The Alternate Routes
Ambition is one of the best qualities a band can possess. Being able to start out in a living room or basement, write some songs on the tattered pages of an old notebook, and picturing it all done on
a lit stage in front of a packed house, is a vision that few are able to not only strive for, but actually achieve.
The Alternate Routes, a trio formed in 2002, have taken ambition to a new level this summer in support of their debut full-length album, Good and Reckless and True. After a successful CD release
party in May, the band sets off in July and August for concurrent residencies in four East Coast cities: New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. Performing in a different city each night for
two months, the band is seeking to get their music in front of as many people as possible before going out on an extended tour.
Band members Tim Warren, Eric Donnelly and Chip Johnson recorded Good and Reckless and True during a break-neck three-week Nashville session with producer Jay Joyce (Patty Griffin, John Hiatt,
Rubyhorse). The eleven tracks showcase the band's diverse influences, strong songwriting and a musicianship that only hints at the zeal and energy of their live show.
Just after the start of their residency series, the band collaborated on answers to Chorus and Verse's questions about their summer plans, the production of their debut album, and what comes next, including
an appearance at the Feeling Better Than Everfine Festival in Chicago, IL, with O.A.R., Pepper, Citizen Cope and many more.
You're embarking on one of the most ambitious touring schedules I've ever seen, doing concurrent residencies in New York, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia for July and August.
How did this all come about? Is there something specific that you're looking to accomplish with these shows, or did the opportunity just happen to present itself?
The idea for the residencies came from our manager Danny Hest. We wanted to spend the summer getting the music out in each of these markets in order to develop a larger fan base for extended touring
in the fall.
How is the travel going to work out being in Boston on Mondays, Philadelphia on Tuesdays, Washington on Wednesdays and New York on Thursdays? Are you planning to give the van a
major workout, or will you use alternate means of transportation?
We’re going to be doing all of our travel in our van. It works out that the travel isn’t more than six hours per day. We also have places to stay in each city.
Let's switch to your recently-released new CD, Good and Reckless and True. The disc was recorded in Nashville and produced by Jay Joyce. How were the studio and producer
selected and how did you enjoy the whole experience? Did the process just serve to reinforce the band's sound, or did you find yourself trying new things and evolving in the studio?
Working with Jay in his studio in Nashville was our top choice for recording the album. The experience was our first chance to make a real record as a band. Working with a mind like Jay opened our eyes
to a lot of possibilities within our sound. Jay brought a lot of experience and attitude to our songs that we couldn’t have done on our own.
The CD was recorded very quickly, with a lot of single takes. When you first went down to Nashville, did you anticipate that the process would be so break-neck, and is that how
you prefer to work? Having gone through the experience, would you ever want to spend a more extended time in the studio experimenting more?
As people, we tend to analyze, and then overanalyze, everything. A lot of the energy we captured was a result of working at such a fast pace and forcing ourselves to make decisions along the way. More
studio time in the future could be cool, but this amount of time was right for this record.
The Alternate Routes
You had a number of guest musicians sit in with you during the recording of the CD, including several drummers. Do you generally use a guest drummer during your live shows, and
are there any plans to round out the group into the quartet at any point in the future?
Three additional musicians contributed to Good and Reckless and True. Brad Pemberton (drums) is a session veteran, and close friend of Jay’s, who brought a solid, unbiased approach to our tunes.
Giles Reaves is an extremely talented guy who played drums and keys on the record, as well as helping with the engineering. Jay also added a few extra guitar parts, but his biggest contribution musically
was pushing all of the performances on the record. As for the live shows, we are currently touring regularly with drummer Stephen Chopek.
The band receives a lot of acclaim for your live performances. Do you consider recording and releasing an album as just a means of getting your music out there so that you can continue
to perform live and tour, or do you enjoy that process in itself?
You have so many options creatively in the studio that it’s a different game than performing live. The exciting part about a live performance is that you’re always trying to capture what you did in the
studio, as well as offering a new, original ingredient at the same time. They are both exciting elements of being in a band that reinforce one another.
Where were some of the first gigs you performed after the band first started in 2002? Do you now have any "home clubs" where you especially enjoy playing and receive a lot of support
The Acoustic Café in Bridgeport, CT was the first place that we played as a band. Tim and Eric started playing there as a duo and as the band developed the venue continued to be our home base. Another
place that comes to mind is the Bitter End in NYC. For about a year, we played there once a month and they treated us really well.
What do you feel is the mark of a really good venue? Are there things you notice as a band that set the great places to play apart from everywhere else?
There are obvious elements like the sound, stage and the lights, that makes a place fun to play, but there are other intangibles that can make a place stand out. Being on the road, and meeting new people
all the time, makes you appreciate sound people who know you by name, a bartender who throws you a drink at the end of the night, and a club owner who checks out part of your set.
Who are the primary songwriters in the band, and how are new tracks generally worked out? Do compositions tend to be collaborative processes, or do band members work out their own
parts and bring them together all at once?
The ideas from our songs come from a lot of different places, whether it’s a lyric, guitar riff, or a chord progression. But the song is never developed, or finished, until we all get together and collectively
work it out.
Were the 11 tracks on Good and Reckless and True all written before you entered the studio? Did any of the tracks undergo significant rewrites during the recording process,
or were any of the songs entirely written in that three-week period?
Other than arrangements, all of the songs except for “Who Cares?” and “Going Home With You” were written before we started recording. It was fun to explore the new territory that those tunes provided
because they were unfinished.
It was just announced that you'll be performing at the Feeling Better Than Everfine Festival in Chicago, IL, with bands like O.A.R. and Pepper. How did you get selected to perform
at the show, and how do you feel preparing to be a part of such a large event?
The opportunity to play at the Feeling Better Than Everfine festival was a result of a contest through Sonic Bids (www.sonicbids.com). The band was selected by the organizers of the festival as well
as the headlining band, O.A.R. Preparing for such a big show will be an exciting end to a really busy summer.
What are the band's plans after the summer residencies are completed in August? Are there other important projects that you'd like fans to be aware of or things you're working on
that you'd like to share?
After the residencies, we plan on incorporating more college shows and opening slots, as well as following up on the residencies and checking out more cities.
[ Website: www.thealternateroutes.com ]