A Conversation With One Flew South
Royal Reed, Chris Roberts and Eddie Bush, the members of One Flew South, have built a record on the concept of harmony. And like many great harmony bands before them, including the Eagles, Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Mamas and the Papas, Boys II Men and the Beach Boys, One Flew South lets the simple harmony of their voices shine on their first Nashville-based release, Last Of The Good Guys.
The vocal stylings of this trio fit in perfectly with the progressive thinkers at Decca/Universal Records, where they were instantly signed upon auditioning. However, they weren’t an overnight success. These three vocalist-songwriters have been involved in show business for years prior to hitting upon a country music unique combination–attempting to perfect the notion of a band starring three superbly matched vocalists.
Chris Roberts is a New Orleans native who had moved to New York by way of Montana before ending up in Nashville, where he was encouraged by legendary country music singer-songwriter Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers. Originally hailing from Texas, Royal Reed came from a musical family and played in a top Texas country band for several years before working as a studio and demo singer in Los Angeles. Eventually, he wound his way to New York where he met Chris. Eddie Bush was better known as a guitar specialist back in his home state of South Carolina and released a self-titled album earlier this decade on the Infinity Nashville label.
The 9513 had a chance to sit down in between tour spots with Eddie, Chris and Royal for a quick interview. This is what the artists from Last Of The Good Guys had to say:
KEN MORTON, JR.: How was CMA Fest in Nashville? Did you guys manage to stay dry?
EDDIE BUSH: We did stay dry. Well, mostly dry. We sang the National Anthem to start it all off. And it was funny; we were at this park and they were whisking us up on stage and right as they got us up on stage, the bottom dropped out.
ROYAL REED: Yeah, it came at us sideways.
KMJ: That had to be a little adventuresome.
EB: Yeah, we were looking for the good witch of the north to show up around there somewhere.
RR: We noticed that compared to last year, there felt like a lot more people there this year. People seemed to be taking advantage of the good prices they were getting on the tickets and all the acts they were getting for it. People seemed to be using it as a vacation–at least that’s what it seemed like.
KMJ: Through many of the news outlets, they have seemed to report the same thing. Attendance this year was up over last year.
CHRIS ROBERTS: I also noticed it in the parade. We did the parade and there were probably three times as many people along the parade route this year as last year.
EB: And the interesting thing is–and this is so indicative of where our country is at and how important country music is to folks–they’re so passionate about their country music. It doesn’t matter what state we’re in, people are coming out and doing it.
CR: It doesn’t matter if it’s raining–
RR: –Yeah, they’re out there when it’s raining. Country fans are just unbelievable.
EB: This was the busiest CMA Fest and week in Nashville that we’ve had.
CR: We just got back from the Walleye Weekend Festival in Wisconsin, after playing our show here in Nashville earlier this week and we have ashow on the last day of the Fest tonight. We just landed. We played a show in beautiful Fond Du Lac just below Green Bay yesterday and we’re hitting the ground running in Nashville again today.
KMJ: Okay, we’ll get one of the more obvious questions out of the way early, where did One Flew South get its name?
CR: Our first gig that we did together as a band was a song for the soundtrack for Fox and the Hound 2 that Disney did. And we didn’t have a band name yet. We were stuck on a whole litany of names and the one we were leaning towards was Parachute Adams. Eddie didn’t like it but he was coming around. Or at least he was giving in.
RR: He was going to suck it up.
CR: It turned out that there was a band in Canada named Parachute Adams. So at the last second, Disney is calling us every day saying we need a band name to put on the record and I thought of One Flew South. I don’t really know how. It made sense to me because Eddie lives in Charleston, South Carolina, and he continually flies up to here to Nashville with us and then flies by himself back down south. So, one flies south. One Flew South. That’s why.
KMJ: That probably leads me to my next question. One of you guys is from Louisiana, one is from Texas and Eddie hails from South Carolina. How did you guys all get together and meet?
RR: Chris and I met doing, of all things, a Broadway show. Larry Gatlin was involved in that originally as well. We met doing that. Chris and I met in New York nearly ten years ago. Chris and Larry had this thought of putting a trio together and did it because Chris and I enjoyed music together so much, and because we kind of look at things the same way. We tried out two or three different guys but we just could never find something that felt special in any way. They were all good singers but nothing overly special and nothing Chris and I could move forward on together. So we let it go. I moved to Nashville later on. And Chris came down later. I was doing bass in a rock band of all things and Chris was songwriting with Marcus Hummon. And we met Eddie through Marcus.
EB: I was a solo artist at the time. I had a song on the charts. And I was trying to get a bigger record deal. I was here at a club in Nashville and Marcus was a friend of the girl who did the graphic design on my record. We invited him to come to the club I was playing and at the end of the show, he and I got into this big conversation and he told me about this duo looking to be a trio.
