Congratulations on all your success. 10 Years has been expanding its audience via the album’s success and your shows on the arena tour with Korn and Mudvayne.
It’s been an amazing experience to watch this grow at such a rapid pace. We jumped out on the road a couple of months early last year before the album even came out, so we started touring like right in the beginning of the summer last year and we haven’t stopped other than going home for the holidays. Even coming back this year, you see how more people are responding to the band. Like today I went to the mall and some kids came up and recognized me–it’s just weird, and really cool.
Where would you like to see 10 Years in, well, ten years from now?
Hopefully we will have grown into a whole different level than where we’re at right now. I had an interview yesterday where someone asked me if I had gotten to the point where I need to be and I’m like, “I don’t think I’ll ever be at the point where I need to be in life because I always need to grow and change.” I want to keep growing as an artist in this industry because you don’t ever want to sell yourself short by sticking to the same thing you’re always doing.
You started out as a visual artist and evolved into a musician—which is an example of your need to grow artistically. Can you talk a little bit about your background as an artist and how you feel it perhaps plays into what you currently do now?
Yeah, I definitely treat this band as an outlet for art–I mean, it’s another form of art I’ve realized. My dad’s an artist. He even trained me and taught me when I was in elementary school and middle school so I could draw proper anatomy and then I really got into 3-D sculpture when I was in high school. I went to college to pursue the arts even more and then I also crossed paths with a group of guys–we formed a band and then, you know, we kept bugging 10 Years to check us out and they came and offered me a job as the new singer. I never really thought of it as art. I’d never played or was a musician. But the deeper I get into this, the more I realize it’s another form of art and it’s amazing. I think that’s why when people come talk to me about the lyrics, they really feel like I am putting my heart into it–especially because I don’t treat it like it’s just an everyday band; I treat it like it’s a piece of art.
Knoxville, TN is where 10 YEARS are from. Tell us a little about Knoxville and how coming from there has shaped your world viewpoint thus far.
We grew up in Knoxville and it’s a medium sized town–it’s not too small. It has its own airport, and you have access to everything but it’s not really large to where it’s very distracting. Growing up in a town that had all the necessities but not the distractions really allowed us to put all of our time into the band instead of being pulled away by the night-life, the craziness of the city. Knoxville has a really good music scene and the support we received there was amazing. I think that one of the reasons it went so well was because it’s a college town and every year you have new students coming to the University of Tennessee. Students come there from all over the United States, so you get to see kids from different cities. They got to watch us grow in our hometown and then they told their friends about us when they would travel back home during breaks. College kids need something to do at night anyway, so they really come out to see bands. I think what really helped us step up to the next level was getting on the radio. A program director by the name of Anthony Profitt gave us the first chance by putting “Wasteland” on mainstream radio station in Knoxville. It was #1 for eighteen weeks. It got requested and beat out all the other bands in the world…in the nation. In Knoxville, you couldn’t beat us for eighteen weeks.
Was that before the major label debut came out?
Yeah, that’s definitely what started the whole whirlwind of this ride. By us becoming so large in our hometown, it made a enough beep in the radar for industry people to start looking at us. We never really intended to go shopping for a label. We had different labels come to us and offer us different deals. And we were very patient and took our time; we waited over a year before we actually signed the right contract that wouldn’t hurt us. Kids ask us how we did it, and the best thing I can say is that it takes hard work and perseverance and second of all, to be honest, you have to write good songs.
Which other bands would you guys would like to tour with?
There are a lot of bands we would be excited to tour with. We would like to go out and do some shows with the Deftones. I think each one of us as individuals will probably have different bands we want to tour with, but I love more of the melodic, melancholy sounds. I love Radiohead, Portishead, Bjork.
On the song “The Autumn Effect,” it does go into this spacey, music exploration there…
I think that it the long run, we will explore every angle and keep evolving–and even venture into that weird, I mean, really weird, moody, ambient sound.
When you’re on the road, how are you maintaining your sanity? What’s keeping it together for you right now? The road is known as a place where there’s really dramatic peaks of bonding with your audience and then, stepping off stage and being lonely.
That’s a very good point you have there. Even though there are nine of us that live on a bus (5 band members and 4 crew), you find yourself with a lot of alone time which, in my opinion, is a blessing because one thing society is missing is the ability for people to be comfortable alone. I think that each person on earth needs to findthat ability because you need to know how you are alone and who you are. You figure more out about yourself alone and you determine what you want in life and being independent. In order to be involved in a healthy relationship, you first have to be happy with yourself and involved with yourself.
What books have you been reading?
I’m a admirer of Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote Fight Club. He’s the author who got me into reading book after book. I just went on a little binge and read everything he’d ever written because he writes in a way that really appeals to the youth. In a radio interview I heard him do, he said that in this time when people have attention deficit disorder–because there’s so much technology distracting youth with iPods and other stuff–it’s so important to hold the attention of the youth today. He writes books that are page-turners—you can’t put them down once you start. Adults have more patience to sit down and read a book, but youth don’t have that kind of patience. I think this is the first guy that people should really dig into if they’re not readers. His books will grab them and suck them in. Right now, I am reading Augusten Burroughs, who wrote Running with Scissors. Usually what I do is this: I’ll go through everything an author has written and then move on to another writer.
It was really moving at the Long Beach Arena where, in the midst of the performance, you looked at the crowd and talked about how change is necessary and going through hard times is all a part of growth. You even said, “if you’re not taking the right drugs or medication, then get new ones.” Tell us a little bit about what inspired that onstage exchange with your audience.
What helped me get to that point onstage was talking to people offstage. When the show’s over or before it has started, people come up to me and ask what about actual lyrics mean. Then they turn around and tell me what the lyrics mean to them, or they tell me about a lot of the stuff that they’ve gone through. The more that I travel, the more I realize that even though I felt so alone at a certain time–going through a tough relationship or dealing with the big “what am I going to do for a living?” question–I see that everyone goes through these feelings and these stages of life. Life itself is a very funny and interesting creature. You don’t know what to make of it. You’re sort of along for the ride and make the best of it. The reason I say that is because a lot of people come up to me and I can see that they’re struggling with their own vices and it’s their own fault. They’re where they’re at because they got consumed and let it control them. That’s why if something doesn’t work for you or if you hit rock bottom with it, you need to get rid of it and start over. And I think that’s always a good thing to keep in mind. Never think that anything is solidified or solid–always be willing to change if you’ve bottomed out or are going through a rut. Just don’t be scared to change.