Although we were sitting around a conference table fit for a Fortune 500 CEO, talking with Josh, Caleb and Eddie from the Josh Abbott Band was like sitting out on a back porch in Texas with a couple of Shiner Bocks. The relaxed conversation, despite the stark setting, is a testament to the Josh Abbott Band’s easy-going and welcoming nature.
Just as with any friends, we all shared awe over the latest functionality of iPhone apps and swapped travel stories. Earlier that day, the band had been introduced to Word Lens, a “trippy” app, as Josh described it, that translates words when you hold your camera over them.
“We should have had that app in Europe.” Caleb lamented. “I remember ordering a pizza when we got to Italy called “The American” and it was just tater tots and hot dogs.”
Josh chimed in, “One of the other guys ordered what looked like a plain cheese pizza. He was like ‘yes!’ Then he took a bite of it and almost threw up, because it had salmon in it, and he didn’t know.”
Travel friendly apps are going to be useful for the band, as they’re slated to jet overseas for a show in Ireland in December. The trip to Ireland, as Josh explains, is not a typical international show, because they’ll be performing for, “a group of fans from Texas that signed up for this trip. It’ll just be us playing for our fans, but in a unique setting. I’m pretty excited about that.”
Although Ireland is just a one-show gig, JAB has caught the travel bug. They have their eyes set on expanding their international touring presence over the course of the next few years. “I know that we want to make an effort to get to New Zealand, and Australia in 2015,” Josh says. “It takes a lot of time to get to the point where you jump on the tours that go out there, though. We definitely want to get out there, but more realistically 2016 will be something that we look at for that.”
The fact that the band even has an international tour on the horizon demonstrates the gains in notariaty that they’ve made in a relatively short period of time. With a sense of pride and awe, Josh expresses, “each year seems to get bigger and bigger. Something cooler and better happens.”
This year, that major event came with the offer to sign a record deal with Atlantic Records. The band had vowed not to sign a record deal until an opportunity presented itself for them to do so while maintaining their musical identity. Josh explains that, prior to signing, Atlantic told the band “look, we don’t want to make you record a song that you don’t want to, we’re not going to change your image. We just want you to keep doing what you’re doing.”
In addition to meeting their creative requirements, signing with Atlantic gave the band the chance to reach more fans by amplifying their national promotions. This was particularly important for connecting with listeners on the East and West coasts. “We were already touring pretty big numbers in the Southwest and Midwest,” said Josh. “What we’ve been doing is pretty respectable, but there’s always room for growth. We saw an opportunity to broaden our horizons, across the entire country, so we said lets do it, and we signed the deal.”
Not only did the deal open doors for their music to reach new fans, it also gave the band the chance to work with CMA, ACM, and Grammy winning producer Keith Stegall on their recently released EP, “Tuesday Night” . His experience in producing with groups, such as the Zac Brown Band, made him the perfect candidate for the Josh Abbott Band. Eddie recounts that working with Keith “was really relaxed. He let us do whatever we wanted to.” The combination of Keith’s relaxed attitude and wealth of experience allowed the band to pivot in a way that stayed true to their signature sound, but also made room for an organic evolution. Josh explains, “as an artist you always want to be progressing and evolving, and I think we’ve grown up a little bit, even though this record is all about having fun. We’ve all gotten better at what we do, and we’ll continue to do that.” That being said, he continues, “we put certain songs on this EP so that fans wouldn’t think it was such a rough transition. A lot of fans have told us that “Blush” is their favorite song on the EP, which is exactly why we put it on there. It’s a very Josh Abbott Band song, and something that would have been on our first two albums.”
The band’s commitment to authenticity particularly shines through in the EP’s title track, “Tuesday Night.” The song captures the joy that comes with casting behind the week’s worries by grabbing a beer and tacos and relaxing with some friends. In writing the song, Josh recalls, “I felt like singing about tacos and beer. When you first hear that, it might come across as cheesy or cliche. But when you hear it in the song, it just feels natural. It makes you smile.”
Record deal and all, The Josh Abbott Band has maintained the simplicity and relaxed nature of the college hangout vibe upon which the band was founded. This consistency was particularly evident when the three were asked to imagine what toppings they would put on a “signature Josh Abbott Band Sandwich,” if given the opportunity to create such a masterpiece. Eddie initially vouched for an onion and bologna sandwich – possibly two of the cheapest ingredients he could have chosen – but his vote was vehemently vetoed by both Josh and Caleb. Eventually, they all agreed to stick to their Texas roots and decided that they would ultimately create a “ a chopped Barbecue sandwich with a sauce that’s just a little bit hot, but not too hot, and a little bit sweet, but not too sweet.”
Although the band has come quite a long way in eight years, they’ll always be the same down home Texas college buddies that got together to tell real life stories with their music.