Truth & Salvage Co.
Every so often you come across a band whose music sort of reaches out and shakes hands with your soul. That’s just what the music of LA’s own Truth & Salvage Co. did to me. It’s a nice feeling, too, considering the vastly diluted pool of modern Americana rock bands fending for a spot on my iPod these days. The band consists of Tim Jones (guitar/vocs), Walker Young (key/vocs), Scott Kinnebrew (guitar/vocs), Bill Smith (drums/vocs), Adam Grace (keys) and Joel Edel (bass). The band’s members originate from a variety of spots over the mid-west but came together officially in Los Angeles sometime in early 2003. I actually had the good fortune of stumbling upon a Truth & Salvage Co. live show at my favorite Hotel Café in Hollywood a few weeks before this interview. It just so happened to be Young’s birthday, and the entire venue was filled to standing capacity with dancing fans, joyously belting out the epic and bellowing choruses of “Hail Hail”, “Them Jeans” and “Welcome to LA” … not to mention the three-part harmony rendition of “Happy Birthday” as a member of the audience passed a tray of red velvet and chocolate cupcakes through the crowd, of which I was a shameless participant. So there I stood, two hands full of frosted goodness and a heart bubbling over with my proud new musical find. When I got the assignment to interview Jones, one of the four singer/songwriters of the band, I felt instantly honored and excited to do as such. We chatted while the boys were loading into an Ohio show during their current national tour supporting the release of their self-titled debut album, available May 25. And true to their warm and welcoming stage presence, talking with Jones was like chatting up an old friend on the latest and greatest concerning his freaken awesome alt-country band. We covered all the basics, including a 10-year forecast of the member’s dreams, which involve plenty of music, a little dairy farming and something about underwater treasure hunts … just read the interview … and check out the album on May 25.
CMP: With four singer/songwriters in the band how do you guys get your writing done?
TJ: For this record, most of the songs were done before we knew that we were making a record. Generally, the person who’s singing the song is the one who wrote the majority of it but a song is never done until it’s on the shelf at the record store. We collaborate a ton on the execution of the song but the bones of it are usually written by one or two. For instance on “Pure Mountain Angel” Walker had written all the verses and the chorus for it and then Scottie wrote the bridge, witch really brings it home. We have other writers helping too, like on “Old Piano” my friend Brian Wright and Katy Perry are co-writers, and on “She Really Does It For Me”, George Stanford- who is another amazing singer/songwriter, is another co-writer we’ve used. All these songs kinda came before we were really even a band. Having four songwriters we’ve never had a lack of material and that’s been a real blessing because it’s not like you’re depending on one person for material.
CMP: You guys all hale from different places geographically but you came together in a really tightly knit LA music community at the Hotel Café in Hollywood, how did that come about?
TJ: Well four of the guys Walker, Scottie, Smitty and Joe all met out in Ashville North Carolina where they had a band called Scrappy Hamilton then they all moved out to Los Angeles at different times. I moved out there in 2001 when Old Pike broke up and Adam Grace had moved out here then too. Adam had started playing piano for Gary Jewls who kinda started music at the Hotel Café. So I started going on Tuesday nights to see him and I loved his piano playing so I got him to play piano in my band. We just kept playing there and I started booking Sunday nights there. When the other guys moved out here, they started playing with a girl called Lissie and when I saw her at the Hotel Cafe and I heard her band which consisted of Walker, Scottie and Smitty we just all became friends and started playing together. That was the start of the family band; we called it the Denim Family Band at first.
CMP: You guys have your debut album coming out this month, talk about that.
TJ: It’s coming out Tuesday May 25th. We’re doing the CD release party in Ashville North Carolina. We recorded most of it in January of 2009 and then finished three more tracks for it in January 2010. It was a year long process because for four of those months we were on tour with the Black Crowes- and Chris Robinson, the lead singer for the Black Crowes actually produced the record and kind of helped bring us to people’s attention by taking us on tour and signing us to their record label. It’s been a long process. We just received the vinyl copies and the disc yesterday so we’re all pretty stoked about having it finally in our hands. It looks amazing. Scottie’s wife, Katie Crawford, did all the artwork for it and its already won vinyl record of the week for some vinyl record magazine. We’re just super proud of it.
CMP: It has a definite live vibe about it. Is it?
TJ: The bulk of the recording is live, most of the instruments and stuff but when you have four lead singers its almost impossible to record the vocals live and get a really clean take. Also, there are not a lot of studios that have four isolations booths. The last three songs that we recorded at Sunset Studios are really mostly live just because we didn’t have the time to do anything more.
CMP: How did the relationship between your band and Chris Robinson develop?
TJ: We met him through our manager Pete Angeles who has been the Black Crowes’ manager for about twenty years. And we met Pete through a friend who had seen us as the Denim Family Band who was good friends with Pete. We did some acoustic recordings for Chris and he loved those so we signed a deal with his record label in December of 2008 and started recording in January of 2009. It was like a whirlwind once we started taking things seriously. Every day there’s some new exciting thing where someone says like, “hey why don’t you guys do this” and we’re like “yes.”
