JD & The Straight Shot’s revised line-up have written a new album, in the form of Ballyhoo. Ballyhoo is steeped in the quiet fire of Americana, with distinctive elements of the blues and mystical, rustic New Orleans-flavored roots music.
Some might say that it is music for the soul, as they say. During our interview with them, we explore this in more depth. What really strikes us about the band is how hard they work, and how they seem to juggle an array of responsibilities and fitting in so much in to their lives.
Jim Dolan’s day gig is Cablevision Systems CEO and Executive Chairman of Madison Square Garden, where he also oversees the New York Knicks, Rangers and Liberty. Music is his passion. “I needed something in my life where I felt like I was actually creating,” says Dolan. “Most of what I do as an executive is orchestrate. I don’t actually set up cable and I don’t really shoot hoops. Music is something I’ve played since I was a kid. Music, for me, is a direct connection between me and the audience.”
We spoke to the band to find out more about their brand new album Ballyhoo…
Hello and welcome! How are you doing today?
JD&SS: We are doing well today, thank you!
JD & The Straight Shot, describe the sound of your new album – Ballyhoo to us?
Marc: It’s very different from previous records in the sense that it’s an acoustic record. Previously, we had used a lot of electric instruments. We had electric guitars, we had a full drum kit. So, now musically speaking, it’s upright bass, two acoustic guitars, fiddle, and voices, and that’s it.
Jim: That acoustic sound is a change for us. It’s one that fits our songs and lends itself well to storytelling.
Americana and the New Orleans sense of musicality seem to permeate through your tracks, tell us what you like most about those style of songs and what they mean to you?
Marc: We all grew up listening to that music and it means everything to me. Those are the records I bought, those are the records I listened to, and the ones that inspired me to become a musician. I think the rest of the band feels the same way. As far as the New Orleans part of the sound, New Orleans historically is the epicenter of roots music in America. Everybody came from all over Africa, Europe, and throughout the states to coagulate there and make what Americana music is today.
What was your favourite moment of making the new album?
Erin: I’ve been in several bands before JD&SS, but this is the first time I’ve felt a true sense of camaraderie. I originally had the chorus idea for, Better Find a Church, but the verses were unfinished. I brought it to the band and watched it transform into something powerful. Finally hearing that through the speakers in the control room — what the final product had become, was so surreal; definitely a highlight in the studio.
Do you have any personal favourite songs on Ballyhoo?
Jim: Well, I love all the songs on Ballyhoo! The title track, I love because it’s so dramatic and theatrical. But, if I have to pick a personal favorite I would say it’s Don’t Waste My Time. It has been my favorite for a very long time. Performing it acoustically has really brought out the best in the song and I enjoy singing it more than anything.
Tell us what you’re like in the studio?
Jim: I think myself and the rest of the band are serious in the studio, but mostly enthusiastic. On this last record, as we went into the studio and started to lay down tracks, we began to get an understanding of what this record was really going to be like. It started to become clear to us that we had something special and that this was our best effort so far. I like to have a good time in the studio, but I’m also pushing myself to give the best performance that I can, so I sort of balance those two things.
Aidan: I’m focused, efficient, and I try not to take myself too seriously.
Marc: I think we’re definitely a fun- loving group of people. We had spent about three weeks touring Europe right before doing the record. We were a band that was rehearsed, that was warmed up, and was ready to record. It was a pretty easy process this time around, and an inspiring one because we just hit the microphones, played the songs, and had a great time doing it.
Erin: In the studio I try to play it cool, but I’m definitely pretty nervous. I feel like a newbie to the studio world and because everything is under a microscope it can be a little nerve wracking hearing yourself over and over again.
What is your favourite song to perform and why?
Marc: You know, it’s funny because for me it really depends on how I’m feeling that day. Today I would say that I’m feeling our title track, Ballyhoo, because I dig the whole circus atmosphere and wacky lyrics. Also, Erin and I get to flip out on our instruments during the middle of the song and do this whole Celtic inspired bit that I love playing. It’s kind of the one part of the show where we don’t really know what’s going to happen at all; it could fall apart, it usually doesn’t, but we shall see!
Aidan: For me it would be, Glide, because it’s exciting. You know, it’s a challenge for us to put together; it’s pretty fast and a lot to handle and will definitely get the adrenaline going.
Tell us about the making of the video to Better Find a Church, did you have fun making it?
Erin: Making the video was another first for me. It was fun! It wasn’t as glamorous as I think people assume making a video’s going to be, though. We shot it over the summer in Brooklyn, New York, and it was especially hot in the church. We had all written the song together and the concept was a collaboration that we’d all agreed upon, so it was another gratifying experience for me personally; seeing my work come to life.
Jim Dolan – the day to day job is normally focused on being Cablevision Systems CEO and Executive Chairman of Madison Square Garden, overseeing the New York Knicks, Rangers and Liberty. What sort of a contrast is being a part of JD & The Straight Shot in comparison to those roles and how do you manage to make it all work and fit everything in?
Jim: I don’t have much trouble balancing those two worlds at all, really. I see it more as an integration than a balance; I see it as a blending of the two. When you listen to our music know that a lot of what I experience in my world and in the business world is in there. You may not recognize it, but it’s there. Business is still an environment where people relate to one another and much of our music is about relationships and the stories behind them.
Tell us how the band has evolved over the last five years?
Jim: It’s really gone from an amplified, electric, New Orleans, blues based band to what is now a fully acoustic, sort of organically grown, storytelling musical band.
You have opened and toured for the Eagles on several tour dates, along with the likes of Dixie Chicks and Keith Urban, what sort of experience was that?
Aidan: It was a great experience! We were doing it for a while and I think it kind of brought the band to another level. I mean, especially me, personally. I graduated NYU, joined the band and went straight on tour with the Eagles, so that was a big growing experience.
Jim: It was quite the conglomeration of artists between the Eagles, Keith Urban, The Dixie Chicks, and then us. Maybe the most notable thing about it was that all the shows were performed in stadiums. Those were some the biggest audiences we’ve ever played for. They were primarily outdoors and that was a new experience for us. We enjoyed it, but it was somewhat daunting.
Your music has been featured on numerous films and TV shows, what sort of feeling is that – when you hear your tracks being played on high profile shows and films?
Jim: We are very happy to be getting the exposure.
What have you got planned between now and Christmas?
JD&SS: Finishing out this European tour. We still have Dublin, Amsterdam, and Madrid ahead of us. Keep up with us online: Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @JDSSband, and on our website, jdandthestraightshot.com. There we have detailed information about our tour and album information. Check us out! We hope to see you!
What’s been the highlight of 2015 and what would you like to achieve with the band next year?
Jim: I think for me, the 2015 highlight has to be the European tour going right into making the record, which is probably true for everybody in the band. For 2016, I want everybody to hear that music and I want to make some more!
JD & the Straight Shot’s new album Ballyhoo – is out now. Watch the video for Better Find a Church below: