I ask lead singer James Trimble if he can sum up the past three years of his life in a nutshell. “It’s been crazy, from playing shows here and there to getting calls to open for big acts like Train and Zac Brown,” Trimble says, speaking by phone from the band’s tour bus while en route to Jackson, Miss. “Folks are starting to find out about us and we’re taking those next steps and learning a whole lot. It’s been really good.”
On Thursday, May 26, The Dirty Guv’nahs will return to Workplay with The Kicks opening the 8 p.m. show. The show marks The Dirty Guv’nahs third Birmingham appearance and second Workplay show. Currently, the band is touring in support of its 2010 release, Youth Is In Our Blood. After quickly culling the bulk of the album’s material, Trimble and his band mates went to one of rock’s most hallowed grounds and entered the studio.
“That album was recorded in December 2009 and was released in July 2010,” Trimble says. “We recorded it up in Woodstock, N.Y., at Levon Helm’s studio. We played at Bonnaroo in the summer of 2009 and met some people that ended up connecting us to Levon’s place. So we went up in December of 2009 to record. Most of the songs were written between that summer and that December—it was a pretty quick thing. We knew we were lucky to go up there and record, so we put it together. A couple of the songs were older. They’d been around for a little while and we recorded those, too.”
Though the band still calls Knoxville home, Trimble admits that it was nice to temporarily relocate to New York and focus on the recording process.
“It was an amazing experience,” he recalls. “We rented a house that’s owned by a family who’s connected to the studio and gives deals to artists. It was a five-bedroom house and we rented it for two weeks and camped out up there and became Woodstock natives. For people from Tennessee, it was crazy to live in feet of snow. It was our first ‘real’ album where we went and spent a good deal of time in a studio. We had done a self-titled album the year prior, but it was basically a live album. We recorded it in three days and it sounds good, but we were just a young band learning how stuff works. Actually, now we’re working on another project. I don’t know if it will be an EP or full-length. It could be five songs or 12 songs—it depends on how it goes and we’re recording it ourselves.”
In addition his band’s success, Trimble has seen a healthy resurgence in Knoxville’s music scene as well. “It’s come alive so much in the last two years, I’d say,” he says. “Three years ago, there were only a handful of bands that were playing shows and touring around the Southeast. Now, there are a dozen bands out there and getting after it. Because of that, people are starting to have sellout shows in our hometown and it’s a cool vibe. It’s got a lot of incredible venues—it’s crazy for a town of 250,000 people. It’s just unbelievable.”
But outside of the band’s hometown support system, Trimble knows that the competition is tougher than ever. In the age of do-it-yourself recording and promotion and distribution via Internet, artists must find ways to separate themselves from the masses.
“I was listening to a story on NPR one day and they were talking about how being a band today is like being a kernel on an ear of corn in a cornfield,” Trimble says with a laugh. “They were talking about how many bands there are compared to how many bands there were 20 years ago because the tools are out there for folks to record stuff at home. That’s great because I think a lot more people are making music and making great music, but it’s really hard to get heard. You’ve got to know the hippest business ideas and what’s going on because even Myspace is going away. Everything is always changing, but I think that’s one of our strengths, always being curious and being open to new business ideas and playing new cities. It’s all a big experiment.”
After speaking with him for more than 20 minutes, you come to appreciate Trimble’s eagerness to learn and understanding of The Dirty Guv’nahs position as a band paying its dues. Let it be stated for the record that not all young bands share those qualities. I mention to Trimble that his humble nature should serve him well as he advances in his career.
“It’s a marathon,” he replies. “When you see people that are successful out there, you do research to see how they got there. It’s a learning experience and we’re glad to be associated with these different folks we’re coming into contact with.”
Tickets to the all-ages show are $10-$12 day of the show—and can be purchased at www.workplay.com.
Brent Thompson writes about popular music for Birmingham Weekly. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.