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Inimitable Sevendust vocalist Lajon Witherspoon loves Australia so much, he’s willing to pull up sticks and live here. You hear a lot of bands say “we love Australia,” but Lajon is willing to put his money where is moneymaker is.
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Coming out in April for a headline tour, alt-metal kings have been blessed with a quarter-century’s worth of career, spanning twelve albums, numerous gold records, and a GRAMMY nomination. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Lajon and band’s fusion of metal riffs and soulful refrains caught on like fire to tinder during the nu-metal revolution of the early 2000s. What’s more uncanny is their staying power, even as most of the “nu” generation have withered on an electronic vine. Hysteria caught up with Lajon from his family home in Kansas, just coming in from a winter’s chill.
April’s tour will be Sevendust’s first in yonks. What’s the feeling in the band?
I’ve said it several times today; Australia to me is such a beautiful place to be. Not only to be an artist, but just to be a visitor, to come, to experience the energy there, it’s very contagious. For me, as a artist, it’s a magical experience. Each time we get on the stage there, it’s like that everywhere. It’s a different feeling when you go overseas. When you get to Australia, I don’t know, may it be because we don’t get to come a lot, but the energy is just crazy, and I look forward to it. I cannot wait to get back.
I think Australia’s had a bit of a love affair with you guys. Sevendust have been quite popular, even since the first few albums like Home. Have we been “good” to you in that respect?
Oh heck, yeah, definitely. You know what? Australia’s been good to us in the regards of, how bout this, we have so many beautiful, I don’t say friends, I say family, that come over to the states from Australia and hang out with us.
Over New Years we did our album shows at the Masquerade in Atlanta, Georgia. We had so many beautiful people from Australia hang out with us. It was incredible to see that energy come over here to hang, you know? So, obviously when you say love affair, that means so much to me, because, well, I have the same feeling with Australia. It’s a really cool thing to be a part of.
You’ve got 12 albums now, and Australians have been following you since, now what is it? 22 years, 23 years?
Well, somebody said today it’s been 25. I don’t know, I’m kinda teetering too with that. So, it’s around there, let’s say that. [Laughs]
How do you weigh up a set list when you have so much material and fans are clamouring for almost everything you’ve put out?
It’s a headache, it’s fun, we laugh at each other. We start a song, and we get halfway through it, and we stop and we look at each other and say, “We’ll never play that song again. What were we thinking?” So, with that being said, you said the Home album. In Atlanta we did three shows up to New Years. So we did deep cuts, and then the next night we did deeper cuts, whatever that means, I guess they were really, really, old songs. Then the third night for New Years, we did the album, the whole Home album in its entirety, so we are so ready to even put songs like that in the set. I’m excited about what the set list is gonna be like for Australia, and for the—I don’t like to say fans, I like to say the family—to see what we’re gonna do, because it’s gonna be exciting to bring in some of those songs that they haven’t heard us play in 20 years. No, we hadn’t played them in 20 years too, how about that?
I’m excited about what the set list is gonna be like for Australia, and for the—I don’t like to say fans, I like to say the family—to see what we’re gonna do, because it’s gonna be exciting to bring in some of those songs that they haven’t heard us play in 20 years.
Sevendust as a band from Atlanta, Georgia, and Atlanta, Georgia to me, especially in the metal scene, is all about experimenting. You have bands like Mastodon, you have bands like Stuck Mojo. What is it about Atlanta do you think encourages this experimental side?
You know, that’s a good question, brother, I don’t know. Stuck Mojo, of course, Mastodon we love, you know, one of the newer bands that came out that’s great now. Stuck Mojo, my old brothers. I remember bands like Follow For Now, I feel like Follow for Now, not only were they a pop band, but they had a metal side to them too. You have the Black Crowes, too.
I just felt like, Atlanta for me, I could do what I wanted to do. I moved down to a little area called Little Five Points, and that’s where I finally felt like I could be myself and I could walk around with my nose piercings when I was a young kid.
You know, everyone was an artist, it was really cool, and I think that’s where I kinda honed in and I was like, wow, you know, I feel comfortable, and I was writing music, and Atlanta was good for a spin. Then all of a sudden we left Atlanta, didn’t come back for a year and a half, ’cause we were on the road, and we came back. We got a record deal, and we left, man, and we were touring the world. So, I don’t think Atlanta even really realised what Sevendust were doing, because we left the Midtown Music Festival one day and toured, then came back, people didn’t have girlfriends, houses are gone, apartments were empty, stuff was stolen.
But, you know, we were living our dream, you know? Now that I think about it, we thought our dreams had come true, but it still seems like sometimes we’re at the beginning, you know what I mean? Because there’s still so much work to do, if that makes sense.
You’ve sold millions of records and even nabbed a GRAMMY Nomination in 2016. You say you feel you’re in some ways at the beginning, but what is it like to be at that stage of recognition?
Oh, it was mind-boggling. we were at the 58th Grammy’s, and I was sitting two rows with my wife behind Stevie Wonder.
Yeah, I could’ve touched him, he’d never known it was me! [laughs] You know, it was crazy, Adele was right there, Lady Gaga was beside us. I mean, it was, for me, growing up and watching something like that, and then all of a sudden being a part of it, 58, and there’s only like 60 something ceremonies. I was like, “What in the world are we doing here?” LEven though we didn’t win the Grammy, the band Ghost won it, which is great, I love those guys, we’re all like, “Yeah!” Right? It was still great to be there. We got to see Highly Suspect perform at the beginning, I loved it, and what an experience. I still can’t believe it.
Do you think it’s more believable when you’re performing, to say a packed out arena, than winning a GRAMMY? Because it seems like the award is a bit far removed from what Sevendust does.
That’s a great question. I feel like at the GRAMMYs, we were able to open up a avenue for bands like us, and it never had a damn chance to even think about going to the GRAMMYs. We never thought we’d be doing that, so I feel like that we are this pioneer for bands like us, to like, “We have a chance you guys, we could do it. If we could do it, anybody…even you could do it.” If it’s a dream,you have to just keep at it.
I think that’s something we’ve done, and we’ll never stop, man. I hope to be back there again, I hope to get a Australia award. I hope to have residency there, start to have my damn family over there. I want to do so many things over there. I can’t wait.