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Like that Killers show when Brandon Flowers introduced you as “the Sheriff of Nashville.”
“I’m such a fan of [The Killers] that I just was going to the show. That’s a good example of a door that’s opened because of playing and wouldn’t be there otherwise. Basically, they were coming to town, and I called my booking agent and said, ‘I’d really like to go. I’m not asking to meet them. I don’t even really want to meet them. I don’t want to know what they’re really like. I just wanna hear them play.’
“The next thing you know, it’s four o’clock on that day, and I get a call and it’s my agent saying, ‘They want you to play a song.’ I got there and they were like, ‘Do you wanna play From Here On Out? It’s on the new album.’ I said, ‘Yeah, that’s fine. I’m that big a fan, I don’t even have to practice it.’ We sat down backstage and jammed for a little while. Then I went out and watched the show, and walked out and played with them. And then I went back out and sat with [my wife]. She’s like, ‘How do you do that? How do you just walk up there and play?’ I said, ‘That’s music. That’s the fun part.’ I bet she could jump into a scene and improv if she had to.”
When it comes to your main gig, you bring the same players into the studio that you use on tour, and that goes for last year’s Wheelhouse. Recording with the road band is something most major-label country acts don’t do. What difference has doing it made for you?
“What you’re hearing on this latest record is the rawest form my band has ever been on tape. We didn’t really edit much. We replayed more than we fixed. I like making rules for each record. That album, the rule was it can’t be something you’ve already heard done. And no fixes. So that was a tough record.
“We’re in the process now of recording the next album – and doing it completely differently, while having learned from the last one as well. It’s an interesting thing when you do that with a band, because you bond in ways you could never bond before. They aren’t just hired for the road. They know that. They have an investment in this music. They are playing their own licks.
“No one honestly cares in the audience about that in our format, necessarily. Our odd drummer, guitar player fan might care: ‘Hey, that’s Ben Sesar on the drums. He’s played every record.’ But for the most part, the rest of ‘em are just there to hear these songs that they know. But that’s a really big deal to me. I take that very seriously, because that’s how I would want it done.
"If I hadn’t made it as a recording artist and was in my fallback career of being a guitar player/songwriter in this town, which is probably what I would’ve ended up doing somehow, and I got a gig with some kid that had hits, I would be really appreciative, would be very, very thankful to get to play on that album. My guys are good enough to do that, and they should. It’s a real thrill for us to do that. And actually, we learned enough last time that it’s become so much more fun this time, and less stressful.”