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Non-Prog Interviews

Big Daddy Love

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Ashley Sutton and Brian Swenk of Big Daddy Love from 2010
MSJ: Can you catch the readers up on the history of the group and your involvement in music?
Ashley Sutton:  I joined in July of '09 and was a part of the metamorphosis from the old line up to the current one. I've played music since I was 8, taking piano lessons for 4 years as a kid and jumping to guitar then bass as an adolescent. I always listened to music deeply, and dreamed of performing live even before I started playing music. It took me a long time and many veers in course to arrive here with Big Daddy Love, and I believe it's all been a path leading to this, the best and most creative outlet I've experienced in a group of musicians.

Brian Swenk: Dan had the band together for a couple of years, but last summer the other guys decided they didn't want to do it anymore. One day in Elkin NC, Joey Recchio and myself and Daniel played for a few hours and we realized that something pretty special was happening (we're all 3 from the very tiny little town of Sparta North Carolina). So we just ran with it and Ashley and Kelly came on as well and BDL had a completely different lineup of fantastic musicians, and new songs just started flowing and then by February we had completed our album To the Mountain which is doing well for us.

MSJ: Where does the name Big Daddy Love come from? Is there some significance to it?
Ashley Sutton:  According to Dan it started as a joke, but since the solidifying of this current line up I believe the significance is obvious to the attuned listener. We are all about spreading love everywhere we go, and joy. Lots of the songs Dan writes are centered around love, respect and family, and those are the underlying themes we wish to spread with our performances. We want everyone to smile and feel like they are home with us, and a part of our story as we travel spreading our message of love so to speak. So, it's a Big Love, Daddio!
MSJ: If you weren’t involved in music what do you think you’d be doing?
Ashley Sutton:  I'd probably still be working with wildlife in conservation. I studied birds for years across the country and worked for the nature conservancy for a time in Delaware working on re-forestation projects. So if not for music, I'd still be in the woods watching the birds sing and the trees grow.

Brian Swenk: It's hard to say, but whatever I would be doing I don’t' think I would be anywhere as happy as I am playing with these guys. This is just a dream come true for a musician. I've always said that you want to be onstage with people you trust 100% musically, and this is it.

MSJ: How would you describe the sound of Big Daddy Love?
Ashley Sutton:  Appalachian Rock, Ya'll-ternative....hehe. I'd describe it as southern funky grassy goodness

Brian Swenk: People say they have a hard time describing it, which is a huge complement to us. We've joked that if "Led Zeppelin grew up in the Appalachian Mountains then they'd sound like this" or if you cross Allman Brothers with Bluegrass. But we do love the term "Appalachian rock" that Dan came up with. I think we'll go by that term.

MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences - both as a group and individually?
Ashley Sutton:  As a group I think we have many influences, from bluegrass and country to R&B and soul. Personally my influences run the gamut from metal in my early days, to pure rock, old country and deep funk. Plus many years of study of all the many facets of Miles Davis' music and all that it spawned. And I can't mention influences without mentioning Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, they opened my ears to so many things I would never have given a chance before, such as bluegrass and country and traditional American folk.

Brian Swenk: Yeah, these days musicians are influenced by everything. I can claim: Metallica to Pink Floyd. John Mellencamp to Bruce Springsteen. Grateful Dead and Phish for sure, and I’m a banjo player so obviously all the greats there. I tell people that all roads lead to the Sanley brothers and John Hartford. Earl and Bela and JD(banjo players)

MSJ: What’s ahead for you?
Ashley Sutton:  Hopefully many more festival bookings and more album recording, followed by continuous successful tours throughout the southeast US and beyond.

Brian Swenk: Our goal is to release a full length album every year, and also work on acoustic albums in between. Festivals are very important to us, as well as getting radio airplay on American stations throughout the nation. Mostly we just want to work hard on our music and make it sound original.

MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Ashley Sutton:  I would love to play with Jeff Sipe and Casey Driessen, I've seen the two of them together with Ike Stubblefield and thoroughly enjoyed it, and Jeff is one of my favorite drummers out there. I'd also be might happy to jam with Warren Haynes and Matt Aps.
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? It's been said by the major labels that it's essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms of lower sales - would you agree?
Ashley Sutton:  Well, on the one hand it can be a help, by spreading the music to new ears and gaining new fans, which can lead to ticket sales if the band is a touring act. Obviously it hurts the record companies, and that's bad, but the playing field is changing, probably because of it, and it's opening the door for more independent artists.

Brian Swenk: Yeah, it really depends where you are in the industry. We’re a new band so we just want our music in people’s hands, so it can actually help us a little, but if you're a huge band that spends massive amounts of money on recording and such, then it hurts you. I guess I hope we get to the point that it hurts us!

MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them? I'm all for taping and trading shows. We encourage people to tape us and hope that soon all of our shows are taped by someone and put on archive or etree. I think that's the best way for a touring band to build up new fans, the sharing of the live experience.
Brian Swenk: Yeah, as huge fans of the Grateful Dead, we see tapers as an important part of helping us get our name and music out there. We encourage it.
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Ashley Sutton:  Hmm, probably would be whoever the current pop craze is that doesn't write any of their own songs and is just propped up by the powers that be to sell records and tickets to the mindless masses....

Brian Swenk: I agree with Ashley, or it would be the "suits" in LA and Nashville that take huge amounts of money and push terrible music into the airwaves and convince people that it's good.

MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band, who would be in it and why?
Ashley Sutton:  I think we've done it. I'm so proud to be a part of this group and believe we are a perfect fit for each other musically and we all get along so well, it's like it was meant to be.

Brian Swenk: We've all played in other bands before and had so many different experiences with them, that I think we all feel that this is the ultimate band. That's why we're so committed to it, and we know it is a very rare thing to have this in a musical career.

MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
Brian Swenk: I remember looking at the very first Bonnaroo lineup and thinking "man, that's it. That’s perfect" I would probably stick with that pretty closely.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Ashley Sutton:  Personally, I've been listening to Darrell Scott tons lately, as has the band in the truck on the road. The last CD I bought was Jim Lauderdale & Donna the Buffola -Wait till Spring.

Brian Swenk: The new Black Crowes, and I loved the new Zac Brown disc that came out last year, as well.

MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Ashley Sutton:  First night of Merlefest 2010, had tons of fun raving at the Donna the Buffalo show!

Brian Swenk: I'll say that last concert that I enjoyed the absolute most was Zach Deputy's show at the French Broad River Fest. I'd been hearing his name for a while and didn't know what to expect. It just absolutely blew me away. His talent is just off the charts amazing.

MSJ: Do you have a musical "guilty pleasure?"
Brian Swenk: Oh yes! I think I have lots of them: some country music like Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, and Brooks and Dunn. Rock: Linkin Park and Billy Idol
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Ashley Sutton:  (laughter) There have been many already. The line from the movie "there's a fine line between stupid and clever" fits well with us on the road. For example, one night in a hotel room we were trying to determine what time we had to leave the next morning in order to be at a radio appearance on time and after some deliberation, the bass player, Ashley, said, "Ok, we need to leave at 8:30 so let's shoot for 9". We all got a great laugh off of that one, and actually added it to our new twitter page.

Brian Swenk: I had a band (Wiseapple) that was hired to play at this medical equipment factory employee appreciation party, but it was for the night shift. We started playing at 2AM, and everyone there was in these blue jumpsuits with hair nets on. They looked like clones of each other, and there was this industrial mist that was sprayed in the air the whole time. I felt like it was a scene out of the book 1984 - weirdest thing I’ve ever done.

MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Brian Swenk: Keep your eye out for us. We're working as hard as any band out there and we think we will just be getting better and better.
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 3 at
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