Feature: The Dirty Guv’nahs – Big Songs, Big Sound

By:  Mut Asheru

coversmallIt happens every once in a while.  I come across a band that I immediately become a fan of.  My first instinct is to hunt them down and pepper them with questions.  My second instinct is to sit back and listen, listen and listen some more to find out if I really like them or if I’m just glad they don’t suck.

The Dirty Guv’nahs‘ big soul-rock-americana sound reminds me of The Black Crows and Joe Cocker.  Their self-titled CD hit me like a sledge hammer as its energy radiated outward from my speakers and snaked its way up my spine.

All of this and I haven’t even interviewed them yet.  But I couldn’t go another day without introducing them to you.  We usually post a single up in our mp3 player along with the artist articles but I really really think you need to hear more than just one tune.  So….we’re doing something we don’t normally do and posting several songs so do yourself a favor and listen to several.  Then do yourself an even bigger favor and pick up the album.

The Dirty Guv’nahs have been spreading their rock gospel across the Southeast for three years now, showcasing their sound which has been best described as “a passionate, jubilant slice of rock-meets-Americana.” In their hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, they’ve graduated from playing packed out bars where latecomers are turned away from the door, to playing theaters where capacity crowds consistently cram in and press against the stage to hear another three hour helping of what Metro Pulse dubbed, “rock the way God intended.”

Knowshi:  How did you all find each other?

DG:  We all met through a completely unbelievable string of cosmically ordained events that are impossible to describe in 2,000 words or less. Since I can’t do the story justice by telling it here, I won’t try. Instead, I’ll tell you the story of our first show and how we got our name.

We had been a band for two weeks practicing in the basement of James and Justin’s house. We knew 5 songs, 4 were covers, 1 was an original that was so horrid it’s not worth naming. Everyone in the band is friends with Diana Warner (jewelry designer in NYC now, her shit is bananas – (www.dianawarnerstudio.com) Diana was throwing a benefit concert for Invisible Children. Headliner for the show was Sister Hazel. One of the opening bands backed out last minute and Diana needed a replacement. She heard we had started a band and asked us if we wanted to play. Naturally we said yes, despite the fact that our band didn’t have a name yet and none of us had ever played a show before. Ever.

Two weeks later we’re on a stage in downtown Knoxville. I remember I was wearing cut off jean shorts and a Bon Jovi t-shirt. We probably sounded terrible, and I’m pretty sure people were openly mocking me. Regardless, the local news was there and they interviewed this guy who saw our show. I remember he was standing on crutches. This is how the conversation went on live television:

Reporter: “Ok, so we’re downtown here with . . . what did you say your name is?”

The Guv’nah: “The Guv’nah”

Reporter: “Ok . . . So you’re here for the Sister Hazel show and you just saw one of the opening bands play. Are you having a good time?”

The Guv: “I don’t give a shit about Sister Hazel. These guys were so fucking dirty I’m going to go home and burn my house down”

So we named our band after that guy.

Knowshi:  We don’t know what to classify your music as…can you help us out?

DG: American

Knowshi: Tell us about your songwriting process

DG: Songwriting is a collaborative effort. The genesis of the majority of our stuff comes from Michael Jenkins. He spends a lot of time thinking about riffs and song structures. Occasionally James, myself, or Aaron will bring some ideas to the rest of the band as well. From there, we all listen and add our own flavor to the mix. James does a great job with vocal melodies. Everyone gets their input, so it’s taken us a long time to figure out how to work within that dynamic. We had a relatively short time frame to get ready for recording our most recent album, so we were kind of forced to figure out how to work well as a group during the songwriting process. That experience was really good for us.

Knowshi: What equipment other than yourselves did you use to make this album

DG: I’m trying to remember . . . Barbe’s studio had some really cool stuff. I got to lay down organ tracks on JoeJoe Hermann’s Hammond B3, for example. Jenkins was really impressed with the guitar tone from a set of Genesis amps that had been re-furbished. Most of Barbe’s recording equipment was analog, so it was cool watching him cut and roll tape.

Knowshi: What are you working on now and what’s next?

DG: We’ve spent the last 6 months focusing almost completely on our most recent album, which was recorded in December at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock New York. Our producer Justin Guip just finished the final mixes for the album last week, and now the only thing left is mastering. That’s going to take place within the next month. So we’re finally finishing this process that has dominated so much of our time recently.

I think the next step for us is to pour the same amount of energy into taking our live show to the next level. We’re playing more and more, and we’re getting some cool opportunities to share our music with new people. We owe it to those people to give them the best performance we possibly can. Part of a great live show means hard work and preparation by us. The other part comes from sort of a spur of the moment awesomeness that depends as much on the crowd as it does on the band. That’s the stuff that makes live music special. You can’t rehearse those interactions or duplicate them. But I think if we do our part and lay the platform for a great show, the rest of the stuff will take care of itself.

For more info visit: www.thedirtyguvnahs.com

Somewhere Beneath These Southern Skies


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