Jared Weeks of Saving Abel
Hailing from a small town in Mississippi, the members of Saving Abel (Jason Null on guitar, Jared Weeks on vocals, Blake Dixon on drums, Scott Bartlett on guitar, and Eric Taylor on bass) remember a time not so long ago when they were working their day jobs and driving back and forth to Memphis to lay down an EP they hoped might get heard by someone. They never expected it to get heard by Jason Flom who would subsequently offer them a record deal transforming their lives and giving them the chance they had once only dreamed about.
Their self-titled debut album is burning up rock radio with the sexually charged rock n roll anthem Addicted, their first single. The rest of the album is just as strong pleasing rock fans with a message that is loud and clear – it’s not science, it’s just good ole rock n’ roll. The video for Addicted debuted on where else but Playboy.com. Currently out on the road in support of their major label debut, the band is putting it all out there night after night hoping that fans walk away singing their songs, wearing their t-shirts and buying their cd.
The band formed in 2004 when you met Jason, can you tell us the back story?
Jason (he’s the little short guy that plays some massive leads for us) and I started out playing acoustic guitars. You do what you can with what you have. We went up to a studio in Memphis, and I think we paid like sixty bucks an hour, but we were customers. In the studio, we recorded a whole acoustic album. The owner of that studio came up to us a couple of weeks later, after hearing so many songs, and said “I want to offer you guys a production deal”. What that basically consisted of was him building a band around the songs Jason and I had written. So I went back home and we decided to take the deal. I think the offer was something like “if you get signed, I’ll do your next two albums, if you don’t get signed then you’ll get a free EP album.” That stuff doesn’t come free. Recording an album costs money. But he was offering to give it to us for free so we were like hell yeah we’ll take it! So I went home, and Blake was in school with me growing up, so I knew he was a good drummer. We called him and started getting together, doing the whole sessions in and out. We started holding studio auditions, which is when Scott; our big bald headed guitar player came in. He came in and laid some lead tracks to one of our songs that we recorded, and after the session was over, we basically said you can either get paid for your studio work or join the band and get signed in a couple months. So that’s what he did. He joined the band, then about eight months later, we were signed and doing our thing. That’s basically the back story. From then on we just went from stage to stage playing our music until now since we actually have a show to present. It’s a little bit different, but it’s better!
You didn’t get signed overnight, you really had to work for it and in the end it paid off with a record deal, but can you tell us a little bit about what kind of lives you led from when the band formed to when you got signed?
Well before we got signed, we always had the opportunity to become a cover band, which, God bless cover bands, they make the world go round but it’s just not something that we wanted to do. We had our music and we actually thought that people would like it. So, we went from honky-tonk to honky-tonk, meaning bars, playing our stuff, and people caught on to it and it kind of put things into perspective. But after we got our management in and after we recorded “Addicted” and actually started play it live, is when people really started catching on. Like ‘oh wow, okay, I like this!’ So our management came in and within a week, I was on the phone with Jason Flom, the CEO of Capitol Records. We got signed, then from there for a while we did a couple of more honky-tonks here and there. But it’s been completely different since we’ve been signed. We’ve been on tour with Evans Blue, Neurosonic, Framing Hanley, Days Of The New with Travis Meeks, and now we’re on with Sick Puppies and Dropping Daylight. So we’ve definitely progressed from where we started. I mean, we’re playing honky-tonks still, but the recognition is much higher and more appreciative so we’re totally thrilled about that.
When you find out that a label is coming out to see you perform, does that add any pressure or change the performance in any way?
It adds a lot of pressure! It doesn’t really change the performance. You have to put it all in, which you’ve got to put it out there every night, but sometimes you’re just so damn tired. People look at you and they’re like “we can tell you haven’t slept in three days.” We did a show this past weekend in Memphis and Howard came down from Virgin. Thank God it was such a great show. We had like nine hundred people there, which is good for us, considering the background and all! It definitely adds pressure, you want to be tighter, and collectively together as a unit, instead of just wore out and walking around the stage humming the notes to your songs. It definitely does add pressure but a good pressure, the right kind of pressure.
How do you prepare yourself for that kind of pressure?
I don’t really have a choice. I mean, you’re either ready for it or you’re not. Most of the time, I’m ready for it because we started a small business and the only way to network and grow is each time you perform you progress. You don’t go downhill, it’s an upward battle. It’s a lot of pressure too. That’s where a lot of pressure comes up. It’s like can I do this tonight, can I perform, am I going to be on cue, are we going be tight? After a while, all that shit goes away, and you know your band’s tight, you know they’re going to stand behind you, and know that you can do what you’ve got to do and you don’t have to worry about it. We’re like family, so we’ve got each other’s backs. If somebody messes up, we cover for it over here, and the crowd might not know, but we do and we talk about it afterwards and fix the problem. It’s something you’ve prepare for.
A lot of the songs from the EP you released on your own, made it on to Addicted. How did you decide what songs you wanted to re-release?
