Interview: The Cadillac Three Draw From ‘Old Country and a Lot of Metal’ on Sophomore Album
The Cadillac Three's Jaren Johnston sums up the trio's forthcoming album, Bury Me in My Boots, as "like [Black] Sabbath on cornbread." Fans of Johnston, Neil Mason and Kelby Ray already know to expect a heavier sound from TC3, but Johnston says their new 14-track project really shows off the diversity of their influences.
"It’s a lot of old country and a lot of metal stuff," Johnston tells The Boot. "We’re really into Pantera, Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, but we’re also equally influenced by Garth Brooks and Keith Whitley, Don Williams, the songwriting side of those kind of things -- the way they told stories.
""Papa Loved Mama" is a great example of what we do live, but it’s a little heavier," Johnston continues. "You toss that with Metallica, you get the Cadillac Three."
Finding their niche was a twisty path for TC3: Johnston, Mason and Ray each brought their own influences to their self-titled debut album in 2012 and have spent the years since working to find and perfect their sound.
"We were born and raised in Nashville. I remember when Garth hit, it was like a whole different world, and then three years later, Nirvana hit, and it was like, ‘Oh, gosh, what do I do?’ You’re pulled in so many different ways," Johnston reflects. "Growing up here, my dad was a song plugger, so I was always kind of blown away how the country genre, they put stories to a good melody and a song and a beat. You don’t hear that in many other genres. There’s an actual story, and when you get to the end of the hook, you’re like, ‘Oh, cool, I get it.'"
To illustrate his point, Johnston specifically mentions Brooks' 1991 hit "Two of a Kind, Workin' on a Full House.": "That’s amazing," the singer gushes. "That whole story, he’s hitting you with all this lyric, and then he gets to the end, and he hits you with a hook like that that ties the whole story.
"To me, rock didn’t really do that as much, but I loved the sound of rock," Johnston adds, "so I guess that explains a little bit of what we do."
Bassist Ray, who "listened to a lot of Bocephus" growing up, notes that he and his bandmates are really just the latest in a long line of country rockers.
"This isn’t anything new; it’s been going on for 30, 40 years," Ray muses. "We’re just kind of carrying that torch, I guess, and taking influences from both sides -- all sides, really -- just doing our thing."
Each of the tracks on Bury Me in My Boots has at least one member of the Cadillac Three among its writers; co-writers include well-known tunesmiths such as Jerrod Niemann, Jesse Frasure, Jimmy Robbins and Luke Laird, among others. Following the success of their eponymous debut disc, the guys found it important to spend time picking their very best songs -- songs that fit together and can play one after the other but are also "true and real to us," as Johnston puts it.
"The toughest thing to do is follow a first record that everybody kind of likes, because you’re like, ‘Oh, God, we’ve got to do this right,’" Johnston explains. "I think that’s why it took so long; I just wanted to make sure it was good."
To help pick Bury Me in My Boots' tracks, the guys weighed each song against one rule: how much they enjoyed playing it live.
"There’s no song on here where you’re like, ‘God, I don’t want to play that,’ or, ‘Man, we’ll never play that.' There's none of that," Johnston says. "This is all the real deal. And it’s something that three dudes can pull off by themselves, no tracks onstage, so I think that’s an important thing, too, as far as us picking songs."
With Bury Me in My Boots, the Cadillac Three wanted to "show just a little bit of growth," according to Johnston, "but still keep that same kick-a-- side of what we do."
"We want to go do what bands do, and bands play shows, and they put out records," he continues. "So this record is just another step. We’re going to do it again in January or February, we’re going to do it again in the next six months."
Johnston also has a promise for TC3 fans: He and his bandmates won't keep them waiting this long again.
"In this world right now, music fans need music," Johnston says. "We took too long to do this record, and we know that. It won’t happen again ... Everything’s lined up, vinyl and everything ... Now everything’s going to be on the same page."
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