Saving Abel is a southern hard rock group formed in 2004 in Corinth, Missisippi. When vocalist Jared Weeks and guitarists Jason Null started working with producer Skidd Mills, drummer Blake Dixon and bassist Eric Taylor entered the fold. Scott Bartlett, a well known session musician from Memphis, was hired to do session work on the recordings before the group was even known as Saving Abel and Skidd had the feeling the group had found their missing piece.
The band has become a touring force in the rock world over the past five years and have done three USO tours for the military. Their most recent USO trip had the group stopping in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to perform for the Armed Forces and their family. When the band returns from Cuba, the group will headline the Rock Stage opening night at Summerfest, June 29th. I had a chance to speak with Scott Bartlett during some down time at an Iowa festival.
Saving Abel is working off the group’s latest album release, “Miss America”, and right now the third single is, “Miss America”. Is there a concept for this album and how did the band come up with the title?
SB: We were trying to come up with something surreal and weird for the name of the album. We decided that we liked the titles of the songs so much that we wanted to pick one of the songs on the album. We argued over it for a minute as five alpha males will do and then we found ourselves in Qatar playing for the troops and we already had a song dedicated to the troops called, “Miss America”. We were throwing out ideas and it was coming down to the wire with what we were going to call it and have for the artwork. One of us suggested, “Miss America”, and all five of us said that’s it!
I saw the video for the single, “Miss America”, and the band was performing for the troops. Was that recorded overseas?
SB: It was recorded in Qatar, Kuwait, and Iraq. In less than a week we’re going over to Cuba to perform for the troops at Guantanamo Bay. When the USO asks us to do something for the troops we stop everything and do it.
Does anyone in the band have family that is in the Armed Forces?
SB: Every one of us has had military family who have served. We figure we’re better off as American’s providing music. I don’t think we could really hang with basic training at this point!
On, “Miss America”, the Saving Abel worked with Marty Fredriksen who is a famous songwriter. Aerosmith and Def Leppard are just a few groups he’s worked with in the past. What was the experience like working with him?
SB: We only did one co-write with him. Next time, we’re going to try to do more because it worked out so well. He actually did, “Miss America”. It’s really cool because he’s such a normal cat and often times songwriters are introverted and weird to work with. He’s easy to identify with and understand.
Saving Abel has this loud, in your face sound on the recorded music. What equipment do you use in the studio?
SB: We use a collection of Les Paul and Paul Reed Smith guitars, with different pickup configurations. At the end, of the day we’re a Southern rock band so we love our Telecasters as much as the next. I use a lot of Fender Bassman for my clean tones and then my Bogner. I use my Marshall “Slash” head a lot and they only made 3,000 of those so I don’t take it out on the road anymore but I’ll use it in the studio. I have a Plexi that isn’t even a real Plexi because it was modified by Richard Henchson. He made this awesome sounding one-channel amp and he asked me what color I wanted it to be and I said, “I don’t give a fuck man. Make it purple”. So, I have a purple box with two knobs on it. It only has two settings so you turn both all the way up and there you go. I don’t use it live because it is a one of a kind. I used it recently because I recorded a solo project that was released straight to vinyl I did back in Memphis. I used that amp on every single song. It’s kind of like when amps were getting louder and louder and bands were working it out like Aerosmith. It just cranks and it’s beautiful for what it is.
So you’re doing a solo project?
SB: After being on the road for four years straight, we all love each other, but we love to get away from each other too. We need other things to occupy our time when we come off the road. Everyone has a little something different going on.
What does your project entail? Are you doing rock? I know you said you recorded music in Memphis so are you doing blues music?
SB: I have a degree in guitar and I was a session guy in Memphis so music has always been my thing. After four years, I wanted to parlay the fame of Saving Abel into something else so I started a clothing line called, Tatco. I put artist’s tattoos on their shirts. Back to music, Memphis and a specialty recording studio resurrected the technology of recording to vinyl. The reason I moved to Memphis was because of that sound that came out of Stax Records. When I found out they bought the original equipment Elvis cut on, I had to record on that. I hired the Memphis Horns, I hired a gospel choir, and got back in touch with my roots for a minute.
I know you’re at a festival today in Iowa. Saving Abel will be playing Summerfest in Milwaukee opening night June 29th. What are the pro’s and con’s of playing festivals for you?
SB: The pro’s are you play in front of a lot of drunk people who just can’t wait to hear you and they’re all united by rock n roll. People have been talking about Summerfest for two months now and this is our third time to do it. Summerfest is actually one of the smaller ones. We’ve done Rock Fest in Kansas City, which is around 65,000 people. Summerfest is more like 8,000 for the smaller stage but it’s really cool. We really get along with WIIL Rock, the radio station and they’re dear friends of mine who have helped me through some dark hours in my life and they’ve always been there to scoop me up. We’re close with many of the people and it will be good to catch up with them. There’s something in the air at a festival that is almost electric opposed to playing in a club. You see a sea of people and people moshing and it’s a differe
Make sure to check out Saving Abel at Summerfest, June 29th at 10pm on the Summerfest Rock Stage and at WJJO Band Camp on July 31st in Madison, WI at Willow Island.