Banding together – an interview with Saving Abel’s Scott Bartlett

September 8, 2016 – Although the legendary artist Andy Warhol mused how ‘in the future everybody will be world-famous for fifteen minutes,’ he’s got nothing on hard rockers Saving Abel.

Despite an ever-fickle and ever-changing musical climate, twelve years now since their formation in Corinth, Mississippi, Saving Abel still plays on and fans couldn’t be happier for it. While currently making waves with their brand spanking new video for their song “15 Minutes Of Fame,” Saving Abel is also in the depths of an extensive North American tour aptly named the Make America Rock Again tour. Sharing stages with the likes of fellow rockers Saliva, Alien Ant Farm, Crazy Town, Tantric, and 12 Stones, this hearty bunch of well-loved bands decided to unite rather than compete – and it’s created a tour made in rock and roll heaven.

AXS caught up with Saving Abel guitarist Scott Bartlett while on a tour bus riding through the middle of nowhere Midwest U.S.A., and aside from intermittent cell phone coverage, it was a great opportunity to talk about all things Saving Abel as well as the band’s devotion to our troops.

AXS: So how’s it going on the Make America Rock Again tour thus far?

Scott Bartlett: It’s kind of interesting because every band on the tour has their own dates set up also, so it’s kind of confusing to keep up with it because there’s bands rotating in and out, but it’s been kick-ass.

AXS: There are a bunch of great bands on this tour and it’s running all the way through the end of October, so everyone will get the chance to see it.

SB: Yeah, and the concept – which, I have to give credit where credit is due – Chris [Taylor Brown] from Trapt came up with this. He approached me about it about two years ago and was just like there are a bunch of bands that are just fighting for their lives. They have so many hits but with rock and roll kind of changing, he’s like we’re all competing and selling the same amount of tickets, but what we if banded together and made it like this big thing? And it seems to be working, it doesn’t seem like the hardest thing to think of but basically the concept is band together instead of compete. And so what’s really cool is backstage it’s like every band on this tour you’ve already been on tour with. You’re seeing people for the first time in like three or four years and are like, ‘woah, man, you’ve got kids?’ [laughs] And it’s really endearing and a lot of fun.

AXS: It is a cool concept. And Saving Abel does a lot of touring as it is – there was one year you guys did like 300 shows…

SB: Well that was one faithful year, that was 2014. And we also recorded a record in that year. But we had a new line-up, we had a new singer, and we knew we were going to have to pound the pavement pretty hard to get the fans to believe in us with a new singer. And that’s always hardest person to replace, so we just decided to go balls to the wall, I don’t know if it was 300 shows but it was close. It’s a nice solid number.

AXS: With all of your other projects, it’s amazing you had time to sleep.

SB: [laughs] You nailed that on the head, I do not sleep. I’m kind of turning into my father, I work all the time. I was told the other day, ‘It’s funny, you’re always working but I don’t have any idea what you do.’

AXS: So, you guys have got a new video out for “15 Minutes of Fame” that is getting a lot of attention right now.

SB: Yeah, the song is actually on the last record, but we didn’t even really push that album that hard. Everyone wanted to hear new music and again, with doing 300 shows in one year it was kind of tough and we were really pressed on the time to record it. But I think it’s one of the better songs on the record, Blood Stained Revolution. It was the last song written on the record and we’d been sitting on that video for two years. So, is it going to be a single? Maybe. We’re still trying to test the waters, if you will. But I know that the video itself went over very well, and the song goes over like a brick-house, you know, in front of live audiences. So that’s very telling, but it’s also very difficult to release singles in this day and age when you’re not on a major label. There are a lot of variables, but I do know one thing, it’s a kick-ass song.

AXS: It is! But you said you’ve been sitting on the video for two years, so that wasn’t filmed this year?

SB: No. I lost 50 pounds since that video. That was literally two years ago.

AXS: Have you given any thought yet to a follow-up to Blood Stained Revolution?

SB: We started working; we’ve got some fresh songs. We’ve got a few in the can already but at this point, it’s kind of like every step matters, so we’re just going to try to walk slowly through the tall grass and learn as we go, and this tour is definitely a great place – an educational place – for all these bands. Because we’ve all been through the wringer and we can all listen to each other’s stories and trials and tribulations of going through the music industry. And I think that we’re always going to have new music, but as for how you release it I don’t know. Sometimes people say that it’s more tactically sound to drop a single and then if people like it, drop another one. And then eventually you end up with an EP, you drop that and then hopefully you’ve got enough steam behind you to drop an album – full length. I’m kind of old-fashioned, so I like the idea of holding an album in my hand and looking at the artwork, but it seems that that day is diminishing. So, we’re learning as we go, that’s about the best way I can put it.

I think our true fans really seem to get this, but sometimes people don’t understand that it really does cost quite a lot of money to record a record, and you get what you pay for. That much I’ve learned from experience. I can’t imagine those great records, you know, Pink Floyd’s The Wall took them three years to write it and two years to record it. And they were off the road the whole time. We can’t take five years off, you know, there’s wives and kids at home that need to be fed and people don’t really buy music anymore which is unfortunate because you can just get it free. And so if you want us to keep putting out music we have to tour so heavy because that’s the way we feed our families. And I’m not b****ing, it’s just how it is. Everything costs money and that’s the thing, who’s in it for the right reasons? I know that my band personally can not live without music so we’re going to keep putting out music as long as it’s in us. We’re going to find a way to make it happen.

AXS: Switching gears a little, you’ve got your own website – SB Creations – and you’ve got some really clothing items for sale. The shirts with the horns are awesome.

