Interview: The Cadillac Three Lean Into Themselves on New Album, ‘Country Fuzz’
The Cadillac Three are a force to be reckoned with onstage. Throughout their decade together, first as the Cadillac Black and now as TC3, the trio -- Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason and Kelby Ray -- have honed their loud, riff-heavy, headbaging-ready sets, earning themselves, if not a country radio hit, a legion of dedicated fans across the globe, and a reputation for creating hard-rockin' country-influenced tunes.
"A little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll" and "Southern rock" were taken, so TC3 have dubbed their sound "country fuzz," also the name of their newest album, released on Friday (Feb. 7). The 16-song project, they say, gave them "plenty of time and space to tap into everything we're into."
"From the first song to the end, it's kind of everything we've done since the first record to now," Johnston tells The Boot. Adds Ray, "Between all the lyric stuff and then musically, [the] genre-influenced stuff, that's why it's country fuzz."
Sonically and lyrically, there's plenty of what those familiar with the Cadillac Three's singles ("The South," "Party Like You") will expect -- but they also get a little weird. Pass the album's midpoint and you'll find the revved-up, super-fun "Blue El Camino," the slinky, sexy "Heat" and the prog rock-tinged "Whiskey and Smoke," based around a riff Johnston had been playing around with and a title that was almost too obvious.
"I realized I hadn't written "Whiskey and Smoke" as a title, and I was like, 'What the f--k?! I've gotta get on that,'" Johnston deadpans. "I just went as far as I could with it. That's one of my favorite things to do. I love playing it live, too."
Indeed, Country Fuzz ebbs and flows in a similar way to the band's setlists. Mason says he and his bandmates, who produced the project, "thought about this record from a live perspective a lot," and the three musicians used the lengthy track list to, so to speak, stretch out.
"It makes perfect sense for our band, if you think about it, that we'd have a song as tongue-in cheek as "Hard Out Here ...," and then one that's talking about what "Labels," [the album's seventh track], is talking about," Johnston muses.
"I think ["Labels"] just comes from us wanting to push ourselves, boundary-wise, not only musically but lyrically," Mason explains. "We try on a lot of different songs, kind of like you'd try on a jacket: 'Is this cool? Does this fit? Is this something we'd want to say?'"
TC3's live version "Hard Out Here for a Country Boy," filmed as part of Taste of Country's RISERS series, will give you a good look at what their live shows are like (press play above to watch). The tongue-in-cheek tune features both Travis Tritt and Chris Janson.
"That's the most glued-together situation that happened at the very end," Johnston admits. Adds Mason, "It feels pretty perfect, the combination of our vibe and Travis and all that he's known for, and then Janson kind of being somewhere between the new Travis and Hank [Williams] Jr."
Janson's harmonica line on the song's studio version was pure chance, too. "He just sent it," Ray shares. We didn't ask for it."
Live, though, there's no harmonica, no Tritt, no Janson -- just Johnston, Mason and Ray and their instruments.
"I think one of the things that's cool about our band, is we have our own sound, and it's made up of the fact that it's just the three instruments," Mason says. "I think that it will always be the thing that the Cadillac Three sounds like ... but it doesn't mean we won't try and shake it up a little bit."
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