Analogue Music | Red Wanting Blue

Red Wanting Blue

By Matt Conner

Scott Terry sounds like he's just getting started.

At the very least, Terry sounds like a man refreshed, not some grizzled veteran musician who's been touring incessantly for parts of the last three decades. The energy with which he discusses Red Wanting Blue's newest album, Light It Up, is a product of a newfound creative process. In a way, the band has been reborn.

That's not to say that Red Wanting Blue has shifted its musical center away from the compelling anthemic rock that has carried them coast to coast for more than 25 years. Rather, as Terry describes, the Columbus-based band has altered their recording approach to yield the best songs they can and that has made all the difference.

While on the midst of a tour, we were able to sit down with Terry to hear about the advice that changed the quintet's approach and how that's breathed life into each and every song on Light It Up.

Analogue: You’ve got quite a catalog, but I read this is the first time you’ve handled production, is that right?

Scott Terry: Yeah, we produced the album ourselves but we procured the great John Spiker to do the mixing, so I just want to be careful to get the details right. Yes, it’s a self-produced album that was mastered by Sterling Sound and mixed by John Spiker.

Analogue: With such a catalog, is this something you wanted to handle before?

Scott: Well, I know you know Will Hoge.

'Light It Up' cover art
'Light It Up' cover art

Analogue: Yeah.

Scott: Will produced our last record. We’ve known Will for a long time, and this record wouldn’t have been self-produced without much of the help and stuff we learned from him. We’ve made a number of records over the years—this is number 13, I think—but Will made the last one with us, which was a real vote of confidence for us. It was a great reinforcement to have our friend quarterback it, because he was able to affirm our impulses and thoughts on whether or not things were the right move. He was like, ‘Totally, you guys have got this.’

After the process was done, we were saying to ourselves, ‘I think we can definitely do this next one on our own.’ And it worked out really great. We learn from every record and The Wanting was great with Will. He relied on us to do a lot on our own. He wanted it that way. So when we got into that idea of making this next record, we had a great understanding of where we wanted things to go. We had the perspective of seeing where our demos started and where they ended with the last record. We were like, ‘We know how to fill in those gaps’, whereas before we might have been not as sure.

Analogue: Does that level of ownership increase your satisfaction with the outcome?

Scott: I think so. I mean, it’s a band so we have our own little family and everyone has their roles they play. It’s certainly the most collaborative album we’ve ever made. The way I describe it… the drummer is the baby in the band and he’s been with us for 14 years. [Laughs] The band’s been around for a long time.

But what you have there, Matt, is you have someone who joined the band when he was a kid just out of college and he jumped onto a moving train. It’s like, ‘Who’s the songwriter right now?’ That’s how it had to be as we got the next person. That’s how being in an indie band is. You can’t stop. You have to keep moving. So people jump on thinking, ‘Okay, I’m not really much of a writer yet,’ but as we grow and evolve together, people get more involved and they get to have their handprints all over it.

"There’s a vitality to this album that I think is really unique coming from a band that’s been together as long as we have..."

I think where we are now with the band is amazing because we’ve all learned so much from each other. The level of investment certainly rises when it’s on us to get it done. It’s our vision versus us showing up and someone telling us what to do. I’m so proud of this album. It’s far and away my favorite record sonically.

There’s a vitality to this album that I think is really unique coming from a band that’s been together as long as we have, and I think what’s required from that is drawing from people who you maybe haven’t tapped their resources as much as you may have thought. The young blood really stepped it up.

We also called upon friends in our community to help with everything, whether it be strings or vocals. We tried our best to take advantage of the community and the friends we have surrounding us. I feel like when I listen to the record, it’s such a group effort.

Analogue: You also had more time available to you, right?

Scott: Usually for an album, we took a chunk of time to go into a studio and knocked it out. You hope to catch lightning in a bottle at least on a few tracks, but some tracks end up always getting more attention than others. Some tracks are more realized than others.

With this record, we changed the way that we did it. We went into the studio with one or two songs for a few days and we had the homework for the month. We’d say we’d focus on this song or these two songs and then we went into the studio free of the stress of thinking about the other songs. We wanted to give each song its due. Then that would undoubtedly inform the next month.

That process was so beneficial to us. I don’t know that we’ll ever go back to the old way because we were able to give things the attention that they deserved and that was new for us.

Analogue: What informed that shift?

Scott: Oddly enough, I was at a songwriter’s thing with Will and Emerson [Hart] and Emerson was the one who offered his space outside of Nashville and some advice. We didn’t take him up on the studio but one thing he did say which really stayed with us was, ‘When I was younger, I wish somebody would have told me not to do it all at once.’

He said that if you just take one or two songs at a time and focus on them and give them their time and sit with it, you’ll continue to shape those songs and they will shape the next two. It might take longer and it might sound to some like it’s a longer process, but he said in the end, you’ll get a product that’s more bulletproof. You’ve gotten to sit with it.

We’ve all been there recording something where you were in love with something you added for about a week and then you listen back later and second guess yourself. That was a wonderful part of the process knowing we weren’t letting go of a song until everyone was double thumbs up saying, ‘I love the mix.’

Analogue: When you realized the time thing was working in your favor, was there a single moment where that sunk in for you?

Scott: I just think the reality of our schedule… we’re all middle-aged guys who have children now and live in different places. I think there’s a reality that sets in that you don’t know if our heads will all be in the right place at the right time to record something all together the way that we could have when we were 22.

I think when you’re young, too, another way to answer that question would be to say that when I was a kid, all I wanted to do was to get new experiences under my belt. I was dying to experience anything new that I could write about it and figure it out.

Making Pride: The Cold Lover 20 years ago in a studio that’s next to a horse farm outside of Raleigh, North Carolina with Ted Comerford, I needed that. I needed to get out of Ohio and get away. I needed that inspiration. Now, getting to be at home with your family and getting a chance to listen to things on your own time at your leisure… that became really important to us.

So it wasn’t a hammer-on-the-head moment where you think, ‘This is it!’ But it was a tapping on the head to hear a great mix from John [Spiker] and we knew we took time to make that track. As every track came in, it just reinforced that decision.

VISIT: Red Wanting Blue

Photo: Stephen Albanese