TEXAS HIPPIE COALITION – “Open Your Ears, Block Out The Noise”

May 28, 2019, 4 years ago

Aaron Small

feature hard rock heavy metal texas hippie coalition

TEXAS HIPPIE COALITION – “Open Your Ears, Block Out The Noise”

Imagine Hellyeah, Black Label Society, Rebel Meets Rebel, Johnny Cash, Corrosion Of Conformity, and ZZ Top jamming together at the most delicious backyard barbeque, complete with coolers of ice cold beer, and copious amounts of the obligatory Black Tooth Grin. Now you have an accurate portrayal of what Texas Hippie Coalition sounds like. Just crank it!

Originally from Denison, Texas, which is 75 miles north of Dallas, Texas Hippie Coalition will release their breathtaking new album, High In The Saddle, on May 31st via eOne. High In The Saddle is the sixth album from Texas Hippie Coalition, yet their first on eOne. And, High In The Saddle is exactly where vocalist Big Dad Ritch wants to be. However, that’s not one of the ten song titles on this beyond impressive batch of tunes. The bearded frontman explains why High In The Saddle was chosen as the name of the album. “We’ve always got a few album names stashed away that we knew we weren’t going to make songs out of. We have another one called Hang ‘Em High – We’ll Get To You Next. We’ve had some good album titles (including Pride Of Texas and Dark Side Of Black), I always like to name the title something different. But you know a lot of labels, once they get a good song, they want to name the album after that song. You try to make everybody happy as much as you can, but eOne really allows us to do whatever we want to do, just as long as we get it done.”

Texas Hippie Coalition self-released their first album, Pride Of Texas, back in 2008. The next four albums were issued on Carved Records, and now eOne has their stamp on High In The Saddle; these bad-asses have finally hit the big leagues. “Yeah,” exclaims Big Dad Ritch. “Even though eOne is the largest independent, they really… to me, they are more than an independent; and I think they are to everyone else. If you look at their roster, you can definitely tell there’s some major league players in there. I’m hoping we’re going to get up to bat and knock in some runs for ‘em… and maybe they’ll hold on to us.” To Big Dad’s point, Ace Frehley and Black Label Society are but two of the big names who call eOne home. “Right on, I can definitely be happy to hear my name with those names when it’s being called out; it’s one hell of a roll call.”

Changing labels from Carved Records to eOne provides greater distribution and promotion, how else did Texas Hippie Coalition benefit from this new deal? Is there a bigger budget, more studio time? “You know, the budget is about the same. Actually, what it is… Carved Records is a small, small group of people, working as hard as they can to achieve certain goals. And eOne has a big, humongous team. We turned in our video, and eOne sent it over to their movie people to do some stuff to it. Wow! There’s a whole lot more… let’s just say that Carved Records has some good toys, but it’s a small toy box. eOne has a very, very large toy room. And no matter what the age of anyone over there, they all seem young in their way of thinking and how they go about stuff. They’re all very happy to be in there playing with the toys.”

Elaborating upon the aforementioned video, Big Dad Ritch reveals, “We did two videos in two days. The first video is ‘Moonshine’. We shot it like a Quentin Tarantino movie, so you know it’s got a lot of crazy stuff in it – girls and guns; it’s pretty cool. It was my idea and I took it to the director, Justin Reich (Black Label Society, Rex Brown, Crowbar). He took it and ran with it; everything I’ve seen so far looks great. It’s very on point to what I was wanting to get out of it.” As for the second video… “Everybody knows cause we threw a free concert in Norman, Oklahoma – which we’ve been based out of for many years. My new drummer, Devon Carothers, runs Toby Keith’s club there called Hollywood Corners. We filmed out front there with a bunch of hot rod American cars and motorcycles. Had a bunch of women and bikers; it’s very much shot like a hip-hop video, but it’s got all that redneck attitude to it. That’s for ‘Dirty Finger’.” “Dirty Finger” is an anthem to be reckoned with! Whether it’s an outdoor festival, or a small club, everybody is going to have both middle fingers in the air. “It’s crazy when we play it live, everybody goes nuts! They just lose it, they’re all two-fisted double fingers, it’s great.”

