Jay Buchanan of Rival Sons: An interview based out of Long Beach, Calif.

Jay-Buchanan-of-Rival-Sons 75Music is made to provide comfort and love. I think those are the most memorable experiences, like sitting and singing with my mother.

 Jay-Buchanan-of-Rival-Sons 500

We are here today with Jay Buchanan of The Rival Sons. Jay. How are you today?

I’m Jim Dandy!

So, you are in Loveland, Colo today?

We are now in Loveland, Colo. We just flew in from Norway; we have a show tonight opening for Sammy Hagar.

That’s awesome! How did you get a gig with Sammy Hagar? Is there a story behind that?

Sammy has been a great supporter of the band from the very beginning. We’ve looked at different opportunities to get together, and things never really matched up. Then the couple of weeks for the Sammy and Friends tour wound up being good for us, schedule wise. We just figured we’d pull the trigger on it. He likes the band, we like him, and I wound up writing a song for him for his new record that’s coming out. We have a relationship, and he’s a great guy. So, we figured we’d hang out for a couple of weeks.

That’s so awesome! What is the name of the song you wrote for him?

It’s called “Not Going Down.” I put it together for him. You know, he comes from a line of boxers from Fontana. He and I are both from that town, and Fontana doesn’t produce a lot of rock and rollers. You know, he’s from a totally different generation and all, but I had written the song as homage to the lifestyle he has chosen. He has always been extremely charismatic, positive person. I got to meet him as a kid and a teenager, and he struck me as a very affable sort of a guy. I wrote the song for him, and the lyrics are about never giving up! It’s an epic trend.

That sounds like an awesome opportunity for you…Now, is this a song that Sammy will be playing on this leg of his tour?

I have no idea, actually. On that record, there are all kinds of really big names that he did songs with—big country stars, and he does a song with Kid Rock and a couple other songs with these really big names, so if that song makes it into a set list of such a huge catalog of hits, personally, I would be very surprised! Very surprised because he has such a prestigious and extensive catalog… but we will see!

Now, never say never! Don’t give up!

Tonight is the first show, so I guess we will see.

Wow, I bet you’re excited! Why don’t you tell me about Rival Sons and how they came about and give me a little history on your band.

I will give you the Cliff Notes version of how it all came together. Back in 2008, Scott, the guitar player; Miley, the drummer; and Robin, our recently departed bass player, were all playing together, and they had a guy singing with them. It wasn’t panning out for whatever reason. The lineup just wasn’t right. They said he was doing a good job and everything, but not really a rock and roller. So, they were getting frustrated. Then Miley reached out to me and said, “Hey man, come sing for our band.” At the time, I had no interest, because I was very deeply involved in having a successful solo career, and he hit me up, and said here’s what we are doing, call Scott. I called Scott, and we ended up qualifying each other immediately on the blues. I never wanted to be part of a rock and roll band because nobody wants to play rock and roll anymore; they want to play rock music. They took the roll out of it. So, we talked about it, and I knew they wanted to play straight up rock and roll. Then we got together and the energy between the four of us was evident. I knew that I needed to drop what I was doing and put my energies into the band, and then from there, it took off pretty quick. People came to our aid right away—you know management, booking agents, labels, and all of that stuff and we were able to draw a pretty big crowd early on. That was just more than anything a clear indication that we were doing something right, just by being ourselves and not worrying about anything.

Well, doing it for all the right reasons and the love of the music makes all the difference, and when you do that, things seem to tend to come together, like its meant to be.

That would be the case. I’m very happy to be able to say that!

Now, what drives your passion for music? You said something about starting a solo career earlier on…

Music has been part of my life all of my life. It’s always been my number one thing. You know, my parents tell me I started singing basically as soon as I could talk. Music was always the only thing for me. For some people, it’s different things. Music just seemed to be the language for me. Being a little kid, you hear the grown-ups talking, you hear them using the words and things you don’t understand yet, but melody and music seemed like something I could understand. It seemed like a language of honesty, really. When I would hear my mother sing or hear my grandmother sing, anything like that, I was always tethered to music, and it only seemed to get more and more intense the older I got.

Did you have a musical family?

Oh yeah, and my family is still musical. My mom has the most beautiful voice I’ve ever heard, and she’s a homemaker—never got to get out and go professional, but she used to sing at church when I was a little kid, and my father is an amazing guitar player, guitar and bass. My brother plays, sings, and writes as well. My grandma would play ukulele and drums. When the family gets together to this day, we get together and jam basically.

So, it comes to you naturally!

Yes, definitely.

Where are you based out of?

Long Beach, Calif. I’ve lived in Long Beach, Calif. for a while, but if I can’t be deep up in the mountains, I have to be by the beach.

Can’t blame you there!

I can say that sounds ridiculous, because I’m virtually never home. I am home about three months out of the year, that’s it.

Wow, so you DO do a lot of touring.

A whole lot of touring! Yes!

So, what other bands have you opened for in the last couple of years?

We’ve opened for… some of my favorites were AC/DC; they were one of my favorites. Where do you go from there? They are iconic! I mean the only other band is the Stones, you know that would freak me out. Done the whole, Guns N’ Roses; Axel Rose and I are buddies; I played with him in Italy a couple of times. We played for Kiss, and let’s see, our first European tour was something! We opened for Judas Priest.

