Wednesday, May 3, 2017

As Good As It Gets: A Conversation with TJ from The Nearly Deads

I have interviewed Ally Dickaty, lead singer of The Virginmarys, Gustav Wood, lead singer of Young Guns, and Rich Meyer, bass and vocals of the Grammy nominated band Highly Suspect, for this blog. Notice a trend there?  All dudes.  All super talented, incredibly smart, wickedly funny, and hellaciously hot but all dudes.

As much as I enjoyed those interviews, it was absolutely wonderful to finally get to interview a kick ass lead singer of a band which has a new EP coming out on May 26th.  I had the pleasure of talking with TJ of The Nearly Deads and this is what transpired. 

Stephanie Murphy: Where are you right now?

Theresa Jeane:  I'm actually in Rhode Island. My band is from Nashville but my boyfriend lives in Rhode Island.

Stephanie:  So, that's the place to be right now.
TJ:  Right.

Stephanie:  How long has the band been together – for new fans who may not know?

TJ:  Our first EP, I think we released it in 2012 or 2011?  So, that was all the same year we formed. I went to college in Florida, and so did a few of the other founding members. Steve is still in the band, but our original drummer, he was the other, third person from Florida.  We knew each other from mutual friends and fans in the area.  They had a band and I was playing piano in coffee shops.  They said, “We're gonna to move to Nashville and do the band thing.”  I said, “Well, Nashville sounds cool. I'll move there, too. Whatever."  We wanted to be closer to the music industry.  Definitely worked out for us, I think.

Stephanie:  Is Nashville pretty open to new music?  I know Jack White's there with his Third Man Records.  Has Nashville turned into more of a melting pot these days musically, or are you guys like a band of zombies crashing a Southern Baptist Easter egg hunt?
TJ:  That sounds like a good music video!  Yeah, I definitely think melting pot is the correct term Nashville is in the middle of a boom right now.  So, that's bringing a lot of good music and a lot of ideas and a lot of traffic as well.  Nashville is a very musician friendly city, I will say. Everyone that's there has a tie to the music industry, and we’ve found a home here.  People – especially in the rock and roll community – we help each other because we’re the underdogs of the city and we stand together.  We don’t feel like we’re competitors.  When we first got there, if it weren’t for bands giving us shows and hooking us up with producers and their friends and really liking what we're doing, we’d probably still be trying to get somewhere.

Stephanie:  It's been three years since The Nearly Deads have released any new stuff, right?

TJ:  Oh my gosh! When you say it like that…

Stephanie:  Well, besides the exhaustive touring schedule you guys do year after year!  When I looked at your shows for the past few years, I was blown away!  What’s went down since the last new release?  Have you been building exposure with the touring, have there been band member changes, etc.? Have you been working on this new EP all along while touring?

TJ:  Well, we've had some of the music from the EP finished for like a year, no exaggeration. We piece things together when we can because we're independent. So, when we have money for recording [then] we record, and when we want to do a video [then] we do video.  We do some crowd funding.  It was more that we needed time to tour on Invisible Tonight and do some bigger things. Our guitarist, he got married, so he had that taking up a lot of his year. I wouldn't say we took a break, but when you have to put together an album or EP piece by piece versus all at once, it can take longer.  Behind the scenes a lot of stuff happened, and I guess that’s one of the things I like about being independent.

Stephanie:  The new EP comes out on May 26th, so I know your life is getting crazier by the day with the tour and the press.  I've interviewed three dudes for the blog in the past:  Gus of Young Guns, Ally of the Virginmarys, and Rich of Highly Suspect. I have not interviewed a chick yet,so I want the chick angle.  What do you do when you just need some downtime and you need to away from the craziness? 

TJ:  Oh, I get my nails done. Stuff like that. I go to the gym. I love running and getting that energy out.  I think what centers us as a band is that we're best friends. We truly genuinely love each other and doing what we do more than anything.  I’m excited to tour, but also really excited to spend time with my best friends. We don’t see each other as much as people think. So, when we do get together, that definitely centers me.  There’s a lot of positivity and love.  You know, they're not hired guns.  These guys are behind me 100% in my lyrics and our vision. We all write the music together, but at the end of the day - the lyrics - that’s really me.  So, to have them willing to support the message is 
just so invaluable. 

Stephanie:  That was my next question. Who does most of the lyric writing?  Do the guys chip in every once in a while and collaborate on the lyrics?

TJ:  Yeah.  I usually write most of the lyrics and Steve on guitar, he chimes in.  We also have Jon King, our producer, who will help co-write songs.  The more the merrier as far as I'm concerned. I like getting input. I think all of a sudden, Steve will come up with some line that's just brilliant. I remember we were writing, “My Evil Ways,” and there's the line, “I’ll settle down and rearrange.”  I said, “I need something that rhymes with ‘rearrange’.”  We literally sat around for a half hour and Steve says, “One of these days, I'll act my age." I said, “Oh my gosh! That's genius!"  Like I hadn’t even thought of that!  You get writer’s block and so in your own head…

Stephanie:  The simplest things can't come to you, you're so wrapped up and invested in it. 

