Drivin’ N Cryin’ with Tim Nielsen
by Jeremy Glazier
I called Tim Nielsen, bassist with Drivin’ N Cryin’ on the road as they were making their way to a Charlotte record store and a release party in Augusta the following day. He started the conversation with a nod to the original album review that Ink19 reviewed when the album was first released. “…it’s pretty wild you all reviewed our record back in 97… and I saw the review for the re release, it was a nice review” Tim says.
I started the interview with my own first encounter with Drivin’ n Cryin’ in 1993 here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa when they opened for Bad Company and Lynyrd Skynyrd. While the other 2 bands are legendary, Drivin’ n Cryin’ was the band of my generation and their performance really cemented them as one of my favorite bands. Tim laughs a little and says “wow we probably had like a 30 minute set”. And if I also remember correctly, they did, came on like a hurricane, nailed all the songs, and made a lasting impression.
Because the occasion of the interview is the re release of the eponymous Drivin’ N Cryin’ album from 1997, I asked how the re-releases work and how do they choose which albums will be put out?
Tim states “It has everything to do with timing. I was engaged in conversation with the people at Island records and I was trying to get them to do a box set. Let’s do the Island years and put the 4 island records in a box and the guy was like, …what do you think of this? Let’s do Mystery Road as a double album, if that works out let’s do Fly Me Courageous as a double album. So we did Mystery Road and in the mean time, you don’t want these re-releases to be on top of each other, you have to space them out I knew we were going to be releasing a new record but you need something for the fans to talk about and be excited about so, just by coincidence and luck, I was able to get a CD to George Fontaine who is the owner and founder of New West Records. He’s retired but is still part of the business and he just love the record and he’s like it’s such a great record what’s the story with this record?”
Tim continues, “So I told him it came out that little stuff on radio around the Southeast and then was pretty much gone. Physical copies have been gone and you might be able to find on eBay but it was digitally never on iTunes and up until a few hours ago it wasn’t on Spotify. So we had the idea to re-release the record and actually give it a name, because I think that’s part of why the record became so obscure is that it didn’t really have a name. It was called self-titled Drivin’ N Cryin’ album, and the third thing is that the covers look a lot like Scarred But Smarter, so if you showed it to someone they said oh yeah I have that album.”
“So we gave it a name and we’re going to get Kosmo Vinyl, the producer, whose doing nothing but visual art these days, to do the cover concept. So Kosmo did the cover thing, it’s totally punk rock, Sex Pistols lookin, cool, love the cover. And you know we gave it a name. Me, Kevin, and Kosmo text, going back and forth in a group text, with names and finally I think I suggested to Kevn why don’t we call it Its Too Late to Turn Back Now and Kosmos said leave off the it’s and we’re all like yeah cool let’s do it. It’s the opening line of the first song on the record so it a kind of a cool sentiment to our career. It all just came together that way and we couldn’t be happier.”
“The record turned out cool the, vinyl’s great, and New West did a great job with everything, and now it’s on Spotify. Today actually were on our way to a big record store in Charlotte and we’re doing a record release party in Augusta Georgia.”
I mention that I saw they had a number of shows in the south east end of that Tim says “Yeah we stay pretty busy on the weekends. We just finished the Northeast tour, that was two weeks along up by New York and Toronto and down through Ohio and Kentucky so that was cool, we don’t do that very often. But um, a couple times a year we’ll do the northeast and I think the next time we’re going to leave the southeast we’re going out to Texas for a couple weeks and next year will probably head over to Europe again, we like to go to Europe once a year but we didn’t go this year. We were trying to have some cool stuff coming out like our new new record. Hopefully will be out in the spring and give us something to promote.
Ever curious about great music heading to Iowa I ask, is there going to be a larger US tour, specifically Iowa, or what the plan was for after Europe?
“Well when the new record comes out we’ll tour wherever they want us to go. We really made a lot of ground in the Midwest and, you’re in Iowa right? So we definitely want to go do Daytrotter and that psychedelic barn this someone’s got going over there.” he said that last part like a question and i answered that he had to be referring to Cod Fish Hollow in Maquoketa, Iowa and I’d just picked up tickets for a show there in October.
