Eliot Sloan 04/04/2005
While some might remember the band Blessid Union of Souls as a one hit wonder, they actually were a staple of Top 40 radio in the 90's for several years. Just when they seemed to be at the peek of their career with "Hey Leonardo (She Likes Me For Me)", it was followed up with a greatest hits that mostly fell on deaf ears. Now four years later they're back with a new album, some new members, and a new start. Read on, in this exclusive interview with lead singer Eliot Sloan.
WM: It's been documented that you came up with the name Blessid Union Of Souls from a M.A.S.H. episode. Are you a big M.A.S.H. fan?
ES: Totally. Absolutely. I've been watching it for a long time. In fact I started ordering the DVD's when they come out with each season. Pathetic! (laughs)
WM: Let's talk about the roots of Blessid. Who out of the band did you first meet?
ES: Jeff and I started the band. We had some mutual friends playing in a couple of different bands. In fact our old drummer, Eddie Hedges, told me about Jeff. Jeff and I started doing some touring in a band that he had put together. And pretty much started to work on new songs together, and see what we came up with. He wanted to write originals and so did I. So Eddie kind of brought us together.
WM: It's been ten years ago this month that your first album came out.
ES: I know, it's crazy.
WM: From what I remember, your song I Believe just exploded on the charts.
ES: Yeah, it was the first single out of the box. That was just a blessing. It's one of those songs that just struck a nerve in people, and they had to keep hearing it. You can't try to do something like that, I can't anyway. (laughs) It's just one of those things that happens. God just blessed us with those words and that melody. Realistically, it's a very simple song. It's only four cords throughout the whole song, but the message is just really strong. People just kind of latched onto it.
WM: You had two different versions of the song. Did you ever face any controversy because of the word nigger in it?
ES: Some radio stations had a problem with it and some didn't. Some stations were worried about what the listeners would think. So we switched that around to appease them. But I never do it like that in concert.
WM: So looking back at the past ten years, what are some of the highs and lows of your career?
ES: As far as the highs, it's a continual high. We've always dreamt of doing this. Writing original songs, touring, having fans sing along with us at concerts. There's just so many benefits to what has gone on that the low points of the band were not really low points. They were more just like stumbling blocks and distractions. Like when the record company (EMI) went out of business. Jumping from one record label to another, one booking agent to another. All that is minute trivia compared to all the good that has happened with this band and is still happening. I really can't think of any really really low points. You don't always obviously have a number one record, but you can't compare it to that. That's something that doesn't happen to everybody, and even when it does happen it doesn't happen all the time. Every band has their arguments and disagreements and things of that nature. But I can't complain, I wouldn't change a thing.
WM: You mentioned your stumbling blocks, EMI going under being one of them. There also was when your song 'Standing On The Edge Of The Earth' was meant for the movie Armageddon, but they went with the Aerosmith song instead. If either of those would have went the other way, do you think anything would have changed for BUOS?
ES: Probably, I don't know. Maybe a little bit more notoriety or recognition. We dwelled on those things when they happened and we wished they would have went the other way at the time. I always believe that things happen for a reason. That would have been a totally different road we would have been on, if Stand On The Edge would have been in Armageddon. It might have been a better road in some ways, and it might have been worse in others. It's too hard to predict. If you wish it would have done one thing and you could just pick the things out that you could have taken from that. But there might have been some bad things that came from that, you never know. Right now we have a new manager, we're out of our old management contract and record contract. So it's a fresh start. So the success of Standing At The Edge might have prolonged that. We may still be under certain contracts that we don't want to be under. So it's kind of hard to say 'I wish this would have happened' Well, you don't know what you're wishing for, because you don't know what's beyond that door. I'm one of those where if something happens or doesn't happen, I dwell on it for five minutes and then I move on.
WM: You have a new release coming out now minus two of the original members (CP Roth and Eddie Hedges). Is their departure recent?
ES: They left in 2002. So it's going on three years. May 27th was our last gig.
WM: Was it an amicable split?
ES: Heck yeah, I still stay in contact with Chuck and Eddie.
WM: And now you have two new guys on board, Shawn and Brian. How did you come across those two?
ES: They were in a band with our producer Emosha called 3x Time Loser. So we knew them for a while. So we'd cross paths a few times, and they're real likable guys. When it came down (to finding new members), they jumped at the opportunity. They've been an asset to this band, both musicianship and friendship. We really didn't miss a beat. The first few rehearsals I was concerned, but they're incredible musicians and it came together pretty quick. After the third rehearsal, I was like 'OK, this could work. This could be cool.' You just have to get used to it not being the same. But doesn't mean that it's always taking a step back. It's just like Sammy Hagar replacing David Lee Roth. Not better or worse, just different but still good.
