Meet Nashville’s Rising Stars: Stone Senate
As part of our series about Nashville’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Stone Senate.
Stone Senate is referred to as “a heavier version of Lynyrd Skynyrd, crossed with The Allman Brothers Band.” While being mentioned in such heady competition is flattering, it is important to note that Stone Senate is most definitely not a retro act. They are taking what came naturally from their collective influences a step further and making a name for themselves in the world of modern country rock. With over 500 shows throughout the US in the last few years, their touring prowess has garnered them a solid fan base of country rock-n-roll lovers.
Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
Stone Senate is a 5 piece band, with 3 of the guys — James Edwards (guitar), Paul Zettler (Bass, Vocals), David Zettler (drums, vocals) — having grown up playing in Meridian, MS and in that music scene. Ted Hennington (guitar) grew up around Nashville, TN, and Meridian, MS while Clint Woolsey (vocals, guitar) grew up in Nashville, TN playing in the rock and country scene.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
All 5 of us have wanted to make a living playing music since we were very young, and all of us played in different successful cover bands and different successful original music bands until we started to put Stone Senate together in 2012, with Clint and Paul. David, who is Paul’s younger brother, joined in 2014 when our original drummer left. James joined in 2015 when one of our original guitar players left, and Ted joined in 2019 when another original guitar player left. We are still great buddies with the cats that left the band, as life gets in the way of your musical plans sometimes.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There are a lot of interesting stories to tell, but the one that comes to mind first would be when we played the Whiskey a Go Go club in LA for the first time, back in 2018. We had started hitting over 150 shows a year, as the goal was to work as much as humanly possible, and then we added a full 5 or 6 weeks worth of shows “out west”. Haha, to us, being in Nashville, out west is a hell of a drive, but looked like a damn good time! Included in that run of shows were the Whiskey, Iron Horse Saloon (Sturgis, SD bike rally), Las Vegas, and multiple other stops. The band is a family, and we all are history buffs, so we also went and saw tons of cool sights like Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, Little Big Horn, Crazy Horse Monument, Billy The Kid’s gravesite, Coors Brewery, Wild Bill’s grave, Deadwood, SD, Buffalo Bill’s gravesite, and had a couple of days off in Vegas. We travel a lot and that was by far some of the most fun we have ever had, and we got to experience it with each other. The more time you spend with your bandmates, the better and the tighter the band becomes — if you don’t kill each other first. Haha!
Can you share with us an interesting story about living in Nashville?
Living in Nashville means you never know who you may run into, jam with on some stage somewhere, have a drink with, or end up one night. We always hang out at Losers Bar & Grill and Winners Bar & Grill in Midtown Nashville, and those places are known for being a hang for musicians and sports figures and all kinds of “known” folks. We have all played both venues multiple times over the years so we always jump up and jam with the house band, who are all wonderful guys and even better players. There’s never a dull moment, and lots of fuzzy nights once the drinks start flowing.
Can you share with us a few of the best parts of living in Nashville? We’d love to hear some specific examples or stories about that.
Nashville always has some cool shows to go see. Whatever your musical preference may be, you will never be bored living here. Sometimes it’s nice to just hang at a bar with a good jukebox and have some drinks on a slow or off night. Also, there are some great hangs for watching hockey and football.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Well let’s see, when we started playing outside Nashville, we booked everything ourselves. Trying to route cities and shows appropriately when you basically accept everything that comes your way can be very difficult. LOL. For a while, just to keep us working and spreading the word of Stone Senate through our grassroots campaign, we basically were all over the map, at one point going from Daytona, FL to Sturgis, SD in 48 hours. Haha. The lesson learned was to make every effort possible to route yourself to make it as easy as possible and keep every show. Traveling a 5 piece band with 1 other guy helping out makes 6 people in a small van for many, many hours, and that can get old very quickly. We continued to do it as much as possible though, to get to where we are today- a new record, a label, a booking agency, having management and helping spread the musical gospel of Stone Senates’ “southern soul rock n roll”.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Well with this band, we are all very grateful to Erv Woolsey, Clint’s father. Erv has gone out of his way to help this band and we just can never thank him enough. He has been in the music industry for decades and has been a teacher and a mentor in both the business side and in life. Erv and Allen Mitchell manage us along with Clint. We want to thank Erv for his support through many frustrations over the years! Haha!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Our new record, “Between the Dark and the Light’ was just completed, and we had the amazing opportunity to work with amazing producer, Toby Wright. Toby worked with Alice In Chains and did one of our favorite records of all time, “Jar Of Flies”. Toby engineered, produced and mixed our new record and has worked with tons of artists including Kiss, Korn and Metallica. This was a dream come true to work with Toby and we all really enjoyed it. He pushed the band to new heights on this record. We are booking as many shows as humanly possible for 2021 and excited to get back out there!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Write songs for yourself and also write songs for everyone else, and that keeps you happy musically. Make sure you write stuff that is easy to understand and universal in meaning and you can also have some songs that really mean something deep to you. We went through this process on our new record, and as a family, we decided on songs that are very radio-friendly and also some songs that you have to think about a little bit more. It’s a fine line we have learned, but a great lesson to learn.
2. Always have a contract signed. There are promoters and club owners out there that do not care about you, your band, or paying you. Haha, that was a tough lesson to learn but we figured that one out pretty quick.
3. Pursuing your dream can be hard on your personal life.
4. The sacrifices you will make to make a life of this are far greater than you can imagine, but you will not regret any of them.
5. Be prepared to cut ties, no matter how difficult, and move at the speed of opportunity.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
We would say to tour as much as possible. To us, that gives you the best opportunity to meet and talk to folks that may or may not buy your music, keeps your musical chops up and in shape, gets you out of the same boring scene of your hometown, and it just feels really great and inspiring to make music with your buddies.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Well we don’t get political, but we are all very big dog people, so something to help the animal rescue centers and humane societies.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Hmmm, let’s see here. Probably “get er done”. That is inspiring and uplifting, especially in the music business and in life in general, we think.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Jerry Cantrell or Warren Haynes — we are huge fans of both of those guys.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!