[Exclusive Interview] Moccasin Creek Talk About Signing With Average Joes, The New Album & Charlie Bonnet III
Rebel Row: You’ve finally signed with Average Joes for the release of this new album. Why was this the right time to partner with a label after doing everything yourselves for such a long time?
Jeff McCool: Everything in life is about timing, especially in the music business. Well, at least that’s what we have learned from the DYI approach we have been using for the past 3 years. As far as signing a Record Deal with Average Joes, it goes back once again to timing. The Moccasin Creek crew, myself, my wife Daphne and the couple of folks we have working the “behind the scenes” business side of things have grown to a point to where it makes sense. Shannon (Houchins CEO at AVJ) and I have had a working relationship and have been talking about this for the better part of 3 years. It is no secret that behind the growing popularity of this style of music, AVJ has more than solidified themselves as the place to be to obtain the things that have come to far out of reach for us working on our own. This too is mostly attributed to the fans and supporters that have gotten us to the status that we have made it to. It’s an overwhelming support that we have maintained from them, and we can’t thank them enough. By partnering with AVJ we feel that we will now be able to accomplish a lot of things we have been trying to do on our own but just didn’t have all the resources for. Again, it’s timing, and it all makes perfect sense. The many request that we get to travel to markets that we have never been too and the support we have from them to help make this happen is a major reason in the partnering.
RR: What does this mean for future Jeff McCool solo albums, will they be released on AVJ as well?
JM: That has actually never even been a thought at this point. Will there be a few more solo projects from Jeff McCool? I would like to say yes. I write so much and love to record, so I am sure at some point there will be another solo album, but my main focus which has always remained the same is Moccasin Creek. When I created Moccasin Creek, and when I created the sound and style that I was comfortable with, I felt a strong sense of accomplishment and it makes me happy to know that we have a consistent sound and style that differs from most. Knowing that I wasn’t a singer by any means, but always being a southern Rock and Country music fan, finding someone to sing the hooks wasn’t too tough. That is what I think is really cool about the Moccasin Creek music that I write. The hooks can be sung by anyone that has a good voice and will fit the song. Moccasin Creek music is written for the fans. It is written to embrace the lifestyle that we know and live. There is nothing fake about it. I will never mention anything in a song that I don’t know about, or I haven’t lived. Fortunately it relates to our fan base. The original question being about my solo albums can be explained like this: Music is music. It comes in a million different forms and styles. When I do create something that is outside of the Moccasin Creek “norm”, it is more or less a way for me to voice an internal feeling or enlighten folks on what I have been through to get here, be it personally or business related. It’s kind of a happy medium there. But, as far as Solo projects go, my main focus is Moccasin Creek. Always has been, and always will be.
RR: You recently parted ways with longtime member Charlie Bonnet III. Everyone wants to know, what exactly happened?
JM: Again, this all goes back to timing. Just as in any business, when growth occurs, and things proceed, change is inevitable. The music business proves this to be true day in and day out. We performed live over the past couple years with a DJ and a “backing track” which has become somewhat of a “norm” in the world of live entertainment. However, at the same time, I have always felt like that was cheating the fans out of what they were there to see. We had to grow, and we will continue to grow. Making the transition to a full LIVE 5 piece band was a necessity as well as has improved the live show 10 fold! Going into what detail I can, this wasn’t the mutual feeling from some of the long-time members. I have never been the one to say Moccasin Creek is “my band” publicly and what “I want is what we do”, because this is not how things need to be perceived. However, I do own Moccasin Creek and founded it and formed the band. I understand that everything is a group effort, and the effort of ‘said’ group is what garnered us the notoriety that we have now. But, at the same time, when group members feel it’s not what they want to do to further the production, to make the live show better, or to make the necessary changes to grow Moccasin Creek in to the machine it can and WILL be, then change takes place. Unfortunately, Charlie Bonnet has moved on to what he feels is best for him, and Moccasin Creek has not missed a beat. We have a single coming out on March 17th, a 5 song EP shortly after, then FINALLY, the “Hillbilly Rockstar” album will come out! Again, and not to beat a dead horse, it’s TIMING. It was time for this to happen.
