116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Hard-rocking Sevendust finished recording “Blood & Stone,” the group’s latest studio album in early 2020, just before the pandemic hit and changed life as we knew it.
With much of the country still on lockdown as fall approached, some people advised Sevendust to wait to release the album, according to singer Lajon Witherspoon, because it was still far from clear when the country would be able to reopen and enable bands to tour again.
Sevendust’s band members decided to go ahead and release “Blood & Stone” in October and take their chances on how the album would sell, even with the world still in the throes of the pandemic.
“There was pressure on us to wait to (put it out), but we felt we had an obligation not only to ourselves, but to our family out there that follows us. We needed to at least give them this. While they’re not doing anything, let’s give them something,” Witherspoon said in an early June phone interview.
“I’m glad we were able to release it. I believe everyone’s happy and thank the Lord that things are hopefully getting back to normal and we can go out (on tour) with this and enjoy it a little bit and see what happens with it. I feel like (the album) still has legs, and it will be fun to get out there and start performing these songs.”
The tour stops Saturday night (7/3/21) at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Cedar Rapids.
Sevendust didn’t get to play any shows during the pandemic, other than a few livestream performances. Several of the band members used the unexpected free time to do other music projects.
Drummer Morgan Rose teamed up with Sevendust guitarist Clint Lowery and bassist Jason Christopher to make his debut solo EP, “Controlled Chaos.” Lowery made a solo album, “God Bless the Renegades” and a five-song EP, “Grief & Distance.” Sevendust bassist Vince Hornsby joined a group, CEO, which released its debut album, “Redemption,” on June 25.
As for Witherspoon, he made significant progress on his first solo album, completing some 15 songs so far for the project. Witherspoon, though, said he’s in no rush to finish his solo album, which will retain some of Sevendust’s hard rock sound, but will show some of his other influences, including R&B and country.
“I’m going back into the studio again and doing a couple more co-writes, which I’m excited about,” he said of the solo album. “And I’m so excited about another cat that I’m writing with in Nashville. I’m not even going to tell you about it because he’s a big, big, big artist who’s doing really big things right now. The other night, my session with him got canceled because he’s with Elton John. OK, I get it. So I’m excited about that, but I’m taking my time on that. There’s some label interest out there, but I just feel like I want to get (the album) right.”
Witherspoon is proud of “Blood & Stone” and is anxious to see how concert audiences react to the new songs when the band hit the road in late June. Exactly how many new songs get into Sevendust’s live set still was an open question with the opening date of the tour less than three weeks away.
“Right now we’re doing homework, all of us are kind of putting our heads together and jotting down set lists,” Witherspoon said. “Then we’ll throw them in a pile and see what we come up with.”
Witherspoon isn’t exaggerating when he refers to Sevendust’s deep catalog. “Blood & Stone” is the 13th studio album from the group, whose lineup of Witherspoon, Lowery, Rose, guitarist John Connolly and Hornsby formed in Atlanta in 1994.
The lineup has remained intact for nearly the entire time — with Lowery leaving the group in 2004 and rejoining in 2008. The band has had some ups and downs, the highs including seeing the first three albums each go gold and amassing some 30 Top 40 mainstream rock singles, including four that went Top 10 (“Enemy,” “Driven,” “Unraveling” and “Decay”).
But they have had problems with record labels, and in 2006, Sevendust nearly went bankrupt. The situation prompted the group to change management and other business employees, and educate themselves further on what it takes for a music act to remain profitable. Since then, the band has been on firmer ground, releasing albums and touring at a steady clip.
“Blood & Stone” is another solid album, but it marks a move in a more melodic direction for the band. It still has several bangers, including “Blood From a Stone,” “Desperation” and “Dying To Live.” But while songs like “Love,” “Nothing Left To See Here Anymore” and “Criminal” also rock hard, they have big melodies in the vocals and plenty of instrumental ear worms.
“That was a conscious decision we made within ourselves,” Witherspoon said of the emphasis on melody. “I definitely felt I wanted to sing. I think this album lent itself to song melody more, and so that’s definitely the route we went. I think it’s amazing.”
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