Interview: Great White’s Jack Russell

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If you are not aware, Jack Russell released a new album in January, He Saw It Coming.  It’s is a really great rock album, one of his best works in my opinion.  I had a chance to sit down and chat candidly with Jack about the new album, touring and life.  We will be catching Jack live later this year at Rock N Skull Festival in Pekin, IL.  So expect to see full coverage in October!  Until then, check out his new album, pick up a copy, get out and see him as tour dates get announced and check out the interview below.


YesterdazeNews: I’ve had a chance to listen the new album, “He Saw It Coming” a few times and I think it’s full of really great raw, get-back-to-the-basics kind of music. What made you kind of decide to go back that direction, because it’s much more of bluesy style and just good, gritty rock?

Jack Russell: You know, it wasn’t really a conscious decision. What it was, was the collaboration between me and Robby Lochner. That’s what really set the tone of the album. You know, it’s like, when Mark and I wrote together, we had a certain sound. And then when I wrote for my solo albums, it had a certain sound. It’s all gonna be, you know, a lot like anything I’ve done, or reminiscing of anything I’ve done, just because of my voice is, I would think is pretty distinct. I mean, you pretty much know my voice. When you hear it, it’s like, “Yeah, it’s Jack Russell,” you know.

So, you know, no matter what, it’s gonna always have that flavor. And you know, I’ve written a lot of music for the band over the years too. So, you know, it’s gonna have that element and the melodies and such. But with Robby we had very much the same influences but yet different ones too. So, the collaboration of both of us, and this really was a collaborative work. I mean, I wrote a lot of music and Robby wrote lyrics and we switched to see whatever we came up with whatever idea. If it worked, we kept it, it didn’t matter. I wasn’t like, “No, I’m the singer. I’m writing every single lyric,” you know?

Or, “No, I’m the guitar player, I’ll write the guitar parts,” you know? It was different, I mean it was like, you know, I’d come up with an idea and I can’t play, so I gotta go, “All right. Do this…” Or whatever, you know? Like…for like “She Moves Me,” so you gotta figure that out and expand on it. So, it was a…you know, it worked really, really, well. We both have our heart and souls in this album, and Tony as well, you know. You know, I know everybody says this, everyone says this when they have a new album, goes, “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

I hate to sound ridiculous but I really do believe that, and I… The next record, I think, that was my next best that I’ve done would be my solo album, “For You” as a collection of songs. You know, I think this record is really, really, diverse. It has a lot of elements that I’ve never…we’ve never had, you know, in my previous work. The vocals are big and the harmonies are big and we really went for kind of a retro-modern feel. That’s what we were going for. I mean, we weren’t trying to write like that, but sonically. You know what I mean?

Writing’s just…a song is a song. You know, you start with an idea and either it turns into a beautiful ice-sculpture where it turns into a turd. And so, you keep the ice sculpture, you toss the turd, you know? We didn’t waste our time, though, on a lot of songs. Like if we’ve had something we knew wasn’t working, right away we go, “That’s not worth following. Throw it away.” You know, a lot of people will come with an idea and they’ll just, “Okay, let’s make this into a great song.” And you really can’t make a good tune out of a bad idea, it just doesn’t work.

YDN: And I think that’s a fantastic way to do the writing because out of that stuff that I’ve heard, it is more genuine and more enjoyable for me and I didn’t know the backstory, and to hear that about this album, it kind of explains why I really loved what you did. Because if you as an artist don’t love what you do, why do it?

Jack: Oh, absolutely. I mean, it’s one of these things where I’ve always thought if nobody buys it and nobody likes it and I love it, at least I’ll go broke with some integrity, and I’ll have something I like to listen to. You know what I mean? I write for myself firstly.

YDN: So, did your writing process take a long time or did you already have stuff out there that you’ve kind of been messing around with for a while that you thought would be good at some point, or was it just kind of, “Let’s sit down and write it and work it out from there”?