Switching gears from video direction to album production, Bob Marlette, who’s worked with Black Stone Cherry and Rob Zombie, was at the board for High In The Saddle. Texas Hippie Coalition worked with Marlette twice before; he co-produced Ride On (2014) and produced Peacemaker (2012). “He produced Peacemaker, and at the time of Ride On, he was so busy he wasn’t able to work with us. I did write a few songs with him though; there’s four songs on that album I wrote with Bob. Bob and me, we’re totally different cats, but we get along immensely man. We both sit and listen to each other’s views, even though they’re very opposite views most of the time; we get along swimmingly. I have a lot of respect for Bob. He’s said before, ‘Any time you want to work with me, I’m right here for you. No matter what, I’ll clear my calendar.’ That’s how close we’ve become. He’s a great guy. And those bands you mentioned; Black Stone Cherry is one of my favourite bands. I actually was turning down a concert one time. Then they said, ‘We thought you guys would have went perfect with Black Stone Cherry.’ I wanted to see them so bad, I went ahead and took the show, just so I could get a free ticket to see Black Stone Cherry. And Rob Zombie… I have these things that I talk about. Vinnie Paul was one, Ozzy’s one, Zakk Wylde’s one, hell, Bret Michaels is one; these one-man empires. That’s what I strive to be, is a one-man empire. Rob Zombie’s definitely an idol of mine for sure.”

Big Dad Ritch may talk about wanting to become a one-man empire, but don’t think that means he doesn’t appreciate the guys in his band, cause he certainly does. “I’ve had (guitarist) Cord Pool here with me for three albums now. Having (guitarist) Nevada Romo with me for the past three years, I’ve always gone into the studio with maybe a few songs, never an album full. That’s what happened with Dark Side Of Black (2016), we wrote ten songs for it, and all ten made the album. With these guys, the Romo brothers, I’m really able to stockpile songs. We left probably four to eight songs that would have made any other album I’ve ever made. I’m blessed to not only have some great musicians, but great songwriters. Everybody out there knows some great musicians are not songwriters, and some songwriters are not great musicians; I’m blessed to have both.”

Distilling a few of the individual songs on High In The Saddle, we begin with “Ride Or Die”. Guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye, it has the same emotional impact as when Zakk Wylde plays “In This River” – his tribute to the late Abbott brothers – Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul. (R.I.P.). “Wow… you’re gonna make me cry saying that. Um… if you listen to all my songs, they’re all very arena driven, arena friendly; they’re all about having a good time and rocking and rolling. Getting that emotion for that song out of me was not an easy one,” admits Big Dad Ritch.

“I have a friend of mine, a wonderful couple; they’ve been married for 40 years. In their first year they had come together, they bought a Harley Davidson together. They both were working at the time. Later on in life, he went on to be so successful that she was able to become a stay at home mom; and a wonderful mother she was. But in their 41st year of marriage, she had passed; we lost her to cancer. About three or four days after the funeral, he called me and… They kept that motorcycle, even though they could afford to have bought a new one, they kept that same one all the time. He said it was a reflection of their marriage, that it’s lasted forever and it’s still running strong. She would always say it’s because they keep it well-oiled,” chuckles Ritch. “I know they’re a little kinky, but after her passing, after the funeral, he called me up and he was telling me how he was going to take his first ride alone. I said, ‘Man, I promise you, you will not be alone. As she was in life, in death, she’s your Ride Or Die, she’ll be right there with you.’ Every night we’ve been playing it; we’re probably 20 shows into the tour… every time I play that song I get so choked up in the beginning introducing it… it takes me a little bit into the first verse to get my voice to quit cracking and shaking.”

When it comes to playing “Ride Or Die” live, Texas Hippie Coalition does not have a keyboard player in their ranks, and the piano is a big part of the song. How do you compensate for that? “Oh live, we transpose it over to guitar. Cord Pool plays it on guitar, and he does some tripped-out, cool, cool stuff. It’s super awesome. Our hopes with this album and as we grow, are that it will allow us to bring a baby grand piano with us. A lot of my guys are well skilled at piano. (Bassist) Rado Romo is a great keyboard player, and (guitarist) Nevada Romo can play just about anything.”

Another powerful song is “Why Aren’t You Listening”. After hearing it numerous times, it’s still not clear who the lyrics are directed at? In fact, there’s a myriad of possibilities. “It’s noise man. Everyone wants to scream and holler to be heard. There’s so much noise out there. This is something I teach my kids. I have two sons. I want them to have a mental capacity to take on the world, because mental illness is running rampant in America. They say that 73% of independent musicians suffer from mental illness; I’m on a tour bus with four others, and I’m pretty sure they’re all crazy,” giggles Big Dad Ritch. “So, I try to make sure that any kind of illness that we all have, that we can all try and use our brains to overcome that, and not listen to the noise. You don’t have to listen to everyone screaming. Block out the noise and listen to what’s truly, really being said. A lot of people can say a lot of things, but if you listen closely, you’ll know if they mean it or not. That song there is for basically whoever’s tuning the radio dial and happens to hear it. Like, why aren’t you listening to real music? Why aren’t you listening to the good stuff? Why aren’t you listening when someone’s trying to tell you something? Your lover telling you that they love you. It’s so many different reasons, and I think that’s maybe why as you listen to it each time, it transposes to something a little different. Cause that’s really kind of what it’s saying is that, you need to open your ears, block out the noise, and listen to what you need to hear. It’s not about what’s being pushed out through the speakers, but what you actually need to be letting into your ears. I absolutely love that song!”

