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Interview: Jaret Reddick opens up about moving from pop punk to Country

The Bowling For Soup frontman spoke to us following his C2C appearances.

Jaret Reddick
Credit: Jaret Reddick

Jaret Reddick, the frontman for acclaimed punk rock band Bowling For Soup is taking a new direction with his latest release ‘Just Woke Up’ and venturing into the world of country.

The twelve song album features songs giving homage to his roots as a proud Texan, his discovery of a new side to his family life and a reworking of a couple of punk rock favourites. Having been in the music industry for over 25 years, this decision was a long time in the making for Jaret and the album proves his ability to write as a serious country musician as well as bring some subtle humour to listeners too.

I sat down to talk with Jaret following his C2C performances to discuss the transition and much more…

Hey Jaret, how are you?

Hey man, how you doing? I’m good thank you!

It’s nice to see you. This is this is a little full circle for me right now. I grew up listening to your music, my good friend Jessica Lynn got in touch with me about the album the other day and I was at a go kart track last Saturday night (as all the cool kids are) and Bowling For Soup came on and here we are!

Yeah, it all just makes sense now, doesn’t it? Yeah, man, it’s cool to chat. 

Well, listen, let’s, let’s dive on into this because this is an interesting interview. I’m talking to somebody who was a punk rocker for most of their of career but is now venturing into country. My first question would be why country and why now?

You know, country has been something that I grew up on. I’m from Texas. I grew up here and I still live here. It’s funny, I think that some people, when they think of Texas, they just think that it’s all just cows and horses. I mean, where I live, it kind of is, (I live in the suburbs), but you can literally drive like six blocks that way *points in a direction* and there’s long horn cattle, you know. This is my world. 

Quite frankly, country is what I grew up listening to. It’s how I learned to write songs. My parents constantly listened to Waylon and Willie, in the car and in the house. And then, you know, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. My Mum’s been singing Dolly Parton my entire life and they’re not musicians, by any means but music is definitely a big part of their lives. Doing a country record is something that I’ve toyed with the idea for a long time. I’ve been doing Bowling For Soup for 28 years and that’s my day job and still what I absolutely love doing however with country; it’s different. I’ve thought about starting another band, but I’ve been down that road, with a side project I had called People on Vacation, I’m also in a band with Kelly from the DollyRots called Jaret and Kelly and I’m in a band with Linus of Hollywood called Jarinus. All of that is still active. Also, I think that doing a country record with Bowling For Soup, would have just been seen as a novelty. I mean, just to get people to listen to it, and try to take it seriously and also, we don’t really have a shortage of material or, or things to do already. So that sort of gets us to me just talking about it for years and years and years and just trying to figure it out.

Then quarantine happens and the first year I wrote and recorded a Bowling For Soup record and then the next year my buddy Zac Maloy, who’s in a band called The Nixons but he’s also a Nashville songwriter with a bunch of number one hits for Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton and quite a few other heavy hitters, he was like, ‘man, let’s just do this. You know, we don’t have anything else going on. It’s not like we’re going out on tour.’ I thought if there ever was going to be the time then this is it. That was almost a year ago and it was unlike anything I’ve ever done. We literally wrote the whole record, passing lyrics and ideas just by voice memos and then the next thing you know, we had players come in and play the songs and then I was  in the studio recording vocals. So, you know, it all came together, I would say, organically and naturally. And it was very simple. It just made sense the whole time.

You did it for yourself then right? You talked about it for so long and then finally made the decision to just do it.

There’s a few aspects to the timing of it, really. I mean, I love playing music. It’s what I do. Entertaining people is really my number one thing, making people laugh, making people smile, making people forget about a bad day. But as I started thinking about doing this country record, I guess the picture was a little bit bigger than that. When I was in my 30s, I remember saying, it’s not like I’m going to be 50 and singing about high school and farts and girls and I actually am… I just turned 50. Bowling For Soup is actually going stronger than it ever has. But there is something to be said for finding something in a type of music or some sort of a niche that is comfortable for me to go about doing for the years to come. For me, I in no way expected every Bowling For Soup fan to just jump train and come over with me because a lot of people just have that blanket view of ‘I hate country’ and then you have to go ‘well, do you like Johnny Cash?’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, I love Johnny Cash.’ Well, then you don’t hate country. You hate what you think country is. I don’t sound like Nashville pop country so give me a chance. You know, do you like Social Distortion? Do you like early Frank Turner songs? Because he certainly thought he was a country artist back then.

