Interview SOUTHERN THUNDER PROJECT
(Interview John Rehmel July 2015)
First John, can you introduce yourself for our Road to Jacksonville readers, the Southern rock website.
Where do you come from?
My name is John Rehmel, and I'm from Hymera, Indiana. I'm a songwriter, and founding member of the Southern Thunder Project. The new album is southern rock and blues rock.
Before talking about your new project, can you tell us about your musical experience?
I'm songwriter that is just a guitar strummer. I write songs that hard working people can relate to in a similar way like Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd would write. I would study albums of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels Band, Allman Brothers Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Seger, Johnny Cash, Kentucky Headhunters and more. I've been writing a long time but, I feel like I'm just getting started. Especially with the new album out now.
When did you choose to create and sell your own songs instead of just play them on stage?
I began getting songs together for the Southern Thunder Project album around January 2014. My friends Boone Froggett and Steve Jewell Jr. of the Kentucky blues rock band OTIS started co-writing with me around May of 2014. We had the first recording session in August, and the second session in late October of the same year. I knew the guys were great Pro's and we got the album out during the middle of March of 2015. So far there is one show booked with Gary Jeffries Band and OTIS in July of this year where they will play the songs from the new album live along with songs from their own albums as well.
When you do a new song for an artist, do you sell him directly the song or do you keep the rights to the ASCAP for broadcasting?
Oh I keep the rights to all of my songs which are copyrighted through BMI.
How to you write a new song?
For me it's usually an idea with a great point that the listener can relate too, and can be learned from as well. Sometimes I may have a great title or a great opening line of a verse. It's never the same, and it usually comes to me at night more so than the day. You never know when inspiration hits. Kind of like dialing in a radio station until it's clear. I've even had songs come to me in dreams where I've had to jump out of bed, and write the words down quickly. I hear the melody in my head but, I'm not a great guitar player so I rely on cowriters who are great guitarists to help. We collaborate, and get it close to what I was hearing. I'm working to be a better guitar player now but, songs often come in various ways. It's never the same all the time.
What is your best and your best sold song and who are the artists that sung your compositions?
Well, I think my best songs are on the new Southern Thunder Project album. Gary Jeffries sang 7 songs and Boone Froggett sang 6. It's hard to say which song is the best. I think Full Throttle Heart, Little Miss Rock'N'Roll, Living Proof(Sandy Hook Song) by Gary really stand out. Daisy, Destiny, Camouflage Man by Boone really stand out. But, I love them all. I think the fans have liked them all.
Can you tell us about the Southern Thunder project? Who is a part of that project?
The Southern Thunder Project is an album of 13 original songs that are southern rock, and blues rock. We have awesome talent on the album. Gary Jeffries-Lead Vocals and Guitar, Randy Trent-Drummer, Steve Fletcher-Bass from the Gary Jeffries Band based in Ohio. Boone Froggett-Lead Vocal and Guitar, Steve Jewell Jr.-Guitar, Andrew Gilpin-Drummer from the band OTIS based in Kentucky. Chris Walker-Guitar from the Chris Walker Band based in England. Larry Velez-Guitar from Indiana. We recorded the album in Indiana at Curt Hall's Chief Lemon Head Studio.
Can you introduce Chris Walker to us?
Chris is an amazing guitar player from England. He's a great guy, and his playing style reminds me of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Rory Gallagher. But, he has his own style that's raw and full of emotion. He has his own band as I've mentioned in the Chris Walker Band. He's currently writing new music right now. I can't wait to hear his new album.
How did you meet Greg Martin?
Greg Martin is amazing as a guitar player but even more so as a man! I met Greg in the Fall of 2011 as I got to hang out with his band the Kentucky Headhunters. I love all the guys in the band, and they're my good friends. Richard and Fred Young and Doug Phelps along with Greg have been playing music for over 40 years!! The real deals and for young bands starting out they should learn from them. And, OTIS is doing just that. Greg is the one who told me why don't you make an album? So, I did haha. I'm so thankful for Greg and the boys.
You wanted to do a Southern Rock album. Which are your favorite Southern Rock bands and those who inspire you?
Lynyrd Skynyrd probably has the most impact on me because of the legendary Ronnie Van Zant. But, gosh there's the Allman Brothers Band, Marshall Tucker Band, The Outlaws, 38 Special, Charlie Daniels Band, Molly Hatchet, Kentucky Headhunters, Georgia Satellites. I love them all but, I think Blackberry Smoke is carrying the torch right now. They are awesome.I also like Black Stone Cherry and Preacher Stone.
Which are your favorite Southern Rock songs?
