November 30, 2020 Interview – Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust Talks Blood & Stone
With the release of their latest album, Blood & Stone, the men of Sevendust are entering a new phase in their careers. Thirteen albums and over 25 years in the industry has taught them a lot about navigating the shark-infested waters and preserving what is sacred. Hallmarks like family, friendship, and brotherhood are at the very heart of what keeps Sevendust ticking year after year. Add in a passion for creation and the ability to find inspiration in the every day, and you have everything needed for a tenacious and enduring career.
Recently Vocalist Lajon Witherspoon sat down to talk about the development of Blood & Stone, covering “The Day I Tried To Live,” the future of his solo project, plus more.
Cryptic Rock – You guys have made your reputation on being consistent and hard-working with an infectious sound. What principles did you guys take into developing Blood & Stone?
Lajon Witherspoon – That’s a good question. I just think that we went in very seasoned on this album. We were able to take our time and go home and work on our other projects. I think that the creative side of us was able to hone in by going home and being dads, dealing with the wives, and being husbands. You know, just doing normal things and being away from the road. When we went in to do Blood & Stone, I feel like the creative outlet was just there. We were really just able to shine.
CrypticRock – That’s awesome! You can really tell that this is right in your groove. Being a band as long as you have you’ve got your signature sound, but it seems that with each new album there are new things the Sevendust family learns about you and witnesses new sides of you. Like with songs like “What You’ve Become” and “Kill Me” that really explore the dynamics of Sevendust’s sound from the crunchy and visceral to the melodic and atmospheric, almost ethereal at times.
Lajon Witherspoon – Wow, that’s awesome! Not to stop you, but you just nailed it! Oh my gosh, when you say it like that… I feel like we can say Sevendust can hang out and jam with the heaviest of them all, but there’s a certain point in time where we have to show that we’ve grown up. We’re grown men now and we can slow things down. I think some of the heavier songs that we have right now are the slowest songs. You know, if you kind of dig deep, people have grown up with us.
CrypticRock – Out of curiosity, what goes into cultivating an album for you guys? What does the editing process look like when you are trying to put together what each one will look like, and how you want to best demonstrate your growth as musicians and men?
Lajon Witherspoon – Well, you have a team that comes in to police the thing. A gentleman like Elvis Baskette, it feels like he’s the sixth member of the band at this point, as far as I’m concerned. We’ve done it for so long that it’s easy for us now to go in and get our music together, and know how we want our sound to come across. I think it just comes easy to us now. It’s never really been hard and it’s never been hard for us to hone in on the sound we want for the album either. The best part, I think, is when we’re in front of each other and we’re in a room and we still get those feelings as young men when we first started out. We get together and we jam, and we laugh at each other. That’s when we write the best stuff.
Cryptic Rock – You guys have been together for 26 years, closing in on 30 years. That’s a long time.
Lajon Witherspoon – Yeah, let’s put us in that Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or something!
Cryptic Rock – Right! If we really put that number on it, that’s a long time to be together and that obviously couldn’t happen without the friendship and the brotherhood you all share.
Lajon Witherspoon – Absolutely.
Cryptic Rock – What has been the biggest shift you’ve had, both as musicians and as individuals, over the course of your career?
Lajon Witherspoon – The biggest shift for me is that before we didn’t care. We just wanted to do music and be in a band. Then we got in the RV and were like “Oh, we’re getting ready to be rockstars!” I remember the first tour bus that we got, the Janet Jackson van. It was called the “Blue Diamond,” it had a chandelier in it. I was like, “We’re done. We made it! We’re rockstars now! We have a tour bus!”(Laughs) The shift was when we realized that, not only were we having fun, but we were also paying for all that stuff. We didn’t realize that. (Laughs)
The shift was when we went from boys to men and realized that we had to be businessmen in this industry, as well as artists and keeping our eyes on everything, too. In fact, the best advice I could give to an artist – man, woman, or whatever gender you may be in this world – is to kind of keep your eye on what’s going on with your business. Because a lot of people can kind of keep their hands in your pockets, as they say, and do things to slow you down and use you. We’ve learned a lot, but I think the shift came when we became businessmen, but still love the art. It never jaded us. Do you know we almost went bankrupt? We’ve had a lot of things happen to us, but it only made us stronger, and I thank the Lord for that, and I thank the brothers in the band for us being a family the way we are. I feel like we’re kind of destined to do this.
