In this writer’s humble opinion, one of the more compelling stories from our little corner of the music scene over the last handful of years was Chris Wollard, the co-founder and co-frontman of the genre-defining Hot Water Music, stepping away from the band’s live performances for the foreseeable future, citing a need to focus on taking care of himself specifically surrounding issues including exhaustion, stress, and anxiety. Rather than either call it quits as a band (for a third time) or try to carry on as a Wollard-less three piece, the collective decided, for the first time in their quarter-century-spanning career, to bring a new member into the fold. That new member turned out to be a well-known and well-respected commodity, having fronted his own band, The Flatliners, for more than fifteen years.
I’m speaking, quite obviously, of the great Chris Cresswell. It’s been just about three years since Cresswell hopped in at quite literally the last minute to help the Hot Water guys through a couple sold-out sets at FEST in their hometown of Gainesville in late October 2017. Since that day, not only has Cresswell appeared on Hot Water Music’s latest release – last year’s Shake Up The Shadows EP – but were it not for a global pandemic, he’d still be occupying stage left for Hot Water Music as they wound down their 25th anniversary celebration shows, which have carried over into the band’s twenty-eighth year. Part one of our Hot Water Music retrospective involved a lengthy conversation with the inimitable Chuck Ragan, but we also thought it would be compelling to catch up with Cresswell to get his perspective on the band’s history, and his small but important place in it.
To say that Cresswell’s initial gigs filling in for Chris Wollard at FEST in Gainesville were a whirlwind is to put it about as mildly as possible. His own band, The Flatliners, were still busy touring in support of their fifth studio album, 2017’s Inviting Light, and had just wrapped up a lengthy run of shows throughout Europe, a run that found Cresswell himself falling ill. “I had just been home for about a week after a really long stint in Europe with The Flatliners,” Cresswell explains. “We had to cancel a couple shows, I got a crazy throat infection… I couldn’t sing, my voice was just thrashed!” Though the Flats were scheduled to play a couple shows of their own at FEST, Cresswell, still recovering, had planned to keep his own “situation that day pretty chill,”: though he had intended to join Hot Water Music on stage for a song at some point.
Then came a chance encounter with Hot Water Music drummer George Rebelo during load-in for the day’s festivities. The initial plan for that run of shows was to have Wollard in his normal role, but he decided on the day-of that he was going to have to opt out. “I thought (Rebelo) was joking at first, but he said that they were going to play as a three-piece that night,” says Cresswell. “So he asked if I knew any other songs… I was already on high alert for my own situation with my own show, and then when George asked I was like ‘damn, I should say no,’ but I could tell they were really in a bind because it was the day of and they weren’t able to do it full band.” So Cresswell, of course, did what any long-time fan of an iconic band would do in that situation; grabbed a guitar, went back to his hotel room, and crammed! After returning to the venue in the evening for the Flatliners set, Cresswell and Chuck Ragan finally had a few minutes to work a few things out together before Hot Water’s set. “It was a really trippy kind of day” laughs Cresswell. “I think there were two bands playing between The Flatliners and Hot Water Music, so there wasn’t a lot of time to get it all worked out, and then before I knew it, I was on stage with them that night at FEST in Gainesville – a hometown show for them – terrifying for me.”
All told, Cresswell sat in with Hot Water Music for “eight or nine songs that first night.” The experiment went well enough that he joined them again the following evening for another show, again after playing a full Flatliners set of his own. His planned low-key weekend (well, as low key as possible given that it’s FEST, of course) turned into a cyclone of activity. “We were there for a couple days and I ended up playing four sets in two days between the two bands. It was insane!”
In the days following the FEST festivities, it started to become clear that Wollard was going to sit out more than just that initial pair of shows, putting the upcoming run of dates that was slated to kick off in Boston (well, Cambridge) in mid-November in jeopardy. Due to the success of his two-day pinch-hitting role in Gainesville, Cresswell was again asked to fill Wollard’s shoes, but in accepting the responsibility, he made it a point to talk to Wollard himself first. “Ultimately out of respect for someone’s livelihood and place and what they’ve built over the course of what was, at that point, twenty-three years, I needed to get Wollard’s blessing before I kept helping out just ‘cause I was there,’ he explains. “It was good to talk to him about the situation and to make sure that he was happy knowing that the band could do this stuff and he could do what he had to do. At that point, it didn’t feel real, but it felt a little more serious!”
