HeadspaceBy Derek Obregon
Remember the name Rival Sons because this is one of the hottest bands out there right now. At least according to iconic Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, who recently gave the upstart blues-rock band a nod in a recent NME cover story Even with growing fame and success, Rival Sons frontman Jay Buchanan remains humble and focused. The singer never dreamed of being in a rock ’n‘ roll band—but now he’s playing sold-out shows around the world and the band’s latest album, Head Down, hit the No. 1 mark on the UK rock charts. I guess Jimmy was right.
In your own words, can you describe the band’s sound?
It’s kind of a tough one. I would say we’re a modern take on rock ’n‘ roll. We call this a rock ’n‘ roll band more than anything. We’ve got bass, drums, lots of guitar solos and bluesy, soulful vocals. That just makes rock ’n‘ roll to me.
Is blues where you got your start? Is that where your vocals come from?
Yeah, blues and singer-songwriter acoustic music have always been my main staples. I grew up playing it in coffee shops and stuff through high school and that was my jam. But I also played with blues bands because I loved soul music.
Have you always wanted to be a singer/songwriter?
Always, always. I’ve always wanted to be a vocalist.
Who influences you as a vocalist?
As a vocalist, the list is way too long. All the guys from Otis Redding to Blind Louie Johnson and all of the blues cats, and all of the women like Aretha Franklin . . . It’s not like there’s never ever been someone I’m trying to emulate. It’s kind of like you end up making this big pot of stew from everything that’s good in your life.
Does rock and blues go hand in hand?
Yeah, of course, but see rock ’n‘ roll has been missing. [There are] a lot of these bands that are playing rock. They took out the roll because the roll is the honesty part, the truth part. And they didn’t want to be burdened. They didn’t want to have to deal with the sincerity. They wanted to be “rock stars” so they call it “post-grunge” and everything else.
Anyways, I had never wanted to be part of the problem. But [drummer Michael] Miley hit me up and said, “Look, man, the guys want you there. I talked to [guitarist] Scott [Holiday] on the phone and we totally hit it off. We qualified each other on old blues. We got together, and as much as I’d wanted it to not work out, the energy was so good [that] as soon as we started playing together I immediately got out of doing my own project. I had a lot of pots on the stove, and I just thought I have to make room for this. It didn’t take long before it was Rival Sons 24/7.
“I’m totally fine with it”
Rival Son frontman Jay Buchanan is definitely part of team green. CULTURE asked him about his views medical cannabis, a plant, the frontman says, that was declared illegal for all the wrong reasons. “Now that we know it was wrongfully made illegal, now that we know all the positive things from cannabis we can benefit from, now that people are speaking up around the country, making it legal, I’m totally candid, I’m totally fine with it and totally use it now and again.”