“It was a wonderful moment,” says The Gracious Few’s chief protagonist, guitarist, and co songwriter Chad Taylor of a particular late winters 2010 day in Sausalito California. “As I loosened the grip on my guitar after that final take, I knew the past was exactly that. It can’t come back to haunt me. It can only influence me and our future as a band. Primarily because we’ve all already been there.” Typically Taylor would be back in his home state of Pennsylvania at this time of year, perhaps even shoveling snow, but most likely thinking about his feature film company or other varied business interests, certainly not music. But in that moment warmth came over him as the strings still resonated, “I looked into the control room, and the guys, and thought this very nearly didn’t happen.”
Earlier, LIVE bassist Patrick Dahlheimer and drummer Chad Gracey were at a crossroads. Their 90’s alternative band had run its course, declaring a hiatus in July of 2009. Their guitarist, Chad Taylor, having sworn off writing music, was wrapped up in producing movies, while their singer was busy working on solo aspirations. “I told them that I had forgotten how to write music, which wasn’t far from the truth,” Taylor concedes. But Gracey was insistent. He recalled a time when they had turned their frustrations and unmet desires into a raw, powerful sound that ultimately helped them reach worldwide, multi-platinum success. “Making music was our dream and somehow we had lost our way,” Gracey said. “I knew if we were in a room without pressure, just for fun, we would find our spark. The trio gathered at Dahlheimer’s York, PA rehearsal space, lovingly called Spot.
Within a few days, the trio had begun to unearth material that Taylor had been sequestering for several years. These ideas would soon form the sonic signature of their new band. “Only our will to create was present. We would have to begin again with a fresh approach to the music and each other,” Dahlheimer recalls from their first few jamming sessions. Slowly, the material came to life birthing songs with rhythmic and chordal complexity that reflected their ability to resonate off each other. “We knew this was something special. If felt like we were back in my garage. The biggest question was who would sing?” quips Gracey.
With six demos in hand the trio began to assemble a wish list of singers to front the band. They knew they needed an explosive vocalist with a wide dynamic range to lend itself to the music. On the short list was longtime friend, Candlebox front man, Kevin Martin. “I knew Kevin from working with him as a drummer on a project I was producing. He had incredible timing and most important, he was a great guy to be around,” adds Taylor. After conferring with Gracey and Dahlheimer, Taylor made the call to a surprised Kevin Martin. “You don’t audition a vocalist who has sold millions of albums,” continues Dahlheimer. “This was about faith. We had to really believe that Kevin was the right guy and thankfully, he was better than any of us could have imagined. His voice is perfectly suited for The Gracious Few.”
70’s rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd or even the Rolling Stones influence the sound of The Gracious Few. They’ve made little attempt to mask their love for classic driving rock n’ roll. “We knew we couldn’t be contrived,” notes Dahlheimer. Martin continues, “We had to let our metaphoric hair down and let the music flow. You’ve got a world-class rhythm section playing heavy blues based songs mixed with screaming guitars. This is really raw, powerful music and I was ready to jump in!”
With Martin in place, the band began to write new material at Spot. When a musical interlude called for a guitar solo Taylor hesitated, “I’ve never had the passion to play solos, I think we should find someone who does.” Martin recommended Candlebox sideman, Sean Hennesy, as the perfect guy for the job. Within a day, Hennesy was on a plane to join Martin and his new band. It took them only a few minutes to realize that their sound was complete. “I was just happy to get the call, thankfully, I picked up!” beams Hennesy. “I’ve been working hard, earning my musical chops but I was always the sideman. With The Gracious Few, they wanted my participation on all levels.”
“We knew what type of album would get us excited. We were pissed off and sick and tired of the status quo. We wanted a return to music that wasn’t careful to please the masses. We had that with our previous bands. Our new songs like “Guilty Fever,” “The Rest Of You,” “Closer” and “The Few” captured our passion, pent-up fury and even sheer rage at times,” Taylor reveals.