Jack: Well, you know, Robby and I started writing almost immediately after we met. And we wrote… Let’s see. A few songs, one was “Hard Habit” and that was released just a while ago, just for the hell of it, you know what I mean? Let people know that we’re…you know, I was around and still making music and planning on having a record out. And we recorded some other songs and then we… I mean, the first song we wrote was “Don’t Let Me Go,” which, you know, I went, “Okay. Now I think we’re gonna be out.” Once we wrote that, I was like convinced that we’re gonna be able to write great songs together, you know? I mean, it was a simple, just beautifully finessed song. I mean, I just… It’s simple but it’s beautiful in simplicity, and it’s got that little Jamaican kind of vibe to it. So, it’s a little…it’s different. I mean, every song has its own voice, you know?

But the writing process after that, we didn’t really sit down and work on a record because I didn’t have the band I wanted yet to record. So, I just… We had a few songs and, you know, I said, “Okay,” I was just waiting around until we had the right band. And when I said, “Okay, I know this is the right band.” And when we got Dan in, and I was like, “Okay. Now we’ve got the band that I want, so, now it’s time to get a record.” I told the manager, I go, “Well, get us a deal.” So, he did, and we started writing in earnest. And, we were just coming up with song after song after song, and everyone that we thought was worth working on, we did. I mean, if it didn’t make it past the fruit to the chorus and I mean, we… If it didn’t even go there, we were like, “You know what? No, this just isn’t even worth changing its tail. This isn’t gonna turn out.”

And we were really, really a discriminate story about the songs you put on, because I wanna have as many good songs on the record as possible. I don’t wanna have one or two songs that people go, “Oh, yeah. It was good.” But the rest of songs are just filler. And then, I don’t think that’s what we came out with, and that’s just my truth, you know?

YDN:  Now that you guys have your album out, I’ve noticed you have a few solo dates that you’ve gotten, you’re on a few festivals. What do you guys have planned for this year?

Jack: Well, we’re playing a lot of shows. I mean, there’s… We’ve got a number of gigs, and they’re continually putting in more. And we’re just…we’re not doing a lot of venues that we would have done before. I mean, it’s like we’re putting our hands, we’re drawing a line in the sand saying, “Okay, look. This is acceptable and that’s not acceptable,” you know? I mean, because the band has become more popular as people learned about its existence because a lot of people didn’t know. I mean, I still have people come up and go, “Hey, man. I went to see you guys like a week ago, and I went in and there was a different singer.” And then said, “Then I looked on the internet I figured out what was going on.” He goes, “Man, it’s so good to see you again.”

If you’re not one of those people that surfs around the rock websites, you know what I mean, or hangs out at places where people talk about music all the time, what’s going on with bands, and what not, you might not know. And you’re gonna come out and go, “Oh, good, well, yeah. I’ve seen them in a while. I think I’m gonna check them out.” And then it’s like, “Wow, what? That didn’t sound like them, what happened? Oh, it’s a different singer. Oh, wow,” you know?

And either they’re gonna like it or they’re not. And to me, I’m fine. It doesn’t bother me if they go to see the other band, as long as they come see me, you know? And that’s not like I’m at the point where I’m going, “You gotta choose,” you know? You ain’t gotta choose, just come see us, you know?

YDN: And it’s funny that you say that because there have been a lot of bands over the years that people, for whatever reason, they’ve gone their own separate ways and they’ve split the band into two different working bands. And people they either like it or they love it or, you know?

Jack: Yeah, I think so too.

YDN: Some people can’t get past the change of it, but to me it’s just, music is music and it’s my soul, so give it a chance and you can be pleasantly surprised with it, or you could just say, “Well, it’s not really working for me.” But I think it works. And I think what you have works.

Jack: Right on. Well, I appreciate that too. That makes me feel though a warmer person.

YDN: You’ve been doing this for a really long time. And what I like to ask artists when I talk to them, do you have any advice for fans or the young guys that are coming up today that wanna pursue music that you would wanna let them know about?

Jack: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. I got advice for anybody coming up now. Keep your job. Quit being a musician and go get a real job, because there’s no money in this gig anymore. Everybody steals your music, and unless you have a built-in following, you’re not gonna make a dime. So, give up your dreams and… No, I’m just kidding!!  My whole thing is if you believe in something enough, and you put it out there, and you visualize it, and picture it like it’s happened and you can taste it, touch it, smell it, you know what I mean? You put that out there so much, it’ll eventually happen. You will make it happen. You can manifest your destiny.  Never stop daydreaming.

