Sister Hazel Returns to the Lowountry: Our Interview with Founding Member Andrew Copeland

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Photo Courtesy: Kaylor Girl Promotions

By Mark A. Leon

There is a very human side of music built on the relationship between musician and fan. When the symmetry of musical appreciation, art, emotion and genuine admiration come together you have the 23-year career of one of the most respected Southern bands of the modern musical genre, Sister Hazel. From the most recognizable song nationally with “All for You” to pioneering annual rock cruises, Sister Hazel continues to reinvent themselves with the sole purpose of giving back to the fans.

This weekend, The Windjammer will be hosting Sister Hazel as they perform three shows and a series of special VIP events for the loyal Hazelnuts and Lowcountry fans performing songs from an over two-decade musical library.

Sister Hazel holds a very close personal relationship with Charleston. Playing gigs at the Music Farm and The Windjammer early in their career and harnessing brotherly relationships with Darius and the Hootie boys, NeedtoBreathe and Edwin McCain, Drew describes the Lowcountry as a second home. “Bobby Ross has always been very kind to us.” (The Windjammer). We have known Hootie from back in the early 90’s. We all came up in the same circles. Those guys are like brothers. We have stayed close for 20 plus years. There was never any competition between us. The memories we have built coming through Charleston and the way the fans in the Carolinas treat us has made this a second home for us. It is very familiar to us. We are treated like family.”

I had a chance to sit down with founding member Andrew “Drew” Copeland about their career, importance of the fans and their upcoming weekend in Charleston.

CD: 23 Years Together: What have you learned from one another about life, music, family and fan loyalty?

AC: I’ll tell ya. The lessons from being in a band with four other guys for this long and the tools you gain are immeasurable. There is no hierarchy. We all respect each other. We all have an equal say. Over time, we have had the ability to prioritize things and determine what is important in life. If someone is passionate about something, we take it seriously. This has affected how we make business and life decisions over the 23 years together. No one can appreciate all you have been through more than the four guys you have spent so many years with. We have had a crazy life. In fact, Ken and I have been performing together for 26 years now. We have been co-dependent on each other. There is no closer definition of brotherhood.

CD: Dr. Hazel K. Williams, the woman behind your namesake passed away last year at age 91. What did she mean to you all you.

Photo Courtesy: Kaylor Girl Promotions

AC: She was a female minister who dedicated her life to the ministries that reached out to the less fortunate. She reached out to all that needed help regardless of race, religion or background. Ken spoke at her funeral and over the years we always donated money to her causes. She was special and selfless.

When the band formed, we were looking for a name. Ken felt Hazel represented acceptance of all and that is what he wanted the music to be. Ken wanted to create songs that all music fans could relate to and appreciate and she was the embodiment of that.

When she returned from missionary work in Belize and Haiti, she saw our name on billboards in Gainesville and reached out to us. After speaking to us, she said, if you accept all and don’t speak ill of anyone, I am happy to let you use my name for the band. To this day, it has stuck.

CD: Tell me more about the Rock Cruises from concept to reality and what do you want the fans to take away from the experience?

AC: Way back, about 18 years ago, we wanted to find a way to thank our fans for being so supportive. We wanted to give them special shows and spent time with them and what better way than a cruise with live music and interaction. In our first year, we reserved only 200 cabins, not even the whole boat. It went so well, we chartered the entire ship the next year. For the first few years, I was even writing checks after we docked to cover some of the costs. Our former manager, Andrew Levine spearheaded these cruises and since then, Sixth Man Productions, led by Andrew has coordinated similar cruises for Zach Brown, Kid Rock and Kiss.

Over the years, we have played with Collective Soul, Gavin Rossdale, Tonic and NeedtoBreathe to name just a few. In a way, we pioneered a genre of music and fan appreciation.

CD: I understand you perform barefoot. Is that a lifestyle choice or just a little bit about your attitude about life?

AC:? I think it is both. I grew up in Florida. I was one of many kids that loved walking around barefoot. When Ken and I started out playing together we played beach clubs and patio bars. We would show up in shorts, t-shirts and flip flops. We kicked off our flip flops and played. When the band started to take off with more success, I just kept doing it. It felt good and it was a bit of a superstition.