While Wollard has stayed very much in the Hot Water Music circle through the writing and recording (and quarantine Zoom chats on the FEST site) processes, Cresswell has continued to man the stage left guitar and vocal battle station at all of the band’s live shows. As the sets have gotten longer, particularly the last year’s Caution and No Division shows, it’s allowed – or maybe forced – Cresswell the opportunity to dig in to the Hot Water Music from a perspective that’s different than the one you get as “just a fan.” “I’ve been learning from the albums. These guys have been in this band together for twenty-five years,” Cresswell explains. “When you play a song live so many times, you change your approach to how you play it, because the way you recorded it was so early on in your relationship with the song. After you put that song out and tour that song forever, you probably realize a quicker or more comfortable or better way to play a song, so these guys all have that going on with all these songs, just like I’ve had going on with Flatliners songs for years.”
The experience over the last thirty-six months has not only given Cresswell a new appreciation for a band that he had been a fan of and friendly with for well over a decade, it’s taught him a lot about himself as a musician in the process, and how he was influenced by Hot Water Music in ways he hadn’t quite realized. “This was kind of the beginning of me figuring out how my brain works with learning music now,” he states. “Being a part of this band now has really taught me a lot about how I play guitar, and about how much Chris Wollard and his guitar playing influenced mine really without realizing it. It makes sense how he plays these parts, and having always been a fan, I knew that their music had left its mark on how I approach music, but I never really, truly realized how much his guitar playing and the parts he’s written for this band had really made an impression on me over the years. It’s been pretty trippy to see how everything has revealed itself to me. I’ve become a better guitar player.”
Now if you’re imagining that joining a band that you’ve been a fan of for a long time and, in the process, filling in for one of the most influential and well-respected voices in a genre would bring with it its own set of trepidation or anxiety, and you’d be right. “(Before the first show) I was terrified, to be honest with you!” Cresswell laughs. “They played a few songs as a three-piece and I was standing on the side of the stage waiting to get called up. I was standing with Scott from the Flatliners, and Tim Barry was standing behind me saying ‘you’re gonna fuck it up, man! You’re gonna fuck it up!’ He was pretty funny, he had a big smile on his face, razzing me. But as I was standing there, Scott was like “are you okay?” And I was like “I’m pretty fucking nervous, but I’m just going to do all I can.” The more time has elapsed and the more official Cresswell’s role has become, however, the root of that anxiety has changed. “(At first) I was just there to help, like I was going to get through those eight songs and then black out and come back to life. But as time has gone on, it is a different kind of pressure. I think it’s mostly self-imposed. It’s not at all from the band, and it’s honestly not from fans.”
Through the length of our discussion, it remained abundantly clear how much respect Cresswell has not only for Hot Water Music as an entity but to the band’s legion of fans as well. “I think that in this situation, I’m really lucky to not only have my own band that’s been going for seventeen years now with the same four friends (editor’s note: 2020 was supposed to find The Flatliners touring in support of the tenth anniversary of their highly-regarded Cavalcade album, but alas, that’ll have to wait), but then to also get to be part of the lasting legacy of Hot Water Music, a band that’s influenced me so much over the years,” he explains. “It doesn’t make sense how I got here! I’m now, more than ever, very thankful and grateful and content with how things are and with what I’m on earth doing. It blows my mind! It really does!”
Keep scrolling down to check out the full chat with the great Chris Cresswell and make sure you check out our precursory interview with Chuck Ragan!
So I was talking to Chuck about the Hot Water Music 25th anniversary stuff a couple weeks ago, and while we were talking, he said a couple times that “you gotta talk to Cresswell, you gotta talk to Cresswell.” So here we are! (*both laugh*) I was interested anyway in getting your perspective on all of the Hot Water 25th anniversary stuff, because for me it makes for a really interesting story around how it all came together and how you helped it all keep going.
I’m very happy to be a part of it!
I know you’ve known those guys forever, but how did it actually come about where they asked you to play? At FEST a couple years ago?
