DICK JR. ON
DICK JR. AND THE VOLUNTEERS
1. Was the band name always going to be The Volunteers? Did you consider anything else?
Richard: It was always going to be Dick Jr. and 'the somethings.' I didn’t want a so-called ‘solo’ record because I wanted to work closely with musicians to create the sound and vibe of each song - like a band. I've been in bands since I was 15. I like bands. I like the vibe and spirit and the energy of people working together to make music they ALL like and are proud of. I didn't want musicians in the studio just doing what Jason and I asked while rolling their eyes the whole time. It was absolutely never going to be 'An Evening with Richard Speight, Jr.' or ‘The Richard Speight, Jr. Experience’ because – BARF! I wanted a band, I wanted a band feel across the board from the collaborating, recording, performing, promotional work, everything. So that was the goal and the name needed to reflect that. I went with ‘Dick Jr.’ because that has been my nickname since I was a kid and I used that moniker in a band I formed in the mid 90’s called “Fugitive Pope”.
There were a few name rejections before “and the Volunteers” came along that I can’t really recall, but The Volunteers was one of the first ideas I had because A) Tennessee is the Volunteer state, and I am from Tennessee, B) the convention world is (or used to be) largely staffed by volunteers and that is what they were called. They are now paid, so the title is ‘Handler’ or 'staff member,' but when I started out, they were all called ‘Volunteers’ so I thought the name was a cool nod to the world that gave rise to the band. Without cons, I wouldn’t have started playing on stage again. Without cons, I wouldn’t have met and befriended Jason Manns. Without cons, I wouldn’t know the lads of Louden Swain and wouldn’t have been able to collaborate with Billy Moran or Rob Benedict on the record. Without cons, no "Dick Jr. & The Volunteers," no album, no "Kings of Con," no nothing. Conventions are key to this project coming to life, so using “Volunteers” as part of the name allowed me to connect who I’ve always been as a boy from Tennessee and the world I entered when I joined the “Supernatural” family.
3. The expectation from a lot of fans was that the album would include songs you've performed at the SNS. Did you make a conscious decision to choose new songs, or did it just work out that way?
Richard: I knew the album would be largely covers, but I didn’t want to do straight up covers. And at SNS, I pretty much do straight up covers. Plenty of artists, especially in country, don’t write their own stuff. They buy songs from writers or find a track another artist did but didn’t make a hit and do that one. I followed that model. I wanted to ‘cover’ songs that mattered to me but that weren’t necessarily known (some more so than others). So listening to our album, the stamp we put on a tune would be the stamp the listener remembers because they are just being introduced to the song. Or we take an old favorite like “Jackson” and keep the fun while adding a new twist. Or, like with “Raspberry Beret,” we do such a major reinterpretation of the original that there is enough room to love the original and ours both as if they are separate songs because they are so different and fun in their own ways.
2. Is there a story behind that album title?
Richard: Yeah, when new people would come in to join the convention world, I found myself often saying, welcome to the dance, a term used a lot in professional sports when a player finally get to the big leagues. So I said that all the time and when it came time to name the album, that was my first pitch. It just sounded right, felt right, and made sense for the tone of the album while, again, having roots in the convention world from which the whole ‘make an album’ thing was born.
4. The fan reaction to the album has been overwhelmingly positive. How nervous were you before it dropped?
Richard: Well…hm. Not that nervous. I was proud of it. I am proud of it. Jason and I worked our asses off on it. We put Zack Darling (our mixer and engineer) through the ringer. We left no stone unturned. So by the time it came out, we both stood behind every choice. Are there little things I would tweak? Sure. But that’s true in any art form when you have to stop and turn it over to the masses. My only regret is that we weren’t able to play more live. The album was largely conceived “live” in the studio, so I know we would have put on great shows. We did a great show at the Roxy, and it would have just gotten better and better from there.
5. Copperhead Road at the Roxy was a completely different vibe to the SNS version, which was a more faithful take on the original. Will the new version be recorded at some point?
Richard: Already has been. And it is a freakin’ journey. Zach Ross, Rob Humphreys, Cooper Appelt, and Molly Rogers absolutely went to town on that tune in a crazy unique way. When it comes out, put on your headphones, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, and enjoy the ride.
6. When we last got to speak, we were both listening to a lot of female artists. I've always loved gender switched covers, like Ryan Adams' take on Taylor Swift's 1989 album. Is there a song by a woman you would like to try to reinterpret in your own style?
Richard: “In Your Room” by the Bangles. Always wanted to put my stamp on that.
7. Is there an ETA for new music from you and the band? Any teasers of what we can expect?
Richard: Jason and I have some stuff we love and are getting together to get out there. However, it is tricky to know when is the right time without appearing tone deaf to the madness going on in the world, so we are ready but trying to do this correctly and respectfully. And we also don’t want it to get lost in the noise. Without the platform of cons to launch new music, being sure people know about the new stuff has become a much bigger challenge.
Interview by Rain Trower
Photography by Erika Wolfe