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The Interstellar Series: An Interview With Daniel Hutchens October 13, 2017 14:31

Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Earlier this year, the world learned of a new super group out of Athens, Georgia known as the Interstellar Boys. Led by former Widespread Panic drummer Todd Nance, this band would feature the likes of Jerry JosephDaniel Hutchens  (Bloodkin), Sam HoltJohn Neff, and Jon Mills. The band has now completed a full tour and is in the midst of a weekend run through the southeast. Over the next week, we will be rolling out a three-piece interview series with Jerry, Danny, and Todd in an effort to learn more about this new and exciting project. We're continuing this series off with our recent interview with singer/songwriter Daniel Hutchens, which can be read in full below. This run of shows kicked off on Thursday at Soul Kitcchen in Mobile (AL) on October 12th, with shows at Martin's in Jackson (MS) on October 13th, and Tipitina's in New Orleans (LA) on October 14th to follow.

The roots clearly run deep with this group. What were your initial thoughts as the Interstellar Boys came to life? Tell me about those early conversations about starting a new band.
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Danny: The first motivation behind this was that Todd was ready to get back to playing music. After Panic, he didn't play for about a year. He was just reassessing and figuring out what he wanted to do next. He came to us and said, "I'm ready to do this." The people here in Athens that are involved in this: myself, John Neff, Jon Mills, and Todd, had played together a lot over the years. They were in a band called Barbara Cue, but all of those guys have also played with Bloodkin.
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We've all sat in together and played music quite a bit through the years. So, it's kind of a go-to group of people, as far as the group of guys here in Athens. And then Sam...hasn't been a part of all of those projects, but he's another guy that we've known through the years and have played with a fair amount. Jerry is someone who has a pretty deep history with Todd and with me. Jerry and I wrote some songs together back in the early 90s.
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So, it just kind of made sense, and this is the group of people who came together to do it. It started with Todd being ready to play again, and also, to an extent, myself. I had medical problems last year, so I kind of sat out for a while too. So, it coincided as I started to play again, and Todd was ready to go. It just kind of made sense.  
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It certainly seems that way. How would you say that the song selection / overall catalog played out thus far? What can fans expect with the setlists on the upcoming tour?
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Danny: Well, that's always in flux. We try to keep it fresh; not do the same thing every night. We have plenty of material to draw from. Jerry and I are both pretty prolific songwriters. Sam has quite a few songs that he contributes, and so does Todd. We do some songs that were Todd-related in Panic and Barbara Cue. We do various covers, but there is not a specific song you're going to hear on a specific night. We try to change it up. 
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Well, how much focus have you guys put on writing new material? How has the balance in songwriting played out between you guys?
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Danny: That is kind of in process. We, once again, have plenty of material to choose from. We've moved down to a number of songs. Some of mine, some of Jerry's.  There's a particular song that Todd and I wrote together that we want to record. That kind of thing seems to play itself out, at least in my world, when you get in the studio. We have a number of things that we'll get in there, start playing, and kind of see what comes to life. We have several songs that are kind of...you know...to start with. We're gonna try these several new songs and see which ones of those kind of take off.
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What we're shooting for, eventually, is to go in and record four or five songs. Maybe it's some kind of EP. We don't know that yet either (laughs). Maybe we go back in and finish it out, and it's a full record. I'm not sure yet, but for us right now, it's important just to get the ball rolling. It galvanizes the band. If it's working...if it's going well...it's another step up the ladder. It's what we do. So, just to get that process started is a huge step for us.
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For me personally, any time I have an opportunity to go into a studio, it's fun, but it's also kind of a privilege, you know? I try to appreciate it every time I'm there. With this group of people, it would be hard for me to find a better group of people to record with...outside of my home team of Bloodkin; which a couple of these guys are a part of too. So, it's pretty close to home. 
 