Yeah, I mean, I suppose it was in part out of necessity because they weren’t all able to be at the show. They were going to be short a guitar player because Wollard couldn’t make the show at FEST, so The Flatliners were playing the show anyway. I was there in the morning to load in and I ran into George Rebelo and talked to him for a couple minutes. At that point I was already in talks with those guys; they had asked me to sing a song with them the day before and of course I agreed and I was very excited about that. So when I saw George, I mentioned that I was stoked to do the song with them and that I was going to go load in and I’d see them in a little bit. And I thought he was joking at first, but he said that they were going to play as a three-piece that night. So he asked if I knew any other songs.
At this point, I had just been home for about a week after a really long stint in Europe with The Flatliners, at the end of which I got super sick. We had to cancel a couple shows, I got a crazy throat infection. I was going to keep my situation that day pretty chill. I already planning after loading in to just going back to where we were staying and keeping it low key until set time. I hadn’t talked in like a week, but of course I was at FEST, so I ran into every friend I’ve ever made… which is an amazing problem to have (*both laugh*). So I was already on high alert for my own situation with my own show, and then when George asked I was like “damn, I should say no,” but I could tell they were really in a bind because it was the day of and they weren’t able to do it full band. But these things happen. You never know.
It’s funny, for so many people that are in bands, you play so many shows and you rely on your body to make it through and sometimes it doesn’t always work. So I went back to our hotel and I brought a guitar with me and I went over a bunch of songs. Being a fan for so long, I knew where the songs already went, but to be honest, I hadn’t sat down and played many of the songs before. Once I got into it, I was kinda like “oh my God! These songs are hard to play!” (*both laugh*) Chris Wollard writes these incredible guitar parts and Hot Water Music writes incredible songs. So it was a really trippy kind of day.
I played the Flatliners set, which went great, and then right after that, Chuck and I got in a room and started playing songs over and over again. I think there were two bands playing between The Flatliners and Hot Water Music, so there wasn’t a lot of time to get it all worked out, and then before I knew it, I was on stage with them that night at FEST in Gainesville – a hometown show for them – terrifying for me! (*both laugh*). Then the next day, there was a secret set that I played with them again, and that’s how it started. It was really just being there and they needed someone for the shows that weekend, and then it just kind of continued from there.
How many songs did you play the first day? How many did you have to sit down and learn that day?
Ummm.. .eight. Eight or nine. Yeah, we did eight or nine that day, and then at the Wooly, the secret show, we did “True Believers” by the Bouncing Souls, which I luckily knew already. But we didn’t really talk about who was going to play which parts, because the Souls are a one guitar band and Hot Water are two, so I wasn’t sure who was going to play the riff. We kinda did it on the fly, but luckily I knew it. It was crazy, man. It all happened super fast. The Flats had a show each day as well, so we were there for a couple days and I ended up playing four sets in two days between the two bands. It was insane!
When you ran over songs with Chuck, one of the things that he talked about is that he had a lot of time to rehearse for the run of album shows, but for whatever reason he didn’t. Instead, he crammed at the last minute and he showed up at rehearsal and said “sorry guys, I didn’t rehearse as much as I should have,” and then he said “but Cresswell is such a professional, he had his parts down, he had the harmonies down, he was able to tell me which parts I was playing!” (*both laugh*) Once those first couple shows were over and it seemed like it was going to be a thing that went on for a while, how much time did they give you to really dive into the catalog?
Um? Well, after that weekend at FEST, I went home knowing that they had some shows kind of right around the corner. I want to say they were under a month away, and there was loose talk at that point that they still might need someone to keep Wollard’s seat warm for those shows as well, because there was a chance that he wasn’t going to be able to make those shows. I didn’t think it would actually happen.
After that weekend, I spoke to Wollard and ultimately got his blessing to do these shows. The Flatliners had still been playing shows. Before this whole thing at Fest happened, we were in England at the end of this tour and I was really sick. I couldn’t sing, my voice was just thrashed. My body was just giving up; we had been on tour for like a year straight, I think. I didn’t sing a lot of this one set in particular at Leeds, where we did basically karaoke! (*both laugh*) Fans sang along, and friends from other bands sang, Scott and Jon sang, our tour manager sang a song too. It was awesome, and it was really, really fun.
