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Published: 2012/11/23
by Brian Robbins

"A Wedding Ring or Two Rattling off the Frets" : John Bell on Widespread Panic’s Wood

Panic is a good-sized band with a big sound but you’ve always managed to keep it under control. So how is it for you in an acoustic setting? Other than what’s coming out under your arm, you have no amps … you’re relying totally on the monitors, right?

Right – and we were using in-ear monitors. We couldn’t use regular wedges – they would just feed back – but Jimmy had never used in-ear monitors before. It was all a big “what if,” you know? “Are we going to be able to communicate properly?”

I thought the volume level made for a lot of room for nuance and different embellishments. And I loved that they were all one take – man, I’d love to do a studio album where you just did one take without overdubs.

One of my faves was the instrumental “St. Louis” – that’s a natural for that setting. Were there any favorites for you? Any tracks on Wood that surprised you after the fact?

Let’s see … a couple of the covers … “Sell Sell.” And “Many Rivers to Cross” was another one that surprised me. I mean, it felt really good when we were playing them, but to be first-time songs and to hear the audience react positively to the songs like they had heard us do them before was kind of rewarding.

The album is made of several shows, but it flows and feels and sounds like a single two-set show.

Yeah, that was another challenge: I’m looking at the recordings from the shows and saying, “Where do I even begin?” There was a lot of music to sift through. And I hate sitting around listening to our band. (laughter)

So I loaded the visors in my truck with the shows: “Denver; first night; first set; second set; encore …” and when I was making a long trip I’d pull them out and start listening. To figure out sequencing, I said, “Well, if I’m going to do it on vinyl, I know my limitations there” – about 20 minutes to a side before the sound begins to degrade – so that helped me with a starting point. The thing started to take shape and I would e-mail around and send some actual tracks to the guys and see if they liked the flow. We were working on it together. Even our agent had some input and we hardly ever let that happen. (laughs)

So yeah – it was a family affair and it was all new. I’m really proud of the way it came out. When we’re finished with a project, I’m usually done with it – I won’t listen to a track off a live album again for five years or something like that. (laughs)

How does the acoustic setting affect how you and Jimmy interact with each other?

I think it always works the same, as long as we can hear each other. If I can listen to him and complement where he’s going either rhythmically or with a single note here and there – and if he can hear me and he can play off the pushes and pulls and shapes that I’m creating, then we’ve got a kind of a conversation going.

And it’s not just us; you’ve got JoJo in the background and he’s picking up on what we’re doing or we’re picking up on what he’s doing … I think because of the decibel level on stage, hearing each other was more consistently easy than it is in an electric setting. But we’ve had some great rooms where communication was great when we were playing electric, as well.


There are 22 comments associated with this post

Peachhead November 24, 2012, 16:52:28

JB, you’re the man. Looking forward to 2013!

oibfan November 24, 2012, 17:32:02

Nice article, good to hear from the boys during a break. Guess I gotta buy some wood for christmas & can’t wait for some mo panic!!

wayne johnson November 26, 2012, 12:57:32

Hey JB you and the rest of your band stick them tokens you know where.

eric November 26, 2012, 13:08:06

My wife walked down the aisle to “St. Louis” from the Denver Wood Tour show. I actually asked her to marry me after they played the song live. We saw JB at the airport on Monday morning as he was headed back to Georgia. We told him about our story/stituation and he wished us a happy life together! One of the nicest celebrities I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. God bless you JB and all the fellas in WSP.

Non hater November 26, 2012, 13:15:57

Haters gonna hate. There are plenty of rooms available still if you actually look into it in various forums online. With that said, please don’t look into it as your karma probably prevented it in the first place, dick.

Brandy Shepard November 26, 2012, 13:16:28

Great read. I thought the wood cd turned out nicely. I’m looking forward to the NY and some Panic.

Tom Pace November 26, 2012, 13:58:37

Wayne, thanks for you input..I’ll make sure to think about you while we’re down there drinking rum drinks in the sun..Great interview JB..