I love it, man. So while there is so much history between each of you, you're all quite accomplished within your own endeavors. What's your personal goal for The Interstellar Boys? What do you feel that the future holds for the band?
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Danny: Our goal is to follow this as long as it will organically go, as long as it is a positive thing and good for everybody involved. You don't want to force that. You want to see how it grows. But the idea is to be an entity to itself; a band. In my mind, what that means is that you record great records, and you tour. We're just taking baby steps on that right now, but that is the goal. I know that everybody in the band...we've had plenty of discussions about this...and everybody feels that same way. It's not a hobby. It's our lives. So, we don't really enter into it without trying to do it seriously and with the right intents...watching it as far as it will take us. We're gonna follow it. 
 
I know that the music industry has evolved tremendously since the early stages of your career. What are the challenges but also some advantages associated with forming a new band in this era?  
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Danny: Well, it's very different that from when I first came up. The main thing that's happened in my life that's different involves digital music and the structure of how royalties are paid. It used to be that that was a more direct and reliable source of income. If you put out a record, people bought the record. If it was played on the radio, and you were paid mechanical and performance royalties directly based on that. There was a direct accountability. In theory, at least, it worked that way.
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With digital music, it's a completely different world. Obviously, you're able to record shows. Implicate recorded music. Pass it around. Post it online. Musicians aren't necessarily paid for that. The flip side of that is a vast, open horizon of promotion and being heard. With the internet, bands can immediately be heard by people around the world, if you do it right. That's the plus side of it, and that's what people, I think, have to work with and have to gear or skew their efforts toward. That's just the reality. That's how it is.
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For me, I consider myself a songwriter first. That's my stock and trade. That's my life's work. That's what I do. I've always thought that the more people who hear my songs...I kind of think of my songs almost separately from myself, if that makes any sense. It's a body of work that I want to live on after me. I want people to hear the songs. And if it's another band playing them, like Widespread Panic, who was always generous enough to play a lot of our songs, that was always terrific to me. It means that people are hearing the songs. It's the same thing with the technology now. At the end of the day, of course I want to make a living and all that. But if I had to make a list, the most important thing to me is that people hear the songs. That's what it's about. 
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It really is. I wish more artists had that mentality.  So, this was something that just came to mind before we hopped on this call. I feel obligated to ask about Tom Petty. From the songwriters perspective and someone who has been in the game as long as you, what did he mean to you, and what can you say about the overall impact he made on American songwriting?
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Danny: It feels amazingly personal. This isn't just me. I hear this from a lot of musicians and music lovers in general when someone that you don't know personally passes away. This feels personal. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, arguably...I can't really think of an argument against this...they were the greatest mainstream American rock-and-roll band there ever was. They did it for over 40 years without ever making a bad record. The songwriting sounds so effortless. They are such perfectly crafted songs, but it's not just the technical craft of it.
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They're so emotional. Whether they're tough or sweet, they seem to resonate with so many people. He was iconic. I honestly think that he's going to be remembered alongside guys like Woody Guthrie or Robert Johnson. If you had monuments to the great American songwriters and musicians, he's up there with the best. Yeah...it just feels like...it was just so unexpected. It's sad, you know? That music is so much a part of everyone's life, and that's amazing to me. 
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I couldn't agree more. So, just one last question. Going back to the whole new era of music. There is certainly leaves no shortage of new music to choose from. Who's been on your personal playlist this year? Who's Danny Hutchens listening to in 2017?
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Danny: Man...my music tastes are so erratic and so strange. I'm not the greatest fan in terms of brand new music. I'm often just led to whatever comes my way. Sometimes it's ancient stuff. I love Warren Zevon. I've kind of had a renaissance of listening to his music lately. A lot of the ole blues guys, and things like that. You're right though. There is so much to choose from. I love the new...I guess what you would have originally called the 'alt-country' stuff: Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, and those guys. I love that stuff. I think they're making incredible records. Relating to Isbell and Drive-By Truckers, I think that American Band that has been made in recent years, but those aren't really new people on the scene (laughs). That's the kind of stuff that has registered and made a difference to me lately. 
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I was able to see Sturgill for the first time over the summer, and I had pretty high expectations going into it. My god...I was totally blown away. He was one of the headliners the night after Panic played SlossFest in Birmingham, and I love Panic, but I feel like Sturgill kind of stole the show on that particular weekend. 
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Danny: Those two guys in particular, he and Jason Isbell...and Amanda Shires. There is something about the records that they've been making that is mainstream. It's become mainstream. Jason won a Grammy and all that. It kind of reminds me of reading through the history back with Waylon Jennings...and the outlaw country scene was a separate thing, but it was kind of making in-roads into the mainstream. That's what this feels like to me, and I think it's important. That's the stuff that's really been on my radar. 
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Time will tell, but when it's all said and done, I think that those two guys will be up there on the list of the most impactful artists of this generation, without a doubt. 
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Danny: I really think so. It's carrying the torch from Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, and those kind of people, in my mind. I've always loved that kind of stuff. That's kind of my go-to area of music, I think. 
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Well I can't thank you enough for taking some time to chat with me this morning. I've been a big fan of your work for a long time, and it's been a pleasure getting this type of insight. I'm really excited to watch how things unfold with Interstellar Boys, and of course Bloodkin as well. 
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Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Announce 40th Anniversary Tour December 09, 2016 10:05