Well, that was us and the label kind of working together. There were some songs that are on the EP album that are kind of how Saving Abel got started and how we were brought together. It’s got some Southern roots to it, some country, a little bit of everything, but we pretty much stuck to the songs that stuck the most, had the most edge, and kept people hooked in a like a fish. You’ve gotta bring the edge, because hell everybody else has got it, and if you ain’t got it, that one thing that everybody relates to or relates with, then you ain’t got anything at all. So we pretty much take the songs that are the heaviest and most hard rocking, and the ones that go in depth with emotions of people from six years old to seventy. It’s something that everybody can relate to. I’m happy with the cuts we made. “Beautiful Day” was the very first song Jason and I ever wrote and recorded acoustically, and that’s the one that caught Skid’s attention. It made it through every cut. It’s on the album now, so we’re totally thrilled with how that turned out because it’s a great song. It’s beautiful.
Lets talk about the first single “Addicted”, it’s really a great song to introduce yourself to the masses with, it’s a rock anthem and rock radio seems to love it, was there ever any question that it would be the first single?
No. There was a time, as soon as we got through recording that, and Skid’s like ‘alright here’s the end product’, he hits play, and our mouths dropped. We listened to the whole song, and at some point we were just like ‘dude that’s us?! Really?!’. From that point on, we still had like two or three songs on the album that we wrote after “Addicted”, and we wanted to carry on in the tradition that “Addicted” brought the edge to our music. That’s what changed from the EP album to what it is now. “Addicted” brought the balls to the wall, so we wanted to go with it. We ended up writing songs like “Outta My Face” and “In God’s Eyes”, stuff that’s kinda got a little Sevendust mixed with some Three Doors Down. We added it all together. We had to keep some. Hell, I’m just glad. If you had asked me like two years ago if I’d ever be on the active rock charts, I’d have laughed in your face. After “Addicted” was done, we knew we had to do something or I was going to be working at the hospital for the rest of my life. Nothing against hospitals, I just don’t want to work in one. I did that for four years.
The uncensored version of Addicted premiered on Playboy.com, that had to be pretty exciting for you. How did that all come together?
Our label hooked us up with that! Like I said, we’ve got all these people that haven’t necessarily met us, that are networking so well for us. They’ve got our backs dude. I mean, it’s good to have people, and it’s good to know that we don’t let ‘em down. I think they told me that this is the first time that they’ve ever had a band’s video on Playboy.com for people to go and see! And what excited us about it, I mean, that’s a million people a day! If not watching the video, then they’re coming to the site, and see the video regardless. That’s a great networking tool and we’re totally thankful for that. I mean, I’d love to get the keys to the Playboy mansion. No lie! If it takes a single to do that, then by all means!
Your bio describes you as having an accessible and comfortable sound, some people might interpret that in a negative way, can you tell us what you mean by that?
Well, when you come to a Saving Abel show, you’re going to be walking away singing our songs, singing our lyrics. We have a familiarity that people are comfortable with. I mean, you’ve got all these emo bands, which I love music to death, but you’ve got all these people coming out with different stuff now and it’s kind of hard for people to relate to because they don’t know which direction these guys are going and what they mean by this or that, and only the true “emo people” really know what the true emo music means. Saving Abel music, I don’t care if you’re a metal head, I don’t care if you like Willie Nelson and you’re a bluegrass fan, you can listen to the music, you can relate to it, you can synthesize with it. It’s just really comfortable and familiar. People can walk away knowing that. That’s what’s comfortable about it. You’re like, you know what? Some days we do just need to put the CD in and listen to “Beautiful Day”, take a deep breathe, and pop a squat.
The album really covers all the angles from radio ready hits to tear-jerking ballads; do you think the album as a whole gives the world a good representation of who Saving Abel is?
I think it does. I think that’s a good question too! Everybody in our band is a great Southern musician. If I could scream when I sing, hell I’d do it, but I can’t. So I guess representation would be the music pretty much speaks for itself. It’s softcore, it’s hardcore, it’s balls to the wall rock. As you’ll see during the show tonight, we’ll get you bouncing for a second, then we’ll slow down, then we’ll throw in something else. You’re like ‘damn, these guys are real versatile.’ That’s a good word for it. It’s real versatile. The whole album is real versatile. It covers each and every ground of music.
Saving Abel – Pre-show in Boston, MA
For people who may be finding out about Saving Abel for the first time, can you take us through a few of your favorite songs on the album and tell us how they came together?
My favorite on this album would be “Drowning Face Down.” It brings me back to a time period when we’re driving from Mississippi to Memphis then back home. We were in the studio hours upon hours, all the time we wasted at red lights. It just brings you back to the time when as hopeless as it seemed, it was all for a good cause. It wasn’t from lack of trying, and I promise you that. There was a lot of blood sweat and tears that went into this album. “Drowning Face Down” is one of my personal favorites, of course I wrote the whole thing, I’m not being conceited; it’s just a sense of comfort. It brings me back knowing you know what? You thought it was the end, you thought this was the worst you could possibly be, but look at it now. I thank God the way it turned out.
