Stone Senate’s Musical Rise is No “Slow Crusade”
by Kira Grunenberg
Stone Senate’s very bold name, prompting allusions to the likes of Metallica and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the deep, brooding quality of lead singer Clint Woosley’s voice, doesn’t leave the five piece Nashville band all that aligned with thoughts of delicate musical repertoire. The inaugural Rollin’ the Dice Records group is out to demonstrate that Stone Senate—Clinton “Clint” Woolsey (Vocals, Guitar); Ted Hennington (Guitar); James Edwards (Guitar, Vocals); Paul Zettler (Bass, Vocals) and David Zettler (Drums, Vocals) —can embrace heaviness and intensity through more than just the volume dial or direct topical imagery, to very emotionally moving results.
Following the release of “Whiskey Helps,” the band’s debut single with Rollin the Dice, the newest track, “Slow Crusade,” approaches the idea of an intense and serious listening experience. However, for this song the central mood is conveyed through an inverted lens as compared with its predecessor. The four minute track opts for internal reflection, surrounded by a calmer tempo and more natural sonic framework to match, as opposed to more overt dynamic manifestation, of which Stone Senate has shown itself to be more than capable of projecting in a performance.
Clint Woolsey set aside time to chat with American Songwriter to talk more about how the internal message of “Slow Crusade” speaks to him personally, Stone Senate’s developing musical personality, what the band’s aspirations are as a group carving a place in the country sector, and more. American Songwriter: You’ve mentioned “Slow Crusade” is about trying to stop, or at least stall, the impact of loss. How has this song helped you or perhaps others in the band, to better handle subsequent bouts of loss or grief you might have experienced – particularly given the year everyone has been through? Clint Woolsey: You know, writing the song itself, James and I, and our bandmate, Ted Hennington, [we] put the song together and I think just writing it was kind of like almost like therapy. You kind of just felt like you get some stuff off your chest. Yeah, it just kind of flowed really easily and we put it together really easily—just on acoustic guitars and stuff, sitting in my living room.
James Edwards: Clint came in with such a great title. That was what intrigued me––when he said ‘I’ve got this, this song, this idea of a ‘Slow Crusade.” I’ve always been kind of weird in that I’ve never liked to really tell anybody what a song is about because I feel like I’m robbing them a little bit of the experience of becoming something personal for them. You know, people like to get the inside scoop but at the same time, I don’t really feel like I’m giving them anything. But [‘Slow Crusade’] is so descriptive…that state of mind, that emotion, and bringing the right colors musically with, [that] was really important to get that one right because it was so personal. It was a truly inside song, you know what I mean? That’s the kind of song that will take on new meaning for you throughout different experiences. Loss and grief or whatever, present itself in odd ways. And it’s an ever changing thing. And [‘Slow Crusade’], it seems like it applies really well to a number of situations.
AS: What was the rationale behind following up your label debut single, “Whiskey Helps,” with such a drastic sonic and emotional contrast?
CW: We definitely wanted to, I guess, keep it as real to what we had done in the past. Working with Toby Wright, who produced the album, he definitely felt the same way, but as he said, he really wanted to pull out some new stuff from us, just as far as really focusing in more on the songwriting and crafting. This [forthcoming] album is really our first one on a label. The past two albums that [Stone Senate] put out were just—we just did it ourselves. And so we really wanted to make a big splash [and] have some really fun rockin’ kind of [music], as well as really trying to showcase the songwriting as well.
JE: Oddly, there’s kind of a neat story that kind of developed after the fact. As we got into the writing for this record, it seemed to take on a bit of a theme, without any intention of doing so. We decided after the fact. The title of the new record, Between the Dark and the Light, which is actually a line out of the first single, “Whiskey Hills,” had taken on that theme naturally itself. It seemed like a lot of what’s going on in the record lyrically and the mood of it is kind of an overcoming kind of a record. Oddly, with all of the business of the last year, a lot of people have been struggling, and in some way some form or fashion maybe it will speak to common condition. Your own babies come back to surprise you. Those songs are your children and sometimes your children just come back to haunt you.
AS: What are some of the thoughts, memories, or motivations you and the band turn to just prior to recording, in order to achieve the most emotionally sincere take possible?
CW: I was a little nervous working with Toby Wright and stuff, not in a bad way, but just excited and nervous . Once I kind of got my brain settled down, and then I got back in the mood of the song. I guess I was thinking—I went through a divorce about a year ago—so I was kind of thinking about that a little bit. [My family and I] had lost a pup, maybe a couple months before we we recorded [the song] and so I was kind of thinking about that too. And so that kind of had me, even though it’s a depressing mindset, I was back into why I wrote the lyrics and stuff like that.