And these things happen, but I didn’t want to take it lightly because I’m a big fan of the band, and ultimately out of respect for someone’s livelihood and place and what they’ve built over the course of what was, at that point, twenty-three years, I needed to get Wollard’s blessing before I kept “helping out just ‘cause I was there” and that kind of thing. It was good to talk to him about the situation and to make sure that he was happy knowing that the band could do this stuff and he could do what he had to do. At that point, it didn’t feel real, but it felt a little more serious, you know?
From that point on, man, I just spent a couple weeks going over these songs like crazy! (*laughs*) There was one point where I went away with my wife; we had this trip booked like months before all this happened, and it was for my birthday. We went to Austin for like a week, and it happened to be right before this next batch of shows that I was now confirmed for and practicing for, and at one point I was like “I don’t know if we should go, I feel like I should stick around and keep practicing.” It turned out to be the best thing for me, because I’d been doing that for like two weeks straight. I ended up taking a breather from it, and when I came back to it, I realized how much I had actually retained.
This was kind of the beginning of me figuring out how my brain works with learning music now. Being a part of this band now has really taught me a lot about how I play guitar, and about how much Chris Wollard and his guitar playing influenced mine really without realizing it until I got really into learning these songs. It makes sense how he plays these parts, and having always been a fan, I knew that their music had left its mark on how I approach music, but I never really, truly realized how much his guitar playing and the parts he’s written for this band had really made an impression on me over the years. It’s been pretty trippy to see how everything has revealed itself to me.
I’ve become a better guitar player. I’ve definitely become better at learning someone else’s material rather than just learning and writing my own. It’s been really interesting. That’s kind of how the real work started, just trying to learn as much of their catalog as I could in a short amount of time!
I think the last time that you and I crossed paths was up here at the Sinclair at that Hot Water music show. I was talking to Jason Black in the green room beforehand, and at one point, Chuck wandered in, and George wandered in but they were just kinda standing around watching Law & Order on the TV. (*both laugh*) And you came in with your guitar playing one of the little hooks in the song “Vultures,” and asked Chuck something like “do I play this part or do you play this part?” and then you saw Jason and I talking kind of around the corner and you apologized, and I remember saying “oh no, this is way cooler than anything I was going to ask!”
I remember that show! I may have known the part already, but I think my brain could have been playing a trick on me. I was nervous, you know? Going into that show, I remember that I was playing guitar up until Big Jesus, that band that opened, started. I was playing as much as I could up until the point where I couldn’t hear my guitar any more, and then I put it away and I watched Big Jesus rip, and they were so good, and that got me fired up to do the show.
When it all happened at FEST, it was completely out of necessity. The show was in a few hours, there was no time to think about it, you just had to go. At the Boston show, I’d had a few weeks to really go over stuff and live my life and also make sure I was prepared for those shows, and I needed every ounce of time available to me to make sure I had it! (*laughs*)
That was a riot. Once you kind of settled in, did they give you any sort of liberty to play some of those songs your own way, or do you try to stick pretty closely to what Wollard wrote?
I definitely don’t want to play a different note than he plays, you know what I mean? I don’t want to change the part that he wrote and how it sounds, but there must be parts I play differently than he does. Even though I discovered how much of it made sense to me because of how I play guitar, there are so many parts to all these songs that I’m sure there is something that I’m playing differently.
The guys in the band haven’t been policing what I’ve been playing whatsoever, they’ve just been content in how it’s going! As long as I’m playing the right chord and the right note, it’ll hopefully sound like the song that people know. If I’m playing an E chord when Jason’s playing an A, we’re all fucked! (*both laugh*) Everyone notices then! They’ve been super cool with just letting me do my thing.
Are there other arrangements that they’ve changed over the years, so that maybe you learned a song one way and then they’re like “no, no, no, we don’t play it like that anymore?”
Yeah, at the end of “Jack Of All Trades,” there’s a jam at the end and I didn’t know about it! See, we never really had practice either, which is kind of crazy! When this started at FEST, they may have gotten a soundcheck, but that was while they were discovering that not all of them were going to be at the show. The next day, at the secret show, there was a line check, no full soundcheck, so there was no real opportunity to go through songs together before the show.
Each show we’ve played, we’ve just had a soundcheck, and a lot of time can get eaten up at a soundcheck, so you really only have time to run through five, maybe six songs. If we’re playing twenty-something songs a night, there wasn’t really time for the first year to really go through and have a rehearsal. That was, at first, kinda terrifying. But I feel like that jam at the end of “Jack Of All Trades” must have happened for the first time at that Boston show, and I didn’t know about it. I just hopped in and they forgot to tell me! (*both laugh*) And I don’t blame them, because they’re used to it!
