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Interview: The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band

Photo Cred: Tyler Zoller

 The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band is heading to Riverfront Live on Friday, May 21st! They also recently released, Dance Songs for Hard Times! We got to catch up with Reverend Peyton prior to the upcoming show!

CincyMusic: So, how does it feel to get back on the road to perform some live shows again?

Reverend Peyton: It’s great! That’s the understatement of the year! (laughs) The shows are trickling back. This last week we had a couple of shows and things are starting to get moving again. This last year has been very tough for me. I know it was tough for everybody, I hate whining. I’ve been a professional musician since I was 13 years old one way or another. It’s all I know. There have been times over the last 14 months that I felt I had been literally losing myself. This last week of shows has really, really, REALLY improved my well-being. It’s been absolutely fantastic. It feels incredible. The fans have been so good. There are still certain restrictions that are in place that you need to deal with if you want to see live music come back. Everybody is with the program, they are doing what it takes. It feels like a weight has been lifted off, it feels like the clouds have parted and the sun is starting to sing again. I’m thinking everyday from this point on is just going to get better and better. The show we have coming up in Cincy is outdoors. It’s gonna feel very good, the sun’s gonna be shining, it’s gonna be a beautiful day. I’m excited about it, I’m fired up.

CM: Thank you for being able to take the stage again. I’ve gone to 2 shows since the pandemic started and you can just feel the energy in the crowd, the happiness that live music is bringing to people. As someone who goes to a lot of shows, we didn’t realize how important live music was to us, it’s like we used to take it for granted.

RP: Man, that’s exactly right. I never really thought about this being a thing, the idea of a disease coming is the stuff of movies. Just the way things happened, the way things unfolded. Of all industries, the music industry was hit the hardest. Not in terms of death of that kind of thing but in terms of deviation to the industry itself. I was reading in one of the money magazines that the music industry has been 90% impacted more so than any other industry. Most folks don’t know that live shows are how musicians like us really pay the bills. Even the top tier artists gotta do shows to really make it happen. When you are used to playing shows every day, there is a mental component and for me, that was really hard to deal with, especially the first few months. I am just very glad to be back doing it. I just feel like clarity has come back to me. I feel like the rust is being scraped off. It feels like it’s coming back, not just the shows, but myself. I know it sounds crazy but I just live for doing this.

CM: I hear that. I don’t play music myself but this last year has really affected me not being able to go to shows, I imagine on the other side it just has to feel fantastic to be back out there again.

RP: I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like. I didn’t know if the fans were a little nervous or excited but it seems like everyone is really excited. That feels great.

CM: You recently released, Dance Songs for Hard Times, which has the perfect title to sum up the last year. Writing this, was this a completely different experience since you were staying at home more?

RP: It was. I tend to finish songs at home more, I don’t tend to write as much. I start songs on the road and finish them at home, that’s kinda how I’ve always done it. The plan at the beginning of the year (2020) was to make a record and I had a lot of songs and ideas that I was working with. The vast majority of the stuff was written March 20th-April 12th 2020, right in the thick of everything, when it was sort of the scariest. These songs were just pouring out of me in a way that you always hope that they do. I always tell people (when writing songs) if you try to force them, it never works, you gotta wait for them to come. When it was said and done, I had a different record than I had planned on. Then we had to figure out how to record it. Basically, we were like, how do we do this and do it safely? We worked for this whole year trying to figure that out. We had to record these songs, make music videos, photos, artwork and all of that stuff that goes along with it. Meanwhile, we had to navigate coronavirus restrictions and keep all of our guys safe but still turn out something that we are proud of.

At the beginning of this thing, I told Breezy, (washboard) if we quit making music we are not a band anymore, so we can’t do that, we have to figure out how to keep making music. We went to Nashville to actually record. It was very weird being in Nashville, we just didn’t go anywhere but the studio. We were just laser focused, get things done, get these songs recorded. We worked with Vance Powell who is an awesome, awesome engineer/producer. He made us all really feel comfortable. We recorded everything in a cool analog way, just pony up to the microphone and play my guts out and know that it was going to be captured on the other end.

We love making music videos and we are used to gathering up 400-500 volunteers, closing off city blocks and all kinds of stuff, for this one we could only gather 10 people. So, it was like, how do we do this? I’m really proud of the way we did this, we just buckled down, we started doing our live streams in our house that I think are a little bit better than what a lot of folks are doing. Instead of just playing into an iPhone, live streams are a multicam, multi tracked production. We were able to set that up early on because we realized that this was going to go on for a lot longer than I think people anticipated.

