Red Reign pours down on National Rock Review for a few questions and answers.
Red Reign is a four-piece band from Richmond, Virginia. Fresh from releasing a brand new music video for their track “Red Reign” from their self-titled EP, these guys are rising up and not planning on coming down. They have opened up for some amazing people already and that’s only going to increase when they open for Jackyl in their home state. In this interview, Sammy Lee talks about the origins of the band, getting to work with Grammy-nominated producers and so much more!
NRR: We will start off the interview by you introducing yourself and saying your role in the band while naming out the others as well.
Sammy: Hey, I’m Sammy Lee, I’m the drummer. We also have Larry Moore on bass, Stevie Shred who is on guitar, and Carlton “Bubba” McMichael on vocals and guitar as well.
NRR: You guys have got to work with a Grammy-nominated producer who has worked with the likes of Halestorm and many other acts. Can you talk a little bit about that and what you feel he brought to your music?
Sammy: Absolutely. David Ivory was exceptional to work with. He is Grammy-nominated. What he brought to the table was, the songs that we brought to him, he took those songs and made them flow a little bit better. He coincided the lyrics with the music. It was an unbelievable experience to be working with a guy like that. It was very easy working with a guy like that. It can be really intimidating working with a guy like that, but he was never like “it’s my way or the highway”. He was like “let’s make good songs”. It was just an amazing experience to work with him.
NRR: Now, you guys are an independent act. Do you feel that being independent allows you guys to actually be Red Reign and to do what you guys want to do musically and personally?
Sammy: That’s a great question! No one has ever asked me that. I’m not really sure if it gives us the freedom. We are open to discuss working with a record label. We would love to do that eventually. With that being said, there is some freedom there. We can pick and choose the shows we want, we can pick and choose when we want to play. Obviously, we want to play as much as we can, but we do work and we do have families. We would love again to work with a record label, but it would have to be a middle of the road kind of thing. They have their terms and we would have ours, but I would love to be under somebody’s umbrella.
NRR: Your name is Red Reign and you guys just released a video for a track that is also titled “Red Reign”. Is there any significance to that?
Sammy: Haha! I wish there was a better story to that one. It’s not that complicated. It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg story. The song came first. When we first got together, we were rehearsing and that’s when we came up with “Red Reign” while we were still trying to find a name for the group. We went through everything. I don’t remember which member said it, but it popped in our head, Red Reign, and we were like “that’s the name of the band”. I wish there was more to the story, like “I got hit in the head with a lightning bolt” or something like that, but that’s not it.
NRR: Now, how did you guys come together and did you ever think that you would be opening for such juggernauts in the rock industry?
Sammy: Well, the lead singer, Bubba and I, we are the ones that started Red Reign. Bubba and I were also in a band before this that did half originals/half covers and when that split up we stayed in touch. I’ve known Bubba the longest. I’ve known him since the late 80s. We starting talking and wanted to start up something again. Later on, we found Larry and that’s how we were for the first year. We formed in sort of the middle to the end of 2014. We were actually a three-piece band at the time for about a year. Right before we started with Chip of Chipster PR and David Ivory, we needed another guitar player and that’s how we found Stevie Shreds. That’s how we really came together and like I had said, I’ve known Bubba the longest, but no, I didn’t think when we put this band together we would be where we are today. The reason I put this band together was to write originals and maybe put them on iTunes. If people liked them great and if they didn’t, we really didn’t have nothing to lose. We weren’t really looking to play bar gigs and small shows. If it was going to take our all, we wanted it to be bigger, but if it wasn’t we were okay with that as well.
NRR: Going from Chasing Shadows to your self-titled EP, was the recording process a lot easier and were you more comfortable? I know that you guys did remaster or re-record some of your songs, so was the process a little easier and was there less pressure for you guys?
Sammy: Let me explain something that I feel is really important. We really love what we do. We aren’t really getting any money out of this or getting paid to play. It’s usually coming out of our own pocket, but we just love playing together. We got a really good group of guys here and we get along. We all have a certain way that we do things. I’ll get to the writing process first. Now, I don’t really write songs, I take care of more of the business side of things. I’m the one that is back and forth with the booking agent, back and forth with Chip of Chipster PR, our publicist. I do that part. The other three guys do the writing. Bubba handles the majority of the writing in collaboration with Stevie and Larry.
Now to get to the recording, we did Chasing Shadows, which was a full-length CD, but it was self-produced. So, the writing was a little raw. We had a great engineer and producer here in Richmond, gentlemen named Grand Rutledge, which is how we met Chip. We realized the writing wasn’t up to par with what they thought it should be and that’s how we wound up with David. David was intrigued by the originals on Chasing Shadows. You’re right, we had re-recorded four or five of those songs and we renamed one of them. I wouldn’t say it was more comfortable, it was a little intimidating recording with David, or at least it was the first day and then I calmed down. I think the guys did too. Yeah, I believe once we got the songs and the writing down, it did make the process a little bit easier.
NRR: You had stated that you handle the business side of things and you’re the drummer. Do you enjoy being the guy that works from behind and behind the scenes versus being thrust into the spotlight?
Sammy: Yeah I do. Listen, I’m glad to be doing most of the interviews. Stevie has done a couple interviews and Bubba is getting ready to do an interview, and so is Larry. Those guys, if somebody wants to do an interview with them, they will do it. It’s not really whether I’m behind the scenes or in front of the scenes. I think us as a group, don’t really care who’s behind the scenes or in front of the scenes. We just enjoy playing and enjoy being on stage. I’m not in this for stratum; I’m in this because I enjoy playing. Everyone is comfortable in their role and I think that makes for a smoother relationship in the band.
NRR: So, in Red Reign, you guys are all represented as equal? That’s a great mindset.
Sammy: Oh yeah! I’ll do all the business work and try to do what’s best for the band, but I never ever make a decision without including the guys. If I make a decision, but I’m outvoted then it’s gone. Its four equal parts and we all have a vote and say in what we do.
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