CD: How was it superstitious?

AC: In 1993 we formed the band, in 1996, we signed with our first major label and then after that, I felt like things couldn’t change.

CD: Hazelnuts: Tell me more about the origins of this following? (For those that do not know, the Hazelnuts are the true, unconditional, devoted fan base of Sister Hazel. Much like the “Parrotheads” and “Deadheads”, these fans are dedicated to the love of the music and the band)

AC: They are self-dubbed fans. Super loyal fans. They have come together for the love of music. They are passionate about the band and all music. For that we are indebted. These fans love music and everything about it.

CD: I have some personal favorites including “Champagne High” and “Right One for Me”. What are Andrew’s top 5 Sister Hazel songs?

AC: Those can vary from night to night depending on the mood, but I will always be thankful for “All for You.” I have nothing but love for the song and all that it has given us over the years. It is still such an important part of who we are and what we have become.

CD: Being born and bred in the area that gave us Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, what has contributed to your longevity and the relationship you have built with your fans?

AC:? I think it is that we are appreciative. We don’t feel entitled. We have been surrounded by good people in our lives that has kept us grounded. We take a lot of pride in the accessibility of our fans being able to connect to us and the music.

CD: Has the induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame crossed your minds now that you are 2 years away from eligibility?

AC:? No, we haven’t thought about it, but that would be the most incredible thing to ever happen to us. That is mind numbing to even think about. I have never considered it as an option for us, but it would be remarkable if it did.

What started as two guys playing guitar and singing a few riffs of The Eagles during a 1991 tailgate party before a Florida Tennessee Football game have become a 26-year journey filled with heart, dedication and musical poetry. Exposing the vulnerability of relationships and love and celebrating life has been the cornerstone of a career that is showing no signs of slowing down.

“And for the million hours that we were
Well I’ll smile and remember it all
Then I’ll turn and go
While your story’s completed mine is a long way from done.”Champagne High

We look forward to the next million hours together.

As you watch Ken, Andrew, Ryan, Jett and Mark perform some of their classic hits and new songs, you will see a level of brotherhood you rarely find in life and that bond has extended to fans around the world.

Welcome back to Charleston.

Sister Hazel – The Windjammer Ticket Information

Photo Courtesy: Kaylor Girl Promotions

Blues Sensation Samantha Fish: An Artist out of Water

Photo Credit: Brian Rozman

By Mary Kiser

You can scroll through any YouTube music video to find the cliché “Music is officially dead” in the comment section, unless you’re watching Samantha Fish.

She’s a homegrown artist from Kansas City, Missouri, who’s cultivated the fervor of a rock and roll sound, but with a serving of blues on the side. While her latest album Chills & Fever, which features R&B gems from the ‘60s and ‘70’s produced by Bobby Harlow and featuring The Detroit Cobras, dishes soul as the entrée, Fish platters rock as the appetizer. Her sounds are intertwined together, so fans are stuffed and satisfied. However, they’ll always be hungry for more.

Whether Fish belts out her pain as in the Nina Simone classic “Either Way I Lose” or opts for an up-tempo backdrop against her sultry croons of Charles Sheffield’s “It’s Your Voodoo Working”. her childhood memories set the tone.

“I grew up listening to everything. My father and uncles played rock ‘n’ roll and heavy metal, but my dad and his friends would play bluegrass, country, blues. There was a lot of different genres that influenced me. I just listen to anything,” she says.

Fish’s bodies of work will always mirror what she feels. While people may know her with a guitar in hand, she’s freed from any box, definition, or label. She’s her own person, and her own artist.

Unlike her last three albums, her fourth album highlights her talent unhinged.

“I was always restrained when I went into the studio. I could hear every flaw magnified, so I would get performance anxiety. I recorded Chills & Fever with a different mindset, though,” she says. Her producer Bobby Harlow had her record in a quirky motel, or a “crazy-ass motel,” as Fish would say. He wanted her to feel like Ray Charles, for example. The legend had little room for error in the music business, so he had to put his heart and soul into his craft. Well, Harlow wanted Fish to feel the same pressure. His plan would only work if Fish did the heavy lifting.