He invited me to come back and meet them the next week. And so I did. We had coffee together at a coffeehouse and we went back over to Chris’s house, messed around with some songs, trying to find something we could sing together. We started singing “Just Remember I Love You” by Firefall and something just fell right into place. It was one of the most magnificent moments of my life. It was truly beautiful music. I’m addicted to beautiful music. From my own personal perspective, when I heard the harmony, the way it happened like that, I was just stunned. I knew at that very moment I was going to do this.
KMJ: I think that’s what differentiates One Flew South so much in the country genre; your music is so much more harmony-drenched than other acts. What kind of influences drove that sound with you guys?
CR: There’s a lot of influences, but obviously we’re close to Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers. I was just reminded of it a couple days ago when we went on over to the Opry. Larry was hosting the Opry and we were backstage like fans. The brothers hadn’t seen each other in awhile and they were getting dressed in their dressing room, just screwing around. Larry was singing some goofy song and the brothers jumped in and I tell you, it was the best song ever.
RR: It was one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever heard done. It was different and it was just beautiful. So they’re the biggest influence on us. The blueprint for the group was sort of Crosby Stills and Nash. It was the idea that you could create a sound with harmonies as the lead vocal.
CR: You know, when you listen to those great old CSN records, outside of when Neil Young sings, really it sounds just like one voice. The harmonies create one beautiful voice to listen to. So that’s another big influence on us. Our producer, Marcus Hummon, is another big influence on the sound that we’ve created. His songs, his writing style, the way he works in the studio, all those things.
EB: He had a lot of harmony intelligence.
CR: He grew up with sisters doing harmony all the time and that was something we had in common together- it was something we learned early on that we had a deep love of harmony.
EB: He had a lot of influence early-on with the group. He would come up with melodies and songs for us that were really interesting and created that kind of magic love in our voices.
KMJ: From an artistic achievement standpoint, was that kind of the driving force behind Last Of The Good Guys?
EB: Oh, definitely. I can only talk about this from my perspective. And that’s actually a beautiful thing because we’re all so different. But to me, it’s so unique artistically. There’s so many moments on Last Of The Good Guys for myself that as a music fan, when I listen to the record, I say to myself that I’m very proud of it. I feel like it’s a part of myself from an artistic standpoint. I’m very proud of it. That’s the cool thing about One Flew South is that I feel that, for better or worse, it is our unique voice and expression and I’m proud of it personally.
CR: Hopefully for better!
RR: It’s really hard to be different. There’s so much music out there. But at the end of the day, I think each of us believes that it’s better to be different.
KMJ: I’ll change gears a little bit and travel back a few months with you guys. You had an opportunity to participate in Farm Aid in Boston last year. Tell me about how that experience was for each of you.
CR: It was awesome, we couldn’t have been more fortunate. Farm Aid as an organization, as we all learned is really great.
EB: Remember how they told us at the beginning of the week that we would know more about farmers and farming by the end of the week? It was completely true.
CR: Eddie says it all the time, and I think it’s true, but the best thing about the week was the press conference we got to do. We had Arlo Guthrie sitting on my right and had Dave Matthews and Neil Young sitting to our left. It was such a surreal thing. But it was also great to hear these guys that you respect so much as artists with a passion for something else and helping the community and saving the world and the whole deal. These are all the reasons you work so hard your whole life and make music.
RR: Just to hang out with our heroes for a week was so cool.
EB: At one point, Royal and I were standing behind the monitor mixer and watching from side stage. We were watching Jerry Lee Lewis, the “Killer,” and John Mellencamp was standing right behind us and Neil Young was standing right in front of us. And I was just pinching myself, saying, “I can’t believe this is happening.” And we even shared a dressing room with a couple of our heroes.
RR: We’re hopeful that we’re allowed to do it next year.
KMJ: That has to be very surreal walking around with people who you’ve idolized your whole life.
EB: Yeah. Just even to meet Willie.
RR: We were very lucky. It is cool to meet your heroes and even cooler for you to find out they’re even cooler in person. You’d hate to meet someone who you love that turns out to be a big jerk. Neil Young, everyone, couldn’t have been nicer. It was awesome.
KMJ: Decca is such a historic label. Tell me about the importance of your band being on that label and what kind of rules and regulations they put on you.
EB: Obviously, Decca has such a vast history. They turned down the Beatles for goodness sakes. At the same time, it’s the same label that had The Suns, The Who, Patsy Cline, Bing Crosby and other serious icons of music. I remember when we were even starting out and going to Decca’s offices, how exciting that was. Just the thought of being on the same label that Patsy Cline was on was cool. It’s such a huge imprint. The funny thing is, they really didn’t impose any limitations. They were definite fans of One Flew South from the minute that we met them in the conference room. In fact, the conference room performance that we did was one of the most energized and highlight performances that we’ve had in my career.
RR: You have to tell the whole story.
