This is part two of our interview with the legendary Jimmy Herring. For part 1 (click here)
MWN: How do you like having most of the responsibility and say so, as far as everything that goes with the album as opposed to, not necessarily sitting on the back burner but having it distributed evenly between other members of the band, like in Panic, there’s six guys but this is more like ‘your’ thing more than the other guys in you band, is that true, or…?
Jimmy Herring: Yeah, yeah, well, I’m not always…I’m not what you’d call a band leader. I mean, I’m tryin to learn to become one man but ya know, true band leaders sometimes have to make executive decisions and you know, people like Stevie Wonder, they have to make executive decisions and some people are natural leaders and I don’t really….I have a tough time with that. I don’t wana tell someone what to play. it’s tough to be the guy that’s heavy all the time but that’s what the band leaders’ all about and of course, our band man, when we play, we don’t look at it like that, ya know? we’re just gonna go out there and play and ya know, sometimes we discuss things, and people have suggestions and I’m like, “hell yeah! that’s a great suggestion.” sometimes i’m like, “yeah but lets do it this way.” and they’re like, “cool.” but we talk about everything and we could change things, or not, depending on the situation and I’m lucky to be working with people I’ve know for a very long time. Jeff (Sipe-drums) and Neil (Fountain-bass), I’ve know for a long time and Matt (Slocum-piano/keys) I’ve known for a pretty long time too so it’s like, you know, we’re buddies too and we can just go out and play.
MWN: Well the level of comfort is visible, you can totally hear it in the music. my editor gave me a copy of the new album, which by the way I promised him & will promise you I won’t be giving out to anybody.
Jimmy Herring: Well thank you!
MWN: Absolutely! I don’t know how many times but I listened to the album yesterday at work and today at work, just kept it on that album the whole time, had it on repeat, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-12 times, or so.
Jimmy Herring: Oh my God!
(Editor’s note: Our writers a bit of a freak and has seen over 200 Widespread Panic shows)
MWN: Well, I like it! I like it a lot!
Jimmy Herring: I hope you don’t hate me by now!
MWN: Naw man, I did it on purpose because I like it. I think it’s really a great album, I think it’s fantastic!!
Jimmy Herring: Well, thank you so much!
Jimmy Herring: Yeah, that’s an old Jimmy McGriff tune. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the original but back in the 70’s, there were organ players that would have bands and the organ was the central caricature in the music, ya know? that tune came off of one of those albums called ‘Electric Funk’ and we had three drummers on the album and one of them was ‘Miss Poopie’ and ‘Hope’ and the other was a George Harrison tune from Sgt. Peppers. but ya know, ‘Miss Poopie’ was a Jimmy McGriff organ tune and you know, man, I’m always lookin for some obscure cover to do. not necessarily to record but…I never planned to record that song but we were playin it live, we were playin it at gigs and it was fun & it kind of represented the equal for us to kind of what the old A.R.U. used to play, which is, take a real simple tune and just bend it, ya know? and take liberties with the solo sections and it was fun ya know, so…he (Carter) was really into funk and he loved James Brown & he loved Cornell Dupree, King Curtis & Curtis Mayfield and all this great music from the 70’s. Carter, ya know, would keep an ear out for a tune that would be a good one for us to play in a live setting and he came up with that one. he said check this one out. the crazy thing was, I didn’t turn him on to that music, he found it on his own and turned me on to it!
MWN: Right. thats awesome!
Jimmy Herring: Yeah but the name of the album is ‘Electric Spunk’ anyway, I love ‘Poopie’!
MWN: Oh yeah! and cerfew, it’s a lot different from a lot of the other songs. it’s got that real upbeat tempo.
Jimmy Herring: Yeah yeah.
MWN: So, you used to play saxophone?
Jimmy Herring: Yeah yeah
MWN: Do you still play and was that you that played saxophone on your new album?
Jimmy Herring: No, no. once I discovered “real” saxophone players I put it down (laughing!!) I mean man, I started uh, playing saxophone in elementary school in 6th grade. back in my day, elementary school was first through sixth, jr high was 7, 8 and 9 & then high school started in the 10th grade. i stated playing in the sixth grade and I related it to school, ya know, it was part of school & I enjoyed it. it wasn’t somethin I was drivin to do every day but at that point in my life I was really into, ya know, the music that we were talkin bout before, all the classic rock.
MWN: Sure, sure
Jimmy Herring: So by the time I was gettin into jazz & stuff, listenin to Charley Parker, Cannonball Adderly, Charley Griffin, Coletrane, you know, all these “real” saxophone players and by the time I got into that, I was like, oh no. I would rather just listen to their music and learn what I can from them but I can’t play that instrument like they can! (laughing) the guitar was more a part of my life at that time so by the time I graduated from high school, it was just something I just did at school.
MWN: Right right
Jimmy Herring: But I did learn a lot, I did.
