Sister Hazel returns to Fairfield
With nine studio albums, including the somewhat surprising country record “Lighter in the Dark,” Sister Hazel has been a fixture on music charts since making it big out of Gainesville, Fla., in 1993 with the alternative hit, “All for You.”
The band is comprised of Ken Block (lead vocals and guitar), Jett Beres (bass and vocals), Andrew Copeland (guitar and vocals), Ryan Newell (guitar and vocals) and Mark Trojanowski (drums)—all original members.
Next month, Sister Hazel will release “Earth,” the fourth EP in a compilation series entitled “Elements” that the band has been working on for more than two years. The others in the series—“Water,” “Wind” and “Fire” have all charted well and brought some great new music to the “Hazelnuts.”
While Sister Hazel’s music has been called everything from Southern rock to pop to simply alternative, the one thing that’s true in almost all of its songs is the group’s optimistic melodic tunes and prominent harmonies. On Sept. 13, Sister Hazel will play at the Fairfield Theatre Company.
Keith Loria: What can those coming out expect from the band this time around?
Andrew Copeland: We’ve been incorporating more and more new stuff in the show, but there are certain staples we always play because if we don’t, people are going to throw things at us. We still enjoy those, but we like to sprinkle in some of the new music and that’s been going well. We also have been throwing in more and more covers.
KL: You have a great catalogue of songs to choose from—one that keeps growing—so you don’t need to do covers. How do you choose what to do?
AC: We do a number of fan-driven events like the Rock Boat and the Hazelnut Hang, where we do an alter ego set where we play a set of someone else’s music. We were sitting around one day and someone said, ‘hey, we learned all these songs from AC/DC and Van Halen and the Eagles, and we never play them again.’ So, we decided to cherry pick some of those we really love playing and play them throughout the show. It’s been fun for us and I think the crowd enjoys it as well.
KL: Your newest EP, “Earth” comes out on Sept. 5. Tell me the thinking that went behind releasing a series of EPs surrounding the elements.
AC: It’s the last in the series and we’ve had good success with these. As time has continued to more forward, we’ve enjoyed the traditional album release but music buyers and listeners haven’t gone about the same way as they always have, and thankfully there are a few guys in the band who are forward thinking enough to have us start looking at it from a different direction. So, we came up with the idea of trying EPs and doing a linked series. We looked for a common theme and came up with the birthplace of Elements.
KL: Another common theme with all of these is at the end of the record, there’s a short song. What’s that all about?
AC: It’s like a one-minute musical lyrical piece and our hope is that when you take all four and put them together, those short songs morph into one song. I thought that was a cool idea and fun to do.
KL: Did you like going the EP route?
AC: Everyone is still writing so we have a stockpile of songs that no one was getting to hear. It helped us to put out music quicker and in this day and age of short attention spans, it gave our fans something to look for more often.
KL: The band’s lineup has been intact for more than 20 years. What do you enjoy about being on the road together?
AC: I like it when we play live and we laugh a lot. There was a portion of the day yesterday where I was laughing so hard, my side was hurting. Everybody has wicked senses of humor. For a bunch of guys, getting up on stage, it’s almost like a boys’ camp.
KL: Your dedicated fan base of “Hazelnuts” boasts more than one million social media followers and your yearly streaming statistics are more than 56 million on Spotify and Pandora. How do you continue to build a fan base and reach that next generation of fans?
AC: We don’t actively reach out, but one way that’s been really cool is by having parents turn their kids on to the music, and we hear from people all the time about how this happened. Those people are now at shows on their own. That’s a great compliment to cross generations and I love it.
KL: When you were first starting out, where did you see the band going? Did you ever foresee it lasting as long as it has?
AC: No way. Originally, Ken and I were doing an acoustic thing and when he went to start the band, I told him that wasn’t really for me. I told him I would stay in it until he found someone to replace me. So, everything that has happened since Ken and I first started singing together is a blessing and a surprise for me. A lot of guys in the band would have wished for us to be where we are, but I don’t think that anyone would have thought 27 years later, we’d be with the same group of guys making music and making a living.