A rock band that fuses classic sounds and modern tones, The Appalachian Renegades call upon guitar heavy riffs mixed with soaring saxophone melodies and clean vocals to form their core sound. Having spent 7 years playing shows across WNC, the renegades are currently writing music for their 4th studio release. Devil's Wish, the third of their career, had two #1 singles in the summer of 2022 on Buzz Radio Asheville. The guys produce a sound reminiscent of rock bands like Greta Van Fleet, Clutch, Volbeat, Government Mule, Jack White, Black Stone Cherry, and My Morning Jacket among many other influential contemporary and classic rock artists.
By Kreig Marks, March 2023
KM: Congratulations on the direction the band is moving. Onward and Upward! You guys have several local shows scheduled over the next few months. Are you looking forward to one specifically?
GA: We’re especially looking forward to our show on July 7th at The Grey Eagle. It is always an honor to spend time on one of their stages. This will be a patio show so it’s outdoors and we’ll be playing a set full of original material both old and new so we need as many of our renegade nation to support as possible!
KM: You guys first got together in 2017 but have had some changes in the band over the years. Now, for about a year, consistency has taken over. How much of a difference has this made for the band as far as creativity and motivation?
GA: It’s made all the difference. Everyone has something invested into the band now and our ability to learn new material and advance the vision and musical direction of the band gives us the freedom to explore new ideas and flesh them out slowly until it meets our expectations and everyone feels like they collaborated on it.
KM: You grew up in Atlanta and started playing the bassoon in the school band mainly because it gave you the opportunity to get a better grade?
GA: Funny story. Not many rock stars got their start playing bassoon lol. But I view it as a path to giving me the foundation for understanding music and also allowing me to explore other opportunities like playing saxophone in our school pep band and jazz ensembles so in effect I learned 2 instruments in school and I have kept with the saxophone which is now featured prominently in the Appalachian Renegades sound today.
KM: Then you progressed to saxophone but did not start playing the guitar until several years later. Why the late start on the guitar?
GA: I was preoccupied with everything life was throwing at me including sports and school, but I always had the singing bug and was always going to karaoke nights. My favorite karaoke song was Rebel Yell by Billy Idol. Eventually after college I wanted to go further and begin songwriting and give myself the ability to have some more freedom to explore my voice and budding songwriting dreams so I undertook the slow and painstaking love of learning guitar. I view it as a life skill which no one can take away from me now that I have it.
KM: When you were a kid, you saw Harry Belafonte and that helped give you the motivation to become a performer. How did that affect you?
GA: It was mainly the spectacle of it all really. the full backup singers, the 15 piece band, the crowd singing along and the roar of cheers after every song. I just told myself that day I would be the one they’d be cheering for eventually.
KM: When you moved from Atlanta to Asheville about 10 years ago, did you feel you would have immediate success forming a band and becoming successful, at least on the local circuit?
GA: I really didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t have a ton of jamming/gigging experience and I was kind of unsure of my abilities, but I had a vision. I joined a couple of bands early on and I had a good mentor who helped me build confidence especially with guitar in a band setting until I figured out how to incorporate vocals, guitar and saxophone into my front man persona that I have now.
KM: You met your wife, Jenni, when you moved to Asheville. How supportive has she been about your music aspirations?
GA: We met while working our day jobs so she initially didn’t understand how important music was to me, but over the years as she has seen how tirelessly I have worked not only at my musicianship, but also at the business side she has become very supportive. We know that when gigs come, they may not always fit into our plans, but she is flexible and we have an understanding that works out for us as long as I keep her in the loop well enough in advance and make sure I maintain my family duties then we’re good to go.
KM: Many of the bands in Asheville are either bluegrass, cover bands or jam bands. What makes the Appalachian Renegades stand out from those types of bands? Who are your fans?
GA: Appalachian Renegades has a unique approach and blends our style. We take all of the classic feel good rock style riffs and run them through the modern lens of today’s rock fan. We throw in Saxophone and bring it out front as a lead instrument with solos and top it all off with poignant lyrics which create emotions and introspection for listeners. Our typical fan is going to be someone who is tired of the mumbling, growling and blast beats and just wants to enjoy well crafted songs with clean style vocals, soaring saxophone melodies and amazing guitar solos.
KM: Your latest album, you recorded in the basement and was self-produced. How long was the process from start to finish?