Cryptic Rock – How do you think the music industry has changed over the course of your career?
Lajon Witherspoon – Ugh, it’s crazy! I don’t even know how we’re still relevant at all. We’re so very blessed to have the Sevendust family! The Sevendust family is what keeps us afloat. Because you know these days a kid or whoever can be in their house, in their kitchen or bathroom, put up a song and get a million hits, and be the next biggest thing in the world and never set foot outside their house. It’s a different world and we’re just trying to navigate, you know? We signed to Rise Records and one of the big reasons is because they have their hand more on the social media world. I feel like that’s something that’s very important.
Cryptic Rock – So social media and the power of the internet has really changed things in the industry?
Lajon Witherspoon – Yeah, so now look where we are. Now, what are we gonna do? Look at this world we’re living in now. The only show we were able to do this year was that live stream. We hadn’t seen each other, outside of Facetime and stuff, in seven months. It was only the band, three crew members, and I think, four film crew (members). It was union-run so it was very strict, which was great because that was the first time I’d come out of the house (in a while). I was like “I don’t know where y’all have been!” (laughs)
So, everybody’s weird, of course, and we all got tested and that was crazy. My wife said she wasn’t going to let me back home, so we got the rapid test and that was interesting. It was definitely worth it to hopefully bring people at home some kind of normalcy during this crazy time to see the band they love or like – or maybe it’s their first time seeing Sevendust – but at least we’re out there doing it in a safe capacity and navigating it in the proper way.
Cryptic Rock – Now everyone can’t help but talk about the cover of “The Day I Tried To Live” and obviously Chris Cornell’s legacy is very intimidating.
Lajon Witherspoon – Absolutely.
Cryptic Rock – Yeah, and we’ve done our homework and know that you had some reservations about being the one to sing it. Since you guys are not known for covering other people’s work often, what did it mean to you to cover that song and have it be received the way it has been?
Lajon Witherspoon – Wow, first it was that I couldn’t sleep. I had to go in and say to myself “I can’t compare myself to Chris Cornell.” So I said I was going to sing it like Lajon Witherspoon would sing it, but I did go into it with the emotion of how he’d touched my life as an artist. His influence on me, and not just Rock music, but if you like music, you like Chris Cornell. His voice was incredible. I thought about his kids, I thought about my kids.
I thought about his legacy. I thought about the legacy I would like to leave behind. I thought about the way he died and I thought about his family now. All those feelings, I understand how things make me feel, and I can only imagine how they felt. I just kind of went in there with all of those emotions and I hope that everyone can understand it. It’s kind of ironic how I think those words that he wrote are timeless and fitting with the world today. To me, it’s kind of about taking a chance and walking in someone else’s shoes.
CrypticRock – You have been working on a solo album with Sahaj Ticotin of Ra. How’s that coming along and might we see some guest appearances?
Lajon Witherspoon – I feel if you like Sevendust, you’ll like this because it’s me. (Laughs) It’s some Rock in there. I feel like there’s some Country in there and some things that are more radio-friendly. It’s just different. It’s fun. There’s some heavy elements to it too, but nothing too heavy. I feel like some of the music is heavier, but it’s fun. Sahaj is probably…he’s doing some harmonies in there. What I’m really excited about is that I have label interest.
It’s a really funny thing that I have the opportunity to sign a record deal for my solo project. I don’t know, I’ve been in Sevendust so long and then you know it took us another fifty-year to decide to sign with Rise Records (Laughs), it’s nice to be courted by record labels again. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I just want to put some music out there that I think people are going to dig.
Cryptic Rock – With everything going on in the world, from politics to the pandemic, what role do you think music and the arts play in preserving or supporting society?
Lajon Witherspoon – Well, you know, I just hope everyone can stay creative. I feel like we need equality and we need love.
CrypticRock – Finally, here at Cryptic Rock, we love all things music, Horror, and Sci-Fi. You have expressed interest in movies like The Exorcist (1973) before, so what kind of films are you into now?
Lajon Witherspoon – I hate that I’ve said I like The Exorcist! It (2017) and The Conjuring (2013). I don’t like stuff that’s too real. The ones that are more realistic to me are the scariest.