Jaret Reddick
Credit: Jaret Reddick

I’ve got some quotes here about the record. One reviewer said ‘it’s funny, it’s toe tapping sing-along-able, I didn’t expect to be disappointed but I also didn’t expect to enjoy ‘Just Woke Up’ as much as I did.’ Another said ‘he’s just having fun with it and that’s exactly what ‘Just Woke Up’ is; it’s fun.’ They’ve kind of hit the nail on the head there. Clearly, you had a bit of a mission statement going into it with the idea of a country album brewing for years and a future musical plan. How did you find the writing process of a country album in comparison to previous ventures?

It was definitely a different process with it being a project co-written and produced by Zac. There were no rules. Other than, you know, I was doing a country record. I love those reviews, I think they’re great. I love to hear that people have found found some humour in it. I do hope that those same reviewers will also listen in to see the things that I’ve put forth on the record that I’m revealing too. I talk about ex wives, I talk about my biological sisters that I just found four years ago, heartbreak and what my friends mean to me. There’s always a humorous twist to certain things that I do but I don’t necessarily want to be seen as like a funny country guy. I just can’t help being funny, that’s the problem. I’ve got to be honest Neil, I can’t help it. I’m just hilarious all the time (laughs). I make people laugh and I can’t help it.

Now the writing process was obviously different because I didn’t have any sort of safety net; in the fact that whatever I was going to put forth as the songs stood there on their own. There’s no back catalogue you can fall back on, like with Bowling For Soup. You know, I think, really anything we put out in that band, people are gonna go ‘you know what, you can’t argue with their success, they’ve been together 20 years, they’ve got 12 studio albums, three live records and a bunch of compilations.’ With this though, this is it. This is my first stab at it and I knew everybody was going to listen, at first, at least with some sort of idea that I might be taking the piss, that I might be going for overt laughs and be making a comedy record, and I certainly am not doing that. I put a lot into it and lyrically, there were a lot of times throughout the record where we would stop and Zac would go ‘wow, man, that’s crazy.’ I talk about my family. In ‘Royal Family’ I’m talking about the fact that the man who raised me is not my actual biological father…and that’s not something I’ve ever put out into the world before. Yeah, it’s deep.

I think you could have very easily done a comedic country album and everyone would have thought it was good and funny, but the fact that you’ve actually been a bit ballsy and said well actually there’s some serious s**t I want to get across here is admirable. 

And that’s what I’m influenced by. I wanted to make an outlaw country record. Johnny Cash has ‘Boy Named Sue’, you know, and you’ve Willie singing ‘I gotta get drunk but I sure do dread it because I know just what I’m going to do.’ There’s humorous aspects to a lot of those songs, and then they’d hit you with things that would literally tear your heart out of your chest. Just for clouts sake, I do have to show you this (Jaret proceeds to pull up his shirt sleeve and show me Waylon and Willie tattoos on his left bicep that he got in England twelve or so years ago).

Oh, wow. Where did you get those done in England?

Darren Hubbard, a friend of mine who does tattoos for Download Festival and all that. He did them on the bus, yeah.

I love that. Now you’ve got a little bit of that the UK and the States blended on your arm at the same time.

Exactly, isn’t that great! I actually also got my ‘Phineas and Ferb’ tattoo, and my Chuck-E Cheese tattoo in the UK. So if you didn’t know I’m the voice of the mascot of the restaurant chain Chuck-E Cheese over here. And I was a character on ‘Phineas and Ferb’. So lots of the mixing of the of the two countries!