WM: Your producer, Matt Senetore (Emosia), is almost like the sixth member of Blessid. He's been with you through the years.
ES: Yeah, he has.
WM: How did you first meet up with him?
ES: He was signed to Atlantic when we first met him, and he was managed by the same guy who managed us. He was basically the glue between me and Jeff. We have a lot of similarities and a lot of differences. When it came down to the music, Matt stepped in. He took what I brought to the table and what Jeff brought to the table and made it work. He made us see things and hear things differently on what we could do with our music. Pretty much since then, he's been the main guy we would co-write with. On the new album, he produced half the album this time because he's on a couple other projects and our new manager brought some different producers in. But he is definitely the sixth member of this band.
WM: So let's talk about the new album. It's long!
ES: Yeah! Well our last studio album was in 2001, and even then there were only three or four new songs on it.
WM: Why was that? After Walking Off The Buzz you seemed to be on a roll. Why a 'best of 'album?
ES: That wasn't our idea, that was the record label's idea. That's why.
WM: That's too bad…
ES: Yeah, I know. It was too bad. It was just where things were at the time. That gives you an indication of the relationship with the label that we had. It wasn't our idea to put a singles album out, and it wasn't our idea for that album cover. You know what I mean? It was after that that I knew that when the contract expired, I was running. I'm not anti-record company, I'm not even going to put the people there down. It was just the relationship that we had was strained in some ways. But that's just life. It's just where things were at the time. Not just with the label, but with the band. Things were just going on. When you're together that long, there's going to be disagreements. When you got anywhere between three and six or seven people involved, getting people on the same page gets kind of hard. Things just needed to change.
So after that we were just trying to find ourselves and what we wanted to do musically. So that's why we took our time doing the next record. I don't want to rush and do anything as far as just putting another album out. Even though I didn't hear all the music in my head at the time, I knew what I didn't want it to sound like. So I just basically waited around to hear the things in my head of how I did want it to sound, and it finally came together. We've got some really loyal fans that stay loyal to this band, and I just wanted to give them some more music. But not just more music, but just really good songs. We never liked the idea of having an album with a couple of good singles and the rest are 'throw-aways'. I wasn't even really thinking about saving some of the good songs. If you have that type of attitude, then you're doing it for the wrong reasons. This was all done around the same time. It's all part of the same family. There was originally 17 songs, so there was still another one! (laughs) But we had to put a cap on it somewhere. So it's basically for the fans. We wanted the fans to have a lot of music. That's something that a lot of people don't do. They'll put anywhere from between 9 and 11 songs or whatever, with a couple of good songs on it. I have a different mentality when it comes to that. I wish there could be 16 singles off this record.
WM: 'I Still Believe In Love' sounds like a beautiful sequel to 'I Believe'. Was that your intention?
ES: That wasn't done intentional, otherwise I would have done it years ago! (laughs)
WM: It's 10 years after your biggest smash…
ES: Well, the first line of the song is 'Ten years from now and we're right where we were.' It kind of is, but it really isn't. I could not sit down and write a sequel to 'I Believe'. It's a melody that I heard in my head, and these are the words that fit with it. For a brief moment in the course of a half hour, I was doubting if I should even do those lyrics. That's when I stepped back and decided not to fight it, and let it be what it is.
WM: It's a great song...
ES: Thank you very much. We're blown away at the way it turned out. I did the demo in my house when we were first recording. I played it for our producer, and he was like 'When did you record this?' I told him about 3 or 4 months before, and he said 'And you're just now playing it for me?!?' (laughs) It was just sitting in my computer for a while. He said that it was going to be the first song we were tracking.
WM: Is it hard for you to get your voice up that high? You're nailing it in the chorus…
ES: That's an easy note, believe it or not. That's a falsetto…
WM: That's crazy, it hurts me listening to it! (laughs)
ES: Nah man, I don't do too many things out of my range. That's how you know… because it flows. It's not forced, it flows. That song flowed out.
WM: Besides Blessid, you're also producing. I read that you're currently producing for artist Holly Spears. Is that something you've been wanting to do for a while?
ES: Um, somewhat. In a sense that I hear things in the studio. I don't want to get lost in 'I'm a producer' or 'I'm a songwriter'. You know what I do? I make up songs and I hear things in songs that would sound good, and the title to those just happen to be songwriter and producer. So my passion is to basically be in the studio and make songs sound better. So, whatever you want to call that.
But Holly is a girl I've been working with for 5 years now. She has a great talent, a great voice, and she can write songs… they just flow out of her. That's the first thing I noticed about her. She has this knack for writing really good songs and good melodies. There's a couple times that I tried to co-write with her, but she has it on her own right now. She's just letting her feelings express themselves, so I just kind of let her go. But Matt and I will be in the studio producing her album in the new few months.