RR: How will the departure of Charlie effect the Moccasin Creek sound?
JM: Well, this is a funny question to answer. In my mind, and in my heart, I know that it will NOT affect our sound. Moccasin Creek music has been written and performed in the same style or manner for the past 3 years. It has NOT changed, and will not. However, there are going to be people that say “this isn’t the same” because of the departure of a member, without giving it a chance. Hell, I have been guilty of that myself in the past. I think that it is about 50-50 when it comes to how people accept change in any aspect of life. Some people embrace it, some people get used to it and feel that this is how it should always be. I strongly feel that if people listen to the music that they will see that the content is there, the sound is there, and the style is still Moccasin Creek and won’t ever changed. I kind of said something out of line in a question I mentioned earlier and I have to give credit where credit is due. When I write these songs, I said that for the most part, any good singer can fill the void where I can’t sing. With this being mostly true, I have to say that once again, the TIMING of all this was absolutely unreal. When the change transpired, I wasn’t too concerned as a good guitar player are a dime a dozen to replace. And finding someone to sing the hooks at a live show was going to be a little bit tougher because people have become accustom to seeing and hearing the same sound for a few years. But, DAMN! Ronnie Davis who has stepped in has been a blessing and an unbelievable find. Not only can I recant on the statement that I made about any good singer, or any good guitar player, because honestly, he is a BEAST. The timing has been a blessing, and Ronnie has single handed taken our live show and our new cd to another LEVEL. Conor Kimble, our drummer has been with us for over two years now, and has done a great job, and anchors the on stage sound to what it has become. And it has become a BEAST. Conor brought us DJ Damon Westrich a little over a year ago. Damon is an awesome bass player so when we made the transition to FULL live, he stepped in and has killed it! We also added former Marine, Danny “Monkey” Gaffin on the rhythm guitar. Monkey is the newest member but has accepted and conquered his role in a matter of months. The camaraderie amongst this group, and the fact that there are no egos, we function now as a FAMILY. It is awesome. I can’t thank them enough, and the fans are going to be blown away. Trust me. We have done several shows this year with the new lineup. We have had fans show up and that have seen us live 5 or 6 times before, and hearing them say that “this is the best show we have ever seen you guys do” is a real sense of accomplishment.
RR: Tell us a little bit about your upcoming Average Joes debut album “Hillbilly Rockstar”, new single “Low Life” and what fans can expect?
JM: Our debut with AVJ will be our single, “Low Life” on March 17th. Honestly, this song is a little different than what you would think our “normal” in your face southern rock jammer would be as far as when we normally drop a single. We are saving those for the album. The album has a LOT in store. “Low Life” however, is right up the alley of Moccasin Creek fans and the lifestyle we happily embrace and love. We are shooting a video for it as well, and it will follow a few weeks after the release of the single.
RR: Talk a bit about your new single “Walk Away” with Megan Ruger and how that came about?
JM: “Walk Away” is a great example of Jeff McCool stepping outside of Moccasin Creek for a minute to touch on more serious things from my own perspective on life. The song is very heartfelt and meaningful to me personally, and the fact that it has touched so many people is unbelievably humbling. It’s no secret that this industry is tough. This lifestyle we as musicians have chosen is a tough way to live. At times, you think about walking away. That was the subject matter in my mind while writing the song. But, after it’s release is when listeners let me know how much that song helped them in a positive manner. I didn’t realize when writing it that “Walking Away” could be interpreted in to any obstacle of life. Be it a relationship, a long time job, retirement, whatever the case may be; as the song says “but if I walk away I don’t know if I’ll respect me” touched a lot of souls. I was very fortunate to find Megan and we are actually working on an EP at the moment as well. She is a super talent, and a pleasure to work with. Be on the look out for her as well, because she has big things in the works.
RR: What is in store for Moccasin Creek fans this year?
JM: BIG THINGS. More shows, more music, and more fun! I would love to tell you all of it, but that wouldn’t be any fun. There are a LOT of things coming. We’ve got some HUGE features, some HUGE shows, and a whole lot of surprises in store. Stay tuned, 2015 is by far the biggest year for Moccasin Creek!!!