The skies were heavily overcast, rain pelting the already soaked streets of Seattle, as Lloyd Buchanan took the stage with the six-time, GRAMMY nominated band, The Alabama Shakes. As a keyboardist and supporting vocalist with the band, Buchanan still managed to find incredible beauty and intention in the rain that day. An intention and clarity that manifests itself in everything he and the Shakes bring to each musical performance.
After wrapping a soul stirring, blues infused, roof raising musical set during 107.7 the end’s Deck The Hall Ball at Key Arena in Seattle, Washington, True North Story® co-host, Tama Fulton caught up with Buchanan and the band backstage to gain a greater insight into the guiding influences driving the musical powerhouse called The Alabama Shakes. Later that evening, Buchanan joined both True North Story® co-hosts, Fulton and John Hudson Messerall in the studio, for a much deeper conversation about living his True North Story®. The following interview is taken from an episode of the True North Story® podcast series:
Bold: Lloyd, I think a lot of people who are in similar situations that have talents and passions, dreams and abilities…. What helps guide you through the lean times? What did that look like for you, as you knew you had this tremendous talent and ability, but yet maybe it wasn’t generating revenue right away for you? How would you encourage others who may be in similar situation?
Lloyd Buchanan: Whatever I do, I want to do to further music in my life. I came to a place where it’s like, if I want to do music, and if I want to have a career out of music, perhaps everything that I do should focus itself towards that. So yeah, there are some lean times, when I won’t be touring, and there might not be a lot of session work. But part of what I’ve resolved to be doing, and found a lot of success in, is when you’re not out touring with the Alabama Shakes, how are you doing back home, with the fan base and the audience you have at home? So whether that be, Hey! I want to do a piano gig in Atlanta, or writing for other artists like I have been doing or doing arrangements for vocals for other albums. You find different avenues within the same field, because I think part of the issue that also happened for me is that in those times, when I was working for AT&T, I think I lost an edge. I could feel it, whenever you go to play, or I wasn’t able to be focused in a particular area. And I notice now, that when I sit down at a piano, and begin to write, it comes at an ease and I’m not tired of trying to process, and so one of the encouragements that I have is to continue to find those opportunities still within the same field. Even if it’s for a short period of time, ’cause I have found that I have even sharpened my own skills in teaching; but it needs to be really focused around the same thing…music.
Bold: So when you’re finding time to be creative, or to spend time with music, or writing or work on your vocals, how do you personally square that with the world? Which is the day to day stuff we deal with and find a slot of time and somewhere to disappear for awhile to go get in touch with that creativity and get that focus back. How do you balance that?
Lloyd Buchanan: Man, I will tell you it’s something, I’m still learning. I’ll be honest about that. Having a younger son, who’s 4, specifically, this year being on the road as much as we have been with The Alabama Shakes, it’s having to be intentional. I think that’s something I’m having to learn and really practice this year, to be intentional about every step. So the short answer is that we need to learn to be intentional with our time. And that’s not something I’m gonna sit here and tell you that I’ve mastered. It’s something I’m still working on and learning.
Bold: Tell us how you met the Shakes and how that happened? What transpired there?
Lloyd Buchanan: Well, at the time I met the Shakes, I was working for AT&T! Yes, I was (laughter). Somebody came into buy a phone. No…let me stop (more laughter). I met the Shakes through and it’s amazing how things flow, and I, as a person of faith I do say it’s Providence, but simply because I was working on a project in 2010, 2011. I was working on a project with a band out of London called, The Heavy. And they have had some success, and I made a great connection with their manager, I had a really great time, I mean just a great time, doing once again, vocal arrangements and production work for their album, The Glorious Dead. Time passed, and I’m working for AT&T, hustling and playing gigs over the weekends, and I get this email from the manager of The Heavy. One, he wanted to say we’re ready to work on another project, we want you back on the project. Secondly, we have some friends of ours who are looking for someone to come in and be a musician, and really help in this area for vocals to accompany Brittany (Howard, The Alabama Shakes‘ lead singer). They’ve been looking so I just recommended you and, here’s their manager Kevin, and kinda handed us off and we started a conversation. So Kevin called, who is the manager of the Shakes, and within a week I had gone up and met with Brittany and brought two other singers with me, but that night we were sitting in Brittany’s house, it was like, yeah, she knew, we knew this going to be the good stuff.
