Interview by Scott Preston
March 2009 marked Soulive’s 10th Anniversary – ten years since Eric Krasno, Alan Evans and his brother Neal Evans got together for the first time at a home studio just outside of Woodstock, NY and recorded Get Down.
The band has traveled to nearly every corner of the world, touring Ghana, Russia, nearly all of Europe, Brazil, and Japan (nine times!). They’ve been across America on dozens of tours. New Orleans Jazz Fest has become a home away from home. And in their actual home, New York City, they are closing in on their 100th show.
Not many bands can say they’ve recorded with Chaka Khan, Dave Matthews, Talib Kweli and John Scofield. Nor can many bands open for The Rolling Stones on one tour and have Stevie Wonder sit in with them on the next tour. The musical relationships the band has developed, from the aforementioned artists to Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Robert Randolph, Joshua Redman, Kenny Garrett, Fred Wesley, The Roots, Ivan Neville and so many others, speak volumes about both how versatile these talented musicians are.
Soulive launched their label Royal Family Records, with the release of their new studio effort Up Here. The LP was recorded in Alan’s new studio in South Deerfield, Mass in the fall of 2008. Alan Evans also tracked and mixed the record. “It’s like when people say ‘if I could go back in time knowing what I know now.’ Well, that’s what we did with Up Here. The session had the vibe and energy of Get Down but with all of our experiences from the past 10 years put down on tape in a very meaningful way. “
Cincy Groove: How did Soulive get together?
Alan Evans: We have been together for 10 years now, but right before Soulive I was playing with Karl Denson and The Greyboy Allstars, and the beginnings of Tiny Universe. At the time Neal (Alan’s brother) was going to school in New York at the Manhattan School of Music and I was in San Diego. We both were kind of tired of where we were living so we both moved and started booking shows and rehearsing together. Eric wasn’t in the band at first, we had another cat playing a vibraphone. So it was vibes, organs, and drums. Eric actually came out to our first gig and sat in with us. Right before the show our vibraphonist told us he had another gig playing Broadway pit music. After the gig Neal and I were talking with Eric and asked what he was up to. After talking with him he decided to come into our studio and learn some songs. We also already had a bunch of gigs booked. Also we had decided for sonic reasons to look for a guitarist. Kraz was really only going to help us out until we found another guitarist. He wasn’t planning on being in the band, he was just helping us out. When we got together at the place Neal and I were living at , which also had our studio, we decided to record the session. Mostly to help out the next guitarist learn the music and it turned out to be the bands first record. As we were recording, we were like this is really cool and Kraz was into it and the rest is history.
Cincy Groove: How would you compare your latest record “Up Here” to your very first one?
Alan Evans: The newest album is probably the closet album in terms of the recording process and the conditions that led up to the recording of the album. I recorded, mixed, and mastered the whole album right here in my home studio. We had a couple people do some guests spots, but there weren’t anybody else working on the record except the three of us. When we started recording I just wanted the guys to come up to the studio and hang out, chill, never with the intention to record an album. In that respect the new album is very similar to our first one. The new one is actually quite similar in a lot of ways.
Cincy Groove: What brought about the creation of Royal Family Records?
Alan Evans: Royal Family Records is just a little older than our newest record, Up Here. In 2008 we decided to take most of the year off, but we did play a few gigs here and there. In that time I opened up my recording studio as a full on music endeavor. Kraz was working on a music blog, called Royal Family Records. It was a place for him and all of us to let people know what we were doing outside of Soulive. When we recorded Up Here, we knew we didn’t want to put it out with our previous label. So we saw it as an opportunity to turn the site into a full blown record label.
Cincy Groove: So tell me about the Brooklyn video contest coming up on 7/31.
Alan Evans: We have a friend of ours who handles all the media for the Royal Family website. We thought it would be cool to get a different perspective to the show, other than just us being up on the stage. All our fans are encouraged to bring their video cameras to the show. We are excited to see what they come up with.
Cincy Groove: Outside of the United States, where do you think you have the biggest following?
Alan Evans: We are definitely big in Japan. Our album is almost ready to be released in Europe so we are planning a bunch of gigs over there. Brazil has always been great to us as well.
Cincy Groove: Are there any upcoming shows you are excited about?
Alan Evans: Obviously the show in Brooklyn on 7/31 is going to be exciting. Something though we are really, really excited for is this one day festival we will be putting on called The Royal Family Get Down on 9/12 at this really cool outdoor venue in Northampton, VA along with John Scofield, Grace Potter, Charlie Hunter, Nigel Hall and a few others.
Cincy Groove: How do you feel about how the internet has affected the music industry?
Alan Evans: Back before we started people were recording shows on cassette and trading them through snail mail. When we started 10 years ago people started bringing out digital recording equipment which allowed the whole process to speed up tremendously. Fans could now email tracks to each other or just download the music from a place like archive.org. It’s really great for us, its like getting free advertising. We really saw our audience grow right in front of us in a very short period of time. I also have been introduced to so much new music that I otherwise probably never would have heard. I really embraced the technology right from the beginning and continue to do so.
Cincy Groove: Are you working on any new projects?
Alan Evans: Yeah actually I’m in the studio as we speak working on my new solo album. Eric’s solo album is done and I believe is coming out in the fall. Neal is almost done with his album. I also just got done mixing a live Soulive album from our last tour and its coming out in time for our fall tour. Nigel Hall who sang a couple tunes on the new Soulive record is also working on a record here in the studio as well.
Upcoming Soulive tour dates:
Jul 28 2009 The Canyons Park City, Utah
Jul 31 2009 Celebrate Brooklyn-Prospect Park Brooklyn, New York
Aug 6 2009 Sunset Concerts Festival OXON HILL, Washington DC
Aug 7 2009 Innsbrook Pavilion Glen Allen, Virginia
Aug 8 2009 The Jewish Mother Virginia Beach, Virginia
Sep 12 2009 Soulive’s 10th Anniversary Royal Family Get Down Northampton, Massachusetts
Sep 17 2009 The El Rey Theater Los Angeles, California
Sep 18 2009 The Hopmonk Tavern Sebastopol, California
Sep 19 2009 Monterey Jazz Festival Monterey, California
Sep 22 2009 Yoshi’s Oakland, California
Sep 23 2009 Yoshi’s Oakland, California
Sep 24 2009 Yoshi’s San Francisco, California
Sep 25 2009 Yoshi’s San Francisco, California
Oct 14 2009 The Note West Chester, Pennsylvania
Oct 15 2009 The Bowery Ballroom New York, New York
Oct 16 2009 The Westcott Theater Syracuse, New York
Oct 17 2009 Higher Ground Burlington, Vermont
Oct 22 2009 Water Street Music Hall Rochester, New York
Oct 23 2009 Revolution Hall Troy, New York
Oct 24 2009 The Port City Music Hall Portland, Maine