Donna Block The Medium Interviews Stone Senate
Stone Senate Releases Their Second Single, “Shine,” From Their Upcoming EP Dawn
Stone Senate has been called ‘a heavier version of Lynyrd Skynyrd, crossed with The Allman Brothers Band.’ While being mentioned in such a heady company is flattering, one thing Stone Senate is most definitely not a retro act. They are taking what came naturally from their collective influences a step further.
Fronted by lead vocalist/guitarist Clint Woolsey’s smoldering, soulful vocals and unmistakable stage presence, stage left and stage right are burning with dual lead guitars of James Edwards and Ted Hennington. Add to these the blood bonded rhythm section of ‘The Mud Brothers’- Paul Zettler on bass/vocals and David Zettler on drums/vocals and you have caught lightning in a bottle.
This band has built their audience through relentless touring year-round, along with radio tours inserted into the schedule. Having been together since 2012, the band is able to widen their collective setlist while throwing in-band and audience favorites of Country and Rock legendary songs.
Nashville-based Southern Rock band. Since 2012, the band has grown its fan base through relentless year-round touring. Can you share a favorite fan story about how your music has impacted their life?
There’s one in particular. A fan who became a quick friend and is now one of our adopted ‘brothers’ of the road. Jerry, from West Virginia. He told us we came along at a time when life kind of had him beat down a bit with health issues and some other personal stuff. He came to us and had such a good time that he credits that night with turning it all around for him. I’m just glad we could play a part in making someone happy. He’s been a faithful follower ever since, and we always look forward to seeing our brother out there smiling when we play in West Virginia.
You take your collective influences from 70’s music along with an 80’s modern rock vibe. If you were to create a playlist to showcase those music time periods, which songs would you want new fans to listen to so they could best connect with your band?
We would definitely have to include: The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Black Crowes, Alice In Chains, Van Halen, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Dean Dillon, Soundgarden, Miles Davis, Grateful Dead, Whitesnake, The Band, The Doors, Stone Temple Pilots, Guns ’N’ Roses, The Cult, Paul Davis, W.A.S.P., Asleep At The Wheel, and Bee Gees. We have probably left a few out, but we listen to a wide variety of things and also draw influences from numerous genres. It definitely keeps it interesting!
How has your music evolved since the release of 2016’s Star City?
Everything on Star City was already written and we had been playing that music live for quite awhile, except for “Lazy River,” which was written by James Edwards and David Zettler. James had just joined the band not too long before we recorded Star City, and so writing became more of a group effort. Our newest member, Ted Hennington (lead guitar), came in after Star City, and when we were writing for this new album, the five of us all had ideas, along with our friend and producer, Toby Wright. We combined all of our ideas and kept going to make each song as good as it could possibly be. Rewriting lyrics, chord changes, intros, outros, titles, all of it, until all of the band and our producer, Toby, were satisfied. With any band, the songwriting evolves as the band members evolve, and it’s a really cool thing to look back on and see how progress has been made. Songwriting is such a cool creative thing; it always makes us smile!
“Whiskey Helps,” was your first single release after being signed as the flagship artist on Erv Woolsey’s imprint, Rollin’ the Dice Records, in conjunction with Copperline Music Group. How was the song chosen to be a showcase tune for the imprint?
All of us in the band feel strongly about all of the songs on the new record, but I suppose some songs scream ‘single’ more than others. It was basically the consensus of our label and management family that made the call on “Whiskey Helps” coming out first. They left us alone to make the record we wanted to make, and had fresh ears when it came to choosing it. It’s also great to have the level of trust we have in their judgment. We are really fortunate in that respect.
With the upcoming second EP, this will form a collaborative listening experience — the upcoming 13-song album, Between the Dark and the Light. What originally inspired this concept for the EPs and album?
Well, we got the title for the full 13-song album Between the Dark and the Light from the lyrics in our song and the first single “Whiskey Helps.” We thought that the title really captured the essence of the album. There are some fun rockin’ songs on here, as well as some really deep heartfelt songs, and then some tunes that are right in between. The 2 EP’s were titled after we thought about how to express the dark and the light, which is where dusk and dawn come from. We recorded the full album in two, two-week sessions, and the first EP, Dusk, was the first five songs out of six that we recorded, and the second EP, Dawn, is the last five out of seven songs that we recorded. It really worked itself out, which was really cool. The full album will also be available on double vinyl, which will be a first for Stone Senate, and we are vinyl freaks, so that is extremely exciting for us.
“Good To Go,” expresses the readiness to take a ride in life with nothing left to hide. The band shared that the song is “about being willing to roll the dice. Putting yourself out there and giving your all to the journey you are on.” What journey goal would you say the band has for your collective music careers?
Really, we all started playing music because we loved it, and then realized we could make a living playing music, and that became the goal, I guess. We figured if we could make a living doing what we love, then ‘we had it made in the shade,’ to quote Lynyrd Skynyrd. When we started this band, we didn’t have a lot of money or resources, so the only way we could spread the word about Stone Senate was to tour as much as humanly possible, and hope that took us to a new level where we could surround ourselves with a great team of management, record label, publicity, promotion, and bookings, and luckily we finally got there after several years of hard work. We still have a long way to go, but we are all smiles, being able to do what we are doing right now.
“Shine,” the latest release, the second single from the second EP in the series, Dawn. For guitarist Edwards, “Shine” is reminiscent of being back home and having the thought of knowing where you’re supposed to be. Honestly, the subject matter of the song was inspired by a painting that was in my family Bible — Jacob wrestling with an Angel. I thought about how we sometimes know exactly what we need, but still fight it tooth and nail. It just flowed from there.” Have you written any other songs that are Bible-inspired?
Growing up in the South, it’s not unusual for gospel music and the church to be a big part of your initial influences. “Shine” is probably the one song on the record that was so overtly influenced in that way, but sometimes lyrics have a way of changing, or at least revealing deeper meanings as time goes by, even to the person who wrote them. That’s part of the magic of music. When you really open up and be honest, you can learn things about yourself, even after some time has passed. And those early influences — they really stick with you.
If you were to compile a guide to touring for new bands, what would you advise them to do first starting out on the road?
We would say first, play together every chance you get, and take every gig you can physically make it to. The more you play together, the better and the tighter the band will become. The more shows you play in front of people, the more you become a better performer and a better band. Keep writing constantly. Once you write a song, the more you play it live, the more life it gets, and it may change a little or a lot, but definitely keep at it. You probably won’t make a lot of money at first, but it’s a process, and you’ve got to start somewhere, you know. It’s also a lot of fun to make memories with your band buddies, who become your road family the longer you do it. Not that we know everything, but we have learned that and we are still learning every day we go after this dream.
A big thank you to Donna Block for making time for us! We have really enjoyed answering these questions. — Clint, James, Ted, David, Paul, Stone Senate.