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Shenandoah talk about new album ‘Reloaded’ with Preshias Harris for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Shenandoah talk about new album ‘Reloaded’

‘Live’ album, plus 3 brand new songs

As I sat down with Marty Raybon and Mike McGuire, it was hard to believe that Shenandoah are celebrating thirty years of a career that gave us hits such as “Two Dozen Roses”, “Church on Cumberland Road” and “Next to You, Next to Me” among others.  They are known for their matchless harmonies led by frontman Raybon, and founding member McGuire.

Even harder to believe: it’s been twenty years since Shenandoah released a country album.  That all changes with RELOADED, available everywhere March 16.  The new album, released by BMG, marks a new chapter in Shenandoah’s storied career.

Shenandoah are known for their dynamic live shows and the new album contains nine of the band’s best-loved tunes recorded live while on tour in 2017. RELOADED also includes three brand new bonus tracks produced by Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts.

I caught up with Mike McGuire and Marty Raybon in Nashville a few days ago to talk about their decades-long career and the album.

I started by reminding them that its almost thirty years since Shenandoah received their first CMA Awards. Now, years later, they are still being told, ‘You guys are the reason I got into music.’  I wanted to know how that made them feel.

Marty responded, “It’s really a special feeling, any time you hear anyone make a comment like that.  I remember how it was. We had a single out, and we said, ‘You know what? We got a show and we’re gonna be opening for George Jones!’ or ‘We’re gonna be opening up for Merle Haggard!’ It would give you the opportunity to be able to visit with them and tell them how you felt about them and what their music meant to you. 

“Nowadays,” he added, “you watch Aldean and Luke Btyan and Miranda Lambert get up and sing ‘Sunday in the South’ and you hear [artists] doing ‘Ghost in This House’ and ‘Church on Cumberland Road’ on The Voice and you get to meet them.  It’s actually flattering. It’s certainly a respectful thing, because I know that when I had the opportunity to tell Merle Haggard and George Jones the same thing at different times in different venues, it was certainly coming from the approach of gratitude because someone had literally moved and changed my life to the point that I truly appreciated that.”

I asked them to sum up, in one word, what it was like, working with Jay DeMarcus on the new album.

Marty quickly said, “A treat!”

“Lucky,” added Mike. “We were very lucky!”

I asked Mike how it came about, Jay producing the new songs.

“Jay called me,” said Mike.  “He’d heard that Marty had rejoined the band after being gone for 17 years and he called to ask me if it was true. I said, yeah, it’s true. He’s been back for a few months now. So he said, ‘Look, I’m a huge Shenandoah fan and so are the other guys in Rascal Flatts.  I’d love to take you guys in the studio and record some stuff and try to get a deal for you guys.’  He said that the first song they ever sang together as Rascal Flatts was ‘Church on Cumberland Road’ and that was our first number one. 

“So anyway, we figured out a time when we could come to Nashville. We were looking for songs and we went to ASCAP one day. Actually, we stayed there two days. We probably listened to three or four hundred songs. We picked five songs and took them over to BMG and they really liked what we had. They asked how we’d feel about putting those songs on the album but also including a live recording.

“We’ve always wanted to do a live record, even back in our early days, so that worked out perfect for us. So not only were we going to be able to release new music that was recorded in the studio, we were finally going to record a live album and include that on this album as well.”

I said that one of the album’s new songs, ‘That’s Where I Grew Up,’ is an intense story song.  I asked if they’d known who the writers were and what was their first reaction on hearing this drop-to-your-knees ballad.

Marty smiled and said, “I knew good and well, when I heard it for the first time, that was Neil Thrasher, and of course he was one of the writers. [Note, Neil’s co-writers on the song were Ashley Gorley and Kelley Lovelace.]  The first time I heard it, I thought, man, this is one of those kind of songs that make an album a great album.  When Jay DeMarcus asked us what we wanted to do as far as direction, where we wanted to go with it and stuff like that, the one thing we’ve always truly felt about our career and the success that we’ve had, was a lyric-driven song that painted a picture and told a story, that was positive.  This song had all the ingredients. It was a very, very moving song and all of us realized that, look, if that song moves you to the point of understanding, then that’s a very emotional song and surely somebody else is going to feel the same way that you did.

