Interview with Smitty of Truth and Salvage Co

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If you haven’t heard Truth & Salvage Co., you’re missing out. Luckily, the California country-rockers will be at the Red Palace in DC on Friday so you can see (and hear) what you’re missing. We recently got the chance to talk with Truth & Salvage’s drummer, Smitty, about the band and their fantastic debut record (released on Chris Robinson’s Silver Arrow label)

American Noise: Truth & Salvage Co. is a merger of a couple different bands from around the country. How did you all meet up?

Bill “Smitty” Smith: Three of us moved from Asheville, North Carolina back in ’05; we came out as Scrappy Hamilton. We started playing in Los Angeles and became a part of the music scene that was based out of Hollywood at this place called the Hotel Café and another place called Crane’s Hollywood Tavern. We were a part of this musical circle for, like, a handful of years and started playing with one another. We became friends and we were just like, “Hey, let’s form a band.” Scrappy Hamilton and the Tim Jones Band were basically the two bands that combined.

AN: I heard that Joe [Edel] recently left the band. What happened there? Are there any plans to replace him?

BS: Joe decided that he wanted to pursue other things, so that’s what he’s doing. We’re playing with a bass player now, Frank DiVanna, who’s a friend of ours from Los Angeles and he’ll be playing with us for the next three months.

AN: Four of the six band members are singers and songwriters. What is the process like when you guys are working on material?

BS: It seems like whoever writes the bulk of the song will bring the song to the group. From then on, the group will maybe help arrange the song, maybe give a couple lyrical ideas or musical ideas, but the bulk of the song is presented to the group by the person that wrote it. And the person who wrote it is the person who sings it. More and more, we are collaborating and writing together as a band. We do have a couple songs we play that we wrote all together.

AN: You guys tour pretty much nonstop, playing everywhere from Iraq to Bonnaroo. Have you noticed a change in the crowd when you went from opening for the Black Crowes to headlining your own shows?

BS: We’ve definitely noticed a big change. We did over 50 shows with The Black Crowes, so there, our fan base seemed to be 35 and older. As we got in front of younger crowds more, our fan base started changing. Recently, in the past few months, I see more people in the crowd singing to our songs and knowing the lyrics. We were in Los Angeles, I looked out, and it seemed like there were 500 people singing to every one of our songs. It’s a neat feeling, and one that we haven’t necessarily felt before on that level.

AN: I know this self-titled record just came out not too long ago, but do you all have any plans to get in the studio or work on some new material in the near future?

BS: We don’t have any set plans. We will record a second album, it just hasn’t been decided when we’ll do it. We already have most of the album already written, I would say. No plans yet. Our first record was only released in May, so we’re still going to tour it for a good solid year before we work on the second album.

AN: Okay, but the world’s ending in 2012 and I want to hear your new stuff before then!

BS: (laughs) I know! Me too!

AN: There are so many different influences I hear on this record. How would you describe Truth & Salvage Co.‘s sound?

BS: Pure American rock n roll. We have the obvious influences of The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Band, The Eagles, and whatnot. The influences that we grew up with, that stylistically we might not be writing like, are still in our songs, like all the indie rock we grew up with in the ‘80s and Led Zeppelin. We’ve got Midwestern rock influences from Springsteen to Mellencamp, Tom Petty, which, I guess is Florida, but our influences are all across the board depending on which songwriter you talk to. I personally like Gram Parsons to Led Zeppelin and everywhere in between. I know Walker [Young] is a big fan of Waylon Jennings. Scotty [Kinnebrew] loves The Kinks and Thin Lizzy. And then there’s a big Widespread Panic fan (laughs). So it’s all across the board and it’s tough to describe our band, but I would say it’s good old American rock n roll, with some country.

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