It’s such a new, disorienting situation having someone new at the helm for the first time in twenty-three years at that point, that I think it just slipped their minds! Luckily I knew the chords so I knew where to place the weird, tappy kind of riff thing that we were all doing. It was cool! I was a little lost for a second, though! That’s kind of the only one that comes to mind. Now, over the last couple of years, we’ve been able to build certain arrangement extensions and stretched some songs out for shows, and that’s been really, really fun. I’m sure that stuff will continue.
How about vocally? Wollard’s voice and his attack changed a lot through the years, so I can imagine that trying to do a representative set of Hot Water Music songs, there’s probably three or four different vocal styles just sticking with Wollard songs depending on what section of their career you’re playing a song from. Do they give you notes like “sing this one like Wollard does”?
Nah, they just really let me do my thing.
I mean, his cadence even on songs like “I Was On A Mountain” or “It’s All Related” is so interesting. Did you have to work on getting his vocal pattern down?
Yeah, I mean I think I’ve had a leg up on the situation because I’ve been a fan for so long, you know? Early on I kind of realized that more often than not, Wollard would write lyrics in kind of a paragraph, which is not the way I write lyrics at all.
It was interesting, even as a kid when (The Flatliners) started, starting to write lyrics the way I do, but being a fan of a band like Hot Water Music with two singers, where Chuck writes lyrics in that more poetic style, with a rhyming scheme and this and that. With Chris, he’s always kind of been telling more of a story that way. I would have had a way harder time if I hadn’t been a fan or didn’t know the material. It would have been a lot more work!
But as far as delivery, no. I think because those songs have been burned into my brain – the album versions – I’m going to want to sing the like him. I’m going to want to make that word sound that way. And I mean, Hot Water Music is one of the top reasons there are so many gritty-vocal Punk bands around, you know what I’m saying? My band is obviously one of those too. I have them to thank for me as a kid thinking it was cool to have my voice sound fucked up! (*both laugh*) And to kind of celebrate that and make it cool! It was a good fit in that regard, since I already kind of have a thrashed voice! (*both laugh*)
Was there more pressure in that first show at FEST, or like a year down the road when it became an actual, regular thing? I could see there being pressure as a fan, but with that first show it’s also like you’re just helping out and whatever. But now, a couple years in, and having to do justice to those songs night in and night out, is there a different sort of pressure involved?
Yeah, absolutely. I agree with the way you put it around that first show. I was terrified, to be honest with you. They played a few songs as a three-piece and I was standing on the side of the stage waiting to get called up. I was standing with Scott from The Flatliners, and Tim Barry was standing behind me saying “you’re gonna fuck it up, man! You’re gonna fuck it up!” (*both laugh*) He was pretty funny, he had a big smile on his face, razzing me. But as I was standing there, Scott was like “are you okay?” And I was like “I’m pretty fucking nervous, but I’m just going to do all I can.” It did feel like you said, like I was just there to help, like I was going to get through those eight songs and then black out and come back to life.
But as time has gone on, it is a different kind of pressure. I think it’s mostly self-imposed. It’s not at all from the band, and it’s honestly not from fans. I haven’t heard anything from fans, either before, during or after shows, saying I’ve got to live up to something. I think it’s just in my own head – not to sound like a fucking broken record – but because I’m a fan and I know what this band means to me and I know what this band means to all of the people who come out to the shows. I think it’s just on me, man. It’s something that I want to make great for people because I understand it’s a strange situation.
I understand that people are coming to the shows wanting to see Chris Wollard do his thing; who wouldn’t? I want to! So if I have the opportunity to get up there with this band I love and these people I’ve looked up to for a long time and continue to, and make it something cool for people to see the first time, and then, if they want to come back because it was good, that’s great! If they see a different version of it and it’s not for them, I hope they still like the band and don’t blame me! (*both laugh*)
I mean, I can’t believe that people actually would, but these are all the things that I think about, because this band had such a legacy and such a history before I ever showed up. I’m just trying to make it fun for everyone and to do right by Chris Wollard. He’s a magician. He’s someone whose songs and talent should be celebrated. And he’s someone who’s still very much in the mix. He’s still in the band, so if I can kinda just be there for him at the shows and hopefully people enjoy my spin on it, I’m happy. I’ll continue to make every show the best one I’ve done, because that’s what this band and these fans deserve, you know?