Photo Credit: Brian Rozmanwork if Fish did the heavy lifting.

“In the past I was too self-conscious to give my all, but I threw [my everything] into Chills & Fever,” she says. She realized how her “flaws” and “imperfections” gave her album the oomph that made her songs worthwhile. Nobody wants to go through horrific heartbreak, insecurity, or infidelity, but her experiences make Fish’s work relatable. No wonder she’s grown her fandom, played in France, Germany, and New Zealand, and jammed alongside icons like Buddy Guy, Steven Tyler and Alice Cooper.

The Missourian’s accomplished so much, and her events and encounters are just as noteworthy as her Billboard Blues Albums Chart position of Chills & Fever, which is currently at #5. ?Her ultimate goal goes beyond the praise and accolades, though. She just wants to make her audience feel. “I want to inspire people,” she says.

While she would love to win a Grammy (She is human, after all.), she strives to give others what music has given her: life.

Samantha will be exciting Charleston audiences this Thursday, April 20th at The Windjammer on IOP

Our conversation with Rusted Root front-man and founder Michael Glabicki

Photo Credit: John Collins

By Mark A. Leon

The core criteria for consideration into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio is 25 or more years of collective music collaboration, recording and touring. ?It is a significant piece of criteria and one that most bands never achieve. ?Rigorous tour schedules, personal creative conflict and life changes are among the many reasons that contribute to the obstacles a band must overcome to create music immortality.

In 1990, Michael Glabicki took his passion for music that started as early as age six, when he would hide under the dining room table listening to Cat Stevens Greatest Hits over and over, to form the globally known Rusted Root. ?Twenty-seven years later, the band continues to tour, absorbing a new generation of fans and working on their first studio album since 2012.

In advance of their upcoming show at the Windjammer, we had a chance to talk to Michael about influences, fans and spirituality. (Ticket Information for April 7 Show)

Q&A with Michael Glabicki, singer, songwriter – Rusted Root

CD: ?Over the years, your audience has evolved with your music, including a new younger generation. ?Why do you feel a new genesis of fans is relating to your sound?

MG: ?There are a few reasons. ?First-of-all, kids today are treated like a commodity, with more commercialism with social media and digital sucking them in. ?Our music brings out a real sense of community. A real sense of individualism and individual thought. ?Kids are attracted to that. ?Also, we have been in a lot of movies and television, getting into their brains early including features in ‘Ice Age’, ‘Chuck’ and ‘New Girl’.? The music is also featured in an Enterprise Rent-A-Car commercial campaign.

CD: ?From your early days in Pittsburgh, who were some of your most prominent influences?

MG: ?As a kid, I started listening to Cat Stevens when I was six or seven years old. ?I sat underneath the dining room table and listened over and over to the best of. ?I lived inside that world for a long time. ?It had a very profound effect on me. ?Later-on, I started moving into Beatles and Stones. ?More classic rock type stuff. ?Then I transitioned into heavy metal including Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath in high school.

Led Zeppelin was a big influence later-on in high school. ?In college, I turned to bands like U2 and The Cure. ?They helped me tell where I wanted to take my emotions. ?College was short lived for me. ?I only went for half a semester and then dropped out to write music.

After I completed my first song, something changed in my world. ?It made me trust that there was something unique coming through me as an individual. ?I tried early on not to sing or sound?like anyone else. ?I didn’t want any other influence in my songwriting. ?Early on I thought my writing should be a form of meditation to come through me in a unique way.

CD: ?Is there one song that you would call “Your Song” that has had the most meaning and transcended time?

MG: ?Definitely, most of them do. ?They continue to grow with my life and every night I find something new in the lyrics that has me re-thinking. ?I can find new meaning in songs every night. ?They are not timepieces. They have magical content in them and they keep releasing new meaning. ??I almost wish I wrote down what I was thinking when I wrote all the songs over the years.

