The Hollow Roots’ Billy Kitterman Talks New Album, Well-Aged Roots

Since the publication of this interview, the band’s name changed from “The Hollows” to “The Hollow Roots.” All usage has been changed accordingly.

It’s an eventful summer for Nashville blues rockers The Hollow Roots. Singer/guitarist Zach Chadwick, guitarist Colten Delgado, bassist Tyler Stonell, and drummer Billy Kitterman are preparing for the release of their first album with an East Coast tour. Three singles–”Hurricane Blues,” “Cry,” and “Your Lips”–are available now, full of burly blues riffs under Chadwick’s howling vocals.

Ahead of their August 3rd show at DC9, Kitterman was available for an interview on the band’s journey to this point, and the making of their debut record.

So, how’s it going? Getting ready for the tour?

Kitterman: Yeah, we’re heading out tomorrow so we’re rushing around getting stuff ready. Our album actually just got done last night, so we’re trying to print a bunch of copies and make our own packaging and stuff, all in one day. So it’s a little much, but I think we’re going to get it done.

So it’s all self-produced? All the materials?

Yeah, I was working at a screen printing shop, which is attached to a studio. The studio is called South by Sea. In Nashville, since music is such a big thing, all these businesses have their own studios and stuff. So I worked at a screen printing shop for like a year and a half, and after a little bit I asked if I could use the studio. I put in some extra hours, they let us use the studio, but they only gave us 24 hours. So we had to track all eight songs in 24 hours. So all the material we’ve been playing for five years, but we finally got to track it.

We tracked it live, because we had limited amount of time, we all tracked at the same time, and then went back and did vocals. We all went to recording industry school–two of us are music business majors, the other two were audio majors. So they have been mixing it along with another friend of ours. We’ve been doing it all ourselves, so it has taken a little longer. It’s taken a little less than a year, but we’re happy with how it’s turning out.

Will that be available on the tour?

We’re printing these copies, we’re trying to print 60 or 70 hopefully. And then, yeah, we’ll just have them with us. When we get back we’re going to redo the artwork, get legit artwork and legit packaging, put it out on the internet as a whole thing.

How would you say the perspective of being music business and audio students has influenced you guys as a band?

Well, [laughs] I wouldn’t say our education has helped much. It’s crazy, when we were going to school a few years ago, the music industry was kind of turned on its head, you know, just how people make money and how it all works. They couldn’t really teach us a lot of relevant information, because at the time the music industry was in shambles, people were just trying to figure out how to make money. So all the information that they were trying to teach us was kind of outdated.

But I would say most of what we use, like most of my knowledge that I use to build the band, is just from being here in Nashville and being part of a music scene and just trying to do what the people ahead of us have been doing, and honestly just winging it, just like everybody else is. I mean, no one really knows what they’re doing. Everyone is kind of trying their best to do what they think will help the band the most. I would say, because I do most of the social media and the business stuff, and I think I’ve just learned that on my own from my bands that I’ve been in in the past, and just seeing how other bands do it around here. Just trial and error, a lot.

What is it like as a rock band in Nashville, and what is the scene like there?

Everyone thinks Nashville is just country, but that’s just one little side of Nashville, that I guess brought the industry here originally. Now that the infrastructure for music industry exists here, there are already labels, studios, and everything, all kinds of music are flooding here. And I think rock is definitely more common because it’s southern and it’s roots-based, just like country is. So the rock scene here is good, it’s always been really underground here, house shows all over the place, DIY venues, and now it’s coming to the forefront and all these rock bands have been moving here. I think it’s good, I appreciate the rock here because it’s all roots-based, it’s blues-based, instead of being super progressive and indie or alternative. It’s more like rock-and-roll based. And now because we live in 2017, the indie and alternative is kind of being mixed in with the bluesy old stuff.

That’s something I wanted to ask you about, because on your Facebook page, there’s this tagline at the top that says “old meets new.” What does that mean to all of you?

That actually is a line that wasn’t really thought about, I was just trying to put something down quick when we were making the Facebook page, but now that it’s there, I see it and I’m like, ‘yeah, i guess that is pretty good.’ Because our music, if you listen to it, it’s got the blues stuff, and it’s kinda Led Zeppelin and Sabbath stuff, but then it has these modern overtones, and it has some alternative influences definitely thrown on top of it. So the mix is kind of old meets new. 

You’ve put out three singles so far, you’ve got an eight song album coming out, and I heard that you also have done a string of music videos. Had you ever done videos before?

No, we had no clue what the fuck we were doing. That’s the other thing that’s great about Nashville, is that all these people who are trying to get their entertainment portfolio off the ground are willing to do their work for very cheap and help each other out.

So we were at Guitar Center one day, and we were talking to the door guy, he mentioned his video production, we looked up his stuff, and it was super legit. We just hit him up, and we had no clue what we were doing. The studio that these videos take place in is the same studio we recorded in, so I was able to use it for another day because I work there. It’s a cool room, it’s big, barren, exposed bricks, really tall ceilings. And we just went in there, and we cleaned it up, made the set ourselves, put some lamps up, had the stuff in the background. And then Nick, the guy that we met, came in and did the whole thing with two cameras. We played each song three times.

At first we didn’t really know what to do, or we didn’t know how to act, but then we were just like, ‘okay, what if we just pretend we’re playing a show.’ So that’s what we did, and the videos came out way better than we ever could have imagined. We were like, ‘wow, these are actually pretty good.’ You know, because we didn’t know what we were doing, we were just like, ‘I hope these look good, I don’t know if I look cool or not,’ you know? But yeah, they turned out really well, we’re proud of them.

