With the recent release of These Magnificent Miles, Columbus' Red Wanting Blue is calling most of the shows it plays this month "record release parties." But the official event takes place in Cleveland at House of Blues this week. It's a bit odd that these Cowtown rockers would come to Cleveland to launch their new album, but singer Scott Terry says Cleveland has always been the band's home away from home.
"We initially played several places around Cleveland," he says via phone from his Columbus home. "Then our home became Peabody's. We eventually got to the point where we were maxing out capacity over there. We hit the glass ceiling, so to speak, until House of Blues opened up. Ever since then, we found ourselves playing there, and that became the new home for the band. I would say that Cleveland is probably our favorite market. There's something about it. It's very supportive of original music."
Taking its name from the lyrics of a "wreckage of a song," as Terry puts it, Red Wanting Blue formed in 1996 in Athens, Ohio, and has released a total of eight albums, all without the support of a record label. Even though it doesn't receive any kind of push from a record or promotion company, the band's become a regional sensation, but holding the group together has been a struggle.
"We are not the poster child of the unsigned, independent band," says Terry. As much as These Magnificent Miles is an independent release, it sure doesn't sound like it. The group enlisted producer Jamie Candiloro to turn the knobs. And given that the guy has worked with the likes of Ryan Adams, R.E.M. and Willie Nelson, the results are stunning. It's clearly the band's best album, as Candiloro brings out the latent twang of "Gravity" and places emphasis on Terry's powerful baritone on the ballad "Where You Wanna Go," a song that would be destined for radio airplay, if radio was still playing the Counting Crows and Third Eye Blind.
"Our records prior to this were completely independent, where we produced ourselves," explains Terry. "It was really important for this to be the most genuine-sounding record that closely resembles how we come off live. Jamie is a musician and knows how to pull that out of us in the studio. He had an amazing impact on the way the record came out. We owe a lot to him." The album also showcases Terry's maturation as a songwriter. For this album, he was responsible for writing not just the lyrics, but the music too. And his work in that department has paid off.
"I haven't evolved as a songwriter to the point that I'm like some of these veteran writers, like Tom Waits," he says. "That guy can sit down and write a song about two Japanese hookers, and you'd be amazed at how detailed and compassionate it is. I'm nowhere near that. I still have to write about me and our lives collectively."
Given the major-label meltdown that's taken place in the past couple of years, getting signed is no longer a priority for Red Wanting Blue. But getting heard still is.
"We're always discontent and always want more, in terms of fans and getting our name out there," says Terry. "If I was a kid, I would want to get signed and get on MTV, which doesn't really exist anymore. I would still love to have our music on the radio, even though I don't think people listen to the radio. That would still be great. If we could support ourselves and have insurance and salaries and put 500 people in every room we play, that would be amazing. We're not looking to play arenas, but we're still running around trying to look for the rush."