PUBLISHED IN THE KW RECORD FRIDAY, JULY 30,1999
By Nick Krewen
For The Record
It's not easy being a Blowfish.
Actually, it sounds very easy to be a Blowfish, especially when there's the continuous sound of laughter and clinking glasses on the HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH tour bus from where bassist DEAN FELBER is calling.
"Does it sound like there's a party going on?" Felber asks as the bus rolls into the parking lot of a Tupelo, Mississippi venue Wednesday.
"It's as hot as heck out there, so we're hiding out in our air-conditioned bus."
As the band is making the rounds touring behind their latest album Musical Chairs, Felber assures his interviewer that the band featuring singer and guitarist DARIUS RUCKER, guitarist MARK BRYAN and drummer JIM "SONI" SONEFELD that worry is the furthest thing from his mind.
Selling 14 million copies in 1995 of their major label debut Cracked Rear View, spurred on by such mellifluent hits as "Hold My Hand,""Let Her Cry" and "Only Want To Be With You" made sure of that.
"We're definitely at a point where we can do what we want to make ourselves happy," he laughs. "We've never been in a position where the label has told us what to do. When we recorded Cracked Rear View, they didn't even care about us. After that, we were too big for them to tell us what to do."
"It gave us money. It gave us connections. It introduced us to a lot of people we wouldn't otherwise have met. It made all our dreams come true in one sense. We've got to work with some great people, including (producer) DON GEHMAN, and we've continued that relationship."
It also allowed them to form their own label, Breaking Records, one with which Felber says they are active participants.
"Our newest signing, South Carolina's JUMP, LITTLE CHILDREN is doing well on Alternative Adult Radio and Adult Contemporary formats," Felber says. "We actively hold meetings with Atlantic (Hootie's parent record company) whenever we feel something isn't going right or if we have concerns."
Surprisingly, Felber says that Atlantic's decision to award the band with their own record label "had nothing to do with us being Hootie."
"It had more to do with the fact that we impressed them as a business. We had survived on our own and sold records before Atlantic came along. They knew we didn't need them."
At the moment, however, Hootie is continuing to hone its collective concert chops. Its latest album, Musical Chairs, has scored a couple of radio hits in "I Will Wait" and "Only Lonely," and although it hasn't neared the multi-million selling success of Cracked Rear View and Fairweather Johnson, is still doing quite nicely thank you.
Felber feels they're writing better than ever.
"As we got towards Musical Chairs, I think we learned how to write stylistically better," he explains. "We could push the directions a little bit more. On Cracked Rear View, some would start out as country songs and some harder rock, and they all kind of ended up the same style. On Musical Chairs, we let people have their way more."
The country influence is a lot more noticeable on Musical Chairs, especially on the bluegrass-flavored "Desert Mountain Showdown."
But how does the Columbia, S.C. quartet split their musical tastes?
Felber describes himself and Mark Bryan as part of the "AEROSMITH, LED ZEPPELIN, VAN HALEN, THE WHO" camp, while Rucker and Sonnefeld listen to everything, "including LYLE LOVETT and NANCI GRIFFITH."
Formed in 1986 after Rucker and Bryan packed it in as THE WOLF BROTHERS, Hootie & The Blowfish released three albums and played a steady stream of college frat house gigs before Atlantic gave them their big break.
Dean Felber says it's only natural that Hootie wants to share the wealth, whether it's donating thousands of dollars in cash to help establish a college scholarship or playing a benefit.
"We felt that way before we got big," he states. "We felt that as soon as we could command one thousand dollars a show, we wanted to give some of that to someone else. It not only makes us feel good, but I think we feel a responsibility there as well."
WHO: Hootie & The Blowfish with Train
WHERE: Lulu's Entertainment And Concert Club
WHEN: Wednesday, August 4
1994 -- Cracked Rear View
1996 -- Fairweather Johnson
1998 -- Musical Chairs
©1999 Nick Krewen, Octopus Media Ink
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