Sevendust: "We want to keep the energy alive, so the first thing we think about is what kind of songs will get people moving"

(Image credit: Supplied)

Whether you consider it lucky, unlucky, or don’t give a shit about superstition, it’s hard to deny that 13 is a pretty impressive number when it comes to the amount of albums one has put out. Especially in the case of a band like Sevendust, who continue to one-up themselves – and their signature searing and commandeering alt-metal sound – with each new release. 

Blood & Stone is no different, shaking things up with the beautifully balls‑to‑the-wall riffs, maniacally monstrous singalongs, and the occasional unexpected plot-twist (like a cover of Soundgarden’s “The Day I Tried To Live”, presented in tribute to the late, great Chris Cornell).  

As we learned chatting with lead guitarist Clint Lowery, the key to Sevendust’s enduring success is their refusal to stagnate – for as long as their hands can lift their instruments and their vocal chords can muster the lyrics, they’re keen to keep reinventing the wheel, then promptly smashing it to pieces.

It’s not often that a band’s 13th album will be their best, but this is just an absolute ripper. This far into your career, how do you manage to keep things feeling fresh and exciting, not just for the fans but for yourselves as artists?
Oh man, that’s always the challenge. To be honest with you, we never expected to go past two or three records, y’know? But one thing I think has kept us on our toes, and kept the chemistry alive and the thrill still there, is just the relationship we have with each other – there’s a very strong mutual respect that we all have for each other. I mean, we’re brothers – we fight, and we do all the things that people who spend a lot of time together do, but at the end of the day, we adore our fans.

Sure, music is our livelihood – it keeps the lights on and keeps food on the table – but at the end of the day, we still get those chills when the lights go down and we hear the crowd start to cheer. I honestly see every one of the guys, at some point, get pepped up on that stuff. So it’s cool. We still dig it! And we’re going to continue to do it for as long as we all dig it.

So is this the definitive Sevendust album? 
I think it definitely has all of the ingredients that makes up our sound. We always accomplish that on some level: sometimes we stray a little bit towards the melodic side and sometimes we go a little heavier, sometimes we go a little more odd or a little more technical – but at the end of the day, it always just comes down to Lajon [Witherspoon] being a soulful singer, Morgan [Rose] being very persuasive… 

And we’re from the South, y’know? There’s a flavour to that which is hard to describe – it’s just an attitude, I suppose, just like you have an attitude in punk rock, or in hip-hop, or in the blues. W have that vibe; we have a culture, and a presence that you know can only come from the South.

Do you find that you’re still discovering new ways to present yourself as a guitarist? 
Yeah, I mean, there’s always a new trick that you’re trying to add to the arsenal. There’s always a discovery to be made. When I was younger, I played all the time – I played for eight hours a day, just bullshitting constantly, so I discovered those things quicker. Now I’ll play the guitar just to write, for the most part – I don’t really practise for soloing or anything like that. But occasionally I’ll stumble upon some kind of movement that excites me. 

At the moment, I’m doing these things with slide techniques and string-skipping – that’s my flavour of the month. And then in the studio, I’ve really gotten into layering, and trying new ways orchestrate how I’ll layer guitars – making sure they don’t fight for frequency, making sure they all have a place in the mix… I love doing that stuff, I could do that all day!

What guitars did you have in the studio this time around? 
I always have the PRS Custom 22 that I’ve named Bruce Lee; it always has to make an appearance. PRS sent it to me years and years and years ago – probably around the time of our second record [Home], and I fell in love with it there and then. It has its own soul, man. So that’s always been one of my favourites to record with.

I used a lot of the PRS baritone guitars as well – they’re what I call the war horses for the type of music we play. There’s a couple of songs in drop G# sharp, so I need that longer scale neck and that chunkier sort of built. So we used those a lot for the main parts. And then for the colour, I was messing around with some other guitars, like a PRS Star, just to kind of get more of a thin, nitty kind of tone.

You guys were initially scheduled to tour Australia with Steel Panther back in May, which obviously didn’t happen; but the last word we got was that you’re back on for February 2021. Is that still the plan? 
I was actually thinking about that yesterday, I’ve been meaning to reach out to them about it. I talk to the Steel Panther guys quite a bit, but I haven’t heard any updates – I don’t if it’s canned or if it’s going to go through, or what the situation in Australia and New Zealand is as far as allowing people in. You guys have handled the pandemic a lot better than we have, so I don’t know if they’d even allow us in. 

As far as I know, we’re still on – but you know how it all is, and how it’s all been unfolding – they keep pushing things back, so would it surprise me if they postponed again? No. But as of right now, everyone seems to be optimistic.

Are there any songs on the new record that you’re especially keen to bust out? 
I put together a setlist that we’re going to do for a livestream coming up, and I have to say, a couple of the songs on this record are the ones I’m most excited to play. There’s a song called “Dying To Live” that I really, really love. We’ll play about three or four songs off the new record, because it’s a really exciting record for us and we want to celebrate it as much as we can. 

Usually we’d only play about one or two songs from a new record – maybe three, at the most – just because we have other songs that we have to get to. But we’re going to play a lot of these new ones. Obviously we’ve got to play “Blood From A Stone”, and the Soundgarden cover that we did [“The Day I Tried To Live”]. And then there’s a few others on there that I really want to do – there’s one called “Alone” that I’m super excited to rip out.

Do you write many of your parts with the live show in mind? 
I was talking to Morgan about this the other day, and I think in the future, we’re going to make much more of a conscious effort to. After doing this for so long, you get a sense of how things are going to go. After watching a song perform well and really translate to a crowd, you learn what kinds of tempos, fills and riffs are going to be attractive to the audiences. 

And y’know, sometimes it doesn’t go as planned – sometimes you think, “Aw, this song’s gonna be great,” but then you play it and nobody really cares about it. But it’s usually the case that we know our audiences well enough that we can predict what they’ll be into, and we’ll take advantage of those things when it comes to putting a set together. 

We definitely want to keep the energy alive, so the first thing we think about when we’re writing a setlist is what kind of songs will get people moving. But when we’re writing the songs, the live show doesn’t even enter our minds – we want the song to serve the song, first and foremost.

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Ellie Robinson
Editor-at-Large, Australian Guitar Magazine

Ellie Robinson is an Australian writer, editor and dog enthusiast with a keen ear for pop-rock and a keen tongue for actual Pop Rocks. Her bylines include music rag staples like NME, BLUNT, Mixdown and, of course, Australian Guitar (where she also serves as Editor-at-Large), but also less expected fare like TV Soap and Snowboarding Australia. Her go-to guitar is a Fender Player Tele, which, controversially, she only picked up after she'd joined the team at Australian Guitar. Before then, Ellie was a keyboardist – thankfully, the AG crew helped her see the light…