Jimmy Herring: Yeah my son plays guitar. he started on drums, then he moved to bass. he’s quite a good bass player but he switched over to play guitar, I don’t know, several years back. he’s 17 now and it was probably somewhere around 5 years ago. he started gettin serious about guitar and ya know he also plays cello but cello to him is like saxophone was to me, ya know, he kind of relates it to school. he had a natural affinity for it and like when he was a little kid, we had him pick an instrument to play, I was like, Carter man, play the violin cause your hands are small and you’ll be able to get around it easier than the cello, so, he chose the cello instead because I wanted him to play the violin! (laughing!!!) that’s the same thing with bass, like uh, when he got interested in music, he was only like 9 or 10 years old and he was like, “I wanna play bass.” I was like, “Carter, we’ve got like 30 guitars layin around the house! your hands are small, why don’t you at this point, why don’t you play guitar? so he chose bass. so I’m like, ok, ok, so we bought him a little bass and he made a lot of progress quickly and when I was on the road, I came back home from a tour and he was playing guitar. I guess all the guitars laying around the house finally got to him.
MWN: yeah, the curiosity finally got the better of him.
Jimmy Herring: I’m really proud of him. he’s come a very long way in a very short time and he’s got a great ear and now he’s playing with the Atlanta Fox Society, which is a band that’s based out of Atlanta and they don’t do but one or two gigs a month & of course he’s the young guy and his sisters fiance, ya know Dewayne is the guy who got him involved in it. man he was upstairs yesterday and he was wanting him to learn like 30 songs! he was learnin all these tunes and stuff and he was NAILIN IT and I couldn’t believe it cause, ya know, the ear is everything! he’s never studied theory or anything but I guess he knows quite a bit of theory from just being around me.
MWN: Sure, you got to.
Jimmy Herring: Well when he was a little kid, I’d pick him up from school, him & his sister & I’d give the kids ear training on the way home. I would just sing a major scale and I would sing intervals to em, ya know like (singing) bah, BAH & they would hafta figure out what interval it was. was it a 5th, was it a 4th, ya know, what was it? they got really good at it, ya know, both of em. my daughter, she has a lot of talent on the piano but she ended up becoming an artist, she can draw & she’s really into painting. that’s where she is right now, she’s in school, she’s in art school.
MWN: That’s great!
Jimmy Herring: Yeah
MWN: Fantastic! so on your first album, on Lifeboat…
Jimmy Herring: Yeah…
MWN: The song ‘One strut’, you know that sounds a lot like ‘Shoes on tight’, that Panic song.
Jimmy Herring: Well yeah, it kinda was. ya see, I had the riff and I was messin around with it at sound check one day and the guys were like, “what is that?” I said, “oh it’s just somethin I’ve been tryin to write & I haven’t finished it yet. they were like, “man, lets jam on that for a little bit.” so we did and JB (John Bell) started messin around n writing some lyrics to it and we performed it a couple times live I think…
MWN: Yeah I saw the last time you guys did it live, in Carbondale, IL at the SIUC campus arena.
Jimmy Herring: Yeah, I don’t remember specific places we played it or anything but it kinda came and went and then I ended up continuing to write it and then I came back to the band and said, ” look, I’m doin an album & we haven’t played this song in a long time, do you guys still want it? cause we don’t ever play it and you know… and they said, “naw man, if you want that tune and use it instrumental go ahead. we can still do it if we choose to.” and I said, “yeah yeah.” so I just ended up writin melodies over it and it became an instrumental tune. but if they ever wanted to play it again, I’d totally be up for it!
MWN: Yeah, and you did only play it twice & the second time was the one time I saw it, like I said, in Carbondale, IL in 2007. so that wasn’t “shelved” for any particular reason?
Jimmy Herring: Nah nah, not for any particular reason. it just kinda drifted in & drifted out, just like some of the other tunes have.
Jimmy Herring: There was no particular reason why it got shelved, it just kind of happened.
Jimmy Herring: I was totally fine with it and they know if they ever wanna do it…hell there was another tune, that was an instrumental tune, a long time ago, that I did w/ T. Lavits and Richie Hayward and Kenny Gradney on this album called ‘Endangered Species’, a long time ago, it was called ‘work with folley’, it was an instrumental tune that I just had layin around & it wasn’t really finished and to put it on the record we just kinda quickly finished it & we recorded it on the instrumental record & I don’t even know what year it was, like ’97 or somethin, and when JB heard it, he was like, “man, I think I could put some lyrics to that, would you be up for doin that?” I was like, “yeah! shit, just because it was an instrumental tune on another album doesn’t mean, it can’t…and it ended up being ‘Her Dance, uh…
MWN: …Needs No Body’
Jimmy Herring: Yea, Needs No Body’. (said at the same time) yeah and if you went back to 1996 and found that endangered species record, the same song was on that record but it was in “5” instead of being in “6”. like when we did it with Panic, we moved it to 6/8 instead of 5/4…
Jimmy Herring: So it kind of had a different kind of feel and we retained the 5/4 time signature for the outro at the end of the song…
MWN: Right. ok
Jimmy Herring: Ya know, no big deal.
MWN: sure. nice! that’s uh, that’s pretty neat. I actually really like that song a lot!
Jimmy Herring: Aw thanx. well, JB added a section in the middle to it too. the group, you know…when Panic does somethin they make it their own. we added some other parts to it and I actually added some other sections to it like the bridge, to it, that weren’t on the original, which made sense. the only part that was original was the main verse part.
part three, the final part coming soon so stay tuned….