Monday, September 3, 2012

Artist Spotlight: Russell Mefford (of the Fiddleworms)

I began thinking about how many incredible people I have met through my gigging and traveling. It is truly a great great benefit of my career. As I thought about it I suddenly felt bad. I have been stingy without realizing it. I have been letting my friends and fans down by not introducing them to these incredible musicians/characters.

Well this is the first installment of my efforts to right my wrongs.

I'd like to introduce you too Russell Mefford.

When I moved to Muscle Shoals to record "Nostoi" with The Ugli Stick (and subsequently became a writer for FAME) , the Fiddleworms were the first people I met.

Russell is one of the most kind hearted people I've ever had the pleasure to meet. He is a generous soul.

When it comes to music, Russell and the rest of the Fiddleworms are authentic. the Fiddleworms have realness that is undeniable. When you hear them and see them perform you know they are artists. The music they create is raw ,uncut, and direct.

The Fiddleworms' music draws on the muscians' Muscle Shoals roots but I assure you they aren't regurgitating new versions of old songs. The 'worms create music that is unique , moving and fresh.

I recommend it highly. Go check out their stuff.

Well since I love the Fiddleworms so much as musicians and people AND they happen to be finishing up their latest album "See the Light" (which features me singing on a couple songs as well a couple songs I helped write) I thought , they'd be a great first group to introduce you to.

So I sat down with Russell and the following was the resulting conversation:

Eric- I've been a fan of the Fiddleworms since I first heard you. Y'all have always created songs that blend genres into a beautiful fresh music. Is this genre blending a specific decision or is it a result of letting each song direct the production?

Russell- "We try to let the song lead us. We also want to error on the side of letting things in. All the fellas each have their own influences and interests. They also have a great respect for the song. We try to let it all seep in and pay no mind to what we might call it."

Eric- The Fiddleworms have enjoyed longevity in a time when longevity is extremely rare. Do you have any explanation as to how that has happened? or Do you have advise for other musicians as to how to keep a band together and moving forward?

Russell - "DON’T EVER STOP"

Eric- Muscle Shoals is renowned for producing musical talent. However having lived in Muscle Shoals for many years, I couldn't help but notice a renaissance or a resurgence of talent from the area recently that is more than normal. You guys are a huge part of that in my opinion. Since you are a native and a big part of the scene, can you tell me if YOU can tell a difference over the last 4-5 years?

Russell-"Big difference. I will say the Shoals music scene took a big hit when you guys had to move. Having a band like Ugli Stick move to Muscle Shoals was a message to people that we are a destination. It was also encouraging to those of us here as a reaffirmation that we are relevant. You and I have not really gotten deep into the reasons but I would guess not having venues here would have to be a reason for your move. I understand that all too well. I think that despite the lack of support from our local governments the music of Muscle Shoals is thriving because of Social Media. The world can see us. You can see John Paul on youtube and follow Jason on Twitter. Billy Reid moving here has really helped. He is someone who has invested into the scene here. He also introduced me to Eddie Hinton’s music. Billy seems to be a great guy, he definitely has great vision. Talented writer Cherokee Lair has written an article about 12 Muscle Shoals Bands/Artists that is featured in the September/October issue of Relix Magazine. It could be even better if we just called all 4 of the Quad Cities simply Muscle Shoals. When I was playing coffee shops in Tampa, Fl. people would ask me where I was from. If I said Florence they would have no idea where I was talking about. Most people know or have heard of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. F.A.M.E studios, in Muscle Shoals, stands for Florence Alabama Music Enterprises and was originally located in Florence. Muscle Shoals Sound studio was located in Sheffield. Tuscumbia is home of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Its all part of the Muscle Shoal’s Sound so I think we should call the whole area Muscle Shoals. Again the local governments continue to ignore their greatest asset and yet the music continues to survive."

