Founded by singer / guitarist Ken Block in Florida in 1993, Sister Hazel is something of an anomaly: a successful band that has kept the same original members for 27 years. After nearly three decades together, Block, guitarist / vocalist Andrew Copeland, bassist / vocalist Jett Beres, guitarist / vocalist Ryan Newell, and drummer Mark Trojanowski continue to create albums, perform on shows, act as the frontrunner. poster of their annual “Rock Boat” cruise, and more.
With dozens of full albums, EPs and other recordings, Sister Hazel is perhaps best known for her 1997 international hit “All for You”, and has a group of fans – “Hazelnuts” – who have followed the group from the start. Taking a break from writing new material, Block spoke with American songwriter over the phone on the band’s history and what makes it run like a well-designed watch.
âEveryone was a student at the University of Florida,â Block recalls. âI formed the band, and at first I wrote the lion’s share of the songs, but eventually everyone started contributing more as songwriters. Over the years, everyone in our group has become a strong songwriter. Each of us has a different perception of our work. This has been very important in helping us move forward and continue to evolve as a group. We all produce songs for each new record, and then we painstakingly and democratically try to choose which ones we’re most collectively passionate about, and which songs fill certain avenues to make a record run smooth and cohesive.
The band members also collaborated with outside writers, including such notables as Richard Marx and fellow Floridian Stan Lynch, former drummer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. And Block said the band members are no strangers to the Nashville songwriting scene, with some of them having written with Music City writers like Tom Douglas (Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban) and Ashley Gorley ( Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett). âWe’ve spent a lot of time in Nashville,â he said, âand the fabric of Nashville is nothing new to us, and the same is true of us writing with outside writers there. . In Nashville, you can really continue to learn and explore new ways of approaching things, even so far into our careers. Nashville has Ivy League songwriters!
Sister Hazel has been called folk-rock, country-rock, southern rock, and more, and while all of these flavors exist in the band’s music, Block said their sound was nothing more than the sum of its parts.
âWhen we first went out, people called us alternative,â he said, âand it’s, like, an alternative to what? We were a bit at the end of grunge, and we certainly weren’t. It’s acoustic guitars, it’s harmonies, it’s narration. I can honestly say we never said we were going to do a rock record, a country record, or an Americana record. We serve the song. And whatever it is, that’s what it is. When the five of us get behind our instruments and play together, when we sing together, we make noise, we do a specific sound thing. It’s in the way our rhythm section works together and creates that energy, and it’s definitely Ryan’s guitar playing, which is like a secret weapon.
Block said Sister Hazel has lasted this long because of the spirit of camaraderie and brotherhood that exists within the group.
âIt comes down to trusting each other, and I think some things happen right after you’ve been a band for many years. We’ve had deaths in families, we’ve been divorced, we’ve had treatment, and I got clean and sober in 2002. We’ve been through a lot together, and this fellowship is getting closer and closer because of it. , because we realized that we are all in the same boat, that we share a vision. We’ve had different ideas on how to get there, but it’s that push and pull that makes us who we are. We get along well, we laugh a lot. I can’t tell you one day that there is no giggles on this tour bus. We mess with each other like brothers do, but we know we have everyone’s best interests at heart at the end of the day. It is really quite remarkable.
“We make decisions together, we sail together, we get our hands dirty, we answer tough questions,” he continued. âIt would be fair to say that we are a democracy of five. We are a working group, an American group that has always worked hard. We usually play about 120 concerts a year, we still write, and we take a few breaks where we can come in and record. We always try to make sure that we move forward. There’s just something about the mix of our personalities, our ideas of how we want to get to where we want to go. This is something quite special.
Get Sister Hazel’s new album, ‘Elements’ on your preferred streaming service.