Looking at the song titles, even prior to pressing play for the first time, “Stevie Nicks” is eye-catching. Obviously, she’s a member of Fleetwood Mac, she’s been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. However, when you listen to it, the song isn’t entirely about her. The lyric reads: ‘Showing off her tattoo of the crucifix, spinning round, dancing like she’s Stevie Nicks.’ “Exactly. I got a thing for witchy women; I don’t know what it is about a wicked woman, but she can make me fall in love with her. I guarantee you, if I knew were (Voodoo practitioner) Marie Laveau was, I’d hunt her down. That’s my kind of woman.”

Given the widespread reach of social media, it’s inevitable that at some point, Stevie Nicks will be made aware of the Texas Hippie Coalition song named after her. Does that make you nervous at all? “Oh no. If anything, I’d hope that she would see it as me singing praise about her; about the kind of woman I like, that I’m attracted to. I see Stevie Nicks as a powerful woman who isn’t standing up there trying to be manly with her fists in the air. She’s a powerful woman with all the grace of everything that is feminine. I have a lot of respect for that, I have a lot of respect for her. I hope she can hear that in the lyrical content.”

One element of High In The Saddle that’s impossible to overlook is Big Dad Ritch’s knack for storytelling, which is unfortunately becoming a lost art these days. Completely renegade in his approach to lyrics, BDR confesses, “I never write anything down. Actually, I’m writing these songs and singing them, and (producer) Bob Marlette is like, ‘Where is your notebook?’ I don’t have one. He says, ‘Where are you getting these lyrics from?’ Just out of my head. He goes, ‘Dude, you’ve got to write this stuff down!’ I don’t ever write it down. It’s just something I’ve done my whole life. I’m constantly sitting around trying to – my brain just will not shut down. I probably write a song a day, to tell you the truth; but I can only remember half of them.”

The last track on Back In The Saddle is “Blue Lights On”. It begins with the sound of police sirens; nobody ever wants to see those lights in the rear-view mirror. Big Dad Ritch talks about his encounters with the cops. “Man, you know what’s crazy is, I am very lucky when it comes to encounters with officers. Last night there was a police officer at the show. One of my best friends that I’ve encountered throughout the years out here is a Pennsylvania State Trooper. When we were in California, all the LA copper choppers came out to see us; they fly to Texas and Oklahoma to see us a lot. Arizona SWAT is big on us. When we play in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I always say that we need to rob a bank, because all the Sheriffs are there, all the police are there, the State Troopers are there, the highway patrol; it’s just crazy. So, if a bank ever gets robbed in Tulsa, and I’m late for stage, you’ll know how did it,” laughs Bid Dad Ritch. “That’s why this old outlaw never gets caught, cause I run with the right crowds. 1%ers on one side of me, outlaws and law-dogs I call them. It’s a little gambit I’ve been able to run for many years; hopefully I have many more in front of me.”

“But the worst thing that ever happened to me was, we got pulled over. The first cop’s talking to us, and the second highway patrolman pulls up. He realizes who we are, starts talking to me. He asks me if we have anything on the bus. I said, ‘I just want to be truthful to you guys, I’ve got about a quarter bag of weed.’ So, he said, ‘Well, give me that quarter bag of weed.’ He took that quarter bag of weed from me and he was like, ‘Alright man, I’m going to let you guys go.’ And that was about it. So, that’s the worst thing that happened to me, is the sucker took my weed. But luckily right down the road, was more weed.”

Tour dates for Texas Hippie Coalition are currently scheduled until June 22nd, after that what happens? “I think we’re heading up to Sturgis, we’ve got a couple of small festivals, a couple of big rallies in August. The plan is just to get out there and play as much as we can. We know this will be a big year, but I think living off the album, next year will be a really big year for us!” Will the band head north of the border to Canada? “Yeah, we’re going to do a Canada run. I think we’re going to try and do it at the beginning of summer next year (2020). We’ve been getting a lot of hollars to come to Canada, and we’ve been waiting for y’all to legalize it (marijuana). Now that y’all have, we’re on our way!”

In closing, Big Dad Ritch describes the experience that is Texas Hippie Coalition live. “I’ll put this in terms a true Canadian could understand… you know when you watch a hockey game at home on TV, it’s exciting. But when you watch a hockey game live, up against the glass, that’s what our shows are like. It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 people or 10,000 people, we’re going to give it 110%. We’re going to make sure we get everybody up against the glass.”

(Photos by: Colt Coan)

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