"My relationship with country music isn’t very deep or professional, it’s more of a history thing." - Caleb Shomo.
It was the unexpected news that we didn't even realise we wanted - Beartooth are releasing a country and folk EP 'The Blackbird Sessions' this Friday. Sure, country music is a bit of a departure from their hardcore roots, but this is still Beartooth - especially given that the EP is made up of four reimagined tracks from their 2018 album 'Disease'.
We caught up with Beartooth frontman Caleb Shomo to talk through this new country EP.
What’s your relationship with country music?
Says Caleb: “Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of the pop country stuff. I don’t really listen to country radio or go to country shows or anything. I don’t dislike it, but I honestly love bluegrass and folk music. A lot more of the shit they were doing more in the ’50s and ’40s with banjos - the deeper roots of country. And that was why we did these sessions in the first place. My relationship with country music isn’t very deep or professional, it’s more of a history thing. Where my parents grew up and a lot of me learning music had to do with folk music, even old gospel and hymns in church and with extended family on vacation. I guess there was a lot more of a family history with it.”
So how did this EP even happen?
“We got hit up by our label. One of the people there had this idea to do some acoustic sessions. The original idea was that we’ll do it in LA and maybe we’ll get a string quartet... I don’t know. And then I was like, ‘Well if we’re going to do it, why don’t we make it more of something that means something to me?’ I guess when I had the chance to start putting the songs together, I started leaning towards the shit I remember from growing up, which was my whole family standing around and singing 12-part harmonies and shit like that, and I just thought that was the coolest thing in the world.
"Nashville was where I wanted to do it because I love Blackbird [Studio]. I did the majority of the actual record [‘Disease’] there, and to be able to go back and have the owner of the studio John McBride engineer it... he is an absolute legend, and when we hit up Blackbird about doing it, he requested to do the session which made it extra special. We found some great players, people who are just professionals. We had a rehearsal space that we went to and we worked at for one day before we went into the studio, and the guy who played pedal steel practiced with us for maybe an hour, and the violin player came in for literally one pass of each song and he was perfect. He just looked at the chords and was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll take it from here’. Nailed it. The singer didn’t even rehearse with us. I sent her some demos with some rough ideas but she just came in and nailed it. It worked! It was really exciting and a fresh, freeing thing for us.”
It must be cool to explore these songs in a different way.
“Once it’s done and it’s written, I’m good. I love being able to expand on ideas, and for me I felt like more of almost a producer and music director, whatever you’d want to call it, and it was a different angle for me to work on these songs. It worked out great, even better than I could have expected.”
How does that exploration going to affect the things Beartooth puts out in the future?
“This opened the door for me to want to expand on Beartooth songs in different ways. Say next time we want to do one of these acoustic things, I dive into another part of my childhood growing up. I have some ideas already of things I want to do.”
Beartooth are returning to the UK in February for a headline tour. Check out all the details on that here.