Red Wanting Blue: Americana Sovereignty

Laura Lofgren

Surviving on the road for more than a decade, Red Wanting Blue is a band who roots itself in Athens, Ohio. Free from corporate record labels and sketchy contracts, Red Wanting Blue has been self-sufficient from the start.

Since 1996, Red Wanting Blue’s music has been driven by Americana-style rock music and independence. As the voice of the band and a ukulele player, Scott Terry said the band tries to emulate the Americana-style in its own way. After band members graduated from Ohio University in 2000, Red Wanting Blue began to “peak off” and take initiative toward their music goals.

“Over the years, as you mature, you find out who you are and what you’re good at,” Terry said.

“Our music has turned into an Americana-rock with an edge.”

Personally influenced by Simon and Garfunkel and Jim Morrison, Terry can’t speak for the rest of the band’s musical influences other than the genres of classic rock and alternative rock.

“We listen to everything,” Terry said of the five band members, who include Eric Hall on guitar, piano, back-up vocals and lap steel; Mark McCullough on bass, Chapman stick and back-up vocals; Ed Davis on drums and percussion; and Greg Rahm on guitar, keyboard and back-up vocals.

Red Wanting Blue has recorded eight albums in the past 12 years, with the most recent “These Magnificent Miles.” The album was produced with the help of Jamie Candiloro, who has worked with Willie Nelson and R.E.M.

“It’s tougher to get guys like that because we’re unsigned,” Terry said.

The recent album has been described as “an autobiographical journey telling the tale of the many adversities they (Red Wanting Blue) are up against,” according to a biography sent from Red Wanting Blue representative Mike Farley.

Being unsigned is one of many adversities the grass-roots band has had to face.

“That’s why we tour and play constantly,” Terry said.

Terry said the band pays for and funds everything from merchandise to car repairs.

“We’ve been independent since the beginning,” he said.

“The more that you do on your own, then the more you are in control of.”

Red Wanting Blue intends to stay that way, too. The music industry is very old-fashioned, Terry said. In order to become well-known, a band needs a record label and needs to be heard through some medium.

“You can’t get on the radio without a record label, but a record label will only want to sign you if they hear you on the radio,” Terry said. “See the Catch-22?”

Once signed, a band can very quickly get lost in the confusion and chaos of the music industry.

“The band is at the mercy of these people who have the power,” Terry said.

The majority of the people Red Wanting Blue knows who have taken record deals have had abhorrent stories from their experiences.

“Ninety percent have horror stories,” Terry said.

A label doesn’t want to over-saturate a certain style of music, so bands can get “lost in the wake” in the wave of a popular music style. These bands record an album that never gets released, Terry said.

“A few months later, they (the band) get released from their contract and they owe $100,000 for the record they recorded,” Terry said.

“It’s an industry where the carriage leads the horse, (but) the horse should lead the carriage. That’s something I’ve always been afraid of.”

As far as the band has come, Terry reiterates no matter what the trials and hardships are, there are ways to work around it.

“That’s what we’re always trying to figure out,” he said.

“It’s very easy to become bitter toward the industry. Ultimately, you do what you love to do and should just be happy with that. Everything else that comes along is a bonus.”

From an elder musician who has seen the “problems and the obstacles and all the crazy shit” of the road and of the music industry, Terry offers aspiring anythings wise-words quoted from Bob Dylan: “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between, he does what he wants to do.”

Contact all reporter Laura Lofgren at [email protected].