- - Monday, June 19, 2017

Sevendust burst onto the music scene in the mid-1990s and changed the look and sound of modern heavy metal. Led by charismatic singer Lajon Witherspoon, Sevendust quickly amassed a loyal, hard-rocking following that saw the band’s first three albums all going gold (500,000-plus sold).  An amazing feat considering they were on a small label.

To mark the two-decade anniversary of their self-titled debut album, Sevendust is hitting the road to play that original opus in order. Before the band hits up Rams Head Live! in Baltimore on Wednesday, I caught up with Mr. Witherspoon to talk about the joy of looking back and why you may catch him antiquing when he’s not on stage.

Question: Did you ever imagine when the band started in 1997 you would be doing this 20 years later?

Answer: Absolutely not, man. What a blessing to still be on tour and say, “Hey, we’ve done it for 20 years and we’re still here.” To be able to do these shows and only play the first album is definitely a monumental thing for us.

Q: What is the secret to keeping the band it all together?

A: We love each other, man. We’re brothers. So we fight. Somebody will call somebody else a douchebag. At the end of the day, we look at how far we’ve come and realize it would be foolish for us to ever take this for granted.

We have a family. And not just a family at home, the family that has grown up with us and supported us through the years. We can’t let them down.

Q: How has the band evolved over two decades?

A: We’re grown men; we were kids when we started. Going through life, there are things we’ve all gone through — life’s ups and downs. It’s not all roses, but those things that we’ve gone through have made us stronger as band.

Q: Who is coming out to the shows these days?

A: It’s crazy. I’m 44 years old, and I look into the crowd and see the guy who started out with us in 1997 on the first album, and he now has four or five kids too. And his oldest kid is there. That kid has kids.

It’s an incredible feeling to look out and see all those beautiful people and the different generations of the Sevendust family growing up. What more could you ask for?

Q: Are you playing your debut album start to finish in order on this tour?

A: We play the album’s first song all the way down, with a couple surprises here and there.

Q: Did you discover anything when you revisited the album?

A: We discovered things that made us say, “Why the hell did we write that song?” (Laughs) It’s funny when we look at each other and say, “Is that song cool?” Somebody might say no. Somebody might say yeah. But it’s fun to go back in the archives and do those songs we wrote when we were first looking at each other.

I remember when we wrote “Black,” [guitarist] John Connolly didn’t even have a guitar strap. We’ve come a long way.

Q: Do you have favorite songs from that album you like to play?

A: “Black” is one of my favorites. “Praise” is in the set, and that is a great song we normally don’t get to play that often. “Face to Face” [is another].  

It’s cool for me to go back. All of them right now are my favorites because of the nostalgia. This really takes me back to a time where everything was a little bit more care-free.

Q: What is the difference between you on- and off-stage?

A: I’m that mild-mannered guy, but when we get on that stage, I think there is a magical force, and everyone sort of turns into a superhero. I get my gear on and I just go to battle.

When you hit that stage, something comes on. It creates a different kind of energy.

Q: What do you do with your downtime when out on the road?

A: I like to go antique shopping. I’m a “mantiquer” myself. My wife always gets mad at me when the bus comes back and I am pulling things out of the bottom that I bought. (Laughs)

I got all kinds of crazy stuff. I’ve got a globe that lights up. I think it’s from the 1940s and was one of the first ones that lit up. The map and names of places on it are different because it’s so old. I have fun in finding old things and the history behind them. The other day I picked up a 1971 videocamera for my wife’s aunt. I cleaned it up and got it working. It’s got the light and everything.

I’m good friends with Frank [Fritz] from “American Pickers.” We are always on the phone talking about exchanging stuff.

Q: If fans want to run into you before the Baltimore show, should they look in the antique shops?

A: Oh, for sure. Or they will find me walking around enjoying the city, looking at the views and soaking it in.

Q: Apart from the tour, is Sevendust working on new music?

A: We signed a new record deal with Rise Records out of Portland, Oregon, and it is amazing. We have been sending music back and forth. Things are starting to come together.

The magic happens when we all get in one room. It’s like we are those 17-, 18- and 19-year-olds [again], doing what they love. And that’s music.

Sevendust plays Rams Head Live! in Baltimore Wednesday. Tickets are available by going to AXS.com.

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