I was saying this to Chuck and he agreed with me; I try to stay off of internet message boards and comment sections and things like that as a general rule, but think when I’ve scrolled through YouTube videos of more recent shows, almost universally people are like “I miss Wollard, but that new kid can fucking play! I wish Wollard was here, but Cresswell is really good!” (*both laugh*) It’s almost universal and that almost never happens!
That’s pretty cool! I think I’m lucky for that, and I think that people are kind about the situation. If that’s best case scenario, I’m stoked for that! I understand that people want to see Wollard up there. He’s a HUGE part of this band. And I’m sure that if he could be, he would be there. But while I‘m there doing it, I’ll make it as great as I can, and I’m happy that people are receptive to it!
How far back do you go with those guys?
I worked for Chuck and Tim Barry on a tour of Canada… oh man, I want to say I feel like it was ten years ago. You know what, it was the very beginning of 2010. January, when I did that tour. Dave Hause did a couple shows, Lemuria did some shows. I was doing merch. I had met Chuck already at that point maybe? Oh man, it gets blurry… maybe they’re parallel timelines, maybe I’m totally wrong, but I worked for Chuck and Tim on a tour doing merch for both of them.
At some point on the tour, Chuck discovered that I was a guitar player. It was him and Jon Gaunt playing his set, and then Tim would hop up for like a song. At this point, maybe Chuck had only put out the live record and Feast or Famine, maybe? There were some songs that once he discovered I played guitar and that I knew already, he had me play with him, so that was really cool. I ended up doing merch and playing a couple songs with Chuck at the end of the night for like a two week tour through Canada in the middle of winter!
That was cool… and then maybe it was after that, I started doing acoustic shows, and the first real acoustic show I ever played was with Chuck. It was right after Hot Water Music had gotten back together… maybe six months later. Hot Water Music came to Toronto for a festival and there was an after party at this venue that Chuck was going to play acoustic at, and our friend that was doing it asked me to play acoustic and I’d never really done it before. That was definitely the first time I met Kate Hiltz, because she was there with Hot Water for that weekend. It was all around the same time.
Maybe six months after that tour I did with Chuck, Cavalcade came out and I sent it to Chuck. We kept each other’s email addresses and we’d email each other every once in a while, which was really probably just me emailing him new Flatliners stuff every time we had it! (*both laugh*) We’d see each other every now and then, and then five years ago, which was Hot Water Music’s 20th anniversary tour, that was the first time I really got to spend more time with him on the road.
The Flats and Hot Water had played a few shows here and there together over the years, but then we did that tour, and that was two or three weeks, for Hot Water’s 20th anniversary tour. Sorry, it’s not a very cool or well-told story! (*both laugh*) But each time, we’d hang together it was always better than the last, and then we just ran into each other a month before FEST. We played Riot Fest together, and I went to see their after-show at the Cobra Lounge and they played great. It was right after Light It Up came out, and it was great. The Flats and Hot Water all hung out together after the show and some other Chicago friends were there. We were talking about doing a show or two together early the next year, and then before I knew it, a month later I was on stage with them together at FEST!
That’s quite a whirlwind at the end there, in hindsight!
Yeah! It was weird. Getting to know Chuck over the years, before getting to spend all this time with him now, was always great. It was a thrill because of my fandom of the band and his solo stuff. We got to know George when he was in Against Me! and then in the Bouncing Souls. We did the White Crosses tour in Canada with George was in Against Me! which was really cool, and then got to know Jason on that 20th anniversary tour.
Getting to know them was always cool because of how much I loved this band, and they were always generous with their time with me and my friends in The Flatliners and stuff like that. It just clicked, I guess, when I was there in Florida for FEST. Since then, they’ve been so good about making me feel welcomed and comfortable. They’ve made it very clear and very welcoming to me that I’m a part of what they’re doing. It’s really, really amazing to have that as the situation, because there are a lot of bands that have hired gun musicians and it’s a bad vibe. With this, I feel a part of it, which is really beautiful to me.