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Tom Petty has announced plans to reunite the Heartbreakers for a massive 40th anniversary tour which is scheduled to kick off on April 20th in Oklahoma City and run through the end of the summer.  Petty and company will make stops at many of the most prestigious venues, including Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Wrigley Field, Bridgestone Arena, Phillips Arena, TD Garden, and even a stop at the annual Mountain Jam Festival in Hunter Mountain, NY.  Further details and all ticketing information is available here.
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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Tour Dates:

April 20 Chesapeake Energy Center—Oklahoma City, OK
April 22 American Airlines Arena—Dallas, TX
April 23 Verizon Wireless Arena—Little Rock, AR
April 25 Bridgestone Arena—Nashville, TN
April 27 Phillips Arena—Atlanta, GA
April 29 Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion—Houston TX
May 2 Frank Erwin Center—Austin, TX
May 5 Perfect Vodka Amphitheatre—West Palm Beach, FL
May 6 Amalie Arena—Tampa, FL
May 8 FedEx Forum—Memphis, TN
May 12 Scottrade Center—St. Louis, MO
May 13 Klipsch Music Center—Indianapolis, IN
May 29 Red Rocks Amphitheatre—Morrison, CO
May 30 Red Rocks Amphitheatre—Morrison, CO
June 2 Sprint Center—Kansas City, MO
June 3 Xcel Energy Center—St. Paul, MN
June 5 Wells Fargo Arena—Des Moines, IA
June 7 Schottenstein Center—Columbus, OH
June 9 PPG Paints Arena—Pittsburgh, PA
June 10 Quicken Loans Arena—Cleveland, OH
June 12 US Bank Arena—Cincinnati, OH
June 14 Xfinity Theatre—Hartford, CT
June 16 Prudential Center—Newark, NJ
June 17 Mountain Jam Festival—Hunter Mountain, NY
June 29 Wrigley Field—Chicago, IL
July 1 Wells Fargo Arena—Philadelphia, PA
July 2 CMAC Performing Arts Center—Canandaigua, NY
July 5 Summerfest—Milwaukee, WI
July 6 Summerfest—Milwaukee, WI
July 18 DTE Energy Music Theatre—Clarkston, MI
July 20 TD Garden—Boston, MA
July 23 Royal Farms Arena—Baltimore, MD
July 26 Forest Hills Stadium—New York, NY
July 27 Forest Hills Stadium—New York, NY

Watch Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers perform "American Girl" with Stevie Nicks during their 30th anniversary tour here: