By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Red Wanting Blue insisted on taking its time when recording its latest album. The rockers came in from the road and crafted songs with no regard for deadlines or expenses.
The result is “The Wanting,” and it’s unlike any other RWB album.
Dean Anshutz, the drummer and a Youngstown native, shed light on the process in a phone interview from a tour stop in Nebraska last month.
“This record, we decided it would be different,” he said, “and we would make the one we’ve been wanting to make.”
For a band that tours as much as RWB, it represented a break from protocol.
“We took time off the road to make a record we’re proud of, not releasing it until we were 100 percent happy,” said Anshutz. “Recording is a big deal, and sometimes it gets rushed when you try to do it while still on the road. For this one, we took time off.”
The recording process is stressful for any number of reasons, but Anshutz said the band had never felt so comfortable in the studio before. “Every hour is money, and every time we go down the rabbit hole we spend money, but we just didn’t worry about that on this one,” he said.
The difference that attitude made is noticeable on first listen. “The Wanting” has a different pace than the band’s 10 previous studio albums, with wide open spaces and a soaring sensibility.
A hallmark of Red Wanting Blue has always been its insightful and abundant lyrics, and that hasn’t changed.
But on “The Wanting,” much is conveyed by what is left unsaid. This time, the songs rely more on the music to paint a landscape and drive home the message.
“Musically, it’s the most forward record we’ve made,” said Anshutz. “The lyrical message is still there but we’re adding in a musical message.”
The impetus for the change had a lot to do with Will Hoge, the Nashville-based Americana artist who was brought in to produce it.
Hoge had never worked with RWB as a producer. But because he had toured with the band, he knew the power of its live show and aimed to capture it on record.
“People say ‘you’ve got to see Red Wanting Blue live,’ but our thing was, why can’t we make a record that shows what we are like live?,” said Anshutz. “That was a big focus on this record.”
Anshutz credits Hoge with the touches that set “The Wanting” apart from the rest of the RWB repertoire.
“The stuff that defines us, that we never thought about [during recording], he made it possible, he put it in there,” said Anshutz. “Hoge is a musician first and foremost, and [during recording sessions] he was like a coach saying, ‘yeah, do your thing, knock it out of the park’.”
The title even gets to the essence of the band. “The Wanting” refers to consciously pursuing that which you love, even after it becomes obvious that it’s not something you’re designed to do, and your goals might be unattainable.
But if it seems like Red Wanting Blue – yes, the band’s name also carries that sentiment – is taking stock of where it’s been and throwing in the towel, that clearly isn’t the case.
It’s more of a realization that – sometimes – taking a break is the only way to gain a fresh perspective, or to see a new path forward.
The band has been doing things differently.
RWB has never been afraid of the DIY method, but it did sign with Blue Elan Records of Los Angeles earlier this year. Anshutz said it took time to find a label where it finally felt at home.
The band mates also scattered from their Columbus roots. Anshutz moved back to Youngstown, frontman Scott Terry now calls Brooklyn home, and Eric Hall resides in New Jersey, leaving only Greg Rahm and Mark McCullough in Ohio’s capital city.
It turned out to be another example of being energized by trying something different.
“It was amazing,” said Anshutz, of the RWB diaspora. “It gave us, individually, a fresh breath, time to have a family, cut the grass, plant a garden. And now when we get together [in Columbus] to rehearse, we are fresh and we want to be together. It’s the yin and yang, and it makes you appreciate what you have. Some of the guys even got some new gear. I got new drums. You get into a groove of eat, sleep, drive, and it’s a regimen. You only see the possibilities when you step away from that. We are now so pumped to be on the road, I’ve never felt this excited to be playing shows again.”
Red Wanting Blue’s coast-to-coast spring tour will take it to the LaureLive music festival in nearby Geauga County on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Before that, fans will have two more chances to see the band: tonight at Spirit in Pittsburgh, and Friday at Newport Music Hall in Columbus.
IF YOU GO
What: LaureLive Music Festival
When: Saturday and Sunday, gates open at 11:30 a.m.
Where: The Laurel School’s Butler Campus, 7420 Fairmount Road, Russell Township, Geauga County
Parking: There is no on-site parking. All fest-goers can park at any of four nearby lots and take a free shuttle bus. The nearest is at West Geauga High School, 13401 Chllicothe Road (state Route 306), Chesterland, OH 44206
Tickets: $85 for a single day and $125 for weekend pass
Info: For a complete schedule and other info, or to purchase tickets in advance, go to laurelive.com. A partial evening schedule is below:
5:45-6:45 p.m.: Daya
7-8 p.m.: X Ambassadors
8:15-9:30 p.m.: Fitz and the Tantrums
9:45-11 p.m.: Foster the People
4-5 p.m.: Twiddle
5:50-6:35 p.m.: Rag’n’Bone Man
6:30-7:40 p.m.: Trombone Shorty
7:40-8:40 p.m.: Cold War Kids
8:45-10 p.m.: Brandi Carlile