We got our Patreon going and that’s been really cool because our Patreon is not just a monetary life blood but it has also been a really great way for us to connect with fans on a 1 on 1 basis. Also to create more stuff, all of our Patreon members get everything we release, they get twice that. It’s a unique relationship, the fans are getting stuff they wouldn’t normally get, I might be like, “I don’t know if I want to share that with everybody,” or “I don’t know if I wanna take a chance on that,” with Patreon, I can go for it, I can do a weird cover, I can something strange, I can release B-sides. I’ve managed to keep all of my guys paid and afloat. At the end of the day, I’m proud of the way we managed this thing. In spite of everything I wanted to come out of the otherside still a band. We are 2 weeks in a row of having the number 1 Blues album in the world. We’ll find out if we make it to 3, either way I’m very proud of the way the record has been received. Whenever you do music there will be people and they will lie to you, they will say, “I don’t care what people think.” Then it’s like, if you didn’t care what people think then why did you put it on a record and release it? My music is very personal, I release music that personally inspires me or fires me up and cleanses my spirit but I hope what fires me up also fires other people up and that’s the goal. So when something is positively received it just makes you feel good and this one has been our most positively received record we’ve ever done. It’s wild. In the midst of all of this, some of the silver linings have come out of everything..it’s hard to explain.

CM: Congrats on the number 1! It’s great to hear you’ve been able to weather the storm. We can’t wait for y’all to take the stage at RiverFront Live.

RP: I’m really looking forward to Cincy, it’s gonna be great, it’s one of our favorite places to play. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump for us, we're close. It’s close to home, it’s close to our heart. I think Cincy has some of the best fans in the world, just the crowd, I love it. I’ve been talking to a ton of people about this record and things coming up and I don’t know if I’m looking forward to a show quite like I’m looking forward to being there.

CM: That’s great to hear. I did see on your Facebook page that you personally dropped off copies of your new record at Shake It Records.

RP: First off, those guys have been incredible supporters of us and what we do. We appreciate all of their help and their friendship over the years. They always have cool stuff in there to show me. In addition to being a record shop, they are collectors and sellers of vintage ‘78 records. I’m a massive fan and have a small collection. I love popping in there and seeing what they have to show me. I’m sure someone from Shake It will make it out to the show, I look forward to seeing them, great people.

CM: For sure. They have always been a great supporter of local music and are the place to go on Record Store Day.

RP: They are like that old school record store too. The people there, they know what’s happening, what’s cool. That’s the thing about a record store that I think people don’t realize the value of. The people behind the counter of the record store are valuable assets to those of us who love music. They help spread the word, they are great curators of it. You wonder in this digital age if a record store matters and yes it matters! Especially now that vinyl is becoming so popular. Listening to MP3s, Spotify and stuff like that is great because of the convenience but audio quality wise, it’s pretty dismal. It’s like this, you listen to a song and it’s a fast food hamburger when you listen to it on Spotify, you put it on the turntable and now it’s suddenly a juicy steak. We need these places to keep turning out these products so that we can have good quality audio.

CM: Definitely. The thing about listening to a record, you have to physically put a record on the turntable, you are committed to listening, you are really immersing yourself when you are listening to a record.

RP: That’s exactly right, that’s a great way to put it. It’s a different experience, when you are listening to a record, you are listening to what the artist really wanted you to listen to. You’re hearing it closest to the audio quality that was in the studio. With our record we spent the extra money to get it mastered for digital because every now and then it breaks my heart to hear a classic song where all the sweetness has been compressed out of it.

CM: Since Cincinnati isn’t too far for you to travel to, what are some of the places you like to hit when you are in town? (Besides Shake It Records)

RP: (Laughs) There is a truck stop on the way out town that we always hit and it’s a celebratory thing. After every Cincinnati show we always hit this 24 hour truck stop and we have the breakfast buffet in the middle of the night. Now with what’s going on I don’t think they will be doing their breakfast buffet. I’m going to be very sad. (laughs) I know it sounds crazy, but for years we have hit this same truck stop. It’s become a ritual almost. So we’ll have to figure something else out to celebrate after the show.

CM: What are some of the other venues you like to play out here?

RP: Oh man, Cincy’s got a million great venues. Not just Cincy, but the Newport, Kentucky side. You got the Southgate House Revival, The Taft, we’ve had great times at those venues. The Thompson House is cool with its historical significance. Southgate House, it feels like family there. Bogart’s is awesome and legendary. Those are great places to play. River towns are some of my favorite towns on the planet. They are very underrated, Cincy, Louisville, Madison IN, these river towns are absolutely beautiful. The Ohio River is great for fishing and is underrated with its magnitude. It's so big you think you are looking at a giant lake and you realize you are at a river that's running hundreds of miles. It’s pretty incredible.

CM: Anything else you would like to add?

RP: In the terms of the way things are, I hope we get to see a lot of our fans. I hope people feel comfortable and they feel safe coming out. The venue is going to do everything they can to keep people safe. It’s going to be outside in the open air. I think this one is gonna be really for people that have been waiting and were not sure when they were coming out to see live music. I think this is going to be a really good one to come back to.