Two great cultures mixed. On the note of your Texan roots, there’s a lot of that in this album. ‘Songs About Texas’ is a great song. There’s a few lies in it though, the Cowboys winning it all? I mean that’s b******t but we can look past that…

Hey! I’m a Steelers fan. I saw that you’re a Baltimore fan (points out my Baltimore Ravens t-shirt). We don’t have to be enemies. There’s not a lot of sports teams that make me want to vomit and the Ravens just happen to be one of them. But that’s okay. Jessica said you’re great so y’know…I go to a Steelers game every single year and I think my son and I actually are going to start next year trying to see them play in a in a visiting Stadium at least once a year. So fly somewhere and see them as a road team. 

The Steelers get a good reception over here, there’s a few Steelers fans in the UK…annoyingly. You’ll have to come over for an NFL UK game, they’re good fun!

I’ve heard yeah, hopefully the Steelers get that draw one of these days and I’m able to do it.

But anyway back onto the Texan roots in your music. ‘Songs About Texas’ is probably one of my favourites on the record, is it one of yours as a homage to your roots?

It’s definitely a song that I think that everybody gravitates to first on the record because there’s a familiarity to it. One reviewer sort of raked me over the coals on that one saying that it’s a song with every Texas cliche in it. I thought that was kind of unfair because I didn’t say truck, I didn’t say jeans, I didn’t say ex girlfriend. I didn’t say dog. I didn’t say mother in law, you know? (laughs). The point of that song is that we do all love songs about Texas. We like songs about that stuff. I think the lyrics are all really, really good. I love the fact  that we change the chorus each time and I love the throwback to the stars at night are big and bright; a lot of people from the UK probably didn’t even know that that was an actual song until ‘Pee Wee’s Big Adventure’. You know, you might be too young to even know what the hell I’m talking about (laughs). ‘Songs About Texas’ was one of the first ones that we wrote and it gives me the vibe of the whole record actually.

I always try to pick out my favourite tracks for discussion when I’m listening to albums for reviews and interviews but I do genuinely like all of them on ‘Just Woke Up’. ‘Doggonit!’ is awesome. How did that one come about to begin with?

I’m so glad you brought that one up. So I’ve had that line in my head ‘It’s like she’s got the leash and I’m the dog gone doggonit’ and I was like how has no one ever written a song like this before? People in the south just say dogg-on-it it instead of God dammit, you know and you’re like, man how has nobody ever said dog gone doggonit, you know? I had that in my head for years and a couple of country writers would tell me ‘we’ve got to get you in a room with Blake Shelton or somebody because this song is perfect for them’. But it just never happened that way. I never was able to to pitch it to anybody that I thought would do it justice and so when it came time to do this thing, I was just like, you know what, f**k it man, I’m just gonna do it myself, send it to Zac and hash it out. It really just came together great and I’m really glad that you that you liked that one. That one and ‘My Truck Up and Left Me’ are so Jarrett Reddick in the writing of them. They’re so Bowling for Soup-y but to call them Bowling For Soup isn’t fair because I really write those kinds of songs in every project that I have. Those ones I get are kind of silly, but there’s also some smartness to the whole thing. I mean, I managed to go through the whole of ‘Doggonit!’ and you could literally be coming from the perspective of a dog.

Jaret Reddick
Credit: Jaret Reddick

It’s fun. It’s got a bit of attitude. People are going to lap it up live. Then you balance out those fun elements with guys like Frank Turner who feature on this album. You guys go way back right?

We do. Yeah, go back to honestly, me being a fan and not that he needed it but me just championing him on the internet anytime I could. Just shouting from the rooftops; this dude is the best songwriter out there right now. He’s so great. I was able to meet him at Reading and Leeds festival one year and get to have a few beers with him and from then we got to be friends. During quarantine, we did a weekly Instagram hang and then at the end of that period he was starting to get busy again and I was starting to work on this record, I reached out and said ‘hey, man, I don’t want to take the p**s, if you don’t love the song, don’t do it, I don’t want you to do it just because I’m asking you to but if you dig the song, I’d really think you’d be great on this.’ So yeah, he came in and did the part on ‘Drunk As It Takes’ with his voice coming in in the middle. It’s just as a fan, to hear that on your record, you know, it’s one of those things that it just gives me the chills. Pretty much every time I hear it…oh my God, that felt good.

Frank is an artist that as soon as he walks on stage just grabs everyone’s attention. He’s got that sort of presence.

