Ain't Life A Hoot
According to drummer Jim Sonefeld, it's very much like a pre-game prayer, except with a shot of bourbon and a special toast. You can just imagine the scene backstage before the band's show at the Coliseum - home of the Edmonton Oilers! - this Wednesday: "We have some traditional people that are the same every night," says Sonefeld, "like Slash, the guitarist. When we were in Europe a couple of summers ago, he was playing there, too. We happen to be sitting down after our show ready to do a toast and we looked over in the other trailer and here was Slash and all his boys over there drinking. So we went, "Here's to Slash!" Now before every show, we say, "Here's to Slash and to Peter," our keyboardist, Peter Holsapple. And we toast Francis Dunnery - he's another artist, a big inspiration to us. And then whoever else anybody else wants to yell out." The band does this every night - not so much a superstition, Sonefeld explains, as it is a "tradition."
Hootie and the Blowfish presumably needs all the luck it can get at this point - not that the South Carolina band hasn't had a bonanza already. The fact that the band's 1994 album, Cracked Rear View - a middle-of-the-road answer to the grumpy grunge scene - was the highest-selling debut album in history, selling (so far) a whopping 14 million copies, blew everyone's mind, the band included. "Who the hell thinks that could happen to them?" exclaims Sonefeld. "We had far smaller goals, and I feel like we've succeeded in our musical goals - and on top of it, we won the lottery. It's one thing when you go out and sell a million on your debut, or maybe two or three million, but something culturally phenomenal happened to us on our first try."
Kind of like the Florida Panthers, which made it to the Stanley Cup final in only three years? (Why not - let's beat this sports angle into the ground.) Sonefeld and his crew - with guitarist Mark Bryan, bassist Dean Felber and singer Darius Rucker - knew they couldn't win the pennant two tries in a row. They released the second album Fairweather Johnson before interest for the debut had died down, but the sophomore effort seems to have stalled at midfield. Says Sonefeld, "We decided about eight million records into Cracked Rear View that it was very unlikely that we would top it, so why worry about something you can't control?
"In our eyes, a lot of the decisions we had made through the terms of Cracked Rear View were not very traditional music business decisions. We did it on our terms, so when it came time for the second album, we said, well, what got us here in the first place? It was doing things that made us happy, which is writing songs at our leisure, and putting it out when we're ready to put it out.
"We needed to have a new album. As artists, we don't want to sit around for three years between albums and not write songs. "We just felt like the market was there and we were having fun, and we were really psyched to be getting into doing a new album. So let's make it what they call a seamless transition." Kind of like Shaquille O'Neal moving to the Los Angeles Lakers? Oh, never mind...