The Freeway Revival did just that. Climbing the old wooden steps upstairs at the Water’n Hole in Waynesville recently, the quintet was headlong into another frantic jam when I asked the person next to me, “Who in the hell is that?” Dueling guitars, heartbeat percussion and keyboards spiraling out of control until it crescendos, ultimately crashing back down into the next glorious verse.
Hailing from Asheville, the group has made quite a name for themselves in the music scenes just west of Buncombe County. Folks out here, out where everyone knows you name and what your story is, work hard in an effort to let their hair down come the weekend. Rock music not only sets the tone for all of life’s emotional floodgates, it also takes its name and provides the foundation by which we stand on, and up for, what it means to connect with a piece of music.
The Smoky Mountain News caught up with The Freeway Revival while on their never-ending tour, roaming the back roads and bi-ways of Southern Appalachia, in search of another town and stage to take over, where perhaps someone not-yet-in-the-know will finally cross paths with a band, a sound that will find itself radiating in their soul.
Smoky Mountain News: The Freeway Revival. Where does the name come from?
Jonathan Clayton (guitarist): It was one of those all-night drive type of situations, and somewhere in the early morning hours, the name found us. It really stuck because it has a way of describing not only our bands sound, but also who we are as people. You have to be a free spirit to jump in a van, and stay far away from everything you’ve known for extended periods of time. We learned to make the road our home, and we did so by doing the things we have always wanted to do. That is the past present and future of the band. That spirit carries over into many other aspects of this group — it’s the cornerstone.
SMN: What’s the philosophy or intent of the band?
Adam Clayton (keyboards): We’re the everyday people’s band — the blue-collar workers all the way to the young kids. There’s something within our songs that everyone can take away with them. But, we have also learned from the blue-collar example as well. Hard work, honesty, and dedication are a very important part of making our bands sound, and forming philosophy. There are no fancy gimmicks, alter egos, light shows, or electronic equipment, and our sound and lyrics can be summed up quite simply as honest. We feel that playing should involve 110-percent, and don’t feel the need to hide the expression.
SMN: How do you want to contribute to, or differ from, the evolution of the music industry?
Joey Lee (guitarist): We want to be everything it isn’t. The music scene today is mostly taken over by people chocked full of ego. Many of these people don’t write their own songs. Our name describes what we would like to contribute to today’s music. It needs to go back to being about songs people can relate to, and lyrics that are full of images and poetry. The value of art and expression need to be recognized more, and hopefully we contribute to that evolution. We would like to shed some light on the value of real, honest art.
SMN: What are your musical influences?
JC: Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band. We identify with them as groups with songs and structure to their songs, but also as bands that can break it down and really play it out. We also identify with groups like The Band for different musical ideas and vocals. As a young musician, and as a growing musician, I’ve just always identified most with music that was played with lots of passion and lots of fire. I think early on these were the musicians we learned from and wanted to be like. I love to feel the burn when someone really pours everything into what they do. Music that is relatable and that people can identify with, and has that heart and soul, will always be the most important.
SMN: With five members, who have different ideas and playing styles, how do y’all wrangle it in?
AC: Being in any band is like being in a serious relationship. You have five people, five opinions, and five different personalities. It’s all comes together when all those things are united under a common goal of being the best we can possibly be, both on and off the stage. We all throw ideas out and some work and others don’t. You just go with how it feels right and necessary adjustments. You have to leave your ego and personal feelings at the door. It’s a passion and it is fun, but you have to have a standard, and that is where the work begins.
SMN: Y’all are pretty popular and play around the music scene quite often west of Asheville. What do you see when you’re playing here?
JL: So much great music has come out of this beautiful area of the country. What also helps is the young talent boosting the music scene. Its vibe is very burgeoning, and it’s beginning to recognize itself. It’s small, and unadulterated, making it a breath of fresh air. Many of the people you meet are in touch with what you’re doing, and most are on a first name basis. The people want to be part of the scene, part of the movement. They see themselves as a moment in one of your songs. It’s not overcrowded though, and you have room to breathe as an artist.
Want to go?
Rock act The Freeway Revival will perform during the Groovin’ on the Green summer concert series at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21, at the Village Green in Cashiers. The show is free and open to all ages. www.visitcashiersvalley.com.
The band will also be playing at Tuck’s Tap & Grille in Cullowhee (Sept. 12), Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City (Sept. 25) and the Water’n Hole Bar & Grill in Waynesville (Sept. 26).