Sevendust, Lajon Witherspoon Interview – ‘Blood & Stone,’ Soundgarden and More


Interview: Sevendust and LJ Witherspoon are back with a new album, "Blood & Stone," out on Oct. 23.

Sevendust – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Travis Shinn and Chuck Brueckmann

Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust joins Anne Erickson to talk about the band’s new album, “Blood & Stone,” their recent cover of the Soundgarden song “The Day I Tried to Live” and more in this extensive interview

Atlanta metal band Sevendust is prepping to release their lucky 13th studio album, “Blood & Stone,” out Friday (Oct. 23) via Rise, and the set already has two rock radio hits in “Blood from a Stone” and the band’s cover of the Soundgarden classic, “The Day I Tried to Live.”

Listening to the new album, one thing that stands out is its strong, hooky melodies. Singer Lajon Witherspoon has soulful, powerful vocals that fit well wit the album’s melodic character, but the release also offers some hard-hitting bangers to appease the heavier Sevendust fans.

Witherspoon spoke with Anne Erickson of Audio Ink Radio about the new album, what it was like covering Chris Cornell and Soundgarden and the status of his upcoming solo album. Read the full interview below, listen via the YouTube player and hear it via the Audio Ink podcast on Apple Podcasts here and Spotify here.

Anne Erickson: LJ, it’s great to talk with you. How are you and the Sevendust camp doing this year amid the coronavirus situation?

Lajon Witherspoon: Everybody’s staying healthy and as sane as they possibly can with their families. I just try to navigate through life in this nightmarish world that we’re living in. The good side of things is that we’re excited about the release of “Blood & Stone” on Oct. 23, which is a very big deal for us to still be able to release it with what’s going on right now. I just feel, honestly, in mind, that we all need music, and music is a healer, and so hopefully this will help brighten up some days.

Tell me about the decision to put the new album, “Blood & Stone,” out now, instead of holding onto it during the pandemic.

I just thought we’ve been holding onto it for so long now. It just kind of feels like it’s time. If it hasn’t changed, I feel like we have to get something out there. Music is in us, so we’ll be able to do this, and we just want to continue to be able to write and make it still be relevant. I feel like, honestly, you have to put music music out. You can’t wait too long, because I feel like we’ve been lucky enough to be a band for 20-something years, but a lot of these bands people forget, unless you put on a show with some bombs and some rockets, and you did a back flip off of something that landed on your guitar player! (Laughs) They’re not going to really remember.

“Blood & Stone” is actually Sevendust’s 13th studio album. What an accomplishment! What do you think makes this record different from what Sevendust has done in the past?

I feel like we’ve grown as not just artists but men, personally. I feel like we’re seasoned, if that makes sense. Maybe we’re just like an old wine. We’ve had time to really know each other. We’re brothers. It’s easy for us when we’re in the studio. It’s like a well-oiled machine, once we get back in there. That’s where the magic happens, is when we’re looking at each other. It always reminds me of when we first got together, whenever we get together, as long as we’ve been together. It’s just because there’s a certain light that comes on. It’s always been great to have that.

One track that has drawn a lot of attention is your cover of Soundgarden’s “The Day I Tried to Live.” What was it like covering such a legendary song and legendary voice as Chris Cornell?

The hardest thing, probably, I’ve ever done. When the song got mentioned, I was like, “Oh wow, this is great. It doesn’t matter! I would love to hear any Soundgarden or Chris Cornell song to cover,” but I said, “But, who’s going to sing it?” (Laughs) You?! So, it kind of gave me anxiety. I pushed the song back into the very last track, because I had to go into it thinking, “Listen, I can’t outdo cause Cornell.” I wouldn’t even want to try to outdo Chris Cornell. It’s not even about that. It’s about me paying homage to someone that I love. Someone that I feel is an influencer of our genre of music to the end of time. I just had to go into it my way, Lajon Witherspoon and the Sevendust way. Hopefully, everyone will like it. I feel the song, the lyrics are so timeless and fitting with what’s going on in even the world today that it was very important for us to at least put the song out first before everything, with what’s going on.

One of my favorite tracks on the new album is “Criminal.” Tell me about the meaning behind that track.

I feel like, you could call someone a criminal with anything that they do, if that makes sense. I think a lot of times that it’s a very harsh word, but you can be a criminal in anything in your life that you do. It’s just the way that you go about it.

Did you guys record this album before the lockdown?

Luckily enough, we were able to record it before the lockdown. I think right after the record, that’s when everything went– that’s when the world changed overnight. We were lucky. We were in beautiful Florida in the mansion out by the pool at night, grilling and jamming, working out and making music from noon until midnight, and then came home and the bottom fell out of it.

Listening to this album, it’s very melodic. You guys are always melodic, but I do feel like it’s one of your more melodic records. Would you agree?

