ever underestimate the power of rock n roll. Once it is in your system there is just no way to shake it. Singer and bandleader KENNETH NIXON found that out over a period of six years after he and his band FRAMING HANLEY chose to quietly call it quits and step out of the active rock limelight following the release of their 2014 album THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE. No one gives the rock n roll lifestyle the credit that it deserves for being a demanding profession where a good part of a calendar year is devoted to being on the road. Three years after FRAMING HANLEY's last release, KENNETH NIXON had a musical itch to scratch so he teamed up with FRAMING HANLEY guitarist RYAN BELCHER to form a new project tentatively titled SUMNER ROOTS. In forging this new sound for a new project, the two quickly realized that what they were working on was a new FRAMING HANLEY album an spent an additional three years perfecting their forthcoming album ENVY, which is due out on February 21, 2020. ROCKWIRED had a chance to speak with KENNETH NIXON on FRAMING HANLEY about the band's newest album. Here is how the interview went.
It's been six years since I last spoke with you when FRAMING HANLEY had released the album THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE. Since then the band retreated but now you guys are back with the new album ENVY and it's a whole new world now. How does it feel being back with this new album?
We all needed the reset, I think. I certainly feels unbelievable that this album is finally coming out. We started recording this album three years ago under a different moniker. At that time, RYAN and I got back together to start playing music and we were going to call ourselves SUMNER ROOTS with the intent of going for a completely different musical vibe from FRAMING HANLEY but the more he and I continued writing we realized that we were just writing a new FRAMING HANLEY album. It was weird how we gravitated back to doing FRAMING HANLEY. Me and RYAN were always the core songwriters of the band so we decided to just do another FRAMING HANLEY album. We needed the reset. We needed the break. I needed for music to become for me a form of therapy as opposed to being a scheduled nine to five kind of thing if that makes any sense. Once I got away from being submersed in that world, I went home and spent more time with my family and I started a new career outside of music and I was no longer depending on music as a job. I gravitated back to music naturally this time which was exactly what I needed to do. Three years ago we started this thing and it is finally coming out. It feels like the first record we ever put out all over again and we're now talking thirteen years later.
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The album won't be released until Friday, February 21, but I can imagine a select group of friends, fans and media have had a chance to take the album in. Have there been any reactions to your first album in six years that have surprised you or that you didn't see coming?
Not so far. I think we'll start to see more feedback in the coming days. So far thankfully the album hasn't leaked yet. I'll bet that changes in a matter of 24 hours but on all of the sites online it's not out yet. Other than the songs we have released and the clips here and there I don't think there has been a ton of people who have given it a full listen except for some reviews that have come out and so far, the reviews have been thankfully positive. I don't really care. It's awesome to have an album out and not have that feeling. I want people to love it, trust me. I want people to say that this is the best album that they've ever heard from us but at the same time we made this album the way that we wanted to, spent the time on it that we wanted and it felt good to not have any rules this time around. We kept writing until we had the record finished. It wasn't about meeting a deadline or anything. So that kind of thinking could be to my own detriment. We could see next Friday that a lot of people aren't listening to this album but in terms of the strength of the album I know without a doubt that this is the best stuff that we've ever done and I'm very excited about moving forward with the newer stuff that we've already started writing.
And how has the rest of the band held up? I can imaine that the lineup has changed somewhat.
RYAN and I are the two remaining orginal members. JOHNSON STOYE, our bass player, was in the band during THE SUM OF WHO WE ARE cycle. So he is kind of an O.G. too. The other two guys SHAD TEEMS, our drummer,and NICK BROOKS, our other guitar player, are dudes that we've known for years. They both used to tech for us. They are literally two of the most talented, crazy minds in regard to music that I've had the pleasure of being in the presence of. When SHAD first joined this band as the drummer, it just opened up doors for us in a creative sense that we had never explored before. It is very obvious on this album. I feel like this album has everything to do with the combination of these five guys. That is another thing that has me very excited about the future is going through the writing process with those guys and really finding out who the five of us are as songwriters. STOYE just recently made the transition from bass to guitar because RYAN just had a baby and started a new career and we had some shows that we had to play that he couldn't play. So STOYE switched over to guitar last Fall and in December we wrote one of the best songs on the album with STOYE on guitar - just he and I. It was then we realized that we could do some really cool things together. It feels like I'm in this head space that I haven't been in for so long and it feels liberating. It's very exciting.
