Where do you start with Drivin N Cryin? How about with right now? Coming up on 34 years, the Georgia Music Hall of Famers are set to release a new album in 2019 that should only add to the phenomenal catalog of work receiving fresh vinyl presses. I caught bassist and founding DnC member Tim Nielsen on the road to a gig, but he was cool enough to answer 11 Questions– and fuel my anticipation of the show here in Macon on December 29th at the Hargray Capitol Theatre. Drivin N Cryin and Homemade Sin? Meet ya there, kids.
AI- It’s been awesome having Drivin N Cryin albums back on vinyl. This past summer, New West Records put out Too Late To Turn Back. Originally, y’all release that in 1997, and it’s got some Byrds-esque guitars on it, some savage ’70s rhythms– but it also, I think, features some of your best songs that have more than a dash of 21st Century pop punk. Do you think that album was ahead of its time?
TN- I guess so. I mean, I think in a lot of ways, Drivin N Cryin playing different kinds of music from the get-go was kind of ahead of its time… Even though, you know, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin had acoustic guitars and mandolins on their records– and Zeppelin was considered heavy metal. But then you got groups like Jason Isbell doin’ singer-songwriter stuff mixed with rock n’ roll… but yeah, kinda! We’re all punk rockers… and it’s just where we were at after our stint with major labels and making a record as a three-piece. That’s where we were at in 1996, ’97.
I thought the Scarred But Smarter documentary was great. What was your reaction to it? Was it strange to be the focus of a project like that and were you surprised at the reception?
Eric Von Haessler and his buddies followed us around for a couple of years. They had hours and hours and hours of footage, a lot of interviews done and… the direction he went with it, I was fine with it because I thought it was going to be entertaining and something that was gonna draw in the viewers to not change the channel and keep watching. So it was cool.
Kevin [Kinney] does a solo thing from time to time. What other projects are you involved in?
Well, I’m not really involved in any projects, per se, right now. I do some stuff with Mark Bryan (Hootie and the Blowfish) every now and then for charity. We have a house band, and we bring in a bunch of stars to come and sing songs, we do golf tournaments and whatever… But I’m managing the band full time now when I’m not playing in the band– and Drivin N Cryin has been a full-time deal for the last couple of years for sure. So Kevin’s not doing very much solo stuff at all. Right now that’s where I’m at, managing the band– and we just finished recording a new album. It’s going to be coming out in the spring. I’m very excited about that.
Yeah! Let’s talk about that. Who’s on there, and what can we expect out of this brand new record?
Who’s on there… the four of us band members including Laur Joamets who’s our permanent guitar player now. You know, it’s brand new songs, brand new music! We worked really hard on it. It’s produced by Aaron Lee Tasjan, who did a really great job– and so that’s all I’m going to tell you!
Wow, I did not know that Tasjan was actually producing! Over the years you’ve had so many great musicians stop in, have a cup of coffee, do a tour, record with the band. So what do you think draws guys like Aaron Lee Tasjan, guys like Sadler Vader, guys like Warner Hodges and Peter Buck to [Drivin N Cryin]?
Well, all different things. Sadler had just broke up his band in Charleston, and I’d just moved to Charleston… He joined our band for a minute and then got picked up by Jason Isbell. We borrowed Aaron Lee Tasjan as our lead guitar player for about a year– and then we were able to get Warner Hodges, who split time between us and Dan Baird. Then finding Laur Joamets after his fantastic tenure with Sturgill Simpson was just a complete a stroke of luck!
So after 34 years in a rock n’ roll band, what have you learned?
Continue to learn. Just make music for the sake of making music, being part of a musical community and having these fantastic artists that we to run into on the road and hang out with… It’s kind of cool, but we’re proud of what we’ve done, and next year is going to be a crazy year because we’ve got this new record coming out, and I think everybody’s going to be kind of surprised. It’s really a Drivin N Cryin record. It’s got some new sounds on it, but it’s got a lot of familiar sounds on it, and it’s a good collection of songs. So what have I learned in 34 years? I don’t know. There’s challenges every day continuing, but I feel like the way we’re running our business right now, as far as like managing ourselves and DIY and just having a really personal connection with our fan base seems to be working for us. I don’t expect any big millions, billions selling band and their management team to ever step up and do us a favor, but every once in a while, something cool happens– like Darius Rucker records one of your songs!
A few years ago you were inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame– what’s it feel like to be a Hall of Famer?
That was a great night. That was a really great night. It was a great honor to be recognized by the state of Georgia and their music community. That was definitely the pinnacle of our career.
Do you have any pre-show rituals or superstitions? Anything to get ready for the show? Or is it just, “All hands on deck and let’s blow it out of the water?”
No, I wouldn’t say that we have any pre-show rituals. Our shows are all different times of the evening– sometimes they’re at 7:00, sometimes they’re at 11:00, sometimes 12:00 Central time, which is tomorrow, wherever. So there’s no ritual per se… I like it when the four of us get together and have a drink right before we go on stage, but that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes people are just rollin’ in from the hotel… It’s always different. So the answer to your question is no ritual.
Who makes the setlist? Do ya’ll still do notes from the audience?
We don’t do setlists. There’s a basic theme to whatever the structure of our set will be from month to month, year to year, but we don’t do a setlist. There’s always going to be surprises for everyone.
For all the gearheads out there, tell me what your preferred bass and rig is. Do you have any instruments that have any kind of special pedigree?
You know, I think I’m always going to be a Fender Precision guy. I was an Ampeg SVT guy for most of my life and got tired of carrying that thing around. So now I have what’s called a Markbass Minimark. It’s got a tube in it, and I play through an Ampeg cabinet, and I think it sounds just fine. I’m not really a big gear head. I know up until we got our trailer stolen, whatever it was 10 years ago, (Me: That happened here in Macon didn’t it? Tim: Yes, it happened in Macon. At the LA Quinta.) I’d had the same cables for 10 years (laughs)!
On December 29th, you’ll be here at the Hargray Capitol Theatre. What are the chances that we’ll get to witness the whole gang getting together? I’m talking about DnC and Homemade Sin throwin’ down together in Macon?
I think there’s definitely going to be some end-of-the-night jam sessions because of our kinship with the Georgia Satellites and Jason & The Scorchers– and Warner, Dan, and Mauro. There’s gonna be some cool s–t.