Eric- The music world has lost a lot of legends this year. Are there any musicians that passed away this year that you had personal ties to or that specifically inspired you

Russell-"Whew… yeah man, we are only 2/3s of they way through 2012 and it seems we have lost so many this year. There are those who were part of my childhood. Watching rerunds of the Monkees (Davy Jones), listening to Donna Summer on the radio and seeing “The Sting”(Marvin Hamlisch did the score) as a child. All you have to do is mention the word “sting”, bee sting, police sting…, and the Entertainer plays in my head. You can not be from Muscle Shoals and not have your soul ache for the loss of Etta James and Donald “Duck” Dunn. Levon Helm and MCA seemed to hit me the hardest. Anything I hear from Levon seems so real to me. If he told me the world was flat I would believe him. The first time I heard the Beastie Boys was in 1987 and I was real suspicious of them. I listened to Grand Master Flash and Run-D-MC in high school. It was a time when the industry suits seemed to be crafting images more than music. I wondered if their thing was all made up. Well, obviously it WASN’T. The Beasties are great and losing Adam is like having so many pages ripped out of an amazing book. We have been robbed of greatness."

Eric- Speaking of inspiration, can you tell me some of the artists that helped inspire you to be a musician, can you tell me some artists that have inspired/influenced your style of writing and production along the way, and can you tell me some new artists you listen to?

Russell- "When I was in 2nd grade a classmate told me I was an accident. When I got home I asked if that was true and Mom said “nooo… you were a blessing”. Mom was certainly quick on her feet. My brother is 15 years and my sister is 13 years older than me. The opening of Cameron Crowes “Almost Famous” reminds me of my childhood. Here is this young kid being brought up on great music. My brother and sister brought me up on the Beatles, Dylan, Rolling Stones, Who, Hendrix; the music definitely influenced and inspired me as a child and still does to this day. Lately I have been digging listening to Blackberry Smoke, Civil Wars, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Eric Erdman, and the Pollies.

Eric- "See the Light" is the new album. Describe how this collection of songs and the production came about.

Russell- "It has been a lot of fun for me. We wanted all fresh material so Rob and I sat down and wrote together for this one. We have usually brought things in written by ourselves in the past. I had the honor to write with You, Dale, and Rob on a couple songs for this record, I got to write a song with Donnie Fritts and Scott Boyer, and one with you and Dick Cooper. On top of that you guys all came in and played and sang. Corey Hannah is making a film to go with the release which is something new for us. There will be a CD listening party on October 29th at the Shoals Marriott Conference Center in Florence. "

Eric- How do you feel "See the Light" fits into the Fiddleworms anthology?
Is it a departure from previous albums?

Russell-"We are continuing to grow as human beings and musicians. I hope that shows on this record."

Eric- I've always loved the fearlessness with which the Fiddleworms (and producer Jimmy Nutt) approach recording. Your last album "Volkswagen Catfish" has audio clips of a shotgun on one song and a fishing reel in another. I love not only THAT non traditional ideas were used to enhance the recording but also HOW they were used artistically. Are there any sonic surprises on "See the Light" or are y'all sticking to the instruments only this go around?

Russell-"Plenty. I wanted this record to flow seamlessly from start to finish. My wife, Allison, gave me a Zoom hand held recorder which allowed me to record sounds as I stumbled across them. The theme is loosely based on a cicada radio show. Sounds from our present and past interwoven into the music. Bugs, busses, radio static, the University of North Alabama “Pride of Dixie” Marching Band, chickens, dogs...."

Eric- After the release of "See the Light" what is on tap for the Fiddleworms? Touring? Writing another album?

Russell-"To keep following the song wherever it takes us."

Eric- Can you list all the places people will be able to get "See the Light" and all other Fiddleworms stuff?

Russell- “See the Light” listening party Monday, October 29th, 6pm at the Shoals Marriott Conference Center in Florence, Alabama. Admission is free. “See the Light” available October 30th. The record will be available locally at Pegasus records and and on itunes Like us and get band info at

Eric- Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I'm a huge fan of your music and I can't wait to hear the new album in its entirety.

Russell-"I love you Eric. Thank you for sharing your talent and shining a light on us Worms!"

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