Throughout the course of their 17-year career, Sevendust have maintained a rabid fan base, even as trends in metal have changed. And the Georgia quintet have changed as well. They just hit the road for the third leg of their acoustic tour based around their first-ever acoustic studio album, Time Travelers & Bonfires. We caught up with drummer Morgan Rose as he was prepping for the tour to chat about reinventing themselves acoustically, owning their own label, and the band’s thoughts on streaming.
You’re doing another acoustic tour. Was this something that you ever considered would be as popular and rewarding as it is?
No. We did a few acoustic performances around the time of Seasons. We would do a few acoustic performances. We ended up jokingly, I think, someone ended up playing one of the heavy ones and we jammed it a little bit and made the comment, “We could do this with all the songs.” All I kept thinking was how are we going to emulate the heavy vocals? There were so many. We started modifying the songs a little bit, and somebody said, I can’t even remember who it was, that we should do a few shows. When we did a few of those, we were like, “Man, we should record one of these and put it out.” That was where Southside Double-Wide came in. We were comfortable, and it was probably during Cold Day Memory we had discussed going out and doing another acoustic tour and it never happened. The people who were handling us at the time, more on the booking side, said there was really no interest in it. We were kind of dumbfounded because we had gone out and done 12 or 13 shows during Seasons, and those shows were swamped. We were like, “Wow, I guess over the last 10 years no one wants to see us acoustically,” but that’s weird because it’s not like we were really selling a brand new product. It was still the band, and we were still doing the same numbers as we were back then, and we found it hard to believe that the Sevendust fan base wouldn’t be interested in seeing it. So we had a little dead time and we were just like, “Why don’t we throw together a few new songs and a few old songs and we’ll release it, and we’ll see how it’s received.” Then it started to get a little bit exciting. The people got really involved. We went out and did the first run and it was really successful and we said, “Okay I guess we’re going to turn this into an album cycle.”
Are you playing to the actual same size audiences as you would be if you were playing a fully plugged in tour?
The funny thing is there are some people I would see at the shows on the acoustic tour the first go around here off of Time Travelers that didn’t see those shows back then, and it was interesting to hear a handful of people every night that said, “I was coming here to support you guys. I wasn’t really excited about the fact that it was acoustic, and I was floored.” So I think the crowds have been similar, a little bit less in some places and in other places actually a little bit more. On the average, it was pretty similar to what we would do a heavy tour. Like I said though, it’s funny that we were under the assumption that we had the same base of people that support our band, because the numbers during the heavy shows aren’t really that different. What has happened though is that some of those people have left and others have come, so we were a little naïve to that and it was interesting. I think that it’s the heaviest acoustic performance that anybody will ever see. It’s emotional and really high powered, and it’s been received great.
Have you found any people that aren’t as familiar with your electric sets that have just been turned onto the acoustic stuff by friends?
Not really other than some people that would come with people that are fans no matter what we do and they would bring somebody who wouldn’t normally come to a heavy show because they’re not into that but with acoustic they can handle that a little bit easier, and they’ve been converted.
You’ve had your own label for a while now, which predated a lot of the bands doing their same thing. What made you guys decide to do that, and do you think it’s something any band can do or do they have to be at a certain level of success?
I think you have to be at a certain level of success to be able to financially. It’s not something where you can go in and say we want to be our own label, we don’t have any money but this is how we want to do things. I think it takes a little bit of history in the industry and being able to fund yourself because we do fund everything on our own. This is no tour support, there is no money given to us. Everything we spend in every aspect of it comes right out of our pockets. You can make more money that way and you can spend more money that way. We’re a record label. It’s interesting.
What have you learned the most about doing it yourselves?
We knew what we were getting ourselves into when we started it. We have control of everything that we do. That in itself is worth its weight in gold. I was with a record company where we did do a record and we were a predominately heavy band and were told we needed more hits, after we had sold millions of records for them. We turned around and looked at each other and said ‘whoa.’ We just went through two records of them not saying one word to us and letting us do exactly what we wanted and life was great. We had sold millions of records, we had put tons of money in their pockets, and we didn’t really have anything to show for it. All of a sudden after they had taken all the money from us and we did the songs the way we wanted, they started with, “We need you to record more songs because we don’t hear a hit.” We scratched our heads and were like ‘wow you’re getting involved now after we paid you a ton of money.’ After that record then it turned into, “We want you to work with somebody that is a song guy as a producer, somebody who can be there to bounce ideas off of as a songwriter.” That’s when we knew the relationship would be over soon. With having our own label we have the power and the okay to do whatever we want.
It seems like you guys are at least as successful as you’ve been your whole career. Your albums are still selling incredibly well, you’re able to tour. What do you think you owe your longevity to?
Our career is where it’s at because of the people. There is nothing that I’m trying to say that is supposed to be politically correct or sound cliché in any way. It’s no secret how close we are to the base of people that support this band. A lot of bands say they owe it all to the fans, and then they don’t go out there and talk to them. Most bands, definitely more than 50% will say those things and then they won’t even converse with them at all. With us, we are wide open for them. Everything we have is because of them. We came from nothing. We had about 300 people who knew who we were, and they supported us from the start. We have people that are 45 or 50 years old that are in the crowd, and we got 20 and 25 year old kids in the crowd. It’s a generational thing now.
Lastly, the industry changed pretty drastically. You’ve had plenty of gold albums in your time, but now there’s a lot of streaming and people aren’t actually buying physical product anymore. Do you see a difference in terms of what you’re getting paid? What do you think of the whole streaming thing versus digital downloads?
As much as we were early to having our own imprint and doing things like that, the industry is not that stupid. The industry was a little late for us. We were one of the grandfathers for doing it that way, and when the streaming got out of control and as it’s getting more and more out of control, our way of money is by selling records. If this deal would have been in place when we started, we’d be multi-multi-millionaires. Now as it is, if you sell 100,000 records, that gives us some money and gets funded to be able to go to the next record.
Now it’s more like streaming, which isn’t as much. Do you find the revenue you’re making from music has gone down? Are there still people to support you that you can continue to do what you’re doing?
That’s where the base of people that support the band come into play. We make our money by touring and selling merchandise. They’re buying T-shirts and paying money to get into the show. That’s where we’re making the money. In essence, they’re our boss.
Here’s where you’ll be able to catch Sevendust for the remainder of the tour, which started this past Tuesday (4):
11/7 – Wilmington, NC @ Ziggy’s By The Sea
11/8 – Columbia, SC @ Music Farm
11/9 – Orlando, FL @ House of Blues
11/11 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ Culture Room
11/12 – Jacksonville, FL @ Underbelly
11/13 – St. Petersburg, FL @ State Theatre
11/16 – Cape Coral, FL @ Dixie Roadhouse
11/18 – Mobile, AL @ Soul Kitchen
11/19 – New Orleans, LA @ The Howling Wolf
11/21 – Shreveport, LA @ Riverside Warehouse
11/22 – Little Rock, AR @ Revolution Music Room
11/23 – Fayetteville, AR @ George’s Majestic Lounge
11/25 – Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West
11/26 – Birmingham, AL @ Iron City