A version of this column appears in Friday’s Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.
Red Dirt singer casts ‘Wicked Spell’
Chad Sullins and his band, the Last Call Coalition, will release their third album, “Wicked Spell,” Monday on their own MADCOR Music. They will play an album release show Saturday night at Grady’s 66 Pub in Yukon.
When Chad Sullins croons about love casting a “Wicked Spell” on his new album, the red dirt band leader speaks from the hard experience of one bewitched by music.
“This record, it’s a little more somber. There’s two or three different songs that talk about the road and then there’s a couple of songs that talk about missing people. Basically, this record is about how my last record kicked my a–,” the Stillwater-based singer/songwriter said with a laugh.
“When (the band’s 2012 sophomore album) ‘Incommunicado’ came out, it was a whole new experience for us. We did radio tours and a lot of magazine and publicity interviews. Then, I think we added it up, and we were at 248 shows for 2013, including full band and acoustic shows. It was just nonstop. It was a long year. I mean, it pretty much cost me my second marriage, and that’s kind of reflected on this record.”
Sullins and his band, the Last Call Coalition, will release their third album, “Wicked Spell,” Monday on their own MADCOR Music. They will play an album release show Saturday night at Grady’s 66 Pub in Yukon.
The title track delves into the devastating nature of love, a subject that Sullins, 36, feels he knows all too well after a hard-touring 2013 that saw his professional prospects rise even as his private life crumbled.
“It’s always been that way since I’ve been doing this for a living: It’s like when my career’s going good, my personal life sucks. And when my personal life’s going good, my career sucks. I did get some really good advice this last year from a friend of mine: He said, ‘You can’t be married to your career and married to your wife. One of ‘em’s gonna be a mistress one way or the other.’ And as much as I hate to say it, I’ve put everything into this band and this career and what I want to do for the rest of my life,” he said.
“It’s pretty much about the love of anything … whether it’s a woman or your job or your hobby or your best friend or drugs or money or whatever. If you love something enough, it usually ends up destroying you in one way, shape or form or another.”
He’s learned some hard lessons, including that as much as he enjoys touring, “man, the miles are miles,” and they can wear down even the most determined musician.
“You can’t write good songs if you’re sitting in a mansion and swimming in a swimming pool and walking around a golf course all day – not the ones I want to listen to,” he said. “I try to write the type of music that I would want to listen to, and that happy pop-country crap’s not something I enjoy listening to. I like to listen to guys who write songs from their experiences and write songs from the heart. And that’s what I try to do.”
Fans of “Incommunicado” will notice that with the exception of a few tracks, “Wicked Spell” sounds a lot more country than the Coalition’s previous release. The defiant frontman admitted he took offense at some of who said his band rocked too hard or sang the blues too well to be considered true red dirt players.
“It’s basically a big middle finger. There were people that were telling me we’re not a country band and I don’t know how to be in a country band or whatever. I mean, I was born and raised on good, old-school country music from my parents. When I became a teenager, of course, I started playing in rock bands just to p— my parents off. But eventually I come back to my roots,” he said.
“I wanted to prove to people that this is the type of music that I love. It just so happens that it’s infused with a little rock ‘n’ roll here and there.”
For “Wicked Spell,” the band ventured for the first time into The Boohatch, the Ada studio of red dirt standout Mike McClure, who produced the album.
“That is an entire experience in itself for sure,” Sullins said. “It was just really, really laidback. And it was exciting to get to work with Mac because he has been one of my heroes for so long. The Boohatch is just this very kind of mellow artistic environment, where everything can just kind of flow. There was really no stress in making this record like there was with the last one. The last one, I mean, you could cut the tension with a knife inside the recording studio with ‘Incommunicado.’”
Sullins even wrote his first waltz, “Battle Waltz in D,” after he complained on Twitter about contemporary country stars who try to boost their credibility by name-dropping classically country places and people. A pal challenged him to write a song that gave a classy shout-out to Tennessee.
Both the band’s country and rock sides will be on display Saturday night.
“One of the things that’ll always stick in my head is John Cooper from the Red Dirt Rangers told me ‘That’s how you know you’re in a red dirt band is whenever you’re too rock for the country joints and you’re too country for the rock joints.’ We’ve been kicked out of a couple of each,” Sullins said with a laugh.
Chad Sullins and the Last Coalition album release show
When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Grady’s 66 Pub, 444 W Main St., Yukon.
Information: 354-8789 or www.gradys66.com.