Steven Rozanski November 27, 2012, 18:16:16

JB, Please bring the mandolin on new years

freddy pop tops November 27, 2012, 19:16:27

JB = Mr.Soul. Can’t wait to Panic in c-lotte. Where are the Spring tour dates?

jk November 28, 2012, 05:59:32

“most people don’t have the luxury of taking a year off”

Blooby November 28, 2012, 06:17:46

Widespread is a band I just don’t get. Could somebody recommend a live show or two for me? Perhaps I just haven’t been looking hard enough.

js November 28, 2012, 10:38:56

To the band…I have the Wood tour vinyl, its great….but why release a short version on record store day with all the same tunes… a little change there would’ve been nice, otherwise many people didn’t pick it up. To Blooby, fundamentally, WSP is one of the few jambands that creates excellent records. I suggest you go listen to everything up to Everday as a start. This is the only band I would recommend the albums over the shows if you are having a difficult time….then go to the Domin. Repub.

Blooby November 28, 2012, 14:01:06

Js, thanks for the response. I have also thought this about their studio vs. live material. Seems antithetical to say this about a jamband. I especially thought this during the Mikey days, which I know is akin to being sacrilegious in the community. I will try the new acoustic live disc as well.

JC November 29, 2012, 13:59:57

Blooby, Get Live in the Classic City (3 CDs). You will not regret it. Derek Trucks on Climb to Safety is unbelievable. Ride Me High, Tall Boy, Red Hot Mama, Worry, Hatfield,Let’s Get the Show on the Road…all excellent. And a great sampling of WSP material. Party on.

timmy November 30, 2012, 14:03:48

Live in the Classic City and Light Fuse, Get Away are both absolutely sick, and a “Live Panic” starting point for sure. They were always great live but ’97-‘02 was definitely their peak., so anything from that era is what you want to get. I’ve seen them 30+ times, and they are different but still rediculouly good with Jimmy. Some old fans say his Van Halen style soloing doesn’t fit their songs, but I love it, and will still travel to see them.

Blooby November 30, 2012, 14:26:25

I have “Light Fuse…” and will have to break it out again. My foggy recollection was that many of their live songs during this time hung around mid-tempo with not much dynamics. I will give it a spin again this weekend. Thanks for the input.

JC November 30, 2012, 16:17:59

Get Live in the Classic City. I am telling you. Better than Light Fuse (although I love that one too). Buy it and start with Ride Me High. Then Tall Boy—Red Hot Mama—Worry. When you are coming home after a long night of partying, put on Let’s Get the Show on the Road. Timmy (Tucker) is right. It is “sick.”

timmy December 1, 2012, 02:06:52

The mistake I think that alot of very music savvy people make when listening to Panic is assuming it’s all gonna be face melting jam. It’s never been like that. It’s much more straight forward, kind of heavier rock. Mikey was called the Lingering Lead for a reason. He was a noodler whose soloing was very subtle. He’s not Trey. Jimmy’s soloing is much different and more in your face. Above all, they are just a great rock band with a very classic rock sound who bring a tremendous amount of energy and musicianship to their shows.

Rod Stiffington December 2, 2012, 18:04:35

I would recommend Disco from the “Panic in the Streets” live album. I first heard them in the Telluride rainout and didn’t get to see the three set show the day after. The three songs were impressive but until I heard that version of Disco, I knew this was my band. To me that blazin’ solo rates up there with “Eruption” or “Stairway to Heaven.”

Stolly December 2, 2012, 19:27:30

I would suggest starting at Space Wrangler. Track 7 into 8…“Stop-Go” into “Driving Song”. Enjoy the ride!

dragen December 3, 2012, 14:15:57

I recommend never listening to them. The music hurts the ears.

D Clubb December 4, 2012, 16:17:14

26 Days until hiatus ends!!!! Can not freakin wait!!!!

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