GA: The recording process was actually pretty quick, but being able to do it on our own time made it relaxed. We weren’t counting dollars as the minutes ticked by. All of the guys in the band are hard working and driven so when the red light went on we could count on getting something from the session. Ironically, the only thing we needed multiple passes was the saxophone solo on Two Worlds Collide. As we progressed and eventually started playing it live, I got more comfortable and confident and it turned out to be the last thing that got recorded and the basement sessions gave us the freedom to keep revisiting it until it popped. Matt Hosier Our bassist really dug into the past production process and by all accounts and feedback, he did an A+ job. Cole Ford, our guitarist acted as our lead engineer and producer giving in session feedback and recording expertise to get the sounds we were looking for. LArry Smith on drums was excellent in his sessions because he came in when we were almost completed and laid down his drum tracks effortlessly so that we didn’t have to go with programmed drums as was the original plan. In addition to recording my parts, I executive produced and worked on the business part designing artwork, planning roll out strategy and content ideas, and sending music to media outlets and reviewers. I even made a tough call to cut one of my guitar parts which was muddying the mix on one of our songs. That song is infinitely better now. (which song I will never tell)
KM: How would you describe the band’s sound? There are a ton of different genres these days. Where would you put yours?
GA: We’re following the template that has been laid out by bands like Alter Bridge and Black Stone Cherry, Clutch, Volbeat, and even Government Mule and to some extent My Morning Jacket. Good classic sounding hooks and riffs with meaningful lyrics, impressive guitar work and a proper amount of saxophone to keep the listener’s ear on the lookout. It’s a bob your head and stomp your feet rock style, not the kind where everyone is gonna want to open a massive mosh pit.
KM: Tell me about the guys in the band. Who are the players and how did you all meet?
GA: First of all, Craigslist is still a thing in the local music world. I think I made posts at different times and each one of these guys responded via craigslist. I have been with Cole Ford, our guitarist for about 5 years. His impressive ability to pump out riffs and learn material has kept our life blood pumping. We rib each other a lot but our working relationship has always been a good mix of honesty, friendship and professionalism. He has also helped craft the new sound and direction we are going with AR. Matt Hosier has been with me for about 3 years, but I think it was he and Cole that clicked on their taste in music first. Matt has really jumped in to being an integral part of our recording process and has chipped in financially for some our live sound gear and merch opportunities. Larry Smith, the drummer, is the newest part of the renegade crew, but as soon as his sticks hit the drum heads we knew he was going to complete our crew. His style has complimented us at every turn and his attention to detail and impeccable timing gives us the ability to explore more creative options and push forward with new material.
KM: Let’s hear a funny band story. Every band has one. Let’s hear yours.
GA: Now that we are in the age of multi-effect pedals and gadgets that do everything all at once, sometimes it’s hard to tell what button your foot is clicking. Well at a show recently my foot got to clicking on some buttons and I accidentally moved my tuner into a lower tuning than what would be typical. Standard pitch is at 440hz and my tuner got kicked in 437hz. Not enough to flat out hear the difference but enough to make everyone scratch their heads. I must have played 2 shows and several practices like this before it got so bad that at practice one night Matt leaned his head over and investigated it himself and saw the pitch was off. Now they all look at my guitar pedal and verify for themselves my tuner is in the correct mode and my new band nickname is 437. Thankfully, it’s not my guitar that people hear the most and I am buried in the mix most times just quietly strumming along. Otherwise, it would have been a really problem for any front of house guys trying to also figure out what that horrible noise was.
KM: 437. Lol. Away from the band you are and IT professional. Are you prepared to put that career on ice if things go in the direction you are hoping for with the band?
GA: Well all of the guys have day jobs, so it would definitely be a full band decision, but I think we are all happy to entertain the possibility of doing this in a larger capacity and find ways to make it work. There’s really nothing like the roar of a crowd at the end of a song or looking out and seeing someone singing along to lyrics you wrote. People don’t know it, but we can see them from the stage and it is immediately clear whether they are connecting with the music or not. It’s that feeling of knowing we are speaking to you and inner pride that keeps me and the guys going. IF we were able to do that for more people who know what the future holds.
KM: Anyone you want to thank or give a shout out to?
GA: First and foremost, I am thanking my wife for being patient and flexible with me for the hours and hours of practice and rehearsals along with weird hours spent away from her and the family and essential gear that has been acquired. I’d like to thank everyone that I have shared the stage with. Each time is a learning experience and a great responsibility I try to learn from. And finally, thank you Tru Rock Revival Magazine and everyone who supports local music. For those of us putting in the blood sweat and tears, we think of it as a small family owned business and rising tides help raise all ships!