The Cadillac Three: No Sleep Til London Tour
740 Water Street SW
Washington, DC, 20024
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is all ages
The Cadillac Three
It may be a ballsy move for The Cadillac Three to name their new album LEGACY, but if any country band has the shared history to lay claim to such a weighty title, it's the longhaired trio of Nashville natives.
Singer-guitarist Jaren Johnston, drummer Neil Mason and lap-steel player Kelby Ray have known one another since they were teens and have been sharing stages together for nearly 15 years. This summer, they'll headline their hometown's most famous venue, the Ryman Auditorium, just a few blocks from where Johnston and Ray sat in high-school math class daydreaming about one day playing the legendary hall. Johnston's connection to the Ryman goes back even further: his father has been a drummer at the Grand Ole Opry since Jaren was a child. And now he has a son of his own, who, like his old man, will be well-versed in all the sounds that make up both Music City and The Cadillac Three, from country and blues to rock & roll.
So, yeah, "legacy" looks good on this band.
"We're trying to build something and do it our way, which is always harder," says Johnston. "If you're going to leave something that people are actually going to remember, you can't take the easy way. So we took all of our history, mixed it with the energy of The Cadillac Three and put it into a record that makes sense of where we've been and where we're going."
After nearly a full year on the road in support of 2016's BURY ME IN MY BOOTS, their first full-length album recorded for Big Machine Records, the group returns with a more mature perspective. Johnston, Mason and Ray have experienced a lot on tour, whether opening arenas across the country on Florida Georgia Line's Dig Your Roots Tour or headlining their own consistently sold-out string of sweaty club and theater shows in the U.K. and Europe. As they prepare to head back in November for another big run, for The Cadillac Three, the old saying really is true: this band is huge overseas.
"Europe showed us that we should bet on ourselves. It was a big gamble the first time we went over there," says Mason, "but the shows and the fans have continued to grow."
"And going overseas reinforced that we wanted to get more music out more quickly," adds Ray. "They go through singles really quickly over there. They want more, more, more and that encouraged us to go into the studio, knock this album out and keep going."
All that travel, from city to state, country to continent, could decimate a lesser band, but it only served to creatively inspire the mighty TC3. They wrote many of the 11 songs that make up LEGACY on the road, cut the tracks on rare days off in Nashville and then recorded all of Johnston's vocals – one of the most "country" voices in the genre – in the back lounge of their bus in between shows, adding a crackling sense of vitality to LEGACY. They also produced the album themselves.
"We knew what we wanted to do with this record. Instead of putting it together in bits and pieces, we started with a batch of songs and then picked a single," Johnston says. "That's how this shit should be done."
That back-to-basics approach to making music yielded the band's most infectious single to date: the woozy sing-along "Dang If We Didn't." Written, as is most of the album, by Johnston and Mason (here, with Jonathan Singleton; other times with songwriters like Laura Veltz and Angelo Petraglia), "Dang If We Didn't" teases fans with its ambiguous title, before revealing what the guys actually did in the chorus: get drunk last night.
"When you're a songwriter, you can be critical of song titles," says Johnston. "But with 'Dang If We Didn't,' I thought it was a little bit mysterious. It makes you wonder, 'Dang if we didn't do what?'"
"Eat pizza last night," quips Mason. "It could be anything."
"American Slang" rivals "Dang If We Didn't" in its grandeur. It's a huge song, akin to Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'" or The Cadillac Three's own "Graffiti," off BURY ME IN MY BOOTS. Lori McKenna (Little Big Town's "Girl Crush") began writing the tune with the intention of having The Cadillac Three finish it. "We are vampires on Hollywood Boulevard / angels and sinners of our hometown streets," go the lyrics, painting a picture of life's rebels, before a massive country-radio chorus kicks in: "We are the back roads, dirty water shore banks…we are born and raised on American slang."
The constant throughout LEGACY, however, lies in the players: as on all three of The Cadillac Three's albums, only Johnston, Mason and Ray are the musicians. There's no guest keyboard player, no second percussionist and certainly no bassist. Ray holds down the low end on his lap steel.
Especially on the standout LEGACY track "Take Me to the Bottom," which features Johnston reaching high for a breathtaking falsetto. "'Take Me to the Bottom' has the best bass sound of anything I've ever done," says Ray, who also keeps things greasy on the intense "Tennessee." A thrashing love song, it evokes the stomp of ZZ Top – a favorite of TC3 – and features a lyrical shout-out to progressive country hero Sturgill Simpson, a kindred spirit of the band.
No matter the influence, though, the trio stays faithful to their own unique sound throughout LEGACY. "Hank & Jesus" glides along with Tennessee twang; "Demolition Man" is distinguished by the space between the notes; and the swaggering "Cadillacin'" is a band anthem. "We don't put anything on our albums that we can't re-create live," says Mason. "If there is a TC3 rule, it's that: keep it honest."
Honesty, or authenticity, is a favorite buzzword around Nashville. But few artists come to it as naturally as The Cadillac Three. These guys couldn't fake it if they tried. In the album's title track, they offer a heart-on-the-sleeve testimony to what's really important at the end of one's days: love and a family tree.