I think there’s some elements of melodic. I feel like I actually got to sing a lot more on this album. There’s a lot more melody, so, yeah, there you go, absolutely. I definitely feel we have our Sevendust heavy-hitters where some of those guys are like, “Man, this album is too melodic!” Well, then you got some tracks on there that are going to bang it, too. I just feel like it’s a growth of the band. Not everything has to be all balls-to-the-wall and ripping your face off at this point of our lives. There are so many different things that inspire us, from our kids to our wives. They’ve always inspired us. Our kids are growing, so there’s different things that are important. That might cause things to slow down a little bit.

If I had to put this album next to another Sevendust album, it kind of reminds me of “Seasons.”

Oh, my God. Thank you. I love it! “Seasons” was one of my favorite albums. That was great, working with Butch Walker. Walker is one of my buddies still to this day. Wow, yeah, that’s great. Wow! No one’s said that, so thank you very much. That’s a cool comparison.

Well, I’m so glad! Sevendust has been a band for so long. What is your secret to staying together when so many other bands have fallen by the wayside?

I don’t know! … You can’t just call yourself a band just because you’ve got a group of people together. I think it’s a group. I feel like you have to have a band when you’ve gone through a lot of things together, not only the good times, but the bad times. You’ve seen life together. You’ve seen death together with each other. You’ve helped each other. You’ve done all those types of things over the last 25 years, and that’s the reason why I can say I’m very proud to be in Sevendust the band, not Sevendust the group. There are some bands out there. There’s a lot of bands out there, and there are a lot of groups. I think it takes heart. I think it takes compassion. I think it takes some respect. To treat each other equally, like what we’re trying to do in the world today– I feel like that’s something that’s kept us together. It’s not one guy with a Ferrari and another guy with a Hyundai, which those are nice cars, too. I’m just saying in the scheme of things. So, I think that’s something that’s kept us together, too, is that not one guy’s better or feeling better. When we get in a room sometimes, it feels like even though we’re older men, I still feel like we’re those kids that were in the recording room, wondering, how are we going to pay rent for the month? What show are we going to play? And it’s a good feeling to feel happy after all these years.

You’ve been working on a debut solo record for a long time. What’s the status on that?

I think it’s almost done, pretty much. I’m excited about it. While I’m waiting, it’s really exciting for me to have labels interested in signing me as a solo artist. It’s really fun and exciting. I’ve been working with a group, Minimize the Hawks, the singer of the band Ra and also a great producer and writer. We have another batch that we’re going to write. I think we have four more songs that we just want put together, and we’ve kind of been waiting for things to slow down. So, he’s going to come into town in probably another few weeks, and we’re going to finish it up, but I’m not in a hurry. Sevendust is the most important thing. Music is there. I’m there. I’m ready. I’m excited, again, about signing a deal with whoever is out there and is ready to rock with LJ and get my music out there. It’s fun. It’s exciting. I think it’s not too far away from the avenue of Sevendust. Family members out there that love Sevendust can still rock it.

How would you say the solo material stands apart from what you do in Sevendust?

I don’t know– it’s me. It’s the same dude. I feel like this is more– I think it’s more radio-friendly. Even though Sevendust is on the radio, I just feel like the songs are even more radio-friendly than Sevendust. You might not hear any screaming and stuff in it, and it’s maybe not as metal, but there are some metal elements in it.

Based on what you’re hearing in the industry, do you have any idea when traditional concerts might be back?

I have no idea. I can only pray that we do the right thing, as far as all the human beings out there and aliens or whatever they are. Wear the mask. I have no idea. I wish I could say we could be going on tour next month because everyone’s doing the right thing and it’s gone, and you’re opening up something in some type of capacity. I know the only thing they’ve been doing now is drive-in things, and who knows how long that’s going to last. So, I just sit back, and I watch, and I pray, because I definitely would not allow any of us in this organization of Sevendust to endanger the people out there or ourselves. So, we definitely have to wait and sit back to see what’s going to happen.

But, we’re going to be doing this (live stream) show (on Friday, Oct. 23), that I’m excited about, but there’s not going to be anyone there, this live stream show, except the band and the crew– like a very limited crew. Maybe three. And then, the film crew. Everyone has to wear a mask and stuff. I’m going to be rocking out to people in their living rooms, in a big room by ourselves. But, we’ve got to put on a show, you know. We’re going to give it our all, and hopefully everyone will enjoy it. I know it’s going to be strange for everybody, but hopefully this will be something to put a little buffer, and you can see that the band is still alive. Nobody’s on crutches or anything. We might have more gray hairs, but we’re still rocking. (Laughs)

What are your thoughts on losing the great Eddie Van Halen?

Very sad. We knew that he wasn’t doing well and had a struggle, but I was in my home. We got a text, but I had already just seen it on social media, but it was kind of odd that I had just seen it on social media, and then we had a group text to the band. And it was very sad. It’s one of those things that we go through in life, but sorry isn’t enough, but I definitely understand how his family feels. I’m very sorry for his loss. His energy was incredible… This was Eddie Van Halen, but you wouldn’t think it, when you were there in a room with him, he was so cool and humble.

Anne Erickson
Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Interviews, Metal, Music, Rock

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