Caleb Followill in the spotlight as Kings Of Leon headline 2008's Glastonbury Festival. © Frantzesco Kangaris/epa/Corbis
Kings Of Leon are less than a week away from releasing Come Around Sundown, their much-anticipated follow-up to 2008's worldwide smash, Only By The Night. With the new album about to drop, frontman Caleb Followill discussed the band's mindset behind their big breakthrough and the pressures he felt to match its success.
"The first three didn't do nearly what we thought they would," the singer told BBC 6 Music. "I mean, I thought [2004's] Aha Shake Heartbreak would kind of bring everyone around to like, 'OK, these guys are more than just moustaches.' On our fourth album, we just didn't care. Let's just make the record we want to make, and it is what it is. It was a win-win. You know, if it becomes big and breaks us in America, so be it. If it doesn't, it can't get any worse."
That fourth album was a win-win all right: Only By The Night sold over six million copies across the globe and firmly established Kings Leon as stars in their homeland. But the sudden rush of glory came with a price: "I remember that we were on the road and I'd just found out that my house had gotten broken into and the record was really doing good and that was my kind of Kurt Cobain moment," Followill said.
"I was hating the success and I was scared and I thought, you know, People are going to think that we did this on purpose and that we made this record so we could be big."
It all came to a head at 2009's T In The Park Festival, when Caleb, angered about the stage sound, smashed his prized Gibson ES-325 to bits. Weeks later, while headlining the Reading Festival, the band slammed the crowd for not being animated enough.
"I wanted to do some interviews and just apologise for my attitude," Followill said. "Everything affected me and we took it out on a lot of people."
According to Followill, recording Come Around Sundown found the singer in a different place with fame. "I was no longer disgruntled about it and, you know, the 'troubled artist,' that thought that things had gotten too big. I was really excited about where we were as a band and excited to take it to a different place and see how many of the people who had just discovered the band on the last record, I wanted to take them on a little bit of a journey.
The sessions also found the Followill men in a new place physically - New York City. "The hustle and the bustle of the city [made] us go somewhere differently, make us work harder," said Caleb. "I just kept telling everyone, 'I'm going to go in there and try a dummy lyric,' and everyone was like, 'You can't change it - what you said needs to be said.' And when I finally told what it is that I was saying, they were like, 'You can't say that, can you?' It was very raw and very natural and it was very much the way I thought a New York artist would make a record."
Kings Of Leon are currently streaming Come Around Sundown. Be advised, however: at the moment, the music player on the group's website is not active in the UK.