Sadler Vaden is Getting ‘Out There’ (Part Two)

Continued from Part One

Both Kevn and Jason make pretty plain their perspective on “big issues,” things beyond music. And those perspectives really do inform the music that they make. Some of those kinds of concerns find their way into your lyrics as well. In that regard, what do you see as your responsibility as a songwriter?

Writing songs and using that as an art form, I really just try to be true to myself. And I think that if you share some of your perspectives, then you’ll likely find – depending on what perspective it is – that there are a lot of people who share that perspective, too.

If it’s a very personal song, I try to tell that story the best I can, and just try to dig deeper into myself. Because I find that the more you do that, people will relate to the song.

In a larger sense, where does the inspiration for your songwriting come from?

I gotta say that I’m just inspired by rock ‘n’ roll music, and I usually get inspired by the artists that I love. I continue to get lost in records that I’ve heard hundreds of times, and new music too. It’s just fun to listen to music, and consume it, and get inspired by it. And then sit down and write something.

I just draw inspiration from listening to music. Sometimes something will happen around me, or to me, and I’ll think, “I could write about that.” And then I try to do that the best I can. I mine the same inspiration well a lot. You know, listening to old Paul McCartney records, the Who, Joni Mitchell and Tom Petty.

Who would you name as the guitarist, or guitarists, whose approaches have most informed yours?

Oh boy. Well, when I grew up, I loved all the classic rock stuff: Led Zeppelin, Clapton, the Who, Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jeff Beck, Dave Davies, all that stuff.

And I love Mike Campbell. In the music world, he’s highly revered. And I find that for my role in Jason’s band, he’s the perfect example for me to go, “That’s how you can exist in this format.”

I see you fitting into that, playing that same kind of role in the 400 Unit. It’s more than a supporting role, but still aside from the main guy …

And if you think about it, Mike Campbell has all those influences I just named in his playing.

Same question, in terms of songwriters.

I realize that a lot of my favorite songwriters aren’t the front man. That’s Pete Townsend. That’s Noel Gallagher. And they’re all guitar players!

You’ve built a reputation for your production skills. Who inspires you as a producer?

That’s tough, because I’m not a person who grew up saying that I wanted to be a producer and then just studied producers.

Here’s how I produce. I go in there and treat it as if it were my song. I try to make choices, of course, that the artist likes and agrees with, too. But I try to make choices that I would like on my own song, my own album. And that’s how I like to treat session work as well: just play something that I would like. Start there and then see where that goes.

But how did you originally develop your skills as a producer?

Having been produced so many times, and then moving to Nashville, and starting playing on albums and stuff in studios, I learned a lot from that. Then I never really thought about … well, I thought about doing it, just here and there. Like, “Oh, that would be nice to do.”

But then I got a call in 2016 from this girl named Hannah Wicklund, and [her people] were like, “Hey, we thought that you could produce our record.” And I was like, “Well, I don’t actually produce, but I think I could do it.” You gotta start somewhere to say you’re a producer. So that, really, is what started me off on that producer foot. That record [Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones] came out in January 2018.

You released your debut EP Radio Road in 2012. Eight years later, do you still recognize the guy who wrote, played, and sang those songs?

Yes, I do. I think I’m a better version now, but I also hear how I probably wasn’t thinking so hard about what I was doing. And I kind of like that.

How does Anybody Out There differs from the music on that EP and on your self-titled 2016 album?

I think the new songs are stronger. And I think the record sounds better; it’s a little bit more hi-fi. I wanted to spend a good amount of time on parts, and also wanted to put some longer solos and stuff on songs, kind of let them breathe a little bit. There’s a little bit heavier stuff, there’s a little bit softer stuff on it. I think it’s a very balanced record.

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Postscript: Before a tour was canceled in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, Vaden managed to play all of one live show – a March 7 set at Nashville’s Mercy Lounge – in support of Anybody Out There?

On March 20, he announced the digital rush-release of a live soundboard recording of that performance, Live at Mercy Lounge. His announcement stated, “The sole purpose of releasing this album is to provide help through Musicares foundation to musicians / songwriters / performers who are taking a hit due to Covid-19 … All proceeds will go to Coronavirus Relief fund. This was not intended for professional release at the time of recording.”

With a band that includes two of his 400 Unit band mates – bassist Jimbo Hart and Derry deNorja – the album features fifteen songs, including eight from Anybody Out There?