That is one hundred percent of who is, he’s just a star. Frank Turner is an interesting guy for me, because I don’t think if you saw him on the street, you would go, that guy’s probably a rock star. It’s once he just gets up on the stage. There’s just something that happens to him and he just becomes a completely different being and he just absolutely owns the crowd. He owns his band. He just owns the night. There’s a handful of people I’ve been able to see do that in my life and he is for sure up there with the best.

You’ve got some some other cool names on this record as well. Stephen Egerton from The Descendants plays on ‘Natalie’ which is as very bluesy number, what was it like working alongside him?

So first of all, I have to tell you about that song. As you hear in ‘Royal Family’, I discussed the fact that I found my biological sisters about five or six years ago when I was in my 40’s already. It turns out my biological father was a career musician, a radio DJ and there was so many similarities between us. It’s just bizarre. I never got to meet him, but you know he had a high pitched voice and was a singer in a band who can play all the different instruments, just a workaholic guy, you know and that’s me too. He actually recorded some songs back when he was a kid. The song ‘Natalie’ by Charles Jones exists on the internet, recorded back in 1959. He recorded it when he was 19 years old. So when I heard it I thought man, this would go great on my country record. We asked Stephen to play on it. I’ve known him for for a while. I’m very, very lucky to have met some of my heroes, and none of them have ever let me down. They’ve always just been as great as I’d hoped they would be and Stephen is just such a sweet, sweet dude. On the song he just absolutely ripped it and then he heard the story afterwards and realised that we were really making something come together. Because he’s the guitar player from my favourite band of all time it’s so special to me…and then it turns out, his wife’s name is Natalie.

That’s full circle.

That’s cool, right? I mean, that’s a cool story, it’s crazy!

I feel like it’s probably better as well, that you didn’t tell him what the story was until after you did it. Avoided putting the pressure on him.

Yeah, and that’s just the way the song was recorded, we just basically sent it to him and said have your way with it. I love the fact that he didn’t treat it like super rockabilly, I love the fact that he just comes in just starts ripping it. It’s just really, really awesome.

You’ve got a couple of reworked Bowling for Soup songs on the record too. ‘The B****h Song’ sounds very good as a country song. Do you think you prefer it country on in its original format?

Well, that happened organically as well. I did a bunch of online shows, during the first year of lockdown, about 75 to 100 shows. I also did a bunch for charity to help out with some causes. When I play some of the songs on acoustic, it’s just me and a guitar, so they do tend to sort of just naturally rework themselves and ‘The B***h Song’ just started sounding that way. People said ‘you’ve got to record this version of you doing it like this’. Another thing to think about is all of the songs that I write are written on acoustic guitar. So, before we record them, they all sound a little country anyway. ‘Ohio, Come Back To Texas’ just seemed like a no brainer to redo and I really wanted to bridge that gap of well if you’re a Bowling for Soup fan, at least listen to this, you know, give this one a shot. I do think that both of them came out great.

The album is definitely garnering attention from country and punk rock fans alike. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make Country To Country Festival in London this year however how did you find the UK fans response to what you did? 

Man, I could not have been happier. As I said earlier, I definitely never fool myself into thinking that if I start to do a project outside of Bowling For Soup that everybody’s going to convert. There’s something about the four of us together in BFS and that’s what I love about being in the band is that us and the fans know what we are and what we do. I didn’t really know what to expect. People were saying to me that this was going to be an older audience, and that they are Radio Two listeners and also that not a lot of people are gonna know who I am, right? I asked what do you mean by older because I’ve been going there for 20 years, you know and so if they’re 40, there’s a real good chance, they came and watched us play somewhere, When I walked out on stage, before I even hit a note the audience was there with me and could not have been more friendly. It was really cool, because I played on Saturday, at a show where you had to have a ticket, it was packed and it was awesome. Then on Sunday, I played again, but that one was free to get in to because it was just right there in the big entrance. So that one had a bunch of like actual Bowling for Soup fans who came just to see that set. And they had had the record since Friday. So all of a sudden, now I’ve got, you know, a good portion of the audience that already knew the words to most of the songs. That was a really, really good feeling. It was nice to be on stage playing the songs and definitely sort of press the gas, I think on me, figuring out how I can take this album on the road as soon as possible. I mean, you know, BFS is pretty much busy until the end of the summer and so I’m starting to look at the fall for now.

