Before The Revivalists surprise release of their live recording and documentary Made in Muscle Shoals we speak with frontman, David Shaw
“If you put all of your heart and all of your being and all of your blood, sweat and tears into something, and just work at it and believe in it, at some point it’s all going to come to fruition.”
And that’s exactly what has happened for David Shaw and his brothers in The Revivalists. They’re living proof of Shaw’s statement – demonstrating a ripple effect that creates both opportunity and a giving community.
The band has just unveiled a surprise release of their Made In Muscle Shoals live studio EP and accompanying documentary, which was recorded and filmed at the legendary FAME Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Capturing the essence of The Revivalists at this exciting time in their 10-year journey, the documentary, directed by Jay Sansone of Human Being Media, gives the deepest insight yet into what makes the band tick against the backdrop of Muscle Shoals, a location steeped in the many classic styles of American music that informs the New Orleans – based band’s signature sound. The Revivalists bring us into the studio with them as they record the Made In Muscle Shoals EP, which features brilliant re-imaginings of the band’s hits “Oh No,” “You & I,” “Change,” and “All My Friends” from their latest studio album, Take Good Care, as well as a soulful rendition of The Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody” and a gorgeous stripped down piano-and-vocal take of their platinum-selling hit “Wish I Knew You.” The EP also includes a never-before-released, brand new song “Bitter End” (watch below) about being stuck in a one-sided love.
One week prior to this exciting release bound to make Revivalists fans ecstatic, I had the chance to speak with David Shaw to revisit the unforgettable experience.
photo by: Zackery Michael
The Revivalists have a brand new special EP and documentary, how are you?
We’re doing great. We’re enjoying a little down time which is as important as the super-busy time and being on the road. We had a killer year – we opened for The Rolling Stones, we had Jazz Fest which is a pivotal fest for us. We started on that stage almost ten years ago, and then got to close a stage this past year. We also toured with Willie Nelson, Phil Lesh from the Grateful Dead and the new record was received really well from our fans in addition to bringing in new folks. I’m so grateful for all the happy times.
Going into Muscle Shoals and FAME studios – was the plan always to make a documentary in addition to recording the songs? How did that come together?
It happened organically. We planned to simply go there and shine a spotlight on a place that has so much rich history. It was amazing to just be in there. We wanted to go in and put a different spin on some tunes and capture some of the magic in that room. It’s an iconic studio. There was a documentary already made on FAME Studios, it was great. When a band goes in there a makes a film it feels different. You think, “people have to know about this place.” It’s in a little town in Alabama. I just think it’s really important to appreciate pillars that are such an important part of music history.
Was this a project The Revivalists sought it out?
Yes, we always knew we wanted to go into one of these studios. Muscle Shoals seemed like the perfect place to do something different. Normally you go into the studio, play your songs and do your thing with the producer. This just seemed like the perfect way to get some other stuff out. So many amazing artists that came before us not only recorded there but left a little magic in the room as well.
As a viewer, you feel the “wow” once you see the doors open at FAME Studios even on film. What was it like for you when you first walked into the studio, you’re looking at what’s hanging on the walls and thinking about the opportunity to record in this legendary place. What was the emotion of that first moment?
Right away, from the moment I walked in it felt like everything we were going to do there held a little more weight and felt a little more important because of the hallowed ground we were standing on. It is a little disarming when you get there. The studio is basically in strip mall. I think there’s a CVS across the parking lot. I thought it was going to be off in the woods somewhere and it’s not. It’s amazing the place was never bought by a developer. It’s on the list of national historic places. But from the start, it was such a cool vibe where everything felt a little heavier. We walked around and saw all the pictures of the musicians who recorded there. Rick Hall is an absolute legend. Aretha Franklin has recorded there, Wilson Pickett, Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Cocker. When you think about all that, you feel you are going to bring your A game to this recording because not everybody gets this chance.
I noticed in the film, how much you guys as a group and individually seemed to really be grooving and soaking in every moment. Even if it was just a simple guitar part – the vibe was always there.
Oh, absolutely. We knew we had a special opportunity and if we don’t appreciate the moment, the moment will pass by. You can’t think about or else you won’t get the most out of it, it’s almost as if you have to give way to the natural flow. I loved working out the new direction of each song with the guys. We didn’t go in with any preconceived notion of what the different versions were going to sound like.
We approached it like a new song because we wanted the vibe of the room to guide where the songs were going to go. And that’s what it did. Some really interesting versions came out of it. We realized some of the songs were perfect for that studio. Then songs like “Wish I Knew You” or “All My Friends” took on a different kind of vibe.
So, you recorded the songs as a collective group? You were all playing live at the same time as opposed to laying down individual tracks?
