HT: It’s been a while since we’ve seen a new studio album from Railroad Earth. Anything in the hopper you can tell us about?
TS: Right now, as a matter of fact, we’re settling in and talking to a new label, and we hope to be getting to work on a new record sometime in the beginning of next year.
HT: Have you been working any new material into the shows lately?
TS: Not just yet. We want to make sure we finish strong and when we’re done we’ll get concentrated on some new stuff.
HT: And a new label, you said?
TS: Yeah, I don’t want to talk about it too much because it’s not a done deal yet. We have to keep it vague but we’ll let everyone know as soon as it’s wrapped up.
HT: Any particular reason? Just time to press forward with new business, it sounds like?
TS: Oh, it’s always time to press forward. Opportunities present themselves and we’re very excited about it. I can’t say what it is but it seems like a good place and hopefully we can put together a great record.
HT: You guys were hitting it hard on the festival circuit like always this year. Any particular gigs stand out?
TS: There were some great festivals this year. Rothbury stood out — that was incredibly well done by the folks putting it on — and we had a big show at Red Rocks with the Allman Brothers. Not only is that an amazing venue obviously but we played really well and for a lot of people. It’s a big place but if you’ve been there you know Red Rocks has such a warm spirit. And then the tornados at DelFest. Wow, man. We survived that. I guess there’s a lot to be said for that! [laughs]
HT: We get conflicting reports on the health of the festival scene. Promoters say the numbers are down, sure, but a lot of musicians have told us that in the big festivals and even most of the regionals, they didn’t see much drop in attendance.
TS: We didn’t notice it all that much and definitely not as much as you hear about. It seems like people are out and about. They’re feeling a pinch but I’m of the opinion that people still want to go out and hear some music. That’s important to the types of people who are our fans, you know?
HT: Any thoughts on new Railroad Earth material? You guys have explored so much ground in the past but there’s always room to branch out.
TS: It’s been a couple of years since the last record, and it’s hard to say until we get in and start working on it. I don’t really write with any preconceived ideas. When something’s a good song, you know that when you’re in the middle of it — it’s like a bodily feeling. For me, anyway, I try to get to that place and then the songs themselves dictate where to go next: what kind of arrangement you’re looking for and the rest. I often compare songs to babies. What’s your next baby going to look like? [laughs] Well, I don’t know, do I?
HT: Why do you think it’s been so long between albums?
TS: We’ve been busy. That’s basically it, it’s nothing special. We’ve just been real busy.
HT: Before I get into From Good Homes, you’re doing a few solo shows, too, right?
TS: Yep, I’m going to be opening up a string of shows for the Greensky Bluegrass boys in December. And then, yes, as you said, on the 18th and 19th of December, I’ll be getting together with my old buddies to play the first couple of shows we’ve played in 10 years.
HT: Yes indeed. Tell me what planted the seed for these dates.
TS: It’s amazing it’s happening it all. I think, just, the timing was right. To tell you the truth, it was as recently as early-September that I first even talked to anybody about it. Over the years, it had come up a few times, and we played at Dan’s wedding, which was the first time we’d played together in a long time.
I don’t know, it just never felt right before. People were busy with other things and you knew inside it would be forced: people just doing it to say we did it. But now, everybody’s in a place where they want to do it, and it feels good. I remember a Patti Smith song from years ago with the line “Paths that cross, cross again,” and I’ve always loved that. You meet some people in your life and your paths go in different directions and somewhere along the line, they cross again. Our paths have crossed again and we’re finally going to play some music.
HT: Why these gigs in particular, in this location, and will there be more?
TS: Well, our friends from Bowery Presents have gotten involved with the Wellmont Theater. It’s a nice spot. This is something that’s always kind of been an issue for bands in New Jersey, and I think for the homes there was just never really anywhere we felt like doing it. They came to me, presented it, and I presented to the guys and it sounded good.
The only other thing that was a big concern was that they [Bowery Presents] wanted to do a Thanksgiving thing. Thanksgiving weekend was always a big event for From Good Homes — it felt like a festival get-together — but I have Railroad Earth shows at that time. Our Stroudsburg gigs have become an annual thing, too. But then we looked at some December time frame dates and everything fell into place.
HT: Are the Homes going to rehearse at all?
TS: Nah, we’re just going to jump in there and say what the hell. I haven’t played some of those songs, but I play all my old stuff in my solo shows, so I remember that. If anything it’ll be more of a challenge for Brady and Patrick, who haven’t played very much.
HT: Will there be more Homes dates?
TS: I’ll tell you we’re starting with these two, and we’ll see what happens. The response has been fantastic from fans — really really great. You never know what to expect after all that time has gone by, but the response has just blown me away. We’ll see what the new year holds.