I saw a lot of your face popping up on my social media channels from friends and musicians at C2C having a bit of a nostalgic freak out about seeing and meeting you. 

I love that, it’s like that here in the Texas country world, too. People have asked me a lot about how I’m being accepted, how I’m fitting in with this kind of thing and it’s awesome. I mean, because most of these musicians here in Texas, who are now doing this sort of thing grew up listening to pop punk. If you’re from Texas, and you listen to pop punk, you don’t not listen to Bowling for Soup. It’s nice and everybody’s been very, very friendly. I think having the music to back it up, is what’s important because I could easily just say, ‘hey, I’m gonna infiltrate your genre here,’ and come over there, for whatever reason, I like your fans better, I’m gonna come take them. Obviously, that’s not the case but I could see someone being territorial about that, if you were just a musician who’s worked 10 years to have your career and all of a sudden this dude who has a bunch of hits and in a whole different genre comes over. The fact that I’ve already got the music to back it up that someone can listen to  and can see that it’s not contrived. I don’t have a machine behind me on this man, this is just me. I’ve got a publicist. I’ve got my same manager, I’ve got my same booking agent over there in the UK, all of that’s the same. I’m just going for it.

Great stuff. I want to end today with just a couple of quick-fire questions for a little bit of fun. First things first, prediction ahead of time for who’s winning the Super Bowl this year?

Well, I would I would like to say Steelers, but although I think we’ve done a very good job in building our offensive line and our secondary during the offseason, I just don’t see the quarterback thing working itself out. Stranger things have happened. We could just draft some dynamo, a Kyler Murray or someone but I don’t know that that player exists in this draft. Man, it’s gonna be tough but I think Green Bay will have a legitimate shot because they always do. And I think he’s (Aaron Rodgers) got something to prove now.

Where was the craziest afterparty in the world?

I’ve been to a lot of crazy after parties. But my favourite story of an after party that I’m thinking of right this minute is actually when we went to see a band. We went and saw Skid Row in New York City. In a club and it was packed, probably 600 people. Afterwards, we went backstage to go and say hello. Now we had just played the venue down the street a couple of weeks before which was bigger and we sold it out. In no way am I saying this as a flex at all, it just prefaces what I’m about to tell you. So we’re backstage and apparently the security crew who worked our show was working this one and they came in to clear out the backstage. We’ve been hanging out for a couple hours and they’re like everybody’s gotta go, everybody out of here. I don’t care who you are, whatever… Bowling for Soup… you guys are good. They kicked Skid Row out of their own dressing room and let us stay. It’s not like we really needed to stay any longer. We just did it because we could! (laughs). Have a great rest of the tour Skid Row, safe travels! Do you mind leaving a few of those beers?

I know they aren’t your main guitars of choice but Fender or Gibson?

Ah, man, so this just got so complicated Neil, damn it! So we use Gibson in the studio for Bowling For Soup. We use Les Paul’s but I’m actually playing fender with the country thing. And this is a country interview so Fender.

Horror movies or comedies?

Comedies.

Wrong answer. AC/DC or Led Zeppelin?

AC/DC.

Right answer. All right. Here’s a real pain in the ass one. Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard?

Oh, I gotta go Johnny Cash but it is it is a very close race.

Three dinner guests dead or alive, who would they be?

Dead or alive. Okay. Three dinner guests dead or alive. I’m gonna go… let’s see… I’m gonna go Doc Holliday, Barack Obama and Paul McCartney. Yeah, and that way we got stories. We could talk until 9am in the morning and then do it all over again the following week!

Jaret, thanks for taking the time out today. It’s much appreciated. You’re over here soon right?

Yeah, Bowling For Soup will be over from the 13th April for a couple of weeks and then I should be back over myself in May so come along and say hi! Thanks for hanging out and take care. 

Jaret Reddick’s album ‘Just Woke Up’ is available now. Listen to ‘Songs About Texas’ below:

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