JE: This sounds crazy but I used to call the Paul Zimmer, our bass player, we were both fans of the television show, Inside the Actor’s Studio. And I used to love watching, especially method actors, how they would immerse themselves in a character for a part and how that can be related to writing songs—draw the best performance out of yourself, for whatever subject matter was. Music especially, for ‘Slow Crusade,’ it just gave me pictures of that great rainy morning. [Those] blue Sundays that we all seem to have sometimes. You just try to paint that picture. For me, it’s about supporting what Clint’s doing. I try to find some ways to put a color beneath whatever lyric he’s singing at any time, that [can] take you to that place as best you can, with six strings and wired and wood. We’ve all reached a point in our lives where we’ve all experienced things. We’ve all experienced loss. We’ve all been through a lot in common. It wasn’t really hard to go to that place to get that performance. For a lot of for a lot of us in the band, the emotions behind it were pretty fresh.
AS: What is the band’s plan with regard to delivering a memorable show, once live music starts to come back in venues around the country and world?
CW: Most of the [band’s] touring was obviously shut down, like everybody else’s stuff was. But actually, we’re going back to work for a little bit next month for the Daytona Bike Week, which will be really, really cool. And we’re gonna have a whole new live show put together to kick it off. And so a lot of new materials, and we always like to throw in some fun. You know, cover songs and stuff. And so we’ll be doing a lot of new material and just an overall fresh new show. So, I guess the kind of good thing that came out of COVID was that we did have so much time to write. And we spent a little over two months, recording— the new record stuff. And it kind of almost puts a fresh feel on it I guess at least from, from my perspective. It’s always exciting to get out and play and stuff, but now it’s really, really exciting to get back to it. We’re really close, all five of us. And so, I think just the opportunity to hang out again and have some beers and play some music, everybody’s really, really excited about.
JE: I think the only challenge regarding getting back out there is going to be controlling the pent up energy. A band like ours that tours as much as we have, it’s basically is our life. It’s what we do. We’ve always felt like, ‘Man, bands that don’t go out and play, we just don’t get it.’ It’s what it’s about in the end: getting out there and being face to face with the people putting your thing out there. We’re gonna be on a bucking horse the minute we run out there.
AS: How would you describe the musical personality of Stone Senate—especially for new fans that may now have only heard “Slow Crusade” without context of your other music and performance styles?
CW: [Stone Senate] lives to play music and and have a damn good time. And everything we write is is always from the heart. We just try and just play that for the most part: just good old fashioned rock and roll.
JE: Everyone in this band has super eclectic taste and super eclectic influences but we share a lot of those influences. And it comes through in what we do. You’re not going to find one song on [our forthcoming] record that you can say is absolutely indicative of Stone Senate. What you’re going to hear when you hear the record in its entirety… then you’ll have an idea of what we are. [W]e can take you to a place like ‘Slow Crusade’ does but we can also take you to one hell of a good party. You’re not going to get bored. I always wanted to be part of a band [and] part of a record that took people on a ride [and] that showed all shades. And we did it I believe. I’m proud of it. I’m really proud of the fact that I’m part of a band and part of a record that is one that I always wanted to hear. And hopefully, everybody else feels the same. You know, you’re not gonna be everybody’s cup of tea, but hey, you might be their beer.
AS: What kind of presence and influence does Stone Senate want to have within not just the greater musical landscape, but specifically the country music sector?
JE: In this band, all we want to do is make the best music we can. We’re a little hard to nail down in that we have real rock and roll influences where we hit hard when we go out there and do what we do. And we might, no apologies for it. And we love hardcore stone country. We cut our teeth on Merle Haggards and the Waylon Jennings’. And it all speaks to what we do. It all comes into play. Southern rock tag that has been given to us is probably apropos in that and we never set out to be one thing. All we wanted to do was go out there, rock hard but write as good a song as we could. We wanna come out of [the studio] rockin’ but we also want to represent [the idea of], ‘Don’t let the song suffer just for the party.’ The people we all admire wrote great songs [and] lasting songs—songs that meant something, whether they were the good time songs or they were the deep, tear-in-your-beer songs that moved you. And that––if we can do that—I don’t care what [people] call us.
[Stone Senate has] the greatest [record label] team around us in the world, and one of the things [the team] did that I appreciate equally as much as all the hard work they put into in helping us, is they left us completely alone to make this record. We just went and made our record and gave it to them. And that, and that alone speaks volumes about their faith in us and we just don’t want to disappoint. And the best way we know how to do that is to be ourselves.