"Jeremy of Driving Wheel is tall and has blue eyes." - Interview

There is this up and coming band name Driving Wheel. The band’s sound is all over the place, but if you’re into that bluesy, rootsy sound you’ll really like these guys. Recently I got a chance to chat with Jeremy; he plays stringed instruments and write songs in a musical gang of brothers and thieves known as Driving Wheel. He’s a Pisces, likes long walks and NFL football games. He’s 6'0" and has blue eyes with dark hair. His favorite colors are green and blue. The Driving Wheel is definitely a band I look forward to hearing from in the future. Check out my interview with Jeremy below where he mentions one of my other favorite bands, The Steepwater Band.

Q - You seem to have a wide variety of musical influences. How would you describe the sound of your first album?

A - Well, I'm hoping that it's varied and multi-dimensional, but an honest representation of what these songs should sound like, the way we play them, y'know? Sonically, I think we're hoping it sounds like our favorite records we heard when we were kids, because those records sound better than most stuff around now. We hope it sounds like 1974 (laughs).

Q - What is your song writing process like? Do you write as a band or is there a designated songwriter?

A - Well, for me personally, there isn't one particular way to write. Sometimes I write the words first, because I like the way they sound, and that will spark it off. Other times, I'll sit with an acoustic guitar or at this weird little keyboard that my roommate has and come up with a riff or a chord progression that I think is cool, and we'll build off that. I wrote the intro to "Don't Get Mad" on my (now ex-) girlfriend's piano and had a bunch of different words to it, different arrangement, different everything! It was a song called "Dirty Dishes and Dope Fiends" (laughs). Then Ryan and I sat down and he started changing it around. The way he played it was different, so new lyrics started popping up...and by the end of the night, it was completely different than anything I could come up with on my own. We had a hard time coming up with a bridge we liked, then my buddy Joe wrote the bridge. Same thing with Puppet String, except Ryan wrote the riff and changes to that one.

Generally, either Ryan and I will come up with the germ or idea (or a whole song, as the case may be) and the two of us will sit down together and hash it out in the basement, then when it starts coming together we'll take it to rehearsal or the stage and just jam on it. Kinda just throw stuff to the wall and see what sticks. Then it's not "my" song or "his" song, but it becomes a Driving Wheel song. Ryan has gotten pretty prolific lately, and so have I. It's getting hard to keep up with each other, (laughs). That's usually how that goes down, and it works for us.

Q - When writing a song do you feel limited by genres? For instance do you ever find yourself saying this song is too heavy or this song is too country, or is more along the lines that if the song rocks it rocks, who cares what genre it fits into?

A - Not really. There's nothing too heavy or too country for this band - we love Pantera AND Conway Twitty (laughs)! No seriously, I can only speak for myself, but I'm hoping to NOT be genre-specific, y'know? The new record, which we are finishing up in Wichita with Adam Hartke, is really across the board - it's softer AND heavier, "poppier" AND "rootsier", if that makes any sense. It's more of anything that we ever were, and it seems that (I hope) we're really just starting to scratch the surface of what Ryan and I can do as songwriters, and also what Driving Wheel can do collectively as a band. We're pretty excited about it, to tell the truth. We just want to finish this one up so we can get started on the next one, really.

Q - Who was your first concert and what was that experience like?

A - Hmmm...first? Was either Neil Young, Bruce Hornsby, or Mike & the Mechanics. Wait; not Bruce Hornsby - I was a little older. I just remember knowing "this is what I will do someday.". Not hoping, not wishing; I just knew that was what was for me.

Q - Bluesy, rootsy music tends to make the best live music (in my opinion); how would you describe you live shows?

