The Cadillac Three on Tour Tricks, Their Upcoming Album and the Real Meaning of 'Country Fuzz'

The Cadillac Three on Tour Tricks, Their Upcoming Album and the Real Meaning of 'Country Fuzz'


One of the most iconic bars in one of the most iconic venues in the country? We can’t think of a better place to sit down and chat with Nashville-based rockers The Cadillac Three. On the tail end of their Country Fuzz tour, PEOPLE caught up with Jaren Johnston, Kelby Ray and Neil Mason before their second night at The Troubadour in Los Angeles to discuss touring, writing their upcoming album – and whether or not Garth Brooks lost their phone number.

Kelby Ray, Jaren Johnston and Neil Mason

How’s everything going on tour so far? Still having fun?

JJ: It’s good! We took a little bit of time off in October, so we got a little bit of rejuvenation to get us through the end of the tunnel.

What’s a tour trick or ritual that keeps you guys moving?

JJ: Oh man. Keep the wheels greased and the engine clean, baby. Get up, try and try to train.

KR: Sweat out the booze from the night before and then try a little exercise while we work a lot in there.

JJ: We write songs and record most of them on the road on the way in a studio in the back of our bus. And so we kind of get out. We spent a lot of that time downtime being creative. It’s a good way to pass the time. We’re writing the next record.

Jaren Johnston and Kelby Ray 

So you guys think you get most inspired on the road?

JJ: Yeah. Life moments. Most of the songs, if you think about them, are things are about what’s happening to us on the road or what’s happening with us at home or who got drunk last night. It’s probably why there’s so many drinking songs.

You guys have any favorites off the upcoming record?

JJ: “Whiskey and Smoke” is great.

KR: The jam is kind of new and funky for us. It’s a lot of fun to be able to play.

JJ: Yeah, throwing a little bit of that kind of feel into our music now. It’s a lot of fun to play live the funkier stuff, you know? But yeah man, I like it all. S—.

Neil Mason with fiancée Chelsea, Jaren Johnston with wife Evyn and Kelby Ray

So now that we’re onto the fourth studio album, what’s changed in your writing process? Do you feel a sense of growth?

JJ: We’re throwing a lot of dark, original references and influences. We’ve known each other since we were kids, you know, grew up together, went to high school. And so we’re pulling from a lot of years of doing this on the road. And then a lot of what we grew up learning how to play. We’re constantly challenging each other to be better players and better writers, too. That’s helping a lot as far as us not getting stagnant and not doing the same record over and over again. And this record, we kind of went back to our roots, of how we started recording our records.

It’s a lot of fun to, you know, it’s like f—ing Legos — you’re making a record like that and then you can see what you got and you can see what you need. And so we went back to that mindset of making records and not bringing in a bunch of extra cooks in the kitchen. I think has helped us get back to what we were. And we’re also better at it now, so the records are sounding better too.

So fill me in on “country fuzz,” what does that phrase mean?

JJ: Well, we’re not Southern rock. I think we’re a hybrid of that and country and metal. And so the two things that kind of made sense from the beginning of it were like, people would ask us what we sound like and one guy in Germany or something said it sounds like Sabbath and cornbread. We need to come up with a term or saying like that, and country fuzz just kind of made sense. I mean all my pedal boards — it’s just laced with fuzz post expression pedals and then the studio, there’s all that s—. And the songwriting comes from a genuine love of story song — the lyrics. You know, growing up, listening to Garth Brooks and Hank Williams, Jr and s— like that, but also the talent of Skynyrd, you throw all that in a blender and here we are.

KR: That’s country fuzz.

The show at the Troubadour

One of the big things I’m noticing now are all the country-hybrid bands and musicians. You’re seeing a lot of rock and punk guys moving into these genres. Even Chris [Shiflett] who’s opening you show. Do you think the country genre is more approachable for storytelling?

JJ: Yeah, it’s interesting. That is an interesting thing that you said that. I love bands like Lucero and f—ing, you know, The Devil Makes Three and all these kinds of bands that are doing more along the punk version of the like, Hank 3 version of country. What’s great about talking music is there’s so many different parts of it, you know what I mean?

KR: Oh, it’s always boiled down to the lyrics too, and the storytelling. So I think it’s a natural way for the bands that have gravitated towards that style of music because it really does — when it comes down to it — come down to the storytelling, and you get more than any other genre. They grow, biggest rock and roll motherf—er out there wants to be Hank Williams, Jr., no matter what. He’s a rockstar. And he’s doing it like he wants to do it. It’s that outlaw mentality. There’s part of country that has this outlaw thing that all the rockers can’t even be as badass as, so they want to go that route. You know what I mean? You got f—ing rappers doing it now.

Who’s a dream tour partner for you guys?

JJ: Well, Tom Petty died so I don’t know. I really don’t. He was always the answer for that one. We want to do another tour with ZZ Top before they hang it up, because we love those guys and that’s how we started too, with those guys. I mean I’d love to do like … Foo Fighters is a great example. Like some of our favorite rock bands. It’d be fun to do that kind of thing. We keep waiting on Garth Brooks to call. His phone must have lost my number or something. Not getting that call soon.

Neil Mason, Kelby Ray and Jaren Johnston

The Cadillac Three’s next album, Country Fuzz, will be released Feb. 7, 2020.

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