“We need to get back into Iowa and we’ve done a lot of stuff in Wisconsin, we did Summerfest this year and we got a really good thing going in Minneapolis now so, if we’re doing the midwest we might as well get back into Iowa. Kevn is from Milwaukee and I’m from Minneapolis so it’s always good to get back out that way.”
I wanted to know about the entire catalog eventually getting released to vinyl and Tim says “the next thing in line is definitely the brand new album and then we’ll move towards trying to do Fly Me Courageous. So even if that comes out in 2021 that will be exactly 30 years so maybe it will come out in 2020 I don’t really care about even numbers. It’s all a matter of having something teed up for the future 6,8,10 months we want to have something to look forward to and keep the fan base engaged.”
He pauses and then continues, “And that’s the exciting thing about it is that I think Fly Me Courageous I think they made a handful of copies, promo copies and I think they made a couple of album copies with the real cover that I think you can find online for a couple hundred dollars sometimes but releasing it technically on vinyl for the first time, that’s worth talking about.”
I mentioned it’s a perfect time because the market is supporting vinyl and vinyl is almost all I buy and he said “Vinyls back and it’s here to stay.”
About Tim taking over the managerial role of the band I was curious about how that affected the bands control over their direction and how it was working for them and specifically for Tim.
“It depends on the personality of the musician. I feel I have a good grip of the management role but I don’t think it’s for everybody whose trying to be in a band. There’s a lot of great managers out there doing great work and for some reason at this stage in our career I feel I can get done what needs to be done for us.”
“As far as control I don’t know if it’s a question of control or, it’s like we were talking about before you have to have a continuing story that has to be thought out in advance. so if you’re just sitting around for the phone to ring because you want some to go out and sing “Straight to hell” and get 10% of what we make because the phone rang, you know that’s nothing, that doesn’t really do anything. You know, we’re always looking into the future and always looking for something exciting to look forward to and a reason for us to be on the road and a reason for us to go tour places. And with new stuff coming out and writing new songs and having that relationship with our audience.”
“You know I have thought about this before you asked the question and I don’t think it’s for everybody to try to do this but for some reason it’s working and it’s kind of like maybe something you do when your bands first starting out or when your bands been around for 35 years but, in between you probably need some professional help. So you know I’m finding it’s not that difficult but we’re just what we are you know. We’re probably not going to be doing Lollapallooza or what ever, but maybe, you never know right?”
Knowing that guitarist Laur Joamets, formerly of Sturgill Simpson’s band, was on board and involved with the new record, I was interested in what ways his addition had changed the dynamic of the band. I wanted to know if Drivin’ N Cryin’, wanted a hired gun to play the pieces note for note or an additional member to fill a void.
“We rarely tell these guys what to play, and we like the new flavors coming down the road. Warner Hodges has his own style, Sadler Vaden had a certain style, and Laur definitely has his own thing going. Especially on the brand new songs that we all wrote together in the studio…I mean Laur was just coming up with these amazing parts…I like when guitar players come up with parts of the songs versus just wailing over everything. So Laur actually took the time to learn the parts to the older songs, which I love, and then he’s writing parts for the newer songs. So it’s a combination of their own style and paying homage to the parts that Kevn, and Buren, and Mac wrote back in the day…Laur is a musical genius man his brain is just, it’s amazing. “
Before we wrapped up I let him know that, revisiting the now titled Too Late To Turn Back Now, after 20+ years, that the lyrics and music are as poignant as ever and could easily creep into the airwaves. Tim laughs and says “hopefully people will make the mistake that Drivin’ N Cryin’ has a new album and are looking younger than ever and play it on the radio again.”
I believe that Tim has the sights for Drivin’ N Cryin’ set perfectly and, with the re releases and new album on the horizon, we’ll get to see them out a bit more than just the weekends.