SB: That’s my best seller, the rocker tank. It came to me a bunch of years ago, I was drinking Jack Daniel’s with a good friend of mine and said ‘hey what if we put a tattoo of yours on a shirt?’ And then the idea was born and been kind of going and going, trying to figure it out. You can check out all my apparel and if you make it out to a show I’ve got my own booth at the shows. And it’s been kind of fun, it keeps me very, very busy. But I am not married and don’t have children so for me when we take time off the road that’s what I focus my energy on.

AXS: The horns design – that was the tattoo?

SB: That’s on my underarms, so when I throw rock horns you’re literally looking at four rock horns. I have them tattooed under both underarms.

AXS: And then on your website you also have some solo material available too – there’s an EP that you put out.

SB: Yeah, I put out an EP a little while ago and you can find it on iTunes, it’s just Scott Bartlett’s Front Porch – Tales From The Road, it’s almost like Americana. I really like soul music, I live in Memphis, TN. – the birthplace of rock and roll because that’s where Elvis went and that’s where it all went down. I’ve got the word ‘soul’ tattooed on my hand actually, and again, I’m a musician so I’m always going to be writing and I figured why not try to brand this whole thing as SB Creations – Scott Bartlett Creations – it can be any variation of art – it’s music, it’s apparel, and I don’t know what the future holds. But thanks for mentioning it, it actually makes me feel pretty warm and fuzzy inside. [laughs] Sounds like I’m doing something right, for once.

AXS: So even though you’ve got a lot going on with Saving Abel, are there any plans to put more solo material out in the near future?

SB: Yeah, I had a couple program directors call me asking if they could spin one of the songs, and I’m just like you know, I don’t want to pull the trigger on that because I don’t know if I’m going to be able to tour that anytime soon. But I was talking to Saliva’s singer, Bobby [Amaru], he does a lot of acoustic stuff when he’s off and he was like, ‘I didn’t know you could sing like that!’ I’m a shredder in Saving Abel and I just rip guitar solos and sing the harmonies and help write songs, and I know my place in this band. But it’s just kind of one of those things, it definitely made me feel good for him to recognize me like that because he’s a killer frontman and a kick-ass vocalist, and he was asking about maybe doing some duet stuff the next time we have time off. And I’ve been able to make decent money doing appearances and selling my clothing line, so I thought about doing a mini-tour centered around that with like another artist, like maybe Bobby or maybe Kevin [Martin] from Candlebox. And do a mixture of covers and originals of mine and whoever else goes out. I know Zach Myers from Shinedown does that sometimes, and he’s an old Memphis boy too, I’ve known him since he was 15 years old. So, yeah, the possibilities are endless. But unfortunately, there’s only 24 hours in a day.

AXS: As far as the rest of this calendar year goes, we know that you’re going to be busy on this tour through October, but is there anything else in the works then for the rest of 2016 or the beginning of 2017?

SB: We’ve had lots of cool tour offers for next year but I can’t really talk about them because they’re not locked down. I know we’re in discussions about possibly going overseas for some military stuff in November, spending Thanksgiving in Europe away from your families and nobody ever likes to hear that, but if it’s for the troops always stop what you’re doing and try to help.

AXS: Absolutely, and you guys have done a lot to help entertain our troops already.

SB: Yeah, I don’t like to harp on it, but the only thing that makes me mad about it is when bands claim that they’re doing all this for the military and it’s like what do you know – have you been over to Iraq or been to Qatar? Have you sat by someone – like a 2 year old child whose limbs were just blown off and watched the tears in their eyes? You don’t just get to talk about it, you have to do it. So for us we definitely live up to it for a reason.

AXS: We’d imagine it’s a pretty emotional experience for you when you do it.

SB: Yeah, we fail miserably at it. Like that soldier I was just talking about at the Walter Reed, his parents started crying then he started crying then we started crying. And all we had to do is get through five minutes without crying and we managed to screw that up. But it made it very real for them which is ultimately what it’s about. I think if you have a soul you will break down.

AXS: One of the things that’s always so striking when you see our service men and women like in airports, is just how young they are…

SB: Yeah there was this one and they were like this is Lieutenant so-and-so and he hasn’t come to terms yet with the fact that he’s never going to walk again, and he’s a highly decorated officer. And we walk in and the kid doesn’t even shave yet, and he’s sitting there with no legs. It just makes it all very, very real, and I’m just very proud to be a part of it.

AXS: And thank you for doing that…

SB: Just make sure to thank the troops.

AXS: Of course!

SB: I always try to stop in the airport if we’re flying and I see someone in their full-on gear, I just stop and shake their hand. And when we get to what I do, Saving Abel, and they’re like ‘Shut up! Woo!’ Because they support us, not just because of the music, but they know that we go above and beyond to do that. We turned down a Mötley Crüe tour to do two dates [for the troops]. Our label tried to veto it at the time, it’s part of the reason we’re not on that label anymore. Sometimes it’s just the right thing to do.

AXS: Anything else you’d like to say directly to your fans?

SB: Yeah, thanks for sticking with us. Check out the new song on our Facebook page, “15 Minutes Of Fame.” I look forward to coming to your town on the Make America Rock Again tour – it’s a great tour going all over the country. You can check out my clothing line at thesbcreations.com, and be sure to follow us on Facebook because we’re some pretty weird dudes and we’re very personal with it. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and that seems to be an amicable trait and people dig that. I guess ultimately, thanks for sticking with us and keep on sticking with us.

By: Melanie Falina AXS Contributor Sep 8, 2016
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