EB: So we flew out on a Thursday night for a Friday showcase performance that was to be at 9am on Friday morning. We were meeting our to-be management that morning as well. Our plane was initially delayed out of Nashville for a couple hours. We finally got in the air and while we were in the air, they developed some crazy weather in New York. Then the plane was circling. Then they were going to land in JFK. Then all of a sudden we couldn’t land in JFK. Then they announce that they’re running out of fuel, and we go to Baltimore. So we finally get into Baltimore and the time’s the middle of the night, sometime after midnight. They tell us that there are no additional flights into New York, that we’re not going to make our big break, when at the very last moment they find us a flight and we get in early that morning. And it seems like everything that’s ever happened to us has been just like that, at the last second. And that includes the meeting with Decca. Just when it seems like it isn’t going to happen, it all comes through. When we finally did make it to JFK, our luggage didn’t make it and we had to wait another two hours at the airport for our luggage to make it. So we’re just stuck there waiting. Luckily, thank God, we had a car waiting on us. We finally make it to our hotel sometime after 4:30 in the morning. And we had to wake up there and brave traffic and be there by 9 o’clock.
We get less than 3 hours of sleep, meet down in the lobby, meet our management for the very first time, and when we finally get there they pulled Marcus Hummon aside and said, “We’ve heard these guys on disc, but can they really sing?” So we walk into the conference room, and we’re all absolutely exhausted. After all that, there’s like 30 people in the room from the Decca offices. And by the time we played our first song, it was like we were playing to a bar.
They were freaking out. We played every song we knew.
CR: And we walked out the door with a record deal.
KMJ: JD Souther has been a critical piece of The Eagles and Linda Ronstadt’s success. What’s been working with a great songwriter like him like?
EB: JD is magnificent. When we first heard that he was going to pitch songs to us, it was so cool. We first cut a song that Marcus and JD wrote called “It Is Good.” We went into the studio to cut it and JD actually came into the studio to watch us record. When we got done singing, apparently he was so blown away, that moment he decided to write with us. We wrote a song called “Jealousy” with him. It’s still a bit incomplete, but a very cool demo at least. Then after that, I was fortunate enough to write two songs with him. One of the songs is called “Let The Day Carry You” which when we finished was one of my favorite days of my whole career.
The other song was a great song called “She’s A Gift.” As a person who is a huge fan of the history of music, the honor of just sitting in the same room as someone who has been as important as JD in moments of music history, that in itself was incredible. Just to watch him write is cool. When we wrote “Let The Day Carry You,” he sat in a corner for about an hour and a half and made no sound whatsoever. I was dabbling with a musical idea that I had during that time. He literally spent three months after that perfecting the lyrics to the sound we created for “Let The Day Carry You.” That’s how important it was to him. It was a lesson to me. I had the opportunity to study the craft of writing and watch this genius do his thing. He went so far with it. And then with “She’s A Gift,” it was the exact opposite. He heard an idea one day and the next day he had all the verses done for that song.
RR: All I heard was a bunch of good pick-up lines.
CR: That’s right!
KMJ: This is a question for each of you. What’s your favorite song on your album?
CR: I’m going to stick with “It Is Good” for my favorite song on the album
RR: Gosh, that is really difficult. I think it is “Sara.” I think when we did that first song we knew that would be on the record. We had “Sara” and “Coming Up Close.” Those were two songs we weren’t going to let Decca hear until we knew we had our record deal.
EB: This is hard. If I answer truthfully, they’re mine. I think it’s “Let The Day Carry You.” Maybe, “She’s A Gift.”
KMJ: I know you guys have been in active promotion mode on this album, but have you been working on new music for your next project already?
RR: Tons of new music.
CR: We have at least enough stuff written or recorded for a whole other album for sure. We just need a whole lot more time to get into the studio and cut them.
KMJ: Is that writing done as a group together or individually?
EB: Most of it has been together this time.
CR: Yes. We have a lot of it written together to go along with a little bit of independent stuff.
EB: We’ve been working really hard and writing quite a bit. We all have a wonderful relationship together, we don’t hesitate to throw out any idea to let any of the others to run and work with it.
KMJ: What is country music to you?
CR: Country music to me, done really really well, is an entire novel written in three minutes. It’s a Broadway show in three minutes. It’s an entire lifetime in three minutes. A great country song can be a guiding post for someone’s life. It can really be that important. I love the fact that in country music, a lot of different styles can move in there and still be considered country music lyrically. To me, it’s about lyrics and storytelling. That’s all.
KMJ: Royal and Eddie, Chris has set the bar high. What is country music to you guys?
RR: Expounding a little on what Chris said, to me it’s the most universal music. It’s a festival. It’s a common man’s music. It’s about the stories. And although I love all types of music, I really do, with country music anybody can like it.
EB: Country music to me is the purest American art form. It’s real. It’s sincere. And it’s also the big tent that houses so many different kinds of artists. I don’t think there’s another genre that succeeds with that very fact. Years ago when it was more traditional, you had artists like Glen Campbell right alongside artists like Merle Haggard. It’s definitely a big tent. Of course, now, it’s incredibly vast.
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