Yes, 100%. Everyone was basically in the same room recording, with me in a vocal booth looking at everyone. But we recorded everything live with very minimal overdubs, the least amount you could possibly do. We usually record that way, for the most part as opposed to laying down a lot of individual tracks. With our style of band, you lose something if everyone is capturing their sound individually. The full character just isn’t there. I always figured – if we want to sound like The Revivalists, then everybody has to play together.
One of my favorite parts of the film is towards the end when Michael Girardot is talking about how the name of the band is The Revivalists and how you guys take that definition very seriously. It was a profound, full-circle thought on your love and respect for the history of music blending with your own, which was very appropriate given the FAME environment.
Yeah, we really do take it seriously. Someone’s got to carry the torch and keep the real shit alive. It’s not to toot our own horn, but that’s what we want to do.
You’ve also told me before that you are just trying to make people feel something. That resonates deeply with Artist Waves. How do you channel that when you are recreating songs that are already out there?
There’s a plethora of different emotions in every song. The one that gets captured, you hope, is the one that is the truest essence of the emotion you were feeling at the time when the song came into the world. Sometimes it’s just a snippet and you have to figure the rest out. I think that idea really sings true in this new version of “Wish I Knew You”. On our album it’s this upbeat, dance tune, which is cool because it’s our biggest song to date and I am very grateful for that version. But it always felt like there was a longing element to the song that wasn’t necessarily captured on the record version. I felt like we needed to focus on that with this new Muscle Shoals version. It’s now this haunting version that brings a new emotion to the forefront as a opposed to just a happy rhythmic feeling.
The same thing is applicable to “All My Friends”. I really just wanted to focus on capturing the raw joy in this new version.
You spoke of that in the film, specifically about how the A minor chord is theoretically a joyful feeling chord and how you wanted to focus on that.
A minor is my key! They say C is the people’s key, and C is the relative major of A minor. They’re opposite but they’re also the same. It’s a very emotional chord.
What does this Muscle Shoals experience and this current chapter for The Revivalists mean to you?
If you put all of your heart and all of your being and all of your blood, sweat and tears into something, and just work at it and believe in it, at some point it’s all going to come to fruition. I feel like these past couple years were that. Now we’re in that mode where we get to do a lot of things we want to do, we’re able to do these different types of projects like Muscle Shoals. In the past we didn’t have any money to do something like this, going into a studio of that stature and record and make a documentary. We’re just grateful to be able to continue to do this and spread our wings.
Catch The Revivalists on their Into The Stars tour:
February 28 Mashantucket, CT @ The Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino#
February 29 Washington, DC @ The Anthem#
March 3 Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Concert Theatre#
March 4 Harrisburg, PA @ Harrisburg University#
March 6 Detroit, MI @ The Fillmore#
March 7 Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall#
March 10 St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant#
March 11 Madison, WI @ The Sylvee#
March 13 Minneapolis, MN @ The Fillmore#
March 14 Chicago, IL @ Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom#
March 16 Nashville, TN @ Brooklyn Bowl
March 18 Norfolk, VA @ The NorVa
March 20 Bensalem, PA @ XCite Center at Parx Casino#
March 21 New York, NY @ Radio City Music Hall#
April 10 Charlotte, NC @ The Fillmore Charlotte*
April 11 Asheville, NC @ U.S. Cellular Center*
April 14 Wilmington, NC @ Greenfield Lake Amphitheater*
April 15 Raleigh, NC @ The Ritz*
April 17 St. Petersburg, FL @ Jannus Live*
April 18 Key West, FL @ Key West Amphitheater*^
April 21 Huntsville, AL @ Mars Music Hall*
April 22 Oxford, MS @ The Lyric Oxford*
April 24 Atlanta, GA @ SweetWater 420 Fest
April 25 New Orleans, LA @ Jazz & Heritage Festival
May 2 New Orleans, LA @ The Fillmore &
May 9 Spicewood, TX @ Spicewood Vineyards $#@
May 22 Houston, TX @ House of Blues Houston
May 23 Tulsa, OK @ Osage Casino – Skyline Event Center
May 27 Chattanooga, TN @ Riverbend Festival
May 28 St. Augustine, FL @ St. Augustine Amphitheatre
May 30 North Charleston, SC @ Volvo Car Stadium
June 12 Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre !&
# with Tank and the Bangas
* with PJ Morton
^ with Stephen Marley
$ with Lake Street Dive
@ with Strand of Oaks
& with Neal Francis
! with Preservation Hall Jazz Band
MADE IN MUSCLE SHOALS TRACK LISTING
1. Oh No
2. You & I
2. To Love Somebody
3. Bitter End
5. All My Friends
6. Wish I Knew You
For more information including tickets visist: The Revivalists.com
$1 of every ticket sold will be donated to the Rev Causes Fund in support of organizations dedicated to reviving and investing in our communities.