“Beautiful Day” is another one. It turned out to be a real strong ballad. It was the first song that we had ever written together. It’s made it through every cut. It’s real versatile. We can go back and we can rock, too. We call the song “Noose” but it’s really called “In God’s Eyes”, that’s one that I totally love. It’s got that kinda Sevendust feel and the Three Doors Down, you know, it’s just totally rockin’ man. I don’t know what else to say about it, I love every song we got on this album. It’s a really good representation of us, but also Skid’s work, and how freakin’ genius he is. He’s like a little kid behind a Game Boy beatin’ Tetris.
You put a great emphasis on writing a great song from start to finish rather than just a catchy chorus, what’s the secret for writing a great song from beginning to end?
Well, I didn’t know that there was a secret, but I try to make sure. It’s like hip hop these days, it’s not really the best rap song around, it’s the best hook of the week. That’s something that we totally want to avoid. You need hooks for hit songs, that’s a given. We all know that. But just because you have the hook, doesn’t mean the rest of the song is good. You’ve got to have the person’s attention from the first thirty seconds to the last three minutes and thirty seconds. You don’t want them to lose interest in between the song. So really, it’s got to mean something to you.
Your album just came out a little over a week ago, how has life changed for you?
Well, there used to not be so much networking in my life. We usually just got on stage and sang our songs, but the week prior to the album coming out and the week after the album coming out, made me realize. It put a lot of things in perspective. This is a business, and we have to eat, so we have to network a whole lot. You have to push your album to sell it to the people while you’re on stage. I mean, it’s like the Wal-Mart greeter. You have to talk to everybody that walks in. You gotta make ‘em feel comfortable. You gotta make ‘em feel like they aren’t wasting their money by coming to a show. You want them walking away wearing your shirt, singing your songs, getting on your MySpace leaving you comments. In return, you get to talk to the band. At each show we’re at the merch table meeting as many people as we can. We’re trying to sell as many albums as we can. There’s actually a process on how all this works. It’s like a new job. You have to figure out ways to balance this with that and keep your focus on the same goals. The more you do it, the more comfortable you get at it. It’s like these interview questions. A lot of ‘em, which you have been great, but a lot of them are repeating the same thing over and over. After a while, you’re just kinda like “I got this!”
That’s what we try not to do! We try to think outside of the box!
You have been really outside the box! Usually I get questions like “who was Addicted written about?” or “Are you still with them?” and “what does your mom think?” and I’m like “can we leave moms out of this?!” A lot of times, it’s really repetitive. But you’re comfortable; I can sit back and hang out with you, even if you weren’t interviewing me!
Lets talk about the album cover, I read a funny article that gave the album the honor of album cover of the week because it gave the tramp stamp some cred. Who’s idea was the album cover and whose ass is that?
To tell you the truth, I really don’t know whose ass that was. That was something the label came up with. We had a lot of ideas for the album cover, but it was coming out in such a short span of time that we didn’t have that long to come up with it. The whole tramp stamp idea was basically like ‘you know, this cover’s been done before, you’ve seen an ass on a cover since the late ‘80s’. But the whole idea was to kind of keep it more sincere. We weren’t going to stamp Saving Able across the album like ‘here’s our CD with this girl’s ass in the background.” So we just wanted to let the tattoo speak for itself. You can see half of it, and half of it’s covered up, but you know ‘that’s that Saving Abel album!’ It was a pretty general idea. We didn’t have much time to detail it, so we just let the label do what they do and they did a great job. That’s what came out. It definitely works and speaks for the band and “Addicted”, it’s a sexually charged anthem. I like it, I’m glad. It’s the first time my names ever been on an album, so you could pretty much put ‘goat’ on the front of it and I’d be happy. It doesn’t matter to me.
You’re currently out on tour with label mates The Sick Puppies, what’s in store when this tour wraps up, do you have plans yet?
We finish up around April 13th in LA at the Troubadour with these guys, then I’m going to fly home for a few days. But Daniel, our tour manager, is going to drive from LA to South Carolina and swing by and pick us up. We’re doing a couple of gigs with Ten Years and Finger Eleven. After that, we’re going to do the Theory of a Dead Man tour with a band called Airborne. They’re fairly new also I think. They have kind of an AC/DC feel to them. Hopefully after that, Three Doors Down will just bust down our door and rip us out of this van to take us with them. That’s really what I’d love to do, is be on the road with Three Doors Down. I’ve looked up to those guys. They’re from the same state as me! I’m like if these guys can do it, then by all means I’m at least going to try! I would love to be out with those guys. Two Mississippi bands, knowing we’d get along just fine. I’m hoping that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
Any parting words to music fans out there?
Music fans. Well. I think music fans in general have a good ear for music. Whatever they like, as long as they keep listening we’re going to keep playing. There ain’t no way we’re going to stop. We’re always going to have something to write about, something to share, interaction with the crowd. Just keep listening and we’ll keep playing! They are our motivation! They are the reason behind doing what we’re doing. If it wasn’t for them, then we definitely wouldn’t still be here. I’d still be sitting at home, drawing blood in the morning at the hospital and playing my guitar at night. So keep listening and we’ll keep playing, I promise!