Interview: Halfway to Hazard Ready to Re-launch Country Music Career
In the late 2000s, Halfway to Hazard earned a Top 40 song and Top 20 album, an ACM Awards nomination and opening spots on two of Tim McGraw's tours; their career was going the way so many up-and-coming artists hope their careers will go. Then, it stopped.
In January of 2010, the duo of David Tolliver and Chad Warrix called it quits, citing Tolliver's need to "take a step back and deal with some personal and family issues that I have neglected to address."
"Halfway to Hazard wasn't the problem; it was really me," Tolliver, who is very open about the fact that the responsibility for the duo's hiatus falls largely on his shoulders, tells The Boot. "My [now ex-]wife never really got music, and I wasn't the best husband, but I have two beautiful children out of it, so I have no ill will there whatsoever."
Tolliver began working for McGraw's publishing company and got his songs cut by, among others, McGraw, Brantley Gilbert, Jerrod Niemann and Wynonna Judd; Warrix embarked on a solo career, playing with Randy Houser and Craig Morgan, among others. The two remained friends, occasionally wrote together and continued to host and perform at their yearly Crockettsville Charity Concert and Trail Ride -- and at the 2014 event, Tolliver and Warrix decided to officially reunite Halfway to Hazard, not just as writing buddies or for a one-off performance, but as a duo that would "start moving forward again," says Warrix.
"We never really really broke up," Tolliver says. "Halfway to Hazard is just one of those things that just wouldn't go away."
The guys are now actively writing new material, recording, playing shows and promoting themselves as Halfway to Hazard -- "That's what we wanted to do," Warrix explains. "We wanted to get active." -- and they're feeling confident that country music is ready for them to make a comeback.
"The writing that Chad and I do and that I've done for the past few years ... I think that music, the style that we're doing now, is more relevant now to what's going on in country music," Tolliver says, citing those songs of his that have been cut by other artists as proof that "people are hungry for that kind of music."
"... I don't want to say [our style is] more relevant," he adds, "but it's a better time for us now than it was before."
In addition to penning new material to record, Tolliver and Warrix are looking back into the archive of songs that they wrote years ago and considering tunes from outside songwriters. Their sound, they say, won't change much.
"We may have a little different take on life now ... but it's still gonna be that country with a side of rock," Tolliver notes, with the two men taking turns on vocals and harmonizing with each other. "It's what you've come to expect from us. It's gonna be real. It's gonna be life. It's not gonna be fluff. It's gonna be down to Earth and us."
What has changed in the five years since Halfway to Hazard's breakup, however, is the music industry itself and the way that bands are able to connect with their fans. The guys ran their own MySpace page back in the late '00s, and they note that they enjoyed interacting with their fans on their website's message board back then, too. Now, with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, among other platforms, they'll be able to do what they wanted to do during their first go-around, but couldn't because the technology didn't exist.
"The biggest challenge is being able to utilize all of them," Warrix admits of the plethora of social media sites. He and Tolliver have been switching up who maintains which accounts as they "stir the pot" trying to reconnect with old fans and gain new ones.
"We love and enjoy getting in there and doing that," Tolliver adds.
Halfway to Hazard are also excited to take full advantage of digital music platforms and the opportunities they give artists to release projects of varying lengths and within their own timetable. They are not currently working with a record label, but Warrix says they "are just excited about being able to control our own future."
But mostly, Tolliver and Warrix are just excited to be back making music together, officially.
"I want to move forward, and I want to have a good time ... and see where this story ends," Tolliver says. "We've written it up until now, and I think, as Halfway to Hazard, we're going to continue to write our own story -- which could be a good thing, could be a bad thing, but at least it's going to be our story."
Adds Warrix, "[My solo career was] amazing because [it] kept me in music ... but it's always good to have another person beside you that you can bounce ideas off of.
"The road is not always glamorous and a lot of fun," he continues, "[so] it's good to have a best buddy or a brother out there right beside you."