(Saving Abel band members, from left Scott Austin (lead vocals), Scott Bartlett (rhythm guitar / back vocals), Steven Pulley (drums), Scott Wilson (bass), and Jason Null (lead guitar / back vocals), backstage before their concert at Rockstar Music Hall in Windsor, Ontario, on Wed. Jan. 16, 2019. Photo above by Dan Boshart / Eyes On Windsor.)
Personifying “Southern Rock,” Mississippi’s Saving Abel thrilled a capacity crowd in “Canada’s Deep South” at Rockstar Music Hall in Windsor, Ontario, on Jan. 16, 2019. This was the bands only Canadian stop during their current tour and first time returning to Canada since before current vocalist Scott Austin joined the band in 2013. Eyes On Windsor photographer / contributor, Dan Boshart sat down with band members Scott Austin, Scott Bartlett, and Jason Null, the day before the concert for an exclusive interview.
EOW: Hey guys! How was your Holidays?
JN: It was good man, we stayed out until the 22nd so technically I only had 2 days of Christmas to worry about, so I got home, went on Amazon and went to Walmart and got it done.
EOW: You guys had a bit of a Christmas Tour didn’t you?
JN: Yeah, we called it the 18 days of Christmas and we started offering a new V.I.P. package where people can come into the dressing room and get a personal acoustic performance and get some shots with the band, yeah, it was an easy tour!
SB: It was on the West Coast, which is typically harder for us to get to just because of the routing. We’re in the Mid South which is 2 days there and 2 days home. There’s not a lot of markets along the way.
JN: It was one of the coolest runs we had out there. We were at The Whiskey sound checking and one of the tech guys comes running up and says, “Hey guys, The Doors are down there”, and I thought he was trying to say some guys were trying to get in the doors and I’m telling him “just tell them they can’t come in” and he (Scott Austin) takes off and goes running down there! (laughter).
SA: We get down there and John Densmore and Robby Krieger are standing there, they were doing a documentary or something, they were the coolest guys! Our tech told them they couldn’t come in and they were like, “Do you know who we are?” (laughter)
SB: Whenever you hit L.A. you never know who you’re going to see in that California scene.
SA: I just ran into Slash the one night because he’s just standing there leaning against a wall and nobody is speaking to him and I’m like thinking he’s someone else and I say excuse me, and he looks at me and I’m like Oh, you’re Slash! (laughter)
SB: I’m at The Rainbow Room late, late one night and I run into the weirdest trifecta you can imagine, Ron Jeremy, Billy Gibbons and Doug Pinnick, so there’s something for everyone in Los Angeles.
EOW: How was 2018 for the band, what were some of the highlights?
SB: Well, we learned a lot, because we did it all on our own. We did it without a manager.
JN: We cleaned house, we got rid of all the extra luggage, bought a van and got out of the expensive tour buses and put some money in the bank. Started a new record with our original producer Skidd Mills who produced our first three records. It was overall probably the best year we’ve had since our new formation of the band.
SA: We’ve gotten closer, there’s not been any internal fighting or anything, the new record’s amazing! Doing the European tour was great for us. The band was never released there so we get there and it was like starting over again. There were people that knew the band but nothing like where we play usually. We had no stage crew and we had to get in a van together and travel and then get out and set up our own gear. I think that’s part of why the new album is so good too. There’s a lot of things that brought us together tighter in the past year.
EOW: What’s your writing process like? Does everyone contribute to the songs? I noticed a difference in sound from the first three albums to the fourth one, Blood Stained Revolution.
JN: That goes back to the original producer, he was always like an unseen member of the band and we tried a couple different producers through the years but he’s just got something about him that polishes the sound and makes Saving Abel what it is.
SA: He’s got magic.
SB: He’s the fifth Beatle.
JN: Song writing happens every way you can imagine it. Sometimes it’s a dumb look and were just sitting around and somebody says something that we think is funny and we turn it into a song. We all have ideas to bring to the table when it’s time to write and then there’s the process of actually going into the studio and scratching them from there.
EOW: Are you recording the new album in Memphis?
JN: Nashville, Skidd went to Nashville right after we did our first album.
SB: Nashville is where the second and third albums were done. Our first album did very well and Skidd did very well so he uprooted and moved to Nashville.
SA: This album is much more like the first three albums honestly, it sounds like Saving Abel.
EOW: Your first three albums were more Southern Rock, Blood Stained Revolution was definitely heavier.