TJ:  Absolutely!

Stephanie:  I know this is like choosing your favorite child, but what's your favorite song off 
the new EP?

TJ:  Oh, my goodness. Off the new EP, I'm gonna give it to, “Revenge.”  It was the last song we wrote, and I think it means the most to all of us as a band.  We were on a record label, and now we’re not anymore.  I just feel like living well is the best revenge. That was really my mindset behind it.  I’ve seen a lot of bands go through troubles, and they just quit.  It was really important to say, "You know what? We're still here. This is our revenge. Just doing it."  We might have been held back in the past, but not anymore. So, that one is so much fun to perform live and really the most meaningful.  Hopefully, it will do some big things for us.  It's just one of those songs that I really want to hear on the radio.  We want to hear it everywhere.  This is our song that we're just really proud of.

Stephanie: The publicist sent us here at the blog an advance copy of the new EP and I’ve listened to it the past few days almost constantly. I like every song on the EP, but one stood out to me, though. Songs are condensed diaries to me – very private. The closer of the EP is, "As Good As It Gets.” I thought it was a beautiful moment of vulnerability on an album full of defiance and strength. Are the more painful songs hard to share with an audience or does it serve as therapy? Or do you say on some nights, “I just really don't want to do this shit tonight?”

TJ: It’s definitely therapy. Music is my therapy and always has been. There is one particular song off of Invisible Tonight, called, "In the Morning.” It’s just a slow song, and if we have too many slow songs on some nights, I just don’t feel like doing it. But, it’s also the deepest, most emotional song about a really bad relationship, so I feel like I need to do it because if somebody else is in that position, I need to tell them that I turned out okay. The same way with, "As Good As It Gets"; it means the opposite of what it started meaning. In the beginning, it means, "Oh, is this as good as it gets?" But by end you're like, "Yes it is." It’s like, “This is great. My life is great.” You can be
thankful and you can get over stuff. I feel like I have kind of a responsibility to show people I'm here, I'm strong, I'm fronting this band. I've gotten through what I've gotten through, so whatever you're going through, I want to be that example that life goes on afterwards.

Stephanie: It has to be really gratifying for you to look at an audience and see that the lyrics and music you and the band have painstakingly worked on, that you’re helping other people with the same struggles you’ve been through.

TJ: It's definitely very humbling. It's not something that I think we thought would happen when we formed this band, so it's just kind of like that humbling, grounding moment where you think, "Man, this means something to somebody that's not me." It's a great feeling.

Stephanie: It has to keep you going and motivated.

TJ: It does! People have no idea how much it keeps us motivated.

Stephanie: They'll know after this interview, I hope. I wanted to thank you for my new personal theme song, “My Evil Ways.” The lyrics in that song say, “Maybe I’ll change my evil ways/ Stop taking shots one of these days.” If that line is about shots of alcohol, which one do you prefer shooting?

TJ: Well, we just wanted it to be kind of open, but oh, my goodness, we have a young fan base so I will definitely say drink responsibly. The band and I are of age and do partake. So I have to say Fireball. It’s so typical, but…

Stephanie: I'm a fan of Fireball.

TJ: I also won't say no to Jäger. I feel like Jäger also has that medicinal quality that I feel like is okay to drink before I sing.

Stephanie: I've read that the lead singer of Dorothy never goes on stage without whiskey in her hand. So you know, I think that's perfectly fine.

TJ: I mean, we're from Nashville, so we're not gonna turn it down.

Stephanie: Exactly. Speaking of other chick lead singers, it seems to me that there's aresurgence of bands with female leads; strong, independent, kick-ass women. I’m jealous you’re not coming through Birmingham for the Break Into Action tour with Badseed Rising and Eyes Set to Kill. That's a kick-ass lineup. Have you toured with an all-female lead singer lineup before?

TJ: Yeah, we have. We’ve played a few shows with Halestorm, In This Moment, and Butcher
Babies, and we've toured with Stitched Up Heart and another great band called City of the Weak that's female led. The more the merrier.

Stephanie: Do you ladies have time on tour to just have a beer and hang out?

TJ: We definitely bond. We just went on tour with a band called Valora from Los Angeles. They’re female led with two sisters in the band. One night we all got a campsite. They had an RV and we had our trailer. We love camping on tour and those are our nights when things really happen. The camping nights are like, we cook out, we drink, we play games – we really get to know each other because you're absolutely right, touring is so hectic. We’re so busy because you're working morning, noon, and night. And then you're performing. Then you're with fans. You really don't have a lot of time to meet the other people you're touring with. I love getting to know the people we tour with and I will say Valora was really special. Their mom actually was on tour with them, and I just wanted her to adopt me. She was just so nice and fabulous and they were some very beautiful people.

Stephanie: That sounds fabulous! Do you and the guys hang out at the merch table after a performance to meet the fans?