There is one song though; ‘Scattered’ that I think of when you say, “transcends time.” ?I felt I wrote it before this life and passed it on to myself so I could share it in this lifetime. ?I felt I used it ritualistically in a past life. ?In a way, I wanted to write this and have my future self, share it.

CD: ?Since you formed in 1990, the world has changed so much from Afghanistan to 9/11 to IPhone to the first African American president. ?Do all these generational changes affect how and what you write about?

MG: ?I separate myself from the events around me. ?I separate from superficial events that seem big, but really aren’t. ?I try to go to a deep sub-conscious and self-awareness. ?I feel the event, but try and find a deeper meaning much further past the superficial facts of the media.

CD: ?I saw you open for the Allman Brothers in 92’ or 93 at Waterloo Village in New Jersey. ?Is there an artist or band you would want to collaborate with if you had the opportunity?

MG: ?I am not sure if I would. ?It is very iffy. ?You think things will work out and they don’t. ?It is a mysterious process. ?If I wanted to give it a shot, artists like Neil Young and Arcade Fire come to mind. ?I often forget about the newer bands I am into, but I am sure many would be great to work with.

These things happen magically. ?People just fall into your world when the opportunity presents itself you take advantage of them. ?If the circumstances were right and it came together for something amazing, I would be open to it.

CD: ?Nature and its parallels to life are such a critical theme in your lyrics. ?Can you talk a little bit more about that?

MG: ?It makes sense for now. ?When I talk about detaching and gettting to the deeper level of the collective, nature is a part of the whole process. ?The unique embodiment of nature is profound in a real sense. ?It is very necessary right now. ?It is what I have chosen to communicate. ?It has been there throughout thus far.

CD: ?The song “Cruel Sun” – What does the sun represent (hatred, greed, violence, or something else)?

MG: ?It can be oppressive as well as nurturing. ?A life and society can be that way as well. ?Even brutal at times. ?Most of my songwriting doesn’t have a time-period or event attached to it. ?I tap into a vein of songwriting. ?A type of truth and magic where lyrics can create images in your head.

CD: “Send me On My Way” has been featured in 13 movies and shows and NASA used it for the Mars Exploration Rover in 2003. ?Did you ever expect that kind of universal success for that song?

MG: I was very low key about it. ?Many in my circle in Pittsburgh knew right away it would be a hit song. ?Songs have a way of attracting people to them like magnets. ?Whether it is the record label, promotions, radio, movie soundtracks or television, the avenue it finds the listener various, but when it does, it has a profound effect.

CD: ?You are playing the Windjammer almost one year to the day you played in 2016, why is Charleston part of your tour schedule?

MG: ?Charleston seems like a very musical audience that gets our music. ?When we come there, it seems a little more, old school where people cut loose. ?Also, being close to the water is good for us. ?Being near the water makes me write better. ?Being near water is pretty magical for us.

CD: ?Any new studio albums on the horizon?

MG: ?We are working on a new album right now. ?We will be playing some new songs when we come there to play The Windjammer and hope the audience enjoys them.

CD: ?Are there any religious or spiritual feelings that goes into the music development. ?

MG: ?No, but I get surprised as I get older when I look back and listen to old music and say Oh, maybe that did influence me. ?I have my own practice and do meditation so the spiritual side of music is a significant influence on our sound.

Photo Credit: John Collins

As a journalist and a fan, I found myself at a crossroads maintaining my professional integrity during the interview process while still having the goosebumps and feeling like a teenager having a conversation with one of his favorite bands

Their music was part of one of my most profound life periods, my college experience. ?Now 24 years since the last time I saw Rusted Root perform, I will be taken back to a special place when a lighter signaled an encore, the connection between the band and the fan had a connection that penetrated deeper than the music and lyrics and the sense of community between the band and the fans was stronger than concrete.

“Rusted Root” has created a sound that truly engulfs you with wisdom and hope. ?It humanizes our journey through life and gives meaning in times of doubt.

We are excited to have the band come and share their music this Friday at the Windjammer on Isle of Palms.