A - Bluesy, boozy, rootsy...I don't know, every show is different; most smaller clubs and whatnot, we really don't use a set list, so we'll play whatever. All kinds of covers : Bob Dylan, Johnny Lang, Grateful Dead, Robert Johnson, AfroMan, MORE Bob Dylan, Son House, Too Short - we'll play anything if we feel like it. We have some friends in other bands, and we'll put loose conglomerations together to open shows for ourselves - playing covers and jams on whatever. One night in KC, we opened up with Dana on bass and vocals, me on guitar and Justin Fremont (guitarist in Just Free) on drums, and we played a bunch of old 60's garage tunes, Paul Revere and 13th Floor Elevators, and that was fun. It's like a box of chocolates. We like to keep everything loose and spontaneous - I've been in bands where you rehearse everything to death, play everything the same way every single time, in the same order, and it can get to be a drag that way. So we like to keep it fresh and be open to where the night wants to take us. Hopefully, we can take the people that are there with us - it's more fun that way.

Q - What was the first live show you played and what was that experience like?

A - Well, I've been performing in plays and skits and the like since I was 8, and I played in school band concerts and whatnot since around the same time, but the first time I played a club, I was 14 years old and playing drums in a metal band, believe it or not - and I was as nervous as I ever have been. Funny thing about it was that as soon as the lights go down, the butterflies go away. I still get that feeling, no matter if we're playing to a hundred people at a club or a thousand at a festival.

Driving Wheel's first show was pretty funny - we weren't called Driving Wheel, and Quinten played drums while Ryan and I switched off bass and guitar. I bribed like 5 of Ryan's friends by giving them Xanax after they paid to get in - and they were like 50% of the paying crowd! Then the club owner stuffed us and some of our gear came up missing. It was truly and inauspicious beginning as a band! We recovered nicely though...I think that's our greatest asset as a collective unit - we recover nicely!

Q - What has been your greatest professional moment so far in your band's early career?

A - Uh, surviving this long? This interview? I don't know...we really haven't accomplished much in the way of tangible results, at least as far as I can tell. Things have changed, I can't really put my finger on it exactly, but things are positive and are finally moving in the right direction, and I'm very happy about that, I'm excited. I can't speak for everyone, but I think we are all excited for the future.

Q - Who are you listening to now?

A - All kinds of stuff - the new Lions Of Hazelwood CD is just fabulous - it gets better with every listen. The new Drive-By Truckers record is awesome. The Steepwater Band puts out great records, and are total sweethearts as well - been listening to a lot of them. Grace & Melody - great record. They're an amazing live band, too. Marc Ford's Fuzz Machine is simply stunning - the best solo record of his career, hands down. The Black Keys put out good records. Gov't Mule's newest is their best since Woody died...The (North Mississippi) All-Star's new one is pretty good. We're playing with Tungsten Groove next month, and they are awesome. Neil Young's new record is phenomenal - that guy completely reinvents himself while transcending any genre while staying true to himself. The guy is amazing. Some other stuff would be Jackie Greene, Split Lip Rayfield, Taddy Porter, Cornmeal, Sam Bush...I like the new Gregg Allman disc...that's pretty much it as far new records go, at least for me. I dig a lot of older hip-hop (pre-'97), and Ryan does, too. Maybe someone else in the band has some other picks, but I listen to lots of old stuff - on vinyl records mostly. Beatles, Big Star, Junior Kimbrough, Hendrix, Jaco, Leadbelly, Django, George Jones, Cab Calloway. Been listening to a lot of JJ Cale lately, and downloading live audience recordings of Furthur on archive.org - I LOVE archive.org. I'm listening to a live soundboard recording of a band called Lotus right now, and they are awesome. I downloaded all 4 Band Of Gypsys shows from the Fillmore East on New Year's 69/70, so I'm looking forward to digging on all that. Sounds like I'm all over the place (laughs).

Q - What does 2011 have in store for Driving Wheel?

A - Hopefully good things! (laughs) We have a few shows possibly on the horizon, but not as much as the past few years; we're gonna put out a live album while we finish this record and just take it from there...keep a positive attitude, and make music that we think has merit to us. We're so incredibly lucky to be in the position we're in, and I'm certainly hoping to continue on, and hopefully turn it up a notch.

Q - Thanks a ton for taking the time to do this; is there anything else you'd like to add?

A - Right on, I appreciate it as well; we wanna just thank our friends and families for putting up with us while we keep digging ourselves deeper and deeper into this thing.


Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at bob@zoiksonline.com.
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