Man, I've got so many!! Ok Gimme Three Steps, All I can Do Is Write About It, Four Walls of Raiford from Lynyrd Skynyrd. Midnight Rider from Allman Brothers, Can't You See from Marshall Tucker Band, Ghost Riders In The Sky, Stay With Me from The Outlaws, Gypsy Belle from 38 Special, Long Haired Country Boy, Legend of Wooley Swamp from CDB, Flirtin'With Disaster from Molly Hatchet, Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine, Dumas Walker, Spirit In The Sky from Kentuccky Headhunters, Keep Your Hands To Yourself from Georgia Satellites, and Man Of Constant Sorrow, Prayer For The Little Man from Blackberry Smoke. But, I love every song from all of those guys mentioned.
About the record, can tell us more about the message inside "Outlaw in Me"?
Outlaw In Me is a song for the hard working middle class and poor people. It's a song that they all can relate to from busting their butts everyday to survive and make ends meet, while there is always someone wanting more money from them. There is an outlaw attitude in all of us that will come out when someone pushes us to a limit. This is a song in the old west setting when an outlaw would make a rich guy run away to keep money in his pocket. I guess you could also say the same for Robin Hood in a way. But, more like Jesse James though.
Stormy Weather Blues" is a Southern Blues song that takes us to the Allman Brothers land, with a great pleasure, just like Charlie Daniels on "Birmingham Blues". Did you ever meet of play with some musicians of the Allman Brothers Band?
I've never got to meet any of the Allman Brothers. I sure wish I could. I almost got to meet Dickey Betts once but, something came up and I couldn't make it to his show. But, yes Stormy Weather Blues is greatly influenced by the Allman Brothers mainly because Boone Froggett and Steve Jewell Jr. play like them in their own band, and this song really just came out like it did because Boone and Steve are musically driven as the Allmans were long ago. And, Charlie Daniels is an Icon!! I can not imagine music without Charlie. He's definitely touched by the hand of God.I did have the pleasure of meeting Charlie. I'll never forget it.
Why is there no solo on "Bringin' the Bacon Home", which is a great Rock n' Roll song?
Well, good question. This song just seemed to flow well without it, and it's kind of a long song but, would maybe be too long if a solo was added. Sometimes you just get a song that rocks and feels right so you try not to trainwreck it by doing the normal such as adding a solo or two in the song. Thank you for liking this one, I think this is another one that the hard working folks sure can relate to.
"Living Proof" talks about the Newtown CT killing. Can you tell us more about that song?
This is a special song that was a tragedy at a School in Sandy Hook. I didn't write about anything sad as everyone knows what happen from the constant play on the TV news, I wrote a positive song about the love teacher Vicki Soto and the little children had for each other. Vicki hid the children as the mad killer ended Vicki's life and went on. Vicki is a hero, and I believe so many teachers are heroes today. Living Proof(Sandy Hook Song) proves that there are Angels walking this Earth. I hope the song finds it's way to Vicki's family and families of the little children. I pray that a tragedy like this never happens again anywhere in the World. The music in this song is played in a way that doesn't darken the mood. It's recorded in a uplifting spirit that honors those Angels at Sandy Hook and I believe that's the way they want it.
Are you able to make a living with your art?
I'm trying to make a living as a songwriter. It's tough especially with the economy being so down these days. It's almost like we're living in the depression all over again. It's worst than what the media tells everyone on the news. I'm going to do my best and keep writing and putting music out there. I think the World needs music more now than ever, Music gets people through hard times, and gives them hope. It makes me feel good that my words can help heal people, and bring people together with a smile. Songwriters and musicians don't make a lot of money like many people think. Not too many musicians are the Rolling Stones. But, I'm going try my best to make a living at it because it's what I'm supposed to do I believe.
Do you know Blues or Southern Rock bands in Europe?
Honestly I do not but, I would love to hear them. I am so thankful for the support Southern Thunder Project has gotten from France, Italy, Germany, England. I also know Sweden, Finland, and others would be great also. Music has a powerful way of bringing people together from all over the World. It seems to me that Europe appreciates music much more than the United States. Maybe I'm wrong? But, I know Europe really likes to rock.
Do you imagine to come in Europe one day and with which band?
Well, yes that would be really great. Maybe Gary Jeffries Band would come over soon. Maybe Chris Walker Band will join them? I would like to see OTIS also come over and play. I think if places in Europe reach out and contact the guys they would be honored to come and play.
What are you doing now? A new album?
I'm currently promoting the new Southern Thunder Project album trying to get the word out for all the music fans to hear. I'm co-writing some with guys like Jason Young, Justin McCorkle, Brett Mullins, and Ryan King. Those are all names fans should check out and know. But, I'm mainly promoting hoping fans will buy the new Southern Thunder Project and I want to thank you at Road to Jacksonville for interviewing me. It really means a lot to me and the guys on the album. And, thanks to all the fans out there who keep music alive.
Usual question on Road to Jacksonville : if you have to live on a desert island,
what 'd be the albums you take with you?
WOW!!! Ok all of the Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kentucky Headhunters, Blackberry Smoke albums....some Bob Seger, John Fogerty, Tom Petty, Charlie Daniels Band....I could cover the entire Island with albums.Haha...but, those would be a great start.