They also needed time to bond and let the band grow into its new sound and shared energy. “With The Gracious Few, we made a choice to write as a team. This was a first for me as I had always shouldered writing lyrics for my bands. I felt I could trust these guys and let them in on my process. I could feel that they had been holding back and were ready to break out. My role was to keep them on point and learn how to interact. They have a very guttural take on how to play music. They don’t particularly know how to sound or play like anyone else. This meant that Sean and I had to find a way to compliment that sound while adding our musical and lyrical influence,” said Martin.
The band called upon longtime friend and mentor, Jerry Harrison to produce the album. “When Taylor called me, it was the first that I had heard of LIVE’s hiatus. With the Modern Lovers and then again with the Talking Heads, I had been through the process of growing through band changes. It’s not always an easy thing, so I could relate. I thought I could bring my experience to bear on the recording but also help them to understand that stepping outside of their comfort zone could bring about positive change. I had to carefully balance the emotion of the guys closing one chapter while pursuing the dynamics of creating a new one. I didn’t want the scars of the past to prevent them from trusting each other. You have to get to that place to make a great album. Kevin on the other hand was dealing with a different set of issues within Candlebox and had his own demons. He’s very analytical guy who brings a great deal of emotional introspection to the creative process but doesn’t particularly trust his gut as much as the other guys. I believe they found a way to balance each other. The trust level had to be pretty high to write these songs in the face of their past success. Most important, they had to deliver a very strong album.”
The rest of the band agrees with Harrison. The album came together around a stronger sound, a deeper band connection and a more powerful energy. The majority of the eponymous release was recorded live at Studio D in Sausalito, CA. “We wanted to capture the raw, unfiltered energy of the music. The drama of the last few years really aided in their ability to capture an internal energy. It doesn’t hurt that they’ve toured the world for most of their adult lives. Karl Derfler, our engineer had his hands full as the band cut loose on many of the tracks,” adds Harrison. “Jerry had been trying to get us to record in Sausalito for years. We lived on the houseboats where Otis Redding wrote “(Sittin’ on) The Dock Of The Bay.” I regret that it took us so long to do this, it was a wonderful environment to be creative in.”
The album opens with the hard driving “Appetite,” a song Gracey is quick to name his favorite. “I can’t get enough, the mix of bass, guitars and drums with Kevin’s vocal just kills. This is a song that will crush at our live shows.”
“Honest Man” takes a lyrical stab at today’s headlines. “It reminds me of my father. He was a World War II veteran. He believed in the American dream with all his heart, he was the honest man of his generation. Now I turn on the television and see Americans without jobs, without food and without a chance to help themselves. This song is a wake up call to the forces of the world who would dare to stand in the way of our ability to provide for ourselves,” states Martin.
The album’s lyrics aren’t limited to political fodder. The tender “What’s Wrong” will remind listeners of early Black Crows or even Prince while “Crying Time,” was written to honor a fallen friend. “Wendell was the manager at Whiskey Bar in Los Angeles, we spent countless hours hanging with him and listening to his incredible collection of music,” notes Martin. “He was from Pennsylvania, so we had our own gang in Hollywood,” continues Gracey. “I wish I could have been there for him. I wish he would’ve made a better choice for his family and friends. Suicide is never the answer and we hope this song can shed some light on a very serious subject. Possibly, there is some good that can come from our loss,” says Dahlheimer.
The collection of songs takes you on a musical journey from heavy guitar riffs to reggae influenced rock to more ethereal tracks and closes with the finale “Sing,” a no holds barred anthem that captures the grand emotion of arena sing-a-longs as Martin bellows, “I take my place and I am song! I wanna sing, sing my song.”
Taylor and his band-mates feel they’re back in a big way. He’s happy with the inspired passion and new relationships that have merged in the band’s sound and he knows fans will feel the same. “There’s a real stamina to the album’s pace. It’s got rough edges that will cut you if you brush against them,” says Taylor. “It’s rock n roll, and we’re grateful to have the chance to showcase what we do best,” ends Martin.
The eponymous debut will be released Summer 2010 with a world tour to follow.