Wow, that’s great! You don’t hear that name anymore.

I know, right! I wasn’t really familiar with the name, and I’m still not, but getting to see what their version of what they think good music should be, getting to see these old men up there doing their thing is inspiring, because they are obviously way past their prime, and they would tell you the same thing. But getting to do what they do with their lives, because their whole lives are wrapped around music. These old guys get up on stage, and they get to be 25 years old again for an hour every night… and there is something very special, really magical about that. They are up there working really hard. I’m really excited about tonight, speaking of that, because Sammy is NOT an old man. He’s in good shape, he’s a ball of energy, and that is really inspiring. It’s very unique in that he’s kept his fire and positive attitude, and it’s the same as it’s always been with him. When he’s on stage, you can really feel it with him and that’s what I think everyone should do.

I think that is part of what makes a really good artist and keeps people coming back, because they can feel that energy.

That’s right. You start lying to the audience, and some audiences want to be lied to. But really, most audiences can smell a rat a mile away. If you are straight up and give them the honest truth, they will hear it, and it’s going to gratify people and the artist as well.

Do you have a favorite performance that enlightened you or made a special impression on you? One that Rival Sons have performed that was special to you?

You can have really large crowds. For us, we have the good fortune when in Europe and even places in the States where we will be headlining with 1,500 people—where you feel the energy coming off of the crowd. But when I think of bone chilling musical experiences that I have had, singing at a friend’s funeral or things like that, those moments where you know music was made for those hard times. Music is made to provide comfort and love. I think those are the most memorable experiences, like sitting and singing with my mother. Those are the experiences that I feel, this is the real deal. It’s about family, about love, tenderness, and transcending the humdrum doldrums of everyday. When thinking about experiences in front of an audience and you can really connect and get all of that energy from all of those people. There was a show in Gothenberg last year; it was really a special show. It was just electrifying; there was a great volley of energy back and forth from the crowd and the stage.

So, tell me about an embarrassing moment. Have you ever had an embarrassing moment on stage?

Well, with the laws of averages, I’ve spent so much time on stage, you are going to have some real hum dingers when it comes to embarrassing moments.

Well, just tell me one…

It was some years back, I was singing at a sold out show in Los Angeles. It was at a singer/songwriter place called the Hotel Café. This is like a hub for up and coming singer/songwriters, as well as well established music acts in LA. That is THE place.

I was playing an acoustic show with a band that I had, and we were all sitting on stools, and the audience was packed shoulder to shoulder in front of the stage. There was nothing but women sitting down, because it was a low-keyed intimate vibe. I was wearing some ripped up jeans, and I’m sitting there playing guitar and singing, and we launched into our first song and were really just getting into it. Stomping my foot and the crowd really started going crazy, and I thought we are just jamming, we are really zoning in! The crowd’s going wild and people are all taking pictures, and I’m just thinking WOW, the crowd is on fire; we are on our game, and it feels good! As soon as we finished the song, I had one gal, she was a friend of mine and she was the only one honest enough to say something to me, walked directly up to the stage and said, “Jay, you know your testicles are hanging out side of your pants.” I was never a big fan of underwear. I said, “what do you mean?” and she said “your balls, Jay, your balls are hanging out of your pants.” So I lift up my guitar, and it looks like I had sat on a baby bird. I look down, and I looked out at the audience, and I tucked them back in there and grabbed a towel and put a towel over my lap, and we just started playing again.

…and you resumed playing! What a great story. That’s awesome.

It was very embarrassing, and I’ve seen many a picture of this. It was embarrassing, but it was like, what can I do? It was like, yeah, well, that just happened.

You got a good story out of it. I’m always curious with different musicians, because everyone has their own technique, when you are writing a song does the lyrics come first or the music come first?

There are no hard, fast rules to that. Sometimes the lyrics come to you, or sometimes the music comes to you, and sometimes, it comes to you more as a feeling. Your head starts tingling, it really depends on the circumstances that you are in when writing. If you are in the studio and you know you have a song to write today, well you sit down and start scanning your brain and use your imagination to come up with the best melodies and lyrics and guitar parts that you can come up with. Sometimes its lyrics, sometimes its melody, or sometimes it’s the music. Sometimes when I get into the studio and I’m writing Rival Sons’ songs, I tend to start with music, because Scott will come up with a guitar riff, and we’ll start working on that. Then we build a song out of that. For us, probably more often music. But it’s not a clear cut rule.

When you are listening to music, do you hear more of the lyrics, or the music, or is it a combination of both?

I’m definitely a lyrics man, for sure 100%. There’s a lot of great music, a lot of great songs, but a majority of them do not have really good or thought-provoking lyrics. Rock and roll is big on this, when you listen to the music and the music just takes you. When you listen to the lyrics, and they are not very heavy, you learn to dismiss them, so you tend to focus on the music. There is lyric music and then there is just music.

I know you will be playing at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in St. Louis (August 31), opening for Sammy Hagar. I will be going to that show and will be writing a review for Rival Sons, and I can’t wait! I’m very excited about seeing you. I’ve been listening to your music on YouTube, and you guys definitely ROCK! Good luck with your show tonight!

I really appreciate you taking the time for the interview. | Marsha Buehler

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