TJ: Yeah. We hang out at the merch table every night. I actually have to sell the merch on this upcoming tour because the way we travel, we can't bring any additional people with us. I don't mind it because like that's how we make our money, so I'm back there hustling.

Stephanie: And that's how you make a personal connection with the fans. I mean, you can't get much more personal than that.

TJ: And I love meeting the fans, too. You never know what kind of stories you're gonna hear or who you're gonna meet. We've definitely had fans that have become friends – true friends - that we’ve met at shows.

Stephanie:  Here at the blog, we’re big fans of the movie “High Fidelity,” so we love our Top Five lists.  What’s a few bands you listen to on the tour bus or during your down time lately?
TJ:  I'm definitely a huge Garbage fan and I just got Strange Little Birds on vinyl.  I can't stop.  I love Garbage and anything that they put out, I will buy.

Stephanie:  Speaking of strong, independent, kick-ass women…

TJ:  Yeah.  My biggest inspiration is Shirley Manson and Brody Dalle of The Distillers. The Distillers get me pumped up for anything; I'm a big punk rock fan.  I love Alkaline Trio and bands like that. As for the guys in the band, Kevin is a metal head so he'll play Between the Buried and Me.  Javier really likes old school country, like Conway Twitty.  I like Neil Young so we have a very diverse group.  I will say at night when Steve and Josh drive, they do this thing called “Night Crew.” Steve listens to the worst music and we all tease him about it because he will listen to the slowest, dreamiest stuff, like Depeche Mode and Filter at night while he's driving us. We ask, “How are you not falling asleep to this?" I don't get it.

Stephanie:  Speaking of all the other guys, is it heaven or hell traveling with four hot dudes?

TJ:  First of all, they're not hot. It's like they're my brothers. They're like family. So, we look out for each other. And they respect that I'm a female.  They respect that I'm a girl and if I need something, they're on it.  If I need time for my makeup, they give it to me.  If I want to sit, I pretty much get to sit where I want, in the front seat or if I want to sleep on the bed, I get to.  They're gentlemen.

Stephanie:  We’re winding down. I know you've got to go but I've asked every other band that I've interviewed this question.  Of course, they were all dudes but they all had fantastic hair.  So, in the spirit of equal opportunity, I’ll ask you the same question I asked them.  I’ve seen pictures of the band and you all have some pretty epic hair going on.  Who spends the most time on their hair?

TJ:  I spend the most time on my hair by far. But, Steve borrows my hair products and he has the least amount of hair in the band. You can put that in!  But, you know who has the most famous hair? I want to say me because of the blonde and the swoop and the poof and stuff – but it's really Kevin, our bass player.  He has this long hair and uses Garnier Fructis or TRESemmé or whatever, and he just has this mane of long hair he’s known for.
Stephanie:  And he doesn't do a thing to it probably!
TJ:  Nothing!  Nothing!  He hops out of the shower and then it just dries and that’sit.  Not one split end, nothing. He doesn't have to tease it or anything, and then he head bangs and it makes all the pictures look cool.  He’s got the best hair.

Stephanie:  Lastly, my 15-year-old daughter has listened to the advance copy of the new EP and she loved it.  She wants to know who has been a role model to you.  When you first started thinking about going down this long road that is music, who inspired you?
TJ:  That's a good question.  When I was in college and we formed the band, I was studying classical music so I wanted to be on Broadway and do musical theater and opera.  I love Amanda Palmer and the Dresden Dolls.  My first band was just me on piano and a drummer and it was awesome. It was so easy to go to gigs, just the two of us. It was so easy to manage. So, Amanda Palmer definitely is just a massive inspiration.

Stephanie:  She also wanted to know what’s been the craziest moment for the band so far during a concert.  Or maybe tell us a story that you still rehash and laugh about or possibly cringe over.

TJ:  There are so many!  We have so many weird things that happen to us. Okay, I have one.  There was this show we played, in the middle of nowhere.  This girl came up, and was just massively creepy and strange.  She had everyone in the band sign her shirt.  On her shirt were all these tally marks so we asked her, “What are those?" And she says, “It’s every time I’ve went to jail.”  We were like, “Okay.  That’s nice.  We gotta go!”
Stephanie:  We gotta get back on the road right now!

TJ:  Tally marks. I thought that was weird to share. Why?

Stephanie:  Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions tonight!  I know you guys are busy and I know things are about to explode.  I really enjoyed the new EP and can’t wait until it comes out so I can share it with everyone!  And, it was really nice to get a girl's perspective.

TJ:  Oh, yeah. Thank you.  Same.  Great questions.

Again, it truly was a pleasure talking with TJ and I want to thank her and the band for giving us here at the blog this interview.  The new EP is so excellent, I can't wait until everyone can listen to it on May 26th.  In the meantime, here's the video to the latest single off the EP, and my new theme song of the moment, "My Evil Ways."

'Till next time, y'all!


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