We had a chat with Drew Copeland from Sister Hazel, discussing the band’s new album ‘Lighter In The Dark’!
For the benefit of country fans here in the UK who might not be too familiar with you guys, could you tell us a little bit about your background and how the music career started for you?
The band all met while going to college at the University of Florida. Ken and I were an acoustic duo for many years before he decided to start the band. Jett Beres, our bass player, was the first one to join the band in 1993. Shortly after that Mark Trojanowski and Ryan Newell join the band. We began touring in a van and trailer and made concentric circles throughout the Southeast building a Fanbase. Although Ken wrote or biggest hit All For You in 1991 it wasn’t picked up until 1996 in which we re-released somewhere more familiar under the universal records label. 20 years later and here we are.
You’ve built a very loyal fan base over the years. What was the reaction of the fans to your new direction into country music?
Well, The reaction to this new record has been outstanding! The truth of it is, this isn’t much of a removal of what we’ve always done. There are facets of this music that reach back to many of our previous studio records. It just so happens that the country genre widened to a place that encompassed what we’ve always done. We are very humbled and appreciative of being excepted into this genre with such open arms.
Do you consider the country genre a natural progression for your music?
I’m not sure that I would say that country is a natural progression of our music but I would say that this album is a natural progression and a snapshot of the evolution of this band.
Who have been your country music influences throughout your career?
All of us in this band have had a wide range of musical influences in our life. I would have to say that one of the larger influences in my music and my writing has been the Eagles. I’ve always been a fan of great harmonies and songs that tell a story.
Where did the title ‘Lighter In The Dark’ come from?
The name lighter in the dark actually comes from a lyric in one of the songs on the album called Something to Believe In. Growing up in Gainesville Florida we were all big fans of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. This lyric was something that we could connect with “Watching petty with my lighter in the dark.”
The reaction to the album has been fabulous. We have championed this album as one of the best we have heard in a long time, and we are sure it will feature in our ‘albums of the year’ list in December! What gave you the inspiration to do a country album?
Again, I don’t really feel like we set out to make a country record per se. We just try to write honest songs and cater to the songs in whatever way they lead us. It feels very comfortable to have been welcomed into the country genre. Once we landed here it felt like home.
The album debuted at 4 on Billboard’s Country Albums Chart; Were you expecting it to be embraced by the new audience so quickly?
We didn’t know what to expect. It had been five years since we put out our last studio record. We have never felt like anyone owes us anything, So we’re just very thankful that people went out and picked up this record and we hope that everyone will give it a chance. We are extremely fired up about getting a chance to get in front of a new audience but I feel like a lot of what we’re doing now we’ve always done.
The track that will perhaps attract the most attention is the Darius Rucker collaboration ‘Karaoke Song’. How long have you been performing this song and how did Darius end up on the song?
Darius and I actually cowrote the song along with a guy named Barry Dean. I knew the day we left Darius’s house that we had a special song with that one. Once the band agreed to record it, it seemed like a natural fit to ask Darius if he would be willing to collaborate on the recording. He has been a great friend to all of us for the last 20+ years so hopefully people can hear how much fun it was to actually record the song. I guess one of the benefits of having taken so long to record a new album is that we got to play some of the new songs on the road for quite a while.
Which songs are your personal favourites on the new album and why?
This is a little bit of a loaded question only because all five of us write songs and contribute in that way BUT, I would say (and not just because I wrote and sing them) Something to Believe In and another song that I wrote with Barry Dean called Almost Broken. They are very different songs but the common thread is the honesty and I think that’s what contributes to why I like them so much.
Tell us a little bit about the song writing process for you guys. Where do you get your inspiration for songs? And do you have a set plan when you start writing?
We all go about the writing process differently. I was fortunate enough to be signed to a writing deal in Nashville over the last several years and that gave me the opportunity to collaborate with many amazing writers. Life experiences are always the best source for material as far as I’m concerned. I think that people can see through songs when their contrived and this band does a great job of maintaining the honesty of our songwriting. There is never really a set plan when going into write a song. Sometimes you come in with a melody or a lyric or a chord change and then begin the creative process from there. Every song is different.
You have regularly toured throughout your career. Have you considered making any appearances over here in the UK?
We seem to constantly stay on tour. It’s a lot easier on our families then leaving for months at a time and then coming home. When we get a chance will take a break and jump in the studio and record and then jump back out on the road. We’ve talked many times about taking advantage of an opportunity to come to the UK and tour. Hopefully there will be a reason for us to do that in the near future.
What’s on the calendar for the rest of this year?
The rest of this year will consist of a lot of touring as well as the hazelnut hang in Charleston South Carolina and then gearing up for the rock boat again early next year.
Thanks so much for talking to us, we really appreciate it. We hope to see you guys on this side of the pond very soon!