Bold: Did you know, Lloyd? I mean, did you leave and you just knew? You had a feeling that this is meant to be?
Lloyd Buchanan: You know. I did. I did. Man, the moment we started one song! As we were sitting down there, and it was, um, Don’t Wanna Fight No More. That one, was one of the ones we were kinda listening to, but didn’t know where she was gonna go with it. And that night when we started singing it, and it all started jelling together, was that one. That one, and Hold On….
Bold: Speaking of Hold On, that album (Boys & Girls, 2012) had three GRAMMY nominations and John and I want to say congratulations on SIX! (Sound & Color, 2015) Tell me what that’s like?
Lloyd Buchanan: You know what? I don’t think many of us slept because it was so exciting! It’s great to be honored by your peers. It’s one thing to think your music is touching people. It’s another thing for your audience and listeners and fans to say, this has really touched me in a particular way. It’s one other thing for your peers, your musician friends, who are professionals in the area to say yeah, you guys have done it. It’s not something, it’s not something to be arrogant about, but it’s really something to be humbled by, you know? You guys thought that much of the material and production and engineering, that you thought, that we should, you know, we receive that. I don’t take that lightly. I know I speak for the band that none of them take that lightly. Just a bunch of small town people, doing what they love and to have the industry itself honor your hard work, yeah.
Be sure and tune in to watch the 58th Annual GRAMMY Awards LIVE, Monday, February 16, 2016 on CBS.
Listen to our complete interview with Lloyd Buchanan of the Alabama Shakes Tuesday, February 9, HERE. And to hear other amazing True North Story® guests, subscribe to the full podcast series on iTunes and visit www.truenorthstory.com Follow us on Twitter: @truenorthstory, @tamafulton, @johnmesserall
Photos courtesy of Lloyd Buchanan
Tama Fulton is a creative media maven, on-air radio broadcaster, feature writer, live events host, keynote speaker and executive communications strategist. She co-founded Callisto Media Consulting (www.callistomediaconsulting.com) with her childhood friend and business partner, John Hudson Messerall, to harness their mutual talents, helping raise audience awareness in two key messaging areas, live event presentation and written content creation. Tama and John are also the hosts of the recently launched podcast series titled, “True North Story,” which focuses on inspiring, encouraging and motivating others to search for their own True North Story, by offering hope and engagement with the extraordinarily unique, yet distinctively different voices of their guests. Her passion for health and wellness also knows no bounds, as a triathlete, she has completed in several half marathons, participated in numerous cycling tours and is a certified yoga instructor who believes in the power of breath. Tama’s first grade teacher once accused her of being a daydreamer and she still owns this observation, claiming it to be her single greatest compliment! Born and raised in Chicago, she is a lover of all things “Windy City,” an Arizona State Sun Devil alum and a strong believer in irony, especially as a white-knuckle flyer who married a commercial airline pilot.
John Hudson Messerall is a creative visionary, messaging specialist, branding consultant, entrepreneur and wordsmith with 20 years of experience creating unique and unparalleled stories for his clients.
As co-founder of Callisto Media Consulting, (www.callistomediaconsulting.com) along with his childhood friend and business partner, Tama Fulton, John works with thought leaders, corporate executives and creative visionaries, assisting with strategic direction, awareness initiatives and the creation of authentic messaging and branding designed to differentiate and resonate with multiple audiences and key demographic groups.
John is also a co-host of the recently launched podcast series titled, “True North Story,” which focuses on inspiring, encouraging and motivating others to search for their own True North Story, by offering hope and engagement with the extraordinarily unique, yet distinctively different voices of their guests.
John’s love for art is another passion, from acting both in film and on stage, to writing several dramatic screenplays and television pilots, including authoring his first fictional novel.
As a Chicago native, John is a lover of deep-dish style pizza, all local sports teams (except the White Sox), an alumnus of both Valpo (undergrad) and Mercer (graduate) and is a huge proponent of American classic cinema. He is willing to engage anyone with whom he can share his knowledge, while learning even more about film noir, pre-code and the silents over a great cup of coffee.