What about touring? Is that something new?

We’ve been a band for like five years, and in Nashville, we play about two or three times a week. There’s enough opportunities to play. So we’ve been doing that for the past few years, and then in the past year, or year and a half we’ve been doing little weekend stints here and there to cities around us, but this is our first real tour. It’s two weeks, and we’re going all the way to the east coast. We’ve been waiting to do this since we were, like, ten years old, you know? So we’re stoked that we’re actually finally getting to do it. Zach’s from Delaware, I’m from Maryland, Colten’s from Florida, Tyler’s from South Carolina, so we’re hitting all of our hometowns, and hitting some towns in between.

I’ve heard the lineup you have now is a more recent development–what’s the story there?

The Hollow Roots is mainly Zach, the singer. It’s his project, it’s his music, he started as a singer-songwriter, and we’ve all been best friends, and played with Zach as The Hollow Roots for the past five or six years. Just at house shows or whatever, nothing too serious, just playing parties. And we’ve all gone in and out of helping him out, playing with him here and there. When we graduated we decided to commit to this band. So me and Tyler, the bassist, and I’m the drummer, we played with Zach the most in college. Colten has always gone to our shows and been friends with us, but was never really in the band, and he joined within the past two years, or year and a half. So the final lineup with Colten is a year and a half, but the only difference is Colton was made an official member.

With the lineup cementing over time and adding people officially to the band, but having been together so long, has the dynamic of the band changed over time?

At first it was very much like, Zach had the songs, and he taught us them, and we would play them. I feel like now we’re all more involved in the music. Zach still writes all the music, like he’ll come up with the initial ideas, but we definitely put a lot of our own styles and flavors and tweak the songs to all of our styles. You can hear all of each other’s influences in the music. Zach is a very blues rock, classic rock guitarist, and Colten, the other lead guitarist grew up listening to Acacia Strain, and stuff like that, Warped Tour music, he’s very–not like a metal guitarist, but very progressive guitarist. So if you listen to the album you can hear a lot of Colten’s progressive lead lines over top of the music while Zach is playing really bluesy licks. So I think their different guitar playing really intertwines together, and they make it work really well like that.

What about you personally? Who are your biggest drumming influences, or your favorite drummers?

I was an emo kid, of course. So I listen to a lot of Fall Out Boy and Paramore. Zac Farro from Paramore, and Chad Smith from the Chili Peppers, always listen to him. It’s cool, I moved to Nashville, and didn’t realize that Paramore was from here, and since I’ve been here I’ve run into Zac Farro so many times. It’s crazy that when I was in high school I’d go home and drum to Paramore every day after school, drum to their CDs, and then I’m here in Nashville and I meet him.

That’s so cool, tell me more about that.

Paramore is from here, they’re one of the biggest acts out of here, and I just see them around town. That’s the thing about Nashville, you see so many people just around town in their everyday life. I’ve run into him at a coffee shop, I ran into him at a record store, he was picking through records. Just the other night I was at a venue and Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes was just chilling. I’ve seen Patrick Carney from the Black Keys just hanging out. Just hanging out with their friends, you know? Matt Shultz from Cage the Elephant lives around here, and it’s cool to see him in public, they’re not dressed up or anything, they’re just being normal people. I think that’s the cool thing about Nashville, I don’t think people like that are afraid to go out in public. People don’t harass them, you know? So I like that part about Nashville.

What are your guys’ favorite covers to do?

We end up having to do quite a bit of covers around here, because those are the only gigs that actually pay in Nashville. We actually just did three hours at a Broadway bar. One that we’ve played forever is “Helter Skelter,” by the Beatles. We always do some Zeppelin, we do “Whole Lotta Love,” we do “Dazed and Confused.” We do some Hendrix, we do “Fire” by Hendrix. Then we do some modern poppy songs, we like doing Maroon 5, “The Sun,” and “Sunday Morning.” Those are our favorite covers to do. 

Are there any tour dates in particular you’re looking forward to?

DC9 will probably be the best one because me and Zach are from the DC area, so I think we’ll have a lot of people come out. DC9 is a really good club. Or, yeah, I’m sure you know about it.

[laughs] I actually, I’ve been to a lot of DC venues but I’ve never been to DC9.

We’re playing with a really good local band in DC called the Duskwhales. One time when I was home about three or four years ago, I randomly went out to the Rock & Roll Hotel, didn’t know what was going on, and the Duskwhales played, and I met them, and somehow four years later I managed to stay in touch with them. I asked them to play, because I remember them being so good.

Are there any Nashville bands you guys are in the same circles with we should be on the lookout for?

We just played a show with this band called Sweettalker, and they’re so good, I can’t even describe their music, it’s kind of all over the place, but they’re really good, and we’re about to play another show with them coming up. They just got one of their songs featured on the independent radio here, Lightning 100. There’s another band called New Suede that’s very Zeppelin-classic-rock-sounding, they have keyboards and stuff. They’re young, but they’re doing very well. There’s a two-piece called Brother Man, they’re really hard hitting, and they have so much energy on stage. They’re really fun to watch. We’re about to play a show with them. Lightning 100, the independent rock radio here, is becoming pretty big, and they’re really good at playing a lot of good local music, getting local bands featured.


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