JN: It was, and a lot of that’s in the production. We didn’t have anybody there to reel us in. Skidd is really good at telling us that we may be taking it a little too far, you know with ideas and things in the songs. It was fun to do, it was a learning experience for sure.
EOW: Does everybody contribute to the songs?
SB: Jason does most of the writing.
JN: Mostly us three here (Null, Bartlett, Austin)
SA: They brought me in a lot on it, these guys have been really good to me.
SB: A lot of the ideas start with Jason. If I say something funny he’ll go up and lose his mind with whatever I said and come back with “Jesus, that’s awesome!”
SB: We do a lot of interplay with the guitars. I’m more of a guitar shredder guy, that’s sort of my roll in this band, so I typically lay my parts towards the end of the record, but I always get a couple co-writes as well and we find that tactic has worked the best for Saving Abel.
JN: He and I never do the same thing ever on guitars. I can’t think of one song where we do the same thing.
SA: It was the craziest thing ever when I first sang with this band. I ain’t never seen anything like it. It was like two songs going on at the same time. They just work together to make something. If I walk two steps to the left it sounds one way, two steps to the right it’s a totally different song.
SB: I’ve always said, if one of us has to go, the band just isn’t going to be able to self sustain because we’re a guitar driven band. What Southern rock band isn’t guitar driven?
EOW: Do you have a release date for the new album?
JN: Hopefully spring, at least a single.
EOW: Are you playing any new stuff in the shows yet?
SB: Not yet but we’re getting close.
JN: We usually play one or two from the Blood Stained album because they’re really fun to play live.
SB: One thing that’s been really hard on this band is we tend to over saturate and over tour, and that all comes from people stopping buying records. It’s harder to make money without touring a lot. What happens is when you do go home from a tour, you don’t really want to go work out the other material with the same dudes you just spent six months with, you gotta be with your family because they need you too. So that dynamic is really tough, where do you gauge it where you can go home for three weeks, see family, and still rehearse for two weeks?
EOW: What sort of music did you listen to growing up? What were your influences?
JN: Everything. I grew up in a Bluegrass type family so at Christmas it wasn’t just presents and eating, everyone had an instrument and we’d sit around and play music. My mom is seventy something years old so I got all the old Country and The Beatles, Elvis, Johnny Cash and I got a brother who’s ten years older than me that listened to all the ZZ top and Def Leppard stuff. I kinda blossomed on guitar about the time hair bands were at their peak and then into the grunge era, so just about everything.
SB: For me it all changed with The Allman Brothers. When you talk Southern Rock I don’t think there’s anything else that embodies it more, just because they were first. That’s when playing guitar for me went into an entirely different stratosphere. It went from learning chords to playing six, seven, eight hours a night, eating mushrooms with friends and freaking the fuck out (laughs), and I wouldn’t change any of it.
SA: I grew up in a Gospel family, basically a lot what Jason says, Bluegrass based, and my other grandfather, he was a professional Country song writer. He wrote for like, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash and people like that, so I got exposed to a lot of that early on.
I have to be honest, after I heard Paradise City for the first time, it changed my life! From that point on I wanted to do rock and roll.
JN: First time I heard it I was at a Valentine dance in seventh grade, and when they put it on, all the girls went running off the dance floor and I thought, I gotta figure out what this is!
EOW: have you released any vinyl?
SA: We’re going to do it for this record. Right now it’s making a huge resurgence, we’ve had so many people request it and we all have always wanted to cut a record.
SB: The format has changed, and I actually cut a song forever ago on the original lathe that they cut Sitting On the Dock Of The Bay on, and that was with the barricades and the horns, everything done at the same time. I could only afford two takes and it was two thousand dollars, and that was the discounted Memphis rate. But now you can take a format straight from the board and dump it into that format and it comes out with the hiss, unless you’re cutting straight to Pro Tools, which isn’t how Skidd does things. When Skidd records it’s not all digital, it’s partially analogue, so you will get all that warmth.
SA: This new record is nothing like the last one we did.
JN: He still runs drums through two inch tape, then he’ll feed it back again so he can have control of what he’s doing.
Skidd’s mic techniques are pretty interesting. He has room mics you don’t know about. You’ll be looking at the board and say, what’s that? And he’ll say, “Don’t you worry about that.
