By MIKE CHAIKEN
The news came in last week.
Sevendust’s latest album, the acoustic “Time Travelers and Bonfires,” had climbed to No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Hard Music Charts. Additionally, the album was No. 2 on the “Record Label Independent Current Albums” chart, No. 4 on the “Top Current Rock Albums” chart, No. 15 on the “Overall Digital Albums” chart, and No. 8 on the “Top Internet Albums” chart.
Not bad for a band approaching two decades before the public eye.
“It’s crazy to think 20 years on, we’re still releasing music people are ready to hear,” said the band’s guitarist John Connolly, who was calling from Kansas City, Mo. on the “An Evening With Sevendust” tour, which comes to the Webster Theater in Hartford next Tuesday.
The fans were clearly integral to the latest release from Sevendust, which also includes Lajon Witherspoon (vocals), Morgan Rose (drums/vocals), Clint Lowery (guitar/vocals), and Vince Hornsby (bass/vocals).
“The fans are always going to be part of the the equation,” said John.
For this record, Sevendust turned to PledgeMusic for a direct-to-fan campaign to help fund “Time Travelers and Bonfires.” And the pledge dollars came in fast and furious from fans, said Connolly. The band reached its goal far earlier than expected. “We never felt we’d meet the goal so fast. It’s a tribute to our fans and their support,” said John. “We were blown away.”
Additionally, Sevendust turned to fans to decide what songs from the band’s extensive catalogue they should re-record as acoustic tracks for the new album.
Asked why the band opted to turn to crowd source funding for this record, John said, “Primarily, it was an interesting option… It’s a way to see where your fan base is without leaning too much on (the record company) machine.” This means, Sevendust didn’t have to borrow money to underwrite the cost of recording the album and then being obligated to the company to pay the money back.
John said Sevendust knew its fans were going to buy the record anyway, so why not put it up as a presale to have the cash in hand before hitting the studio.
As noted, Sevendust also turned to the fans for suggestions of songs to remake for the album.
“Some of them are obvious,” said John of the selections. The band knew “Black” would probably receive the most votes “no matter what.” The bigger surprise came in how many votes it received and by how much it surpassed the other tracks selected.
Even though the band had already taken an acoustic approach with “Black” on 2004’s “Southside Doublewide,” the fans wanted it again. “You don’t want to tread over what we already did, but how do you go against the fans.”
Another track fans selected was “Crucify.”
John said that was one track Sevendust never thought could be readied for an acoustic approach. But the band started joking around, trying to figure out the puzzle of “Crucify.” Eventually, they began to play the song in a jazzy-style. John said the approach actually worked and they found themselves transforming “Crucify” in that direction.
Asking the fans to pick the songs, said John, did save the band a lot of stress. He said the band has 140 songs to choose from. And each member likely would have arrived at the studio with 10 different suggestions than the other members.
“This was the only way we could have gotten it done,” said John. “We’d still be arguing over it.”
“Time Travelers and Bonfires” isn’t just about recasting Sevendust’s catalogue into acoustic tracks. The album is dominated with new tracks that take the acoustic trip.
John said some of the songs were written prior to the band entering the studio. But there also were tracks written on the spot.
“We are pretty good thinking on our feet in the studio lately,” said John. And in the studio, they were open to “letting the songs come to us.”
The approach works well for the band these days, said John. Rather than spending six or seven months in a studio laboring over tracks, John said, the band was able to finish “Time Travelers and Bonfires” in two-and-a-half weeks.
The acoustic approach to the songs wasn’t as difficult as one would think for the hard rock band, said John. He explained many of the band’s songs start with just an acoustic guitar, and then “we doctor it up.”
Although, when Sevendust goes acoustic, John said he and Clint, as the guitarists, undergo the biggest transformation.. The drums are already acoustic. And the bass has to be electric whether or not the approach is electric or acoustic.
But for the guitarists, said John, “The magnifying glass gets that much bigger, but there’s less to hide behind.”
When Sevendust comes to the Webster, John said, as advertised, it will be an all acoustic set. Fans will see two sets with an intermission inbetween.
Additionally, John said the band is taking a “storyteller” vibe for this tour. So, fans should expect to hear the tales behind the tracks.
Fans also can expect some surprises on Sevendust’s set list, said John. For instance, on this tour, John said the band has played some Stevie Nicks, Journey, and some Slayer.
“You never know what you’re going to get other than you’re going to get a whole lot of Sevendust.”
“An Evening With Sevendust” comes to Hartford’s Webster Theater on Tuesday, May 6. The doors open at 5 p.m. with the main room doors opening at 7 p.m. (Bristol’s In The Red is one of the opening acts that evening.) Tickets are $23 in advance and $25 at the door. For more information, go to WebsterTheater.com or Sevendust.com