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Everything Fell Into Place For Sevendust When They Stopped Trying To Write A #1 Song

24 April 2019 | 6:18 pm | Brendan Crabb

Metal mainstays Sevendust are satisfied to have played the long game, rather than merely tasting fleeting success, as guitarist John Connolly explains to Brendan Crabb.

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There seemed a time when Atlanta metallers Sevendust had withdrawn from more Australian tours than they'd successfully completed; an unfortunate reputation which doesn't elude guitarist John Connolly ahead of a return to these shores. “It was the most frustrating thing in the world,” he says when The Music raises the topic. “This was a couple of different agents and a couple of different managers ago, and I remember having a conversation with them. I was like, 'Look, if we're going to keep doing this, just don't book the tour. You're the ones who are looking at the numbers, routing and all that stuff.'

“There was always an excuse and a reason, and hopefully we've got all that behind us because we've had a couple of successful trips Down Under. It looks like we're going to make a habit of this at least once every album cycle. The whole [music] business is completely different. But the thing that still stays the same is the fans that come to the shows, that sing the songs and want to be part of that live experience. That part's never changed – that part is as strong as ever. And that's the thing that gets you excited about really being in a band.”

Over the past two decades, the quintet have established a loyal following Down Under and elsewhere, regularly issuing new albums (the latest being 2018's well received All I See Is War) and delivering energetic live shows. They have Gold certification plaques on their walls and are a Grammy-nominated act, but haven't enjoyed household name status like some of their late '90s/early '00s peers.

Descriptors like 'consistent' are often applied to Sevendust's brand of melodic metal. Does the axeman ever glance at their contemporaries and wonder why they achieved greater commercial gains? Or is he grateful for the level of success Sevendust have attained? “I think a little of both. Because it's funny, we're super grateful that we've been consistent and 20-some odd years ago we started this thing, [and now] we're still the same five guys and we still have that same passion to make the music.

“You look at some bands – look at Creed, they're a great example. The Alter Bridge and the Tremonti guys are dear friends of mine. But you look at Creed, and Creed doesn't exist anymore. You look at a band like Drowning Pool, who was the biggest band in the world there for a minute, and they're playing smaller clubs and bars now. You look at a lot of those bands that were really big when we first started out... Limp Bizkit, there's another great example. You couldn't get a bigger band on earth at one point in time than that band. And now, I don't even know who's in the band. So I'd almost rather have it be this way.

“There was a point in time where we were like, 'Why aren't we bigger? Why aren't we as big as some of our friends?' But when I look around [now] I go, 'Where are all our friends at?'” he laughs. “A lot of those bands are gone. So I'd rather have it this way. I'd rather have a career and be able to have that consistency, that slow burn and slow build. 

"As much as anyone wants to have a #1 song, now that I look back at it I think, 'At least I still love what I do, and at least I still get to do it.'”

There have certainly been moments though where they've re-evaluated their future. In early 2006, the band were off contract and bankrupt, and guitarist Clint Lowery had temporarily left the ranks. The remaining members posed themselves some tough questions, namely, 'Do we still want to do this?' After all responded in the affirmative, they opted to stay the course. “I think once we survived that, and once we got Clint back in and adapted to the new, what the music business is, and once we were writing the songs for the right reasons as opposed to trying to get a #1 song... We were like, 'Let's stop trying to write a #1 song, let's just try to write a really good one,'” Connolly explains. “And I think everything fell into place.”