Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone and Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman Talk Roots Rock Supergroup The High Hawks (INTERVIEW)

In the world of the jam scene, The High Hawks are something of a supergroup. Featuring the robust lineup of Vince Herman (Leftover Salmon), Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth), Chad Staehly (Hard Working Americans), Adam Greuel (Horseshoes & Hand Grenades), Brian Adams (DeadPhish Orchestra) and  Will Trask (Great American Taxi), these musicians who have jammed together on many occasions decided to make the best out of the past year and record an album together.

The result is their self-titled album, which is due out on June 11th. Combining all of their musical sensibilities but also forging unexpected ground, the album finds these musicians tapping into a throwback rootsy American rock and roll sound that feels timeless. While the influence of The Band is undeniable, The High Hawks also do work in plenty of country, Americana, soulful boogie and bluegrass into the mix. The result is a sound that exudes the musical chemistry of these jamming compadres, and they manage to bottle the energy of a live performance into this studio recording to make for one hell of a fun record. Of course, it’s hard not to listen to the band’s new music without getting excited to catch them live, and if you happen to be in the Midwest you’re in luck as the band kicks off a short run of shows today.

Recently, Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman and Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone took some time to chat about how The High Hawks came together and the inspiration behind the music.

For starters, can you share how this group came together?

Vince Herman (VH): It came together as a chance for friends who like hanging together to hang together more. Then we discovered we had a nice pile of songs for the project and thought maybe we should record. The excitement of getting these friends together for this project was delightful for every one of us. It came together at a time when light was needed. I hope we bring some to you as you listen.

Tim Carbone (TC): We’ve all been great friends for years and made music together at various times. Everyone had a break in their schedules and Vince and Adam had been messing around with some music together. I got the call from Chad that they were putting something together and I said heck yeah, I want to do that!

All of you have backgrounds in bluegrass, but this album seems to be more of a country-rock sound. How did you wind up making this kind of music?

VH: I saw Charlie Daniels five times before I was outta high school. Southern rock was my thing before bluegrass crept more and more into my young brain. It feels great to play this stuff.

TC: Everyone brought a few originals to the initial rehearsals up at Vince’s house in the mountains outside Boulder. Both Vince and Adam had been working on their electric guitar chops and pretty quickly we had a sound that is essentially based around that. It was very much like what you hear on the record.

Were there albums or artists that any of you had in mind that you wanted to reference in terms of group inspiration?

TC: Primarily, we wanted to say what needed to be said in our country, and from there on we just rocked out. I’d say no but we all have influences that cross reference each other.

Is the name by chance a reference to The Band’s early work as the Hawks?

TC: That was just by chance but what a beautiful accident!

How did the creative process work with so many big musical personalities involved?

TC: Chad and I produced the record with our engineer Todd Divel. Everyone had big ears and pretty much made up their own parts. We worked out harmonies and where the solos would go, together. Egos were checked at the door. It was one of the easiest and most fun records I’ve ever made.

When did the recording happen? Were you all together for it?

TC: Basics were tracked at Silo Sound in Denver on Jan 10 – 14, 2020 and overdubs were tracked in the same studio on Feb 2 & 3, 2020. Actually most of the record was done on those January dates. I did some guitar and fiddle parts at my studio in April 2020 and wrote and performed a string quartet on Adam’s song, “Home Is.”

Can you talk a little bit about the writing on the album. Did you each bring songs or were their group writing sessions?

TC: We each brought songs to the table but, for the most part, the arrangements were a group effort.

There seem to be some really heavy themes that you touch on in the songs, but somehow the music still sounds hopeful. Most of you are in the business of making music for good times. How do you take something dark or sad or angry and turn it into a song that makes people want to dance?

TC: I think generally each of us have our own way of bringing light to the darkness. The four writers tend to write from life experience and we all know that all is not rainbows and unicorns. However, it is a bit of a magic trick to write about it and still put a smile on the listener’s face.

For a group of musicians so used to creating spontaneous moments on stage, are there challenges to coming up with cohesive instrumentation in the studio?

We are so very lucky to have six seasoned studio rats in the band. That we are skilled soloists and, more importantly, skilled conversationalists, made making this record a joy!

Can we expect the band to play any shows together this year?

Yes! We have album release shows during the first week in June in the Midwest and we’ll be in Vail, CO on 6/22!

The High Hawks On Tour:

June 2 – Pearl Street Brewery – La Crosse, WI
June 3 – The Hook & Ladder Under The Canopy – Minneapolis, MN
June 4 – WIJAM Presents Sol Dance at Jones Park – Appleton, WI
June 5 – Mackey’s Hideout (outdoor stage) – McHenry, IL
June 6 – The High Hawks Invitational @ Long Bridge Golf Course – Springfield, IL

Photo credit: Jake Cudek


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