“Really and truly, Preshias, we’re no different than anybody else when it comes to listening to a song. Someone could say, ‘I listened to ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’ and, I tell you, I think that’s one of the most incredible songs in the world.’ And I do too. But the preference is, this is what it says to me. And [they might be] two completely different stories. But that’s what makes it commercial.  And that’s what this song is, because everybody, individually, can take themselves back to a certain place in their life, whether it’s their mom where she’s having you lean up against the wall in the pantry and she’s putting marks on the wall. Measuring to see how tall you were at eight years old.  Or whether it’s a case of beer on a river bank and before it’s all over with, you get yourself in trouble, you roll your truck, stuff like that, you only made it out with the grace of God that kept you from dying. Or there’s a stormy relationship with the one you truly love, you realize that you needed her more than you needed your selfishness. And that song has every bit of that in there. And it’s a tremendous song.”

 “In Nashville, Tennessee,” Mike noted, “Every publishing company in town has got ten songwriters that are real pros that know how to write songs. So when you go into a meeting looking for the songs for you, every time they play you a song, it’s always a really good song. They’re pros; they know how to write good material. But you’re always hoping for that one song that somehow sticks its head up above the really good songs and that’s the way this song here was. I remember having the same feeling as we did when they played us ‘I Want To Be Loved Like That’ the first time, or when they played us ‘Two Dozen Roses’ and ‘Sunday in the South.’ All the big, big hits we had, there was a feeling we had when we heard them the first time. I remember having that feeling about this song, so we’re really excited about this song and we can’t wait for the world to hear it.”

I asked Mike and Marty how hard it was to narrow down to just the three new songs that are on the album.

“We actually had recorded five,” recalled Mike, “and the record label only wanted us to put three on the album.”

“That was hard,” said Marty.

Mike nodded in agreement.  “For me, that was the hardest part,” he said.  “But I have to say this, even back in our early days, when you hear a song like ‘Sunday in the South,’ there are no dissenters. Everybody loves it! It’s easy for everybody to vote ‘Yeah’ when you’ve got a song like that. I think that’s been a huge key to our success. We’ve always recorded great songs and we like to think we’ve continued that with this album here. As I said before, you’re always hoping that a great song sticks its head up above the rest, because they’re all really good, but once they do… once they’ve stuck their head up, you go, ‘okay, that’s the one right there.’ 

“Another thing that was hard, we had maybe eight or ten songs [on the short list] and there was another ballad that was as good as this one. Some of our crew guys were like, ‘How did you not record that song?’ and I said we couldn’t do but one ballad. Which one are you gonna knock off the list?

I asked them if they considered putting that song on the album as an extra bonus.

“We would have,” said Mike, “if the label would have let us.”

I said it would have been another chance to hear Marty’s ‘honey-soaked’ vocals. “That’s what you are,” I told Marty. “You’re a honeysuckle.”

Marty laughed and said, “Well, I’ve been wondering what I’ve been. Now I know!”

‘Noise,’ one of the other new cuts on the album, is also Shenandoah’s latest single and is currently impacting Country radio. You can find the single at iTunes and other digital outlets or via the band’s official website, www.shenandoahband.com. The website also includes updates and venue additions to The Shenandoah 30th Anniversary Tour.

Over the years, Shenandoah has chalked up twenty-six songs on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart and thirteen Number Ones. They’ve also received numerous awards, including ACM Vocal Group of the Year. Their collaboration with Alison Krauss, ‘Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart,’ won them the CMA’s Vocal Event of the Year and a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.  RELOADED and the new single, ‘Noise,’ will keep Shenandoah on the front line of Country music makers.

RELOADED track listing
1. Next To You, Next To Me (LIVE)
2. If Bubba Can Dance, I Can Too (LIVE)
3. The Moon Over Georgia (LIVE)
4. Mama Knows (LIVE)
5. Sunday In The South (LIVE)
6. I Want To Be Loved Like That (LIVE)
7. Ghost In The House (LIVE)
8. Two Dozen Roses (LIVE)
9. The Church On Cumberland Road (LIVE)
10. Noise
11. That's Where I Grew Up
12. Little Bit of Livin’

“The new music has given flames to embers that have burned since we started in 1987. It's been 20 years since our last recordings. The new music is fresh, up to date and allows us to continue where we left off. We feel like we still have so much to say when it comes to music and it gives us the joy of sharing it with country music fans all over the world." -Shenandoah lead singer Marty Raybon.

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Preshias Harris for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

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