SA: We’re so comfortable recording with him. He’s really accepting of ideas when you’re in the studio. A lot of times when you’re in the studio it’s like football coaches you know, where they’re just mean to you, like can you sing this well or not or can you hurry, I have another paying client in two hours.
EOW: Who is you favourite band that you’ve toured with?
JN: Candlebox was the band that got me back on guitar when I was younger. We toured with them several times over the years and it was just like a dream come true for me for that reason, but there’s been many bands with many many great people.
SB: I gotta be honest, for me, the Canadian thing, I still love Nickelback. The way they treated us, and they were on top of the world when we toured with them, which meant that we were on top of the world because we went everywhere they went. The quality of life and we were young, stupid, the girls, oh my God!
SA: Anyone who says they don’t like Nickelback, they’re lying! I mean to be honest, especially as a musician, everybody in the band is amazing, the songwriting is amazing, you might be tired of listening to it. That’s like saying you don’t like Journey, C’mon I mean it’s just amazing!
SB: To go back and answer the question, they took care of us! They invited us on the second leg which they’ve never done before so we toured with them for a year. They gave us parting gifts each time, like we’re so glad to have you guys, gracious people you know, when they did not have to be. They had like 18 tour buses, 30 frickin semis, they didn’t have to speak to us. We were fourth on the bill, you know? And that was with Hinder and Papa Roach so you can imagine the backstage shenanigans at that one.
JN: That was the turning point where I thought I can relax and do this for the rest of my life, because you just don’t get to tour with bands like that all the time. It was really good for us.
EOW: What’s ahead for the band this year besides a new album, any big shows?
SB: Mudfest. So our agent has scooped up, this is the first time our agency has picked up five nationals that are going out on tour together, so it’s big for them so they’re really happy with us because we helped bring these other acts to them. So these kinda tours typically take on a different meaning when everybody’s in the same boat. So we’re all putting our best foot forward but we’re all pushing our own stuff too. We figure to go out and play in front of four thousand people and push the new stuff simultaneously is the perfect way to get the new record out there, and the strategy is just that, get out there and play in front of as many people as possible.
SA: It’s going to be Puddle Of Mud, Saliva, Trapped, Us, Tantric
SB: And the big festivals have been buying the package, so you’re going to see it by the summer time, it’s going to keep picking up steam, and you’ll see it in amphitheatres and sheds across the U.S. And I’ve heard rumblings of maybe Canadian dates, just not confirmed yet.
SA: And I hope to see more of those (Canadian dates) in our future.
SB: Yeah, we love it here! It’s been a long time, we’re glad to be back!
SA: Since I took over singing this is my first time here.
EOW: Where in Canada were you in the past?
JN: We came through Washington State and ended up in Grand Prairie Alberta and worked our way down all the way across the country.
SB: Alberta, yes! That’s where my Canadian Goddess lives! (Laughter)
JN: We did mountains and mountains for two days…
SB: We did all of it. We did Saskatoon in February, when they wouldn’t let us run the bus because the air is so clean, and we’re freezing, sleeping on whiskey bottles just trying to stay warm.
EOW: It’s been a pleasure talking with you guys, do you have anything final you’d like to add?
SA: I’m so excited about this record man, it’s everything to us right now! I still firmly believe that rock and roll is going to make a huge comeback! Kids always like something their parents don’t.
SB: All these people that say rock and roll is dead are fucking dumb. As long as kids are turning their guitars up too loud when their parents aren’t home, rock won’t die.
For the most up to date information about Saving Abel visit https://savingabelnation.com
Rockstar Music Hall
Big supporters of the live music scene in Windsor, Rock Star Music Hall has several great shows lined up including Pat Travers (April 14), and Killer Dwarfs (April 26).
They are also working on bringing Platinum Blonde, Howard Jones, Honeymoon Suite, Ratt, Brett Michaels, Quiet Riot, Lee Aaron, Helix, and many more to town. These shows bring world class, big name, music industry acts to the city, and creates opportunity for local original artists (part of Rockstar’s mission).
For more about Rockstar Music Hall visit https://www.facebook.com/RockStarWindsor/
Article & Photos by Dan Boshart
Dan Boshart is a talented photographer from Windsor, Ontario, who is looking forward to spending more time on concert photography when he retires from his full time job in the automotive industry. In addition to shooting bands, he has an interest in travel, architectural and street photography. Some of Dan’s photos can be viewed on Instagram and he can be followed on Twitter.