The Read Southall Band has a new album coming out Oct. 22. Envision being in the crowd at a young Merle Haggard show and realizing what was to come. The songs are riff-driven but not enough to overpower the wonderfully crafted lyrics. At first listen, the songs are immediately comfortable, but they reveal new layers each time they’re cued up.
These Oklahoma natives are playing in Birmingham on Sept. 9 at Saturn, and in Huntsville on Oct. 28 at Sidetracks Music Hall.
I caught up with singer and band namesake Read on the phone. He talked about the new record, band members and his home state of Oklahoma.
Q: Tell me about each band member and what they bring to the band.
A: We’ll just start with the backbone of the band, the drummer. His name is Reid Barber. He’s an Elk City, Okla., native. He’s really good about jumping in there and helping us figure out where we want to be and what direction we wanna go in. He is really kind of the other half of the decision-making part of RSB. He’s good at doing the creative endeavors and then jumping back and doing the business end of things. He’s really my partner when that comes to mind. He does a lot of the set lists and drops and helps us figure out how we want to present the song at a live setting. With his being on the drums, it’s kind of his way or the highway.
Q: Cool. Perfect. Who’s next?
A: Next is the bass player, Jeremy. He’s from Stroud, Okla. He came on originally as a guitar player. Once we found out we really didn’t need a guitar player anymore, we really needed a bass player, he picked up bass and jumped in there and started learning and putting in the time to be a really good bass player.
Q: That’s harder than people think.
A: We’re really thankful to have him. He brings the cool to the band. He’s the guy that could be the waiter that drops all the glasses on the table and still look cool doing it.
Q: Awesome. Who’s next?
A: Our guitar player, Ryan. He’s from Tyler, Texas. He’s the newest member of the band. We brought him on when we were looking for guitar players. Ryan had come out and played guitar for a support band one night. We really just liked his style and dug him as a person. He’s really a big part of this record and the creative side of this record. It’s a breath of fresh air to have a new mind on this stuff.
Q: Keep going.
John Perry from McAlester, Okla., is another one of the guitar players. He makes up 50 percent of the killer lead that you hear on the record. He’s the original lead player for RSD. Some life happened and he had to go home and be there for a little while. He’s been able to make it back on the road. It’s been nice to have him back. He’s got a full sound, and it’s fun and laid back because now we’ve got two guitar players rather than me trying to fill the gaps. I’m not a very good guitar player. I kinda do it to get by.
And last but certainly not least is our keys player. His name is Braxton. He used to be our merch guy. I feel like he got motivated and we found a spot for him to thrive. It’s really nice the vibes he has on stage and being able to look back there and see this is a guy that’s just got an amazing attitude on and off stage. He’s really an inspiration to myself and everyone else to just keep trying. He really showed everyone that by just carrying around a junky, old keyboard and learning how to get good enough to play on stage.
Q: I’m sure there’s one guy left.
A: Yeah, yeah, myself. I don’t know what I bring to the table.
Q: Describe your musical background. Were your parents big music people? How did you get started playing music and writing music?
A: There’s always been music on, whether it be gospel stuff at Grandma’s or ’90s country radio growing up. I was a farm kid. I grew up on a tractor, irrigating cotton. So, a lot of time to listen to the radio and think about, you know, “I could write a song” or “I think I could do better in some ways.” That’s really what just kind of pushed me to do it.
There wasn’t a lot of music where I’m from in rural Oklahoma. I feel like the entertainment we did get was from bands like Randy Rogers and Cross Canadian Ragweed. Some of the guys that came from around here would come back and play shows and that really inspired me to realize that you don’t have to be on a private jet to make music. You can be just anybody. All it takes is an instrument or just a harmony and a melody.
I really got into messing with those songs on a personal level. I never really thought to try to make a career out of it. It was just solely for individual purposes. I’ve always felt the need to twist and turn and change things up. It’s never as good as it could be, I guess.
Like everyone else, I started doing it and I’ve had some pretty bad songs. I feel like I got better as time went on. That would be my advice to anyone starting — to just keep going and keep trying new things. It doesn’t ever have to be final. There’s always room for improvement.
Q: And now you’ve got an album coming out in October. What would young Read think about you having an album coming out?
A: Well, young Read would probably want it to be a little more country. I think there’s still room for that. I think there’s still that side of my songwriting. It could surely shine out a little bit more. I think right now we were trying to make a record to do what we’ve always wanted to do, which is show a little bit of that rural aspect of who we are but also show that we can rock and roll. We’re ready to go across the pond and anywhere in the U.S. that will have us and show that we may be country boys but we like to rock and roll.
Q: Is there one song you want people to hear? Your favorite on the record?
A: I think they’re all my favorite. I think really something that’s kind of uncomfortable to me ended up being one of my favorites. It is “Rose Gold,” and it will be the next single coming out in a couple weeks. It’s a love song. It’s probably the only love song I think I’ve ever written. It doesn’t really even sound like a love song. It’s neat to me because I didn’t really realize I was capable of that. I thought I left the love songs to the country folks. I didn’t really feel like wanting to stir that side of my soul. I feel like once I started writing, we had a demo knocked out in the studio, there was no other way I could articulate my feelings except to write it as a love song. It really turned out to be a beautiful track.
Larry May is the owner of CD Cellar record store on Noble Street in downtown Anniston.