YDN:  I’ve never stopped daydreaming. I mean, I got into writing and photography, and people said, “Oh you’ll never make it in the industry. You’ll never do anything,” you know, “You can’t do this, and especially because you’re a chick, you won’t be able to do this.” And I’m laughing because here I am and I’m doing this.

Jack: Well, yeah, that’s exactly it. Everybody used to tell me that too. That’s what the song, “He Saw It Coming” is about. It’s about when I knew when I was six years old, after listening to a Beatles album that I was gonna be a rock star. I can’t explain it but I knew it. It was I didn’t think wishful dream, I knew it, and it changed the whole course of my life. And after that, it was like, “Okay. I don’t wanna be an archaeologist. I wanna be a rock star.” Now, I’m a fossil.

So, my voice still works, I can still move around, and I still write, so… What else do I need? I got a great wife, best relationship I’ve ever had, I have really good friends, you know? So, my life is really full.

YDN: And that’s great to hear. I mean, that’s…you know, you can only hope to have a career that you love and the people around you that support and lift you up instead of trying to tear you down every step of the way, and that’s fantastic.

Jack: Yeah, thank you. I’m very appreciative of it, you know? I feel very blessed.

YDN:  Can I ask, how’s your addiction going?  I know that that’s really been a hard battle for you.

Jack: You know what? I’m actually done with it. I mean, I went… I was in a comma for five days when my liver almost shut down. When I woke up, the doctor told me, “Look, if you drink again, you’re going to die. Not ‘maybe,’ not ‘might could,’ no ‘maybe could.’ No, you’re going to die because your liver will not take another run the way you drink. And your wife has told me how you drink, and you’re not…your liver won’t survive it and you won’t make it through. You will die.” So, I said, “Okay.” That’s pretty black and white. There’s not much grey area there, you know? There’s no crack in the door that I can sneak through, and so it’s like, “I’m done”, you know? I might as well take a bullet with six…you know, a gun with six bullets in it and put it to my head, or stick my hand in a nest of rattle snakes or walk in front of a train, I mean it’s the same outcome. So, I just chose not to kill myself like that.

YDN: And do you find it’s easier day by day, or have you just… been able to tackle it and move on?

Jack: Do you know, I don’t even think about it.  I just don’t think about it. I just don’t drink, you know? Because I know what’s gonna happen, so I don’t even bother even to think about it.

YDN: That’s fantastic.

Jack: Because I said I would never do that again. Like it doesn’t even come to my mind, you know? And if it does, I’ll just tell myself, “Look, dude. You’re gonna die, remember?” “Yeah, okay. Well… No, okay. Not today.” You know? I mean, I don’t even wish I could drink. I’ve drank so much in my life, you know? There’s four or five people in the world that can’t drink because I drank their issue, you know what I mean? Everybody’s allowed a certain amount of drink per life, and there’s somebody who drinks somebody else’s, you know how like three or four people, like, “Damn Jack Russell, I can’t drink because of him.”

YDN: That’s great. That’s a great way to look at it. I’m glad your sobriety is doing good because… you know, nobody wants to see anything bad happen to you and you did struggle and it’s been a public thing, and I know a lot of people like to ask those questions. I don’t typically like to ask them, but it is good to hear you’re doing well.

Jack: Well, I’m… My life’s been… I’m very transparent, you know what I mean?

YDN: Right. So, it is good hear you are doing well. Well Jack, thank you so much for your time and I’m really looking forward to seeing you out there on the road this year.

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About Diane Webb 1321 Articles
I am music fanatic, writer, photographer and aspiring to play guitar/bass so I can write the music I hear in my head, plus play some of the sick riffs I hear on albums I listen to. I love travelling to see new places, meet new people, learn about local cultures and live with chronic wanderlust. Music, travel, good friends/family and enjoying life is key! I write for Global Music Mayhem, (Sweden) and HRH Magazine (UK). You can follow my photography on Instagram: @yesterdazenews Facebook: @DianeWebbPhotography.