WM: Not too long ago you did an entire CD for Cincinnati Reds. How did that come about?
ES: I had some baseball songs already written. Then when the Reds put up the new stadium, Jeff thought we should put out a CD based on baseball. We were in the middle of what we were doing as far as doing another studio album. So basically we wrote 6 or 7 new songs. It just gave a chance to be silly on some songs and just have fun with it. It was basically a relief. There was no pressure value on it and it was totally fun. We sold a few thousand copies of it, and I'm glad some of those songs finally saw the light of day.
WM: Going back to the new album… right now it's available on the Internet. Are you shopping for a bigger label?
ES: Yeah, we have distribution and it will be in the stores on May 3rd. I feel pretty confident about it's potential. It's like anything you come out of the studio with. We'll see what happens as far as record labels or whatever. The important thing is to come out of the studio with something you believe in, and we've done that. We never want to cheat our fans out of anything. We want to come out with good music, go out and play a really good tour, and give them a good show. We're very proud of the record.
I don't know how much you know about record labels, but some labels will only pay for a certain amount of songs. I don't really care about that. I'm going to be dead in 50 years, I don't care about the extra 100 grand I would have made if they would have licensed these other songs. Give me a break, you can get lost in all that crap. That's why there's no hockey season this year. I'm not even a hockey fan. But people forget why they're doing things. They're arguing over 6 or 12 million… go out there on the ice and play hockey! Society has lost that. It used to be the music business, now it's the business of music. It used to be baseball, now it's the business of baseball. Once you start throwing money into the equasion, it gets all screwed up. So that's the attitude with this new record having so many songs on it. Let's just put the music out. If I'm going to lose money because we're giving the fans more music, then I will lose it. I don't care man, I'm sick of that crap.
WM: That's a great perspective…
ES: Yeah, what are you gonna do? 'I would have gave you guys more songs, but I wasn't making enough money, so…' (laughs) Co'mon!
WM: What personally inspires you?
ES: First and formost: God. Everything comes from him. Every melody I hear and every lyric I write comes from Him. Just life around me. I'm moved by things I see on TV or experiences of meeting people. That's why I like to play on the road so much, you just meet so many people that you never would have met. See, that's another thing you can't lose perspective of. The fact that my mother had me in piano lessons when I was 7 is the reason I'm meeting people I never would have met… doing concerts I never would have done. Doing this interview right now. You know what I mean? You can't forget all that stuff. And it's that kind of stuff that just moves me and inspires me when I'm writing songs. We play a lot of colleges, and I love talking to college students. I get inspiration from TV shows and movies and stuff. I'll see something in a movie that will trigger something else.
WM: Years ago there was word that you were going to be putting out a solo Christian CD.
ES: I'm still working on that, actually with Matt. It's not going to be a solo CD. We're working on a Christian act that's in it's embryonic form. But song's are being created for that. That's something that's definitely going to happen.
WM: Blessid has shot about 6 videos through the years. You also had a lot of b-side songs or songs that were on compilations. Are their any plans to release those to the fans, like in a fan club or website type pressing?
ES: Yeah, I think that's something we're gonna do in the midst of this record. There's a lot of b side songs or songs that weren't singles that we feel very strong about, so we may re-record some of those or maybe do an acrostic version. We're all about doing stuff for our diehard fans.
WM: I thought every song on your solo EP that you put out last year was a hit. Do you recycle songs or song ideas?
ES: One of the songs on the EP is on the new Blessid album, we just changed the name of it and added more production to it. They may show up again.
WM: Any message to Wisconsin music fans that have supported you through the 10 years?
ES: We've played so much in Wisconsin, there ain't noting but good people up there. Tell 'em thank you for all their support. I know we're gonna be up in La Cross, but we plan on doing a lot more stuff up in Wisconsin… when it gets warmer. You guys have got some horrible winter weather! (laughs) But I love it up there.
WM: One of your first shows with the new guys was in Green Bay…
ES: Yeah, I remember that because we had to drive past Lambeau.
WM: Are you a football fan?
ES: Yeah… baseball, football, basketball.
WM: Are you loyal to your Cincinnati teams?
ES: I used to be, but nobody stays on the team long enough anymore to be loyal. You can't have a favorite player anymore because they're gonna be traded as soon as their contract year it up. It just has ruined it. In the day, you had the same team. You may have had a couple of changes, but you had the same core.
WM: Brett Farve will be staying another year for the Packers…
ES: I heard that. See, he's a real man. That guy IS football. I'm glad he got a (Superbowl) ring, but I'd love to see him get one more before he goes. He just has to stop throwing those picks though, man. But when you think of football, Brett Farve is the epitimy of all out, in your face football. I love it.
WM: Keep talking like that, and your Wisconsin shows are going to sell out! (laughs)