John and Jacob are back on UK shores showcasing tracks from their eponymously titled debut album, which was released in the autumn. A Music Blog, Yea? had the opportunity to catch with the boys from Alabama to talk all things Nashville including the best place to eat chicken and pancakes!
AMBY: Welcome back to the UK. How was the experience last time you were here in the summer?
J & J: It was warmer! The first time we came here was with The Band Perry and that was 2012 and we had such a good time we wanted to come back so bad, so when we got the phone call from Kacey to come back… it was awesome, the weather was nice, the crowds, every show was sold out. It was amazing. We love it over here.
AMBY: And how’s the tour gone so far?
J & J: So far, so good man. We’ve been doing some radio stuff, building and trying to get a presence over here.
AMBY: And you met Whispering Bob.
J & J: Yeah, he’s amazing, a legend. Actually, when we came over here with Kacey Musgraves he invited us out to his house with his wife and we did the Under the Apple Tree sessions and it was awesome. We had coffee with him, just hung around his house. Talked about old stories. Two days ago we went to the studio and we did an interview with him over at the BBC. It was unreal.
AMBY: You also went to the Autism Rocks show.
J & J: We got lucky. We know a guy named Lee Parsons from Ditto Music and we luckily got in. It was super private. No one will ever see Prince like that… I never thought I’d see Prince, it was crazy. There were people walking around with champagne bottles while Prince was playing and as soon as you would take a sip they’d come over and fill it back up. We were like, what is this… We love London.
AMBY: What do you look forward to when you go on tour?
J & J: Getting out and meeting new people, new fans. Watching their reaction too, like the growth and feeling like it’s moving somewhere. It give us a little bit of hope for maybe next time, coming back over here and you know eventually we want to bring the guys, you know we have a full band.
AMBY: I was really looking forward to your album and it didn’t disappoint. How was the experience recording it and how do you feel about it now it’s out there?
J & J: It was great. We recorded it ourselves. It was a lot of trial and error. A lot of ways of figuring out what sounds good and we did it all on our own. And one thing about Nashville, we’re coming up from the ‘indie’ side and we still are, but one thing when you go to Nashville, everybody wants to find a producer for you and we just didn’t find anybody when we moved up there that clicked with us, so we were like just going to do it ourselves and figure it out.
AMBY: What prompted the move to Nashville and what has it added to the John and Jacob sound?
J & J: Nashville changed everything. The first thing is the song writing. Getting up there with the other people and you start learning things through other people, to write differently and then you take from that and you apply it it yourself and you become a different writer because you’ve learned so many different things, but also just being up in Nashville in general, you’re surrounding by some of the best musicians so everywhere you go there’s nothing but great music and great writing. It’s like friendly competition in the best way. You want to be as good as you can be but you got to work hard to be better than your average Joe out there. It’s healthy.
AMBY: ‘Nashville’ the show has probably helped with exposure.
J & J: I mean, big time! It gave us credibility as writers.
AMBY: What do you like about the show?
J & J: It’s a soap opera to some extent but the places that they go to are real, some of the situations are real and a lot of the things that happen can easily happen.
AMBY: You’ve toured with Kacey Musgraves for several months now. How did that come about?
J & J: Her management had heard about us, or she had heard about us and sent somebody to see us and we had played this thing called Music City Roots out in Nashville and that kind of died down for a little bit and then all of a sudden a month or two later we got word that she wanted to take us out on tour, so at first it was just me and Jacob and then we got back to the States and the full band got to come out.
AMBY: Your video for Give it Away seems to encapsulate the touring experience. Was that the concept behind it and what was the experience filming it?
J & J: Yeah, we had our buddy Josh Shoemaker come out on the road with us for a little while. He just snapped some stuff that he thought would be good and compiled it and we saw the edit and it was great, you know, he caught a lot of good moments. It’s my favourite one because it was a fun two weeks. It’s just us being us… hanging out.
AMBY: You missed the Super Bowl weekend but what can’t you live without whilst touring?
J & J: We watched it at O’Neills in London! We were going for the Seahawks but the Patriots won though. We miss friends and family… our beds! On the Kacey tour we stayed in hostels so that was one thing, after about a month of touring we’re ready to get back and I want to get into bed so bad.
AMBY: How different are these smaller shows compared to the gigs played with Kacey?
J & J: We love the aspect when you’re playing a theatre, you’re looking out and you’re seeing all these people and there’s a certain energy there, but then you come and play right here at the Night and Day in Manchester and this reminds me of back in Birmingham, there’s this bar called the The Bottle Tree. It’s just a little bit bigger but there’s a certain energy everywhere. As long as there’s people there and you’re playing pretty good, they’re all fun in their own way. All shows can be the best but it is the people and the crowd.
AMBY: What will the next twelve months consist of for John and Jacob?
J & J: As soon as we get back to the States we’ve got the Kacey dates and then after that we have some festivals here and there heading towards the summer.
AMBY: A lot of our readers are in up and coming bands. What advice would you give to fans of yours who want to pursue a career in music?
J & J: Keep playing and writing and then get out there and do it in front of people. Take chances. If you know somebody who can be influential it really does help to get somebody to help you out. If you can get a computer with GarageBand and some way to start recording then that’s going to help. Record your ideas.
AMBY: What are your thoughts on the digital revolution and social media and the way people consume music. Is it a positive thing for the music industry?
J & J:When I was sixteen I was on Napster and Kazaa and I probably still would be if I hadn’t gotten into the business and then it changes your outlook on it. The money’s not the same as it used to be in the 90s. It’s just not. In the States at least, people who should be writing in the daytime are going to DC to say they should be getting better payment. The writers that used to be in Nashville, there used to be a few thousand and now I think it might be around less than two hundred staff writers, which is pretty crazy to think about.
AMBY: I’ll be in Nashville for two nights in the summer. Describe the perfect day out in Nashville.
J & J: Oh man… The Blue Bird’s one of them, The Ryman… the Oprey, Broadway… food-wise, I mean Pharmacy Burger, Hattie B’s… you can get the hot chicken and everyone else can get the mild. That’s what Nashville’s known for, that’s one thing that came out of there is the hot chicken and Hattie B’s is the place to go. And the Pancake Factory, yes! It’s kind of famous so back in the day, that’s where in the 90s and late 80s all of the country artists would go and have their breakfasts and it became famous and now it’s a staple of Nashville and everybody goes and has the pancakes.
AMBY: What’s the top track in your most played playlist?
J & J: Head Over Heels by Tears for Fears. I love that song!
AMBY: Lastly, tell us something about John and Jacob that nobody will know.
J & J: We’ve both been arrested twice together! We have, we’ve both been arrested together. One was for a minor in possession of alcohol. We were under twenty-one and we were drinking and then another time we trespassed in our own apartment complex, we’re getting in the hot tub and we got arrested for it!
Thanks John and Jacob, for giving us your answers!
Interview by Iain Fox | @iainafoxphoto