For pop rockers Safetysuit (Doug Brown on vocals, Dave Garofolo on guitar, Jeremy Henshaw on bass and Tate Cunningham on drums) the last year has been a whirlwind. They released their debut album “Life Left to Go” on Universal Records about a year ago and have been on fast forward ever since. Constant touring has allowed them to introduce their music to many new fans throughout the country and rather than fading away after a year “Life Left to Go” seems to be living up to its own name and only gaining momentum. Their latest single “Stay” may be their most successful to date with the video for the song blazing up the VH1 Top 20 list on a quest for the top spot.
While the guys are constantly on the road, there’s one thing you can always count on when you talk to them and that’s a lot of laughs. They don’t take themselves too seriously, they make everything fun, and the only serious subject matter you’ll find in their presence is their dedication to their music. With an emphasis on music with a message each song on the album is an anthem for one cause or another whether it be suicide prevention, self-empowerment or just finding your own inner beauty. Delivering these messages in the best way they can – in the form of addictive, catchy pop-rock songs.
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | June 2009
The first time we talked to you was a little over a year ago..right after the album had debuted, and other than the year flying by, what has this year been like for you in a nutshell?
Dave: You want to hear what our year’s been like in a nutshell? It’s been one city after another. This year has flown by, we’ve been on the road pretty much since last March of 1985. It has gone by so fast, I can’t even believe it’s been a year since the album came out.
Tate: It’s been great though, we’ve gone a lot of places that we’ve never been to before so it’s been fun going to radio stations playing the songs and then a lot of people are coming out to h ear us play so it’s been great.
Did you imagine that a year later the album would be gaining momentum, it seems to only be getting better?
(Room erupts with laughter)
Dave: You have to have blind belief in yourself when you’re in a band.
A few weekends ago I rolled out of bed on a Sunday and threw on the VH1 countdown only to see the Safetysuit guys all over the place, what was it like to see yourself like that for the first time?
Tate: It’s amazing. VH1 has been incredible to us. I think we were ten on the countdown this week, it’s been incredible to see our video on national television, surreal for sure.
Were you at all mad that they were comparing Jeremy to George Clooney but no one else in the band got any celeb lookalike love? And more importantly, does Jeremy think he’s George Clooney now?
Dave: Absolutely. Everywhere we go one of the first things people say is “Holy crap that guy looks like George Clooney” so it’s a great selling point for us.
Jeremy: It could be worse, I could be getting compared to Carrot Top or something, so I’m okay with Clooney.
I think the one thing that really stood out to out to me both in person and in stage about you guys is that you don’t just SAY your friends, you really are friends and it really translates through the music and performance, do you think that’s one of the bands biggest strengths?
Dave: Definitely, and for being on the road as much as we are, being friends before we were music always comes into play. We’re all buddies and able to goof on each other without taking ourselves too seriously. That comes into play in a huge way on a daily basis. Like you said, in the live show too, we want to invite people into that friendship and make them feel like a part of it, experiencing what we have on the road and that friendship and safety that we have together, we want to bring the crowd into that and feel a part of that at every show.
View the full gallery of live SafetySuit photos here
Life Left to Go made my top five albums of the year and one of the main reasons is that I think that it’s strong from start to finish..which is rare these days in an age of “singles”. When you were putting together the album is there a conscious effort to make track 1 as strong as track 12 or what’s the methodology behind that?
Dave: We wanted it to have a flow where you could listen to it from start to finish and hopefully not have to skip anything. We like to play music that we enjoy to listen to since we have to do it every night. People have been enjoying it though so we’re excited about it.
Let’s talk about the latest video for Stay – your latest video. Where did the concept for the video come from because that one definitely surprised me.
Dave: We worked with Zach Merck on the Someone like You video and we had a great experience with him so he worked on the second one with us and he called us up with the skeleton idea for it and just doing something that you wouldn’t really expect for the song. When we first heard the idea, the bank robbing and the on the run idea we were like okay with the Bonnie and Clyde type of idea. It was great because we really wanted to in a direction where people wouldn’t expect it it to happen with the song Stay.
Yeah, when I first saw it the concept was a surprise and I think the cool thing about that is that it shows the different ways that a song can be interpreted and mean for different people so that was cool. I also wanted to know if Doug got to keep the badge from the video and if he’s flashing it around anywhere?
Dave: I don’t think that was a real badge, I could be wrong.
Jeremy: Yeah Doug arrested three people last week.
Dave: Actually our tour manager Chico has a siren that plugs into the cigarette lighter and he pulled me over with it one night, it was pretty amazing.
Vote for Safetysuit’s STAY on VH1! Let’s make it numero uno. Vote now!
