Hootie & the Blowfish, from left: Dean Felber, Darius Rucker, Mark Bryan, and Jim "Soni" Sonfeld.
If the stars align, and with any luck, maybe we ll sell a few records and the radio will play a few songs. But you can t worry about things that are out of your control, said Jim Soni Sonefeld, drummer for Hootie & the Blowfish.
The band, which will be in concert tomorrow night at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheater, will release Looking for Lucky, its first studio album in two years, on Aug. 9, and Sonefeld is proud of the music regardless of how it fares on the charts.
We spent a big, long, good effort doing this album, Sonefeld said. We probably brought more songs to the table than we ever had on an album.
For a band that started out playing frat parties at the University of South Carolina in 1986, Hootie gets serious on Looking for Lucky.
Led by the distinctively soulful baritone of Darius Rucker, with Mark Bryan on guitar, Dean Felber on bass, and Sonefeld on drums, the four college pals cast a wary glance at such heavyweight topics as religious hypocrisy ( The Killing Stone ) and the toll of war ( Another Year s Gone By ).
But true to Hootie s roots, the guys also strum up a storm with songs about love, both at its warmest ( Can I See You, Free to Everyone ) and its coldest ( Get Out of My Mind, Leaving ).
The musicians decided to bring in some new blood for Lucky, collaborating with songwriters on 10 of the album s 12 tunes.
We wondered what would happen if we brought in a few friends, Bryan said. We wanted to see if we could push things in a new direction.
Among the notable contributors are Matraca Berg, Radney Foster and Hank Futch of the Blue Dogs, Paul Sanchez of Cowboy Mouth, and Keith Burns from Trick Pony.
It s something we ve done individually, Sonefeld said, but this is the first time we all brought it to the table for one of our albums. There are lots of great writers out there, but it was a matter of finding the right ones at the right time.
If timing is everything, the 1995 release of Hootie & the Blowfish s major-label debut, Cracked Rear View, came at the perfect moment. It provided Americans with music that was folksy and fun built on melodies that stuck like glue, solid harmonies and musicianship, and a spirit of camaraderie and good vibes that poured out from the stage.
That album, with such hits as Hold My Hand, Let Her Cry, and Only Wanna Be With You sold more than 13 million copies and is the 12th-best-selling CD of all time.
Years before Hootie inked its deal with Atlantic Records, the group was selling CDs by the thousands on its own independent label while driving up and down the East Coast to play nightclubs and college bars.
After the initial blast of stardom, Hootie & the Blowfish drifted slowly back to Earth, and Looking for Lucky will again be an independent release, coming out on the band s own Sneaky Long Records, distributed by Vanguard Records.
There s nothing good for a band being on those big labels, Sonefeld said. It may seem outlandish to say that, but there s really nothing good.
The artists who create the music are caught in the middle, he said, with the label jacking up costs to pay for the overhead and consumers being asked to pay too-high prices for a CD.
People want music and musicians want to put out music. There s no reason a CD should cost 18 bucks, Sonefeld said. The only reason is because the major labels are using an old, archaic business model. And there are lots of guys in three-piece suits eating sirloin steaks.
He said advances in recording technology and the Internet s ability to distribute music are cutting the costs of doing business. He theorized that young people would be less likely to illegally download songs from the Internet if the CDs were priced more reasonably and if music fans trusted the major labels.
People need to realize that illegal free downloading needs to cease. But the music business is changing so quickly, it s scary, he said. There s a younger generation of kids who were born with a [computer] mouse in their hands and don t understand the need to compensate musicians.
Looking for Lucky is more technologically enhanced than previous Hootie albums, featuring more computer loops and background tracks that add depth and atmosphere to the music. But the band refuses to take any of those studio gizmos on the road, Sonefeld said.
Even though we use computers like everyone to record an album, we like to make sure we can play the songs live, he said. If we used some drum loops on a song, we ll bring in our drum tech to perform it live. We would never punch a button for a drum loop and off we go. We are vehemently against playing to tracks.
Sonefeld, who attended South Carolina on a soccer scholarship, is the only one in Hootie who is not an original member. He replaced drummer Brantley Smith in 1989 when Smith decided he didn t enjoy the constant touring.
He said the musicians have remained close friends through thick and thin and that their goal has remained the same since before Cracked made them rich and famous: to be able to make music together as a band.
They were mad at me a few times and threatened to throw me out, but we never broke up. Everybody enjoys their space, but we sure value the group effort, Sonefeld said.
Hootie & the Blowfish will be in concert at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheatre. Tickets are $22.50 and $32.50 from Ticketmaster and the Toledo Sports Arena box office, 419-698-4545. Opening will be Ingram Hill.
Contact David Yonke at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.
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