Interview for WoNo Magazine and WoNoBloG by Wout de Natris
Copyright WoNo Magazine 2012
You can listen to 'O girl' here
It's about eight years ago that I met David Sickmen. The Hackensaw Boys played the Q-Bus in Leiden. Afterwards he was selling cds and we had a very small talk afterwards. My then 11 year old son liked that album, 'Keep it simple', so much that he wanted to come the next time the band played and collect autographs in his specially kept Pokemon exercise book. So he went into the dressing room before the show and just did not come back. After a while I decided to knock on the door and stepped in. There he was with David, playing David's guitar and getting a lesson of 'Blackbird'. Perhaps this was the little extra push that he needed to become a guitar player. Not much later David left the band. Through the guitar lesson we had got to know more band members over the years. My son sitting in the dressing room in Haarlem with Jesse showing video clips of favourite songs on a lap top to each other, is another picture that comes to mind.
And now the band comes back for a tour and all "my" original members of the band have left, with one exception: David Sickmen rejoined the band. Time for an interview and prepare him to play 'Blackbird' with an 18 year old.
You are back on the “nest” after circa six years. What did you do in the meantime and what made you decide to re-join the band?
I am pleased to tell you that I got married and had two sons since I saw you last. I live in a an old factory town called Lynchburg, Virginia. I rejoined the band after talking with the band about its future. Rob and Jesse were stepping out and I volunteered to step back in.
How did the band start?
The best answer here is on our wiki page which we just updated.
If we look at the (prior) history of the band members, we see that they go back in to local music scene of Virginia a long way. Let’s quote the history part of the Wikipedia entry on The Hackensaw Boys:
"The Hackensaw Boys were founded in the Fall of 1999 by Rob Bullington, Tom Peloso, David Sickmen, and Robert "Bobby" St. Ours who were all living in Charlottesville, Virginia at the time. Prior to forming Hackensaws, Sickmen and Bullington met in Harrisonburg, Virginia in the early 1990s. At the time, Bullington was playing in a band called Fried Moose. Bobby St. Ours, along with brothers Phillip and Johnny, played in the Harrisonburg-based Route 11 Boys with Ketch Secor and Chris "Critter" Fuqua. Peloso formed a band with some friends in the same decade called Chigger, in which he played the doghouse bass and was the lead singer. Sickmen played in a band called Pieboy with future Hackensaw Boy, Ward Harrison. Fuqua and Secor would go on to found Old Crow Medicine Show in 1998. All had performed as young musicians on the open mic stage at the Little Grill diner in Harrisonburg, as well. The Little Grill stage was also graced by future Hackensaw Boys, Ferd Moyse (no relation to Fried Moose), and Shawn Galbraith in 2004. At that time, the two were performing and touring with old-time string band outfit, The Blooms, from Black Mountain, NC, along with Jeremy Odom (guitar, vocals) and Emily Moberg (fiddle, bass).
The Hackensaw Boys formed in August of 1999, when Sickmen, Bullington, Peloso, and St. Ours met at Miller's restaurant in Charlottesville to watch Fuqua perform with the recently formed OCMS. Sickmen and Peloso had previously been talking about other possible music projects. The four decided at that time to form a new group that would become known as The Hackensaw Boys. They would develop their sound busking on the streets of Virginia."
The story continues with the old bus the band bought to cross the US of A. Read on here.
The Hackensaw Boys play traditional music. The way it is played though hints at other influences. Did the band members find each other because of this music or more in the way the band played it?
We decided to start a band and concentrate our songwriting in the old time Appalachian country folk vein. It was just the kind of songs we were drawn to. We just wrote and I hope are still writing songs from our hearts.
Looking over the years I conclude that the band is bigger than its members. Was it set up from the outset more as a collective of changing musicians than as a band in a traditional sense?
The band is bigger than any individual who is in it at any given time. There never was any plan as far as members go. We started as four guys and by our first tour we had 12 guys in the band. Over time people came and went and presently we are 6.
The Hackensaw Boys is a band that I’ve met on a regular basis. With hindsight I can pinpoint moments in conversations with members, including you at the Paradiso years back, that I can say, that’s when someone had to choose between making music and another career. How hard is it to be a Hackensaw Boy?
Well, I wouldn't say it's hard. Being in any band has difficult moments. Not enough sleep, being far from home, often not enough money to continue, and then, the creative part of being in an band. A shared vision can be hard to come by! Not to mention people's general sensitivities and how they go about relating to others around them. I can say honestly for myself it's only the being separated from family that weighs my mind down and was the reason I left the band in 2005.
When someone left the band, was there already a replacement in mind? Or does this go about in a different way?
No we never have someone in mind. Generally someone goes and we try and bring a friend from within our collective musical circles into the fray!
To go back to the music. Your songs usually seem more personal or personal observations. How important is your daily life for your song writing?
Most of my songs are culled from everyday life and the things around me. Maybe, I see something on the roadside and it sparks a creative match for me, like the song Alabama shamrock. Sometimes it's a word or phrase passing along in a conversation I am having. I firmly believe that art surrounds us all day, every day. It just taking the time to reel the words and tunes in and build them a home to share.
Btw what instrument(s) will you be playing as neither Rob nor Jesse are there as I understand?
I will be playing guitar and maybe some mandolin.
Looking forward to shake hands in Leiden and listen to some great music.
I too am looking forward to seeing you and yours. Let's have some fun!