When Mason and Ray heard "Legacy," co-written by Johnston, they flipped, and pushed for it to be the title of the record. "We're far enough along in our careers where doing an album called LEGACY doesn't feel presumptuous to me," says Mason.
Not when you run through The Cadillac Three's milestones. It's all there, from boundary-pushing albums, Grammy-nominated No. 1 songwriting across genres and fan-favorite singles to sold-out club shows and massive festival gigs alongside Aerosmith.
"With this album, we're continuing to build this thing we've created. We're touring nonstop, headlining shows in the U.K., playing the Ryman, and putting out a new record," says Johnston. "Shit, that's a pretty good legacy so far."
Remember when country songs used to say something?
The lyrics of “Made To Be A Country Boy,” the debut single from Dillon Carmichael are ones that, while are simple, definitely have a lot of meaning. What is being a “Country Boy” to him? “It’s something that is in your heart and soul. It’s not something that’s not about material objects. It’s a way of life – not one that is any better than anybody else’s, but I think it’s all about being proud of where you come from – whether it be your city, state, or country.”
The heartfelt sentiments are ones that Carmichael knows all too well, as it describes his own hometown – in the heart of metropolitan Mercer County, Kentucky. “I grew up on the lake which was created as a hydro-electric energy plant in a town called Burgin, Kentucky. The population has grown over the years to a whopping one thousand.” The town – at the intersection of Kentucky State Routes 33 and 152 – lives up to his description. “It’s a lake town, and everyone there works at the power plant. The school is there all in one building – from kindergarten all the way to twelfth grade. There was a baseball team and a softball team, but not enough to field a football team,” he says with a smile.
Music was a part of his growing up experience, as his father and uncles performed in a Southern Gospel Quartet, and his mother also sang around the area. Her brothers – future Country superstars John Michael and Eddie Montgomery – also made a name for themselves performing around the Eastern Kentucky area, as well. Dillon says that as much as it was a part of his surroundings, it was sure to rub off on him. “I knew eventually that it was something I was going to want on my own at some point, and I fell in love with it too.”
In 2012, Dillon – who also cited Vern Gosdin, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard as influences – decided to roll the dice, and haul himself and his belongings down Interstate 65 to move to Nashville. He says it took some getting used to.
“It was difficult being away from home at first. I had never been anywhere outside of my hometown,” he confessed, also admitting that the deep talent pool of Davidson County was a more than a little bit intimidating. “I jumped head-first into writing songs,” he recalled. “I didn’t dabble as much into the live show and being on stage as much as I did the writing at first. I think for my age group, I was always one step ahead of the writing, and one step behind in the performance game. That’s something that I was very overwhelmed by – was how good the singers and guitar players were. In a way, I still am. It’s just about doing the best that you can.”
Over time, he began to hone his writing skills, thanks to those who he collaborated with. “Co-writing was a big turning point for me. I got offered a publishing deal when I was seventeen. They started booking me with writers who already had success before. I started to learn with each appointment, and it changed everything for me. I began to see how they put their melodies together with the lyrics, and how they generated ideas.”
“Made To Be A Country Boy” is the first single from Dillon, and one that teamed him up with Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Strurgill Simpson). He says that Cobb allowed him to approach recording the old-fashioned way, which he prefers. “I prefer having a live band in the studio rather than bringing in just one instrument at a time to record a part. Sometimes, you’ll go back and you will hear something that might not be right the first time. Being in the studio is one of my favorite parts of the creative experience.
Cobb also steered the ship for Dillon’s debut full-length album, and there’s not a better producer anywhere. “Dave is great, and very authentic. He’s a musical genius. He understands so many different types of music, and is also such a great guitar player. It’s important for me to be working with people who are just good and authentic people. I think that translates into the music, as well.”
Another track from the album that Dillon Carmichael is excited for fans to hear is “It’s Simple,” which is a tribute to the little things in life – which all too often are the biggest. “I wrote that with three other guys who were from rural areas, and we were talking about how life was just so simple and how the people there like it. You go to work, come home, grill out with the family, and the lyrics are ‘Love is for making. Kids are for raising. Home is that place in your heart,’ and the concept is that no matter where you go, home is the place in your heart – which for me is always going to be Kentucky. It’s a story about the old man next door who tells you that life is simple, and you shouldn’t overthink it.”
With stardom just around the corner in 2018, just how does Dillon Carmichael quantify success? “The Opry is a big thing to me. That’s always been a goal of mine. I think that success is moving forward. I think that achieving your goals is something that is never ending. I’d like to have a number one on the charts, and, of course, sell a million records. I’d like to play Rupp Arena in Lexington, as well as the FFA National Convention. I grew up going to that, and I remember seeing acts like Craig Morgan play it.” At the end of the day, Dillon Carmichael says he just wants to aim for the stars – and keep aiming. “I think that the biggest mark of success to me, is just achieving your goals – and setting new ones. I don’t think that ever stops.”
Advance GA $22 | Day of GA $25 | Premier Plus $35
- Full dinner and drink menu available
- The Premier Plus section is a raised area with reserved seats and tables. There is a dedicated server for faster service