Dick Jr. on 2 years with The Volunteers
The album launched with what would turn out to be the only show for the full Dick Jr. & The Volunteers line-up. Two years on, what's your abiding memory of that night?
That was a fantastic night. I had family there, friends, and so many fantastic fans. And the other musicians on the bill were so incredibly GOOD. Watching them perform was a blast in itself. Plus being at The Roxy, that historic club, up in that green room before the show, where you know countless other bands and musicians have warmed up (and done Lord knows what else) before and after taking the stage. I have crystal clear memories of the night with all of us from Dick Jr. & The Volunteers, The Station Breaks and Left on Laurel all crammed in there, chatting, goofing, pre-gaming. It was super cool.
But there is a sad note to it all. Renowned Pasadena musician Tim Fleming joined Dick Jr. & The Volunteers for that show to play pedal steel and banjo. Throughout the rehearsals and the performance, he was not only a total pro but a real charming, down to earth guy. He brought so much fun and talent to the group. He and I not only bonded over music but also over our shared love of hats. He was a gent, to be sure. Tim died suddenly in April of 2020, so my memory of that night will always be colored by memories of Tim, both the happy and the loss.
To end on a brighter memory note, my neighbor & buddy came to the show and was baffled by everyone chanting, “We want Dick.” He filmed some of that on his phone and pulls that clip up every now and then when we’re hanging out. It was awesome and hilarious all at once.
At the launch party, you talked about the tracks you'd already recorded for what, at that time, was an EP stop-gap on the way to the 2nd album. Will they all still see the light of day in their current incarnations?
They will. The question is when. Maybe there is no ‘perfect time’ so I don’t know. I’ve written more songs – most of them penned while quarantining in Vancouver in March of 2021 – to put together with the ones already done and would love to record them and put them all out. Jason and I have been talking. I’m hopeful it will happen sooner than later, but after the nuttiness of the past 2 years, I assume nothing.
The first album almost plays like a compilation - everything from the country standards of our dads' record collections to straight up rockers. Given that you've written more of the second album, can we expect it to have settled into a specific "Dick Jr." style?
I guess that will be for the listeners to decide. I mean, I don’t set out to stick to one style, but I know I am drawn to some sounds more than others, and tend to write lyrics with a certain energy to them. That said, I think there is some variation in the songs. I look forward to getting them on wax, as the old saying goes.
A year ago, we got our first taste of the new material with ‘drunk country’ anthem "When the Devil Drives". I'll admit, when you announced you were recording your first album *that* is the sound I was expecting. So, I have to ask, how indicative of the style of your new material is that song?
Pretty indicative. I only co-wrote one song on the first album, so though I love every song on there, those are representations of my influences more than the product of those influences. The next album will be combination of both, with way more of my ‘voice’ (if you will) represented.
Now that you know what each of the Volunteers can bring to your sound, do you find that you're writing *for* them? '…and here's where Zach would tear it up'.
Do you hear the full band version of the song in your head?
I do hear a full version - but I also know that Zach Ross, Billy Moran, Coop, Rob Humphreys - with Jason Manns behind the board - will come up with stuff and inject ideas that will knock me on my keister.
There have been so many false starts that I know it’s hard to plan for anything right now. But in an ideal world, how would see yourself launching that second album?
I have no idea, honestly. Life has changed so seismically. The old normal – old life patterns – are too different for me to even pretend to predict what’s around the corner. But I know I’d like to release it and start a tour of some sort at the same time.
The American South. Austin, Nashville, Atlanta, Charlotte, Jason Manns’ place in Virginia… And then – in a perfect world – the U.K. And The Ryman! How cool would THAT be? (Hello, pipe dream!)
Any wishlist cities/venues for a tour?
Reyna Roberts! She has become a friend over the years, and is such a massive talent. I’d love to pen something together and record it with her.
Also, it would be fun to do something with Wes Speight, my cousin who’s a super talented, edgy and unique musician. Then there’s Tom Speight, a lovely singer songwriter from the UK. Honestly, I think Wes, Tom and I should all do a song together. Now, am I saying that simply because we all have the same last name? Why yes, yes I am.
Love to play with Boy Named Banjo, too. And Cary Brothers! We all graduated from the same high school, so it would be a big ol’ Big Red throw down!
We already know that The Volunteers are the perfect fit for Dick Jr., but do you have a dream music collaborator that you would like to work with?
The Dance and How to Do It features a variety of covers - do you have a song that you would love to cover but you consider “untouchable” for whatever reason?
Not really. The only reason I feel like I might steer clear of a certain cover is if I can’t find a way of honoring the original while making it my own. If I can’t do that, I leave it alone.
You told me a while back that the thing you missed most about conventions was the SNS. Do you anticipate introducing new Dick Jr. & The Volunteers songs to the SNS next year?
That would be super fun to do. The boys of Louden Swain can play ANYTHING, so it would be a real treat to try. Fingers crossed!
Interview by Rain Trower