Interview by Natalie K.
July 10, 2009
Estrella: Can you please state your name and what you do in the band?
Mark: I’m Mark Trojanowski and I play drums.
Ryan: I’m Ryan Newell and I play lead guitar in the band.
Estrella: What was the recording process like for your upcoming album Release?
Ryan: This one was actually a different process from records we’ve recorded in the past. On this album we each were responsible for bringing in songs and assuming the role of producer for those songs. All of us have at least 2 on the record, Drew and I have 3 a piece. We would bring in a song and usually when we would record every time we would get to a decisions making process we would refer to a producer, but this time around we would have the band member that brought in the song make all of the decisions. Whenever we would hit a crossroads we would refer to the person that brought the song in. We recorded basic tracks in Nashville, TN then we did overdubs and additional guitars in my home studio in my basement, and then we recorded vocals in a hotel room in Gainesville, FL with a mobile pro tools recording system. It was definitely a lot different, we experimented with that process with our Christmas record and we enjoyed it so much we decided to do it on a full studio album.
Mark: Another thing that was different was that typically we would go into the studio and record a full song whether it was 2 or 3 songs or the whole record and record the bass, drums, guitars, overdubs, and vocals and leave with finished songs whether it be one or ten. This time we went to Nashville and spent four days recording fifteen songs and left with just bass, drums, and some guitar tracks and didn’t have any finished songs. It sat on a shelf for about three months. Then everyone did their own songs and did all of their overdubs and own vocals. No one really heard anyone else’s songs until the record was mixed which was completely different from how we did things before. No one had any idea what the record was going to sound like until we actually heard the full record.
Estrella: Did anyone have any disagreements about any songs being put on there?
Ryan: Well at the very beginning of the process we went through an arranging and rehearsal for about a week getting the songs together, so all disagreements were flushed out then and we got on the same page with the vision of each song. The album is still very much of what we always do; we sit in a room and rehearse a song to get them sounding good between the five of us before we ever go into a studio. Every song is still arranged by Sister Hazel.
Estrella: Who came up with the album title Release?
Ryan: That actually is the title of the first track on the album, it’s a song I wrote with Pat McGee and Emerson Hart. It’s basically a song about new beginnings and we thought it worked out pretty cool for this record because it was such a new process and new direction for us to head in.
Mark: We sit down after the record is made and put post-it notes on a wall and everyone takes a couple of minutes to write a bunch of names down for titles of records. That is how we have been doing it for the last three or four records.
Estrella: What is the first single off of Release?
Ryan: The first single is a song called ‘Take a Bow’ which I wrote again with Pat McGee and Mike Daly who used to play in Whiskeytown. Those two songs actually came from a song-writing retreat I went on. We do a cruise every year called the Rock Boat and we’ve been doing it every year for ten years. We basically take out twenty-five bands and cruise the Caribbean for, four nights and four days.
Estrella: That sounds kind of amazing.
Ryan: Yeah, it’s been our baby for a long time, but Sixthman Management came up with the idea to get a bunch of musicians from the boat to do a song-writing retreat; write a bunch of songs and then play them on the boat. ‘Take a Bow’ and ‘Release’ were two songs that actually came from that writing session.
Estrella: Has the Rock Boat already happened this year?
Mark: It’s in January.
Ryan: Yeah, the cruise is in January.
Estrella: You guys have kind of been doing a festival circuit this summer, how has it been?
Ryan: Yeah, we have been playing a lot of festivals, but we are consistently on tour year round. Everyone on the band except for myself is married and has kids, so we don’t do the long three months gone forever tours and come back to our families not recognizing us.
Mark: Because of that we don’t get long periods of time off either, we are pretty much on the road year long with lots of spaces between our runs.
Estrella: Do any families ever come on tour with you?
Ryan: Not really, I mean if we are in Florida where some of the guys live people will come out, or south-east I’m from Atlanta it’s a little bit closer. We are only on one bus so there is not a lot of room to bring a lot of other people on the bus. Earlier before people would have kids more people would come out on the road but it’s a lot more difficult now. Plus everyone would rather spend free time doing their own vacation stuff than come hang out on the road with us.
