Interview by Scott Preston
I had the pleasure to talk with Johnny Quaid, former guitarist of My Morning Jacket, who has just released as of today (Feb 16) his new record “Slight Spell” with his group The Ravenna Colt. Johnny also spoke with me about a project, Removador Recordings and Solutions, that he has started with his cousin, Jim James (My Morning Jacket).
The Ravenna Colt, in today’s incarnation, is Johnny Quaid finally realizing and returning to his troubadour roots. He first conceptualized the group’s approach to alternative country more than a decade ago. Quaid was well immersed in music, from his own songwriting and performing, to his work as a recording engineer at Above the Cadillac Studios — chops that would serve the young songwriter well. The Ravenna Colt currently includes Phil Carlson, J. Brent Stuart and Daniel T. Mohler as members, but the group has always been a shape-shifting entity with the only constant force being Quaid at the helm.
The Ravenna Colt’s record “Slight Spell” has been released today (Feb 16, 2010) on Removador Recordings and Solutions.
Cincy Groove: Tell me about Removador Recordings and Solutions, the project you and your cousin started.
Johnny Quaid: Initially it came about because Jim was in a band before My Morning Jacket called Month of Sundays. He released that album himself which kind of started the label, I believe in 1998. For the most part he started the label to release that album, afterwards he kind of left it at that. Fast forward about 11-12 years later and I was about to finish up my record and Jim and I were just casually talking about it, it wasn’t any big plan we had. One thing led to another. The whole idea really is too offer complete creative control and have an artist friendly label. We do have some physical product but we are trying to keep it mainly down loadable music.
Cincy Groove: Tell me about your record “Slight Spell”.
Johnny Quaid: I fully had this project in mind, even before I played with My Morning Jacket. It just got sidetracked for quite a few years. Once I departed from the band and had some time to settle in to a new era of my life I wanted to see what would happen for me musically. I didn’t want to force anything, I wanted to happen naturally. I was looking for that feeling of when you were younger and played music for the first time. I really picked back up that passion for writing and jumping right back into where I was before. I got to a point where I had all the songs and everything in place and knew it was now or never. I have been working on the production of the album since last year but have been songwriting for it for the past 10 years. Early on out of the gate I was just writing without a lot of premeditative plans for things, it was off the cuff. Later on I built my confidence up about telling my own story. They are definitely autobiographical. There is a song on the album I wrote 10 years ago and another I wrote right before we went into the studio. We ended up recording 15 songs and it came down to the 8 that are on the record. Those songs just seemed to belong together.
Cincy Groove: It must feel good to have the release date upon you for this record.
Johnny Quaid: It really does, I feel like I have been working for the past year to get this all ready. It kept getting pushed back further and further because Removador became such a monster, definitely in a good way. We were lucky enough to get my record lined up for the beginning of this year.
Cincy Groove: Do you have some shows planned for the near future?
Johnny Quaid: Yes, we are going to have the full band together in February, March and will play Louisville, Lexington, Atlanta, Nashville. Then later on in the year we will starting traveling and do some more national shows. We will also hit Cincinnati, we were actually just talking about Cincinnati the other day. It’s really some old stomping grounds for us. Jim may correct me on this but I want to say our first ever My Morning Jacket show was in Cincinnati in somebody’s basement. It was funny, we were playing as a three piece at the time, it was me, Jim, and our original drummer at the time. We didn’t even have a bass player, it was the first “band” show that was not just Jim and I. We played after some punk band that pretty much destroyed everything and then we got up there. It was pretty comical but fun.
Cincy Groove: How do you feel about how technology is changing the music business?
Johnny Quaid: I was in a kind of self-imposed exile for a while, so I’m still learning. But now that I’m putting out a record and working on Removador Recordings with Jim, I’m really getting thrown back into it. It really is amazing where we are today as opposed to even when The Jacket started. I feel like it was a world of change in such a small window of time. In my shoes, the internet and state of the music industry really worked in my favor. I’m not really going to get into that touring machine again like My Morning Jacket. I’m going to go at my own pace. For somebody like me who isn’t hitting the road constantly, the internet lets me hit a lot of people with my music. Another thing is that I listen to a lot of internet radio and I would never have heard some of the music otherwise. At the same time, you can get so overwhelmed with information that things will get missed.
Cincy Groove: Who are some of the artists that are on the Removador label right now?
Johnny Quaid: Cortney Tidwell, out of Nashville, just released her album on January 19. My album comes out in February and we have another band from Louisville called Follow The Train. Beyond that we are just putting together a list of people we are interested in. We aren’t going to rule out any type of music, whether it’s country, hip hop or rock. We are such big music lovers that it would be hard for us to pass up say a great jazz record that someone submitted or really anything that we liked regardless of the genre.
Cincy Groove: What do you like to do when your not writing and performing?
Johnny Quaid: Not that there is a lot of free time, but my wife and I like to ride horses. It’s really such a great way to just escape the craziness of the world. I also like woodworking and carpentry. But other than that its really hard to squeeze anything else in the schedule.
The Ravenna Colt tour dates:
02/19/10 Louisville, KY Zanzabar – Album release show – with Roman Candle – Doors @ 8pm and show @ 9pm – Tickets available night of show at the door
02/20/10 Lexington, KY Natasha’s
03/11/10 Knoxville, TN The Square Room
03/12/10 Atlanta, GA The Earl
03/13/10 Birmingham, AL Bottletree
03/26/10 Indianapolis, IN Radio Radio
03/27/10 Nashville, TN Mercy Lounge