So let’s talk about a few of the songs on Life Left To go. As someone who has lost a loved one to suicide I felt really drawn to the title track, how much feedback have you had from fans who have been helped or saved by this song?
Doug: Whether it’s at the show or online it really hits home the same. On a serious note that’s probably a pretty serious message, there’s a lot of crap that happens in life but nothing is worth ending it because it’s a beautiful thing, even when it’s bad. We wanted to write a song that would speak to anyone who was even letting those thoughts develop. For the people that aren’t struggling with it, it’s a good reminder to look around and to notice people because that’s what everyone can do. It’s important that no one goes walking through every day of their life feeling alone.
Another one of my favorites is Annie..I think it it’s an amazing message and is very empowering to girls who have more beauty on the inside than the outside….is there a real Annie that the song is based on?
Doug: We can’t tell you if there’s a real Annie, that’s part of the mystery.
(After a brief off the record exchange I got my answer, but have been pinky sworn into secrecy so the mystery lives on!)
The first song I ever wrote was a song that I put together for my brother for something he was going through and my little sister always gave me a hard time about not writing a song for her, so I was trying to get into that girl vein and put something together for that and it started out as a totally different thing, totally different subject matter. As I went into the head space it turned into Annie and I thought, that’s a good thing to talk about. At the end of the day we get a little crazy in the U.S. of A as far as looks – being crazy thin and perfectly tanned, it’s just out of control. At the end of the day you walk up to someone that looks that perfect and if they don’t have anything upstairs it doesn’t really matter. Focus on the good stuff. If you’re happy and you’re fulfilled the other stuff will come naturally.
Dave: And you still owe your sister a song now.
You once said that “Someone Like You” was written for the underdog, can you explain what you meant by that?
Doug: Someone like you was written for people that want to feel empowered.
Lyrically a lot of your songs seem to have a focus on really reaching out to listeners and talking to them in a very direct way of support and guidance, did you go into writing these songs with that in mind or is that just a product of your style of writing?
Doug: I think we all agree that that’s what music is for, to speak something. Tate is a massive Bob Dylan fan and the great writers have always said something. Some may be very deep and very political based and others will be lighter and more relationship based but if you’re not writing a song that speaks to anything then you’re wasting the medium. Music is cool but to be able to say something with it is also cool, we’ll call that Double Cool…
Last time we talked to you said something pretty heavy “We want to write songs that empower people and that make them feel better then when they started.” What artists do that for you?
Dave: Coldplay definitely.
Jeremy: Hanson always uplifts my spirits..when they said Mmmbop…no really Coldplay definitely and U2 is a big one for all of us that’s been very inspirational, you feel better after those songs are over. John Mayer is another one, we listened to John Mayer for about 13 hours yesterday.
Doug has said that he writes the majority of songs in his head, how does that work out for the rest of the band?
Doug: They just get it. Nah, I write them in my head at first but when it’s time to put the songs together we all get together and work it out. The head thing is really only because I’m insufficient at an instrument. I don’t like playing on an instrument because you’re limited to..
Dave: ..your ability…
Doug: chord structure and being able to play. You can write anything in your head even if you could never in a million years play it.
What have been the most memorable moments for you as part of the band over the past year?
Dave: There was a couple who came to our show at the Machine Shop in Michigan. They were having a hard time in their relationship and showed up to the concert real bummed out and having a challenging time and we got to meet them ahead of time and she was just looking real sad and Doug got to talk to her for a little bit and encourage her and he asked her what song he’d like us to dedicate to her from the set and she said “Stay” because the message really spoke to her at that time, and so we did that, we called her name out, her and her husband and they were lit up. She was so grateful, and it made their night and it actually salvaged their relationship from then on. She wrote in months later thanking us saying that since that night they had decided to work it out. So when things like that happen it really makes some of the longer days on the road worth it.
We got to hang out with a bunch of Marines in Corpus Christi the other night too and that was pretty incredible. We were all staying at the same hotel and we gave them a ride in our van and we got to hang out with them all night, it was great.
I wanted to go back to the beginning of the band because I think it’s worth mentioning that you were all friends and you entered a Battle of the Bands and that’s when you decided to really pursue a legitimate band.
Dave: Yeah we were all friends in different bands and there was a battle of the bands at the school we went to and you got to play in the basketball arena which was huge with a big sound system and we thought it would be fun so we decided to play together and when they said we won our jaws hit the floor, we were shocked. So that kind of started the whole thing for us.
The rest is history?
Dave: The rest is history!
You can check out our past interviews with Safetysuit here and here. As a music fan I just have to say that Safetysuit is by far one of my favorite bands these days and I’m so excited to see them experiencing some success with such an amazing album. You can catch them out on the road this summer with Three Doors Down followed by a tour with Collective Soul. Don’t miss them!