and channel their own personal identities?
It’s all the more remarkable considering 7Horse started as a trial balloon, with Calio and Leavitt exchanging riffs, lyrics and song sketches via iPhone from their homes in Seattle and Los Angeles, respectively. Those ideas in hand, the pair blew through studio sessions that saw them arrange, refine and record one song per day. The results coursed with rawness and immediacy, and it’s a process they replicated in making “Songs for a Voodoo Wedding.”