From America’s undeniable home of country music comes a band so undeniably not country. This month we will feature Nashville’s own Mile 8 as the Jambands New Groove of the Month. Comprised of Randy Boen-Lead Vocals and Guitar, Neil Vance-Bass, Chris West-Saxophone, Curt Redding-Drums and Backing Vocals, Adam Livingston-Saxophone and Vocals, Tim Cooper-Keyboards and Robert Knowles-Percussion, Mile 8 is a taste of Nashville with a new, not so Southern flair.
The story of Mile 8 is an interesting one. Drawing their name from a highway mile marker stolen for drummer Curt Redding-who’d just had his tickets to a string of concerts accidentally thrown away-Mile 8 has in less than 6 years traveled the world playing their music for their fans and even battle tested American troops. Yes, American troops. In the last year the band has performed two Armed Forces Entertainment Tours in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Bahrain, Djibouti, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Greenland. Oh yeah, they’ve played a few shows over here, too.
This month, I caught up with Mile 8 drummer Curt Redding to discuss playing live, life in Nashville, rock n’ roll, Budweiser and really, whatever works.
‘We do a bit of everything and mix it all together,’ says Redding. ‘If anything we’re just a high energy rock n’ roll band with some flava. Our friendship is so tight, it really allows us to find each other musically.’
Hailing from The Music City, Mile 8 is more than just a rock n’ roll band, and they sure aren’t country. Spending the last six years developing a full flavored sound packed with rock, funk, reggae, Latin and even a little hip hop, the band has progressively moved away from the Nashville stereotype and into their own shoes. Through continued efforts to infuse their sound with complex six-piece arrangements and solid song writing, Mile 8 has developed a sound that hovers comfortably between the jam and pop worlds. It’s not quite pop, but not totally jamband.
Mile 8 layers their sound with a unique harmonization of much of what today’s music scene has to offer. With a gifted guitar player and vocalist in Randy Boen and a double horn attack of Chris West and Adam Livingston, not to mention a tight rhythm section headed by drummer Redding, this is a band that can shift and go wherever the music may take them. Though more centered on their song writing than their improvising, Mile 8 maintains a healthy utilization of spontaneity and a lack of fear to be adventurous on stage. They play for the crowd and they feed off their fans.
To Redding, it’s all about the energy. ‘Basically we’re a jamband. Other than a jamband we set ourselves apart through song writing. The jamming comes from the energy of the crowd, that’s where it’s at. We’re not afraid to break down those barriers and communicate with our crowd.’
This band-crowd interaction encountered at a Mile 8 show is something seldom seen with bands of their size. Each night out they keep it fresh, daring to take risks, stretch out and be themselves for the people that make it all happen.
‘There’s really no feeling like it. We do a lot of spontaneous shit and the crowd will follow and be in it with us. It’s tough for a jamband in Nashville because of the country stereotype, but we’ve got a great, loyal following here,’ says Redding.
For a young band competing and working to separate themselves from Nashville and its stereotypes, Mile 8 has achieved success beyond their years. Now touring the country full-time, not to mention already playing in a dozen countries overseas, they have been able to encounter eager and receptive audiences on the regular, gradually building a dedicated fan base and an expanding repertoire. By incorporating more complexity in their song arrangements, more emphasis on crafty song writing and a continued energy and love for rocking a crowd, the band continues to forge ahead with a new sound, one that can appeal to the masses and to jam freaks.
Not just music fans has been getting into Mile 8. Over the last few years the band has welcomed some of the most talented musicians in Nashville to the stage with them. Johnny Neel, former organist for the Allman Brothers has joined the band on stage and even produced their latest album, Whatever Works. Also joining the band have been Leftover Salmon, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Jeff Coffin, Vince Gill and bass virtuoso Victor Wooten.
Everything has just started to fall into place for the young sextet. ‘It’s scary sometimes at how much things have fallen into place (for us),’ admits Redding. ‘We’d like to take this wherever it leads us. We want to travel and see the world and share our music with the people, really to just be solid in what we do. We’ve lost members, we’ve gained members; it’s all just gotten better and better. There will be a Mile 8, no matter what.’
Now making a name for themselves outside of the immediate Nashville area, the band still vies to keep their home as their heart, but be more than just another jamband from the land of country music. For the overabundance of bands that have tried and failed in a city so overwhelmed with talented musicians, Mile 8 gives hope to the future success of bands working hard to do what they love to do.
‘Nashville is so overpopulated with music,’ says Redding. ‘It’s hard to go make a buck out at the clubs. The word spreads a little faster other places. This is a place where you’ve got any kind of music you want, which has been good for us because we’ve been able to play with so many great musicians.’
Mile 8 commences the summer with a future bright with possibilities. With spots lined up at Bonnaroo and other major festivals across the country and plans for a new live album and a new studio album in the works, there will continue to be much buzz about The Music City’s newest export. Keep your eyes and ears open as Mile 8 treks across the country reaching out to audiences by the droves.