Is that still surreal? I can imagine were it me, that would never get old.
Yeah, absolutely. Every show I get to play with them is surreal. There was a show a couple weeks ago in Cologne, the last show of the last tour we did, and it was the band’s biggest headline show to date. There was a German TV crew there to film it, and it was live-streamed by Rockpalast in Germany. It was crazy. Every show, big or small, is so surreal. It’s not about the number of people in the room, it’s about who’s on the stage with me. But, this last show was big!
How big was it?
There were like 4000 people there? Maybe more? It was so surreal. It’s really become clear to me that as much as over the years I’ve wanted to make sure that my life wasn’t all music – I love music and it’s what I love to do, but I feel like it’s smart to make sure that you’re good at more than one thing in life if you can be, you know?
But it’s become clear to me that… I’m not a religious person by any means so I don’t want this to be taken wildly out of context, but I feel like I was put here to play music. It is evident to me that it’s what makes me the happiest. I think that in this situation, I’m really lucky to not only have my own band that’s been going for seventeen years now with the same four friends, but then to also get to be part of the lasting legacy of Hot Water Music, a band that’s influenced me so much over the years.
It doesn’t make sense how I got here! (*both laugh*) I’m now, more than ever, very thankful and grateful and content with how things are and with what I’m on earth doing. It blows my mind. It really does.
It’s funny. It echos something that Chuck said when we talked about his approach to music versus “real life” or whatever that even means. But he said something about the last time that Hot Water Music broke up, he didn’t want to break up, he still wanted to play music, but he didn’t want to be a “musician.” That he wanted to go figure out general contracting or something else at the time, but that in the years since then, in circling back, they’ve realized that “we don’t have to break up as long as we still get along. We’re always going to be a part of this thing and we’re always going to have to do it, and they all get that now.”
Yeah, I totally agree with that. There’s always a part of you that if you do something for so long, you want to try something else, even if you do something in tandem with what you’ve already been doing, with your career. If you’re lucky enough to have found a passion in life and to made a living doing it, that’s great. There’s a lot of people out there that don’t get that and aren’t afforded that opportunity!
Tell me about it!
But even then, it’s not that you’re unhappy with where you’re at, it’s just that you wonder “oh, what if I tried something else too?” I think sometimes, speaking from my own experience, I feel like I was putting pressure on myself and The Flatliners to always make sure that things were getting better, which also maybe meant bigger. You want to progress musically, and I think we’ve done that every time we’ve put a record out. You want your touring career to progress as well. You hope that your band reaches more people and more people come to the shows and your band can kinda keep growing that way.
At some point though, I may have started to focus more on trying to grow the band bigger numbers-wise at shows, but I’m definitely happy that where I’m at now is that I want the band to grow better, not bigger, if that makes sense. I probably could have found a better way to say all that! (*both laugh*) What I mean, to reiterate, is that we’ve made the music we’ve made because we want to make that music. We want to take that music out there and hopefully each time you can share it with more people. All along, I think we’d already checked the box that we were looking to check; the music got better. The music got bigger, essentially. It was growing each time.
For a long time, you think that because this is what I do with music, if I want to do something else in the “real world,” the music has to always be bigger and call me back to it. If it’s bigger than ever before every time we go on tour, then how could I deny that? But what really is important, I think, is just making sure that you’re happy doing it, and that you’re with people that make you happy.
Like Chuck was saying, if you’re with people that make you happy, then yeah, play music for as long as you can! I think people at some point in their career lose sight of what’s going to work for them. It’s only natural, because you get accustomed to doing things for so long that it’s an itch you’ve got to scratch. I’m blown away that I can be a part of this part of Hot Water Music’s story and that I can still be in the same band with the rest of The Flatliners over all these years, and I think there’s always going to be music coming out of me because it’s what makes me happy!
And, I’ve got to give it up to Jason Black, because all along, once it was kind of cemented that I’d be involved more and more with Hot Water Music’s touring, he’s always been super understanding about that I obviously are already in a band, and other than in 2019, we are usually pretty busy, so he’s really been great – the whole band really has been – but it starts with him, and he’s been great about letting me do my thing and then when I’m available to do stuff with them, we’ll do it. It’s taken some coordination, but we’re a good team because we’re able to do both and neither steps on the toes of the other.