CMP: With all that’s going on in your world at the moment and with the sort of evolution occurring inside the music industry do you find the changes exciting or daunting?
TJ: I feel like most of those changes happened a couple years ago and I think people are finally starting to figure out the way things work with music now. You know, the artists are always gonna be the same. There are a lot of people who surround the artists who help facilitate their careers but I feel like several years ago there were just a lot of people there who wanted to make a lot of money. More and more as there’s less of a revenue pool then you kind of trim off a lot of that fat. Fortunately and unfortunately the staff at our record label is small but we have a lot more control and say over how we’re going to handle things and really the power is in our hands. Nobody is ever going to work as hard for you as you are going to work for yourself. And we’re just proud as peaches to have the friends that we do in our band and at our label too.
CMP: You guys are on tour right now. With six boys crammed into small or large places what does the dynamic end up looking like?
TJ: We just try and laugh a lot. We drive in a 15-passenger van with a trailer; it’s about as old school as old school can be. People always comment on [how we get along]. We were on tour with the Black Crowes and were sitting down to dinner and Chris was like “I just don’t get it. You guys spend all day driving in that van together, under each other’s noses and you come in here and you’ve got a good 30 minutes to be apart and yall end up sittin at the same table eating dinner together!” We really do like each other; it’s kind of a mutual admiration society.
CMP: Your music has such a down home feel to it. What is it that fuels your creative juices most?
TJ: Well I love that you said that because that’s exactly what we want. We want our songs to have that epic down home feel and that’s exactly what fuels us. Like tonight we had a great home cooked meal by Smitty’s mom on their farm. And last night we were all sittin on top of his mountain watching the sunset. And it may sound cliché or whatever but I do feel a lot of connection with our surroundings, with seeing the country and with America. I believe in this country, I believe in what it was founded on- on liberty. And that is certainly what fuels us more than anything.
CMP: Considering that, I’d imagine that your crowd is fairly loyal. Talk about your fan base a bit.
TJ: We have some amazing fans. And I think that like you said, our type of music is A. Not something that’s heard very often and B. Is the kind of music that people yearn for because it relates to classic American rock and roll and country music that people have grown up with that’s kind of the fiber of our history as a country and a people. Recently we were playing at Coachella and the power went out during our set but Walker just kept on singing and so I grabbed my acoustic and the crowd came right up to the front of the stage and I just don’t think it could have been any better you know. Those are the kind of people who like to see perseverance. Everyone loves a good underdog story and in a lot of ways we’re a pretty incredible underdog story.
CMP: Who are the artists who have most influenced Truth & Salvage Co.?
TJ: Well there are six different guys in the band and I bet you’d get six different answers as to who has influenced us. But of course there’s country music like: Hank Williams and Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson and then Wailin Jennings and all the greats- we listen to that stuff all the time. Then you know there’s Neil Young, Buffalo Springfield and the Birds and all that kind of California rock. For harmonies there’s The Beach Boys and Crosby Stills, Nash and Young and the Eagles. There’s the rhythm and blues of Jackie Wilson and Donny Hathaway and Sam Cook and Otis Redding. I grew up listening to the Black Crowes and a whole bunch of punk rock like: Fugazzi, Sebbido and Guided By Voices… I mean we could sit here and I could name a thousand bands…
CMP: Are there any governing musical philosophies that drive you guys? Any cowboy code of ethics that dictate the choices of your band?
TJ: I think you’ve gotta live by some code, especially this day in age. It’s great to be able to stand for something and yeah we keep it as authentic as we can. We’ve got a rule that there’s no more than three hats on stage at all times. “What are some of our other cowboy codes of ethics Walker?” – walker just stepped into the van.
WY: Always hold the door for a lady, mind your manners, and don’t cuss when you’re driving…
TJ: Always say “yes maam” and “no sir”, remember to say please and thank you and always help an old lady across the street… and we always wear cowboy boots on stage. We try and keep it pretty real and we try and have a good time all the time.
CMP: Where does the band or just you fellas as individuals see yourselves in ten years given the best-case scenario?
TJ: I see us still playing together all the time, still going to each other’s family’s houses and spending our off time together even when we’re not playing. I also foresee a lot of other adventures. Walker and I want to start an oceanic treasure hunting company, Smitty wants to get his parents’ Dairy farm happening again and I’m sure Scottie would like to have a nice house in Jamaica, Joe wants to have a vineyard and a winery and Adam wants to have a palace built in the Carolina community where his wife is from. We all have high aspirations and to really be honest I believe we’re gonna reach all of those goals. With all that we have behind us I kinda think we’re unstoppable. I’m not trying to be big headed about it, I just really believe in what we’re doing. And I think with all the friends and family and fans that we’ve got- when you unite all those minds with one goal you can really achieve anything.