Southern rock’s Saving Abel have been sailing easy after the release of their self-titled debut record from Virgin Records earlier this year. Since opening for Puddle of Mudd’s US tour, people have been taking notice of Saving Abel’s music, but that has not always been the case. The band formed in 2004 when lead singer Jared Weeks and guitarist Jason Null met at a mutual friend’s house in their hometown of Corinth, Mississippi. Weeks and Null began writing songs together within days of that meeting. In 2005, the duo’s songs made their way through the local music industry’s grapevine to record producer Skidd Mills’ ears, who agreed to produce their first record which would become Saving Abel’s debut release from Virgin Records. The band was rounded out by guitarist Scott Bartlett, bassist Eric Taylor, and drummer Blake Dixon. In those early days, the band members were working their day jobs while recording in Mills’ studio in Memphis, Tennessee, but it has all paid off. Living through those hard, long days then, has Saving Abel riding high now.
Saving Abel’s guitarist Jason Null answered some questions from AbsolutePunk.net.
How has your life changed since opening for Puddle of Mudd?
Jason: For me personally, just being out on larger tours and seeing the professionalism has been an educating experience.
How would you describe Saving Abel’s position today in the music industry compared to where you were a year or two ago?
Jason: Uphill, it may seem like we are overnight, but it has taken a lot of sacrifices, determination and dedication to keep rolling forward. I am very proud of where we are not and looking back, we have accomplished a lot.
Why did you want Skidd Miles to produce your self-titled album on Virgin Records? What was it like working with Skidd?
Jason: I was first introduced to Skidd years ago while mastering a record at Ardent in Memphis. I remembered his guitar work and the fact that he’s worked with several major Christian Rock acts. JRod (Jared Weeks) and I were kinda going in that direction in the beginning so I booked some studio time with Skidd in hopes he’d like what he was hearing.
Where did the inspiration for the songs on the band’s self-titled album come from? Were these songs that you had for a long time or did something happen in your lives that spurred the songwriting process for this album?
Jason: Some of the songs I had for years, and once we decided to go mainstream, it opened up the inspiration process and writing just got easier and the songs got better.
Is there one songwriter in the band or are the songs a collaborative effort? How was everyone‘s parts figured out and who made the decisions about the arrangements of the songs?
Jason: The majority of the songs were a collaborative effort between Skidd, JRod and I. Skidd and I talked everyday while recording and really tried to listen to one another in efforts to nail the song.
When you were recording the album, where was your focus? Were you concerned about making an album that would compete with other rock bands, or was the focus on making songs that you knew that you would enjoy playing live?
Jason: We completed some twenty songs plus, so my largest concerns were which ones to put on the record. We left a lot of good tunes off, but I think in the long run, our decisions made the record what it is.
What gear did you use in the studio to give the songs a big, loud sound? Are there certain tools that you used for the recording to make the songs sound so powerful?
Jason: Bogner, Marshall and Kock amps mainly. PRR’s, Gibson and Fenders guitars with the exception of a hand build Strat style baritone guitar (that) Skidd had made. We dubbed almost all the rhythm tracks with that thing, which really beefed up the sound.
Are these songs that you hope you will play until the day that you die, or are a short-term thinker and see a point when you will want to move on from these songs?
Jason: I can only say that it would be a blessing to play these songs for 20 or 30 more years. With that said, I hope we can just keep adding to the songs that people want to hear.
Whose music were you attracted to while growing up in Mississippi? Did any of them make you say that you wanted to be like them?
Jason: Absolutely, so many influences: Elvis, Angus Young, KISS, (Johnny) Cash, on and on. My Mom got me into all the old rock (of the) ‘50s and ‘60s while my brother had me jamming to Def Leppard. And as I came into my own, ‘80s and Seattle bands played a huge role in the level of maturity (that) I began approaching my music with.
When did you make the move from being a rock fan to being a rock musician? Did you play in a lot of bands before joining Saving Abel or is Saving Abel your first band?
Jason: I think I was a musician before I really was a fan. I can remember my brother going to ballgames and me being home with Mom. I couldn’t wait for him to leave, so I could pull his guitar out of the closet. It was the guitar that made me love music and many, many bands.
Did you take music lessons in school or are you self-taught as a musician? Did you speed a lot of time practicing to write songs or playing cover tunes?
Jason: No lessons, once I figured out chords and could piece them together, I began writing. I wrote songs before I actually learned guitar, but yes later on, it was cover songs for the parties. I have fallen to sleep many nights with the guitar in my hand and notebook beside me.
Do you remember Saving Abel’s first show? If so, where was it and how did it go? Does the band play differently today then when you first started out?
Jason: Alley Galley, in our hometown, a small club that held about 400. ‘After All’ and ‘Running From You’ were radio hits there. We had been in rotation for about a month. We were all kinda nervous, but we sold it out and the crowd was really great. We have changed a lot since then. We have just gotten better. We play at least 5 shows a week and have been for the past year.
Do you feel pressure to have to win fans over or are you really laid back about the band‘s popularity?
Jason: No, I think the people who are coming to the shows are pretty up on the music already with the Internet. It’s just good to see them there and get to meet them after the shows.
Have you sought the advice from other musicians about how to handle the pressure of fame or feeling anxiety about playing to larger and larger crowds?
Jason: It’s not the size of the crowd, but their reaction. We all have had these shows and have came to the conclusion that some crowds, be it 50 or 50,000 are just more psyched than others.
Where do you go to find sanctuary when life gets too complicated? Are there people or a special place that you go to when you need stability?
Jason: I try and disappear with my guitar, maybe have a run or read my Bible. I can definitely count on my folks back home. I don’t have to present a problem to my Mom and talk about it, I can just call her to say, ‘Hi’ and feel better.