Estrella: Are you looking forward to playing anywhere soon?
Ryan: Mainly just going out on tour in August because it’s always fun to have a new record to go out and play when you have new songs that fans haven’t heard yet and new material for us to play. Starting a new record tour is interesting and fun, so pretty much once we go out and start playing new songs in August it’s going to be brand new for us.
Estrella: Who are you touring with?
Ryan: We pretty much do our own tours. We will be going out doing our own thing in August.
Estrella: Is there any song that you never get sick of hearing?
Ryan: ‘Beautiful Day’ by U2, every time it comes on I never change the channel, it is a great song to crank up.
Mark: I can never get enough Police songs so any time that comes on I crank it up. I got to see them live last year which was awesome and probably will never happen again.
Estrella: That’s cool, where did you see them?
Mark: In Tampa, I actually went down to the Tampa show because I wasn’t going to be around for the Atlanta show and at that time they had not released a date yet. I wanted to make sure that I caught the concert.
Ryan: I caught the show in Atlanta and it was amazing. We are really influenced by The Police.
Estrella: What is one of your favorite lines in one of your songs?
Ryan: There is a line that Ken wrote in ‘Champagne High’ in the bridge, “He’ll be your thing that’s new because I’m old and I’m blue.” It’s basically about going to a wedding you are supposed to have something old, something new, something what is that?
Mark: That famous wedding quote of things that you are supposed to have to give you good luck. Something old, something new, I forget the last part of the phrase.
Ryan: It’s such a great line but I don’t really remember it.
Mark: I don’t have any one in particular. A lot of it to me is there are so many different lines we have from the different songs. People ask us all the time whats your favorite song and it is hard to answer that because you like all of the stuff you do. It’s the reason you write music, for right now I think all of our favorite songs are our new ones because we are so into making that record and putting it out.
Estrella: What is one thing you have always wanted to do but have not done yet?
Ryan: Skydive for me.
Estrella: Do you think you will do it?
Ryan: Eventually I’ll do it, I want to do it before I have kids. Not to insult anyone but I would feel irresponsible doing it if I had kids.
Mark: I want to go to Australia. I’ve been as far as Tahiti and as a band been to Japan but still want to get to the South Pacific. I hear it is really amazing down there. I’m a scuba diver too so I would love to go scuba diving on a Great Barrier Reef.
Estrella: Do you go scuba diving often?
Mark: Not as much as I used too, I have a child now and being as busy as we are all the time it is hard to take vacations. I go when we have the Rock Boat, but I don’t get to as often as I used too.
Estrella: If you could see any band or artist perform any song live what would it be and why?
Ryan: I think it would be cool to see Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin would be great.
Mark: I think that would be a good one.
Estrella: Any song in particular you would want to hear?
Mark: Just to see a whole concert of them, they were before my time so it wasn’t a situation where I could go see them. I think a lot of bands from that generation people don’t really know a whole lot about because there is not a lot of focus on them in our generation. A lot of that stuff going on in that time period people go back and listen too, rediscover but it kind of gets lost. It was before the video age, there is not a lot of footage of stuff. Some of the stuff they focus on in the VH1 classics but there is not a lot of good coverage of all that stuff.
Ryan: I would like to see Paganelli, he was a violinist, apparently was one of the best, it would be pretty cool to see him play.
Estrella: Do you guys have any final comments?
Mark: I think we are excited to have our new record come out and we have our tenth Rock Boat coming out in January so if people have not checked that out to definitely come see that.
Ryan: I would say we are a lot more than a come to a show, go home kind of band. We do a bunch of events, have a bunch of charities like Mark said we have the Rock Boat, cook out and get together’s for our fans. Weekends we will go away and just hang out with our fans, there are all kinds of stuff that we do outside of that.
Estrella: How do people win that?
Ryan: It’s not a win thing, basically that is called Hazelnut hang we do it every year and we’ve been doing it at Island Palms. We take three days and have intimate shows, hang out with the fans and cook out. I would say all of this stuff is at sisterhazel.com you can go there and check it out. We are on myspace, facebook and now twitter has really taken off for us now too. We try to stay hands on with our fans and we have a lot of fun. I would say please check it out and enjoy the fun.