CHECK OUT THE SiNGLE PUZZLE PiECES!!!
And in the three years it took to put this album together, what inspired these songs?
These songs were inspired by what we were experiencing through life. I wouldn't say that there was a theme on this album except that it is the most brutally honest album that I've had out there in while. Getting back in to the musical head space had everything to to do with the writing of the songs on this album. There were definitely some songs that almost made the cut for this album that I thought weren't as strong as what we ended up adding to the album.
And I understand you are calling me from your rehearsal space. I can imagine you guys have some tour dates coming up. Right?
We've played a series of shows, the five of us, over the last two years after we released PUZZLE PIECES. In the beginning we were just shaking some of the rust off but it felt good to be back on stage and be a band again. It's been great to get back into the swing of things. We've been rehearsing everything since we've been writing this album for the past three years. We would write and go through some stuff and now, next Saturday night, the night after the album comes out, we're having our album release show here in Nashville. That show has really been a large part of our focus for the better part of the last eight weeks. I'm nervous as hell about it to be honest.
The band has already released three singles in anticipation of the album. One of them is PUZZLE PIECES. Talk about that song.
I went through this period when we took time off when I really got down in the dumps. That is something that I think everybody has gone through. For me it reached a point where I felt like I needed to do something about it and see a doctor. I was given some antidepressants and I felt like everything was getting better. I had never experienced being on antidepressants before. It eventually got to the point where I felt like I was depending on them too much. I know that is a very dangerous thing to say because I know that they are very helpful to people but for me I had my wife and my kids and with everything that is going on in the world I kind of reached the point where I felt like I needed to start smoking weed again and pick up a pen and paper and write down what I'm feeling. I kind of ran away from music to be honest. It was like rock n roll broke my heart. I ran from the one thing that had always been a form of therapy for me. I realized that I didn't want to take these antidepressants anymore. I didn't like what they were doing to me. So I stopped taking them and I started writing again. PUZZLE PIECES is about going through all of that. It also has a lot to do with the current state of affairs here in the U.S. and the president and I don't wanna get into that. It feels like we're living in that DAX SHEPARD movie IDIOCRACY.
What about the song BAGGAGE CLAIM?
Most people will hear that song and think that it's a relationship song. RYAN and I wrote that one as well about leaving the industry when we broke up and feeling like you've got to get out of here and change everything that is going on with my life. That song is about the nagging and the push and pull from both sides telling you to do this while the other side is telling you to do that. If I took the literal approach with the song, I don't think a lot of people would be able to relate to it so iI figured that I would make it your standard relationship song.
And THROWING KNIVES?
I can't speak about that one too much. That was a song the RYAN worked heavily on and I can't speak to his state of mind. It's more about a toxic relationship that he had gone through.
And once ENVY is released, what does the immediate future for the band look like?
I don't know. I really don't know how to answer that. The standard modus operandi is to put out an album and go tour. I imagine we are going to play some shows the same way we've been doing. We'll go out and play a handful of shows in a given month and come home and reset. I don't think any of us are ina spot where we're going ot give up what we've established as our new ground over the last four or five years. Who knows though. If things take off, we're going to be having a whole other conversation there, right? Well see. I'm excited for people to know that we're back and we're better than we've ever been and if that means we get to play shows in their city and they have a good time on a Friday and Saturday night then I'm all about that. But now, I'm too damn old to be touring 250 days out of a year anymore and I've got kids that area lso getting older. We'll see what th future holds, but for right now I'm really excited about this coming Friday. I can't express how crazy this all feels.
With the album ENVY, what is the big idea? What do you hope people come away with after they hear it?
If it is a listener that has been a fan of our band in the past, I hope that they hear it and be glad that we've made a new album and think that it's the best thing that they've ever heard from us. I haven't given this much thought but my hope is that people simply enjoy the album. It would suck if people thought that we should've just stayed gone. It's awesome to have an album out there where there is not a single song that I would replace. Also this time around I was more involved with the production. I co-produced this album with my buddy JOSH BAKER so to have your hand in it from every side of the production of these songs gives the thing added weight for me. I was more hands off in the past but working with JOSH was great and to give people a little bit of a spoiler alert, you will see this band working with him again in the future on another FRAMING HANLEY album. I genuinely hope that people really enjoy this album and think that it's the best thing that we've ever put out and if not, I'm alright with it.
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