J. Zimmerman | Nashville Bypass
November 8th, 2023
I had a chance this month to talk to Clint Woolsey of Stone Senate about their latest release and the upcoming tour they’ve planned in Europe.
– J Zimmerman: I just wanted to start by asking a little bit about yourself. What do you do outside of music, and what lead you to music?
– Clint Woolsey: My father has an artist management company that he’s run since ‘79 or ‘80. It’s predominantly country music artists. I’ve been working there since about 2000 as my ‘day gig.’ Pretty much always been around music. My mother and my father have been in the music business all my life. My dad started doing record promotion: Rock and then R&B. That led him to country music which brought him here to Nashville. So I’ve just kinda always been around the music business, and I’ve always enjoyed it. Pretty much been playing in bands since I was about fourteen. Long story short: Started out playing drums, and then moved over to bass guitar. Kinda depended on what band I was in and what instruments needed to be filled, ya know? And then I finally picked up the guitar at maybe 17. At 18 I started to play it seriously.
– J Zimmerman: Like more than just a few chords.
– Clint Woolsey: *Chuckle* Right, exactly. I always had an original rock band but never did really make a whole lot of money. We were just always kinda playing locally. I guess right around 2004 or so, I started a cover band and really just started playing around Nashville doing Lower Broadway and Midtown. Did that solid for about 10 years.
– J Zimmerman: Wow.
– Clint Woolsey: That band was called Hotel Coral Essex… But like I said, I always had a rock band on the side. After about 10 years playing in a cover band and making some pretty good money, I really just wanted to focus on the original stuff and put a group together – originally called The Shakes – back in 2008. Changed our name to Stone Senate in 2012. We had some members fall out over the years which led us to the current lineup. The most recent addition would be our bass player, Keiran Cromley, who joined a little over a year ago.
– J Zimmerman: That’s quite the journey!
– Clint Woolsey: I know, right? *Laughter* I tried to condense the story so it wouldn’t be too terribly boring.
– J Zimmerman: I don’t think it’s boring at all. *chuckle* I’m into this kind of stuff: It’s like a Behind the Music kind of thing.
– Clint Woolsey: Well, man, I appreciate the interest. It’s always interesting to speak to different folks and just try to get our story out there.
– J Zimmerman: That’s part of what makes this job fun. So you changed the name of the band to Stone Senate in 2012: Does that name have any significance?
– Clint Woolsey: Well we always tell this story: Trying to get five guys to agree on a band name is more difficult than writing the songs.
– J Zimmerman: *Laughter*
– Clint Woolsey: Everybody had lists of band names they thought were cool. My idea was ‘The Senate,’ and everyone kinda liked that, then we pulled the ‘stone’ off of someone else’s idea and combined them. We’re writing it down to see how it would look in print and all that stuff, and we all agreed on it. Just started rolling with it, man. When we were called The Shakes, we were trying to trademark the name. Course there was about 100 other bands called The Shakes. *Chuckle*
– J Zimmerman: You’d reckon!
– Clint Woolsey: I always really liked that name!
– J Zimmerman: It’s a great band name!
– Clint Woolsey: A lot of other people did too… I think it was Bruce Springsteen’s original drummer who owned the name. We actually found his contact info online, and we reached out to him. He was a super nice guy. He told us, “You guys are welcome to use the name, but I can’t give up ownership.” He was like, “I just won’t do it.”
– J Zimmerman: Yeah. It takes a lot of effort to get those trademarks.
– Clint Woolsey: Yeah! It was quite the process; a team effort for sure. Finally come to the conclusion, “Let’s just make it easy, and let’s just change the name to something that nobody else has,” ya know? Then we can be free and clear and move forward kind of thing. We get asked about the name a lot. I know it is kind of an odd name, but it’s really working out for us so far.
– J Zimmerman: It’s really unique. It holds some reverence compared to others. Like ‘Stone Senate’ versus ‘The Slackers’ or something.
– Clint Woolsey: Right! Course ‘The Slackers’ could’ve worked for us too!
– Both: *Laughter*
– J Zimmerman: So y’all are touring in Europe starting in November. How do you feel about that?
– Clint Woolsey: We have talked about wanting to go over to Europe for years. Always trying to find the right opportunity, the right promoters, and stuff. We needed someone to make the logistics work. We finally teamed up with a company called Teenage Hit Music. They’re based out of Brussels. The owner, a guy named Manny, I emailed him around last Christmas. I knew he worked with a bunch of American bands, and he hit me back immediately and said we’d been on his radar already.
– J Zimmerman: Wow!
– Clint Woolsey: He threw out mid-November to mid-December of 2023, so obviously we jumped at the opportunity. Grabbed some passports. *Chuckle* Did all the necessary planning and all that stuff. We couldn’t be more excited to get over there. I see why they plan these tours out in Europe like a year in advance. There’s just so much to plan, you know what I mean?
– J Zimmerman: Oh yeah. They’re all in the EU, but every country has their own regulations and ways that they do things.
– Clint Woolsey: Right! It’s been a learning experience. Luckily, Teenage Hit Music, they’re awesome. They’re hooking us up with a tour manager that works for them and I’m sure he’ll help guide our way while we’re there. It’s gonna be really exciting. We’re gonna try and capture as much as we can through videos and pictures. It’s gonna be a pretty packed tour: Something like 28 shows in 32 days.
– J Zimmerman: That’s quite a few!
– Clint Woolsey: Yeah! We work a ton here in the US and always have over the years, so I’m glad that we’ve done that ‘cause we’ve worked ourselves up to being able to do a packed tour like this.
– J Zimmerman: I’ve never been to Europe, so I’m curious if there’s anywhere you’re excited to see.
– Clint Woolsey: I’ve been over a few times just to hang out and stuff, so I’m looking forward to all of it. We’re doing a few dates through Northern Spain including Barcelona which I think will be really, really cool. But really, we’re all just really excited to see everywhere. We’re all big history buffs. Obviously, there’s a bunch of history over there. We’ve all started to study up about some of these places and the cool things to go see, the historic things all these towns and cities have. It’s gonna be quite the experience, I think.
– J Zimmerman: It’s definitely a bit of culture shock, ya know? In the US we set stuff up and knock it down 60 years later, but they’ve got stuff from like the 1200s… the 600s… Before. *Chuckle*
– Clint Woolsey: Yeah, man. *Chuckle* Definitely culture shock. But we’re really, really, really excited. Like I said, this is something we’ve been wanting to do for many, many years now. We’re lucky and blessed to get the opportunity to do it this year, and we’re hoping to get to go back next year and do even more.
– J Zimmerman: I wanted to talk about your latest release, Between the Dark and the Light. I noticed when I was listening on Spoitfy that the album is actually the combination of two EPs and I wanted to know a little more about the process of creating the album.
– Clint Woolsey: Basically, the story around that is we wanted to do a full album. The previous release was titled Star City, and our first release was just titled One, and they were both EPs… Just six and seven songs each. We really wanted to do an old-school 13-song album. So we teamed up with Rollin’ the Dice Records, found a producer, and got to doing it. Hooked up with Toby Wright who’s a legend himself. He’s worked with everybody from Alice in Chains and Korn to The Bullet Boys and Van Halen. Kiss… He’s been around since the 80s and he’s still doing it. Basically did this album in two two-week sessions here in Nashville. So we did the first six songs, took a few weeks off, then the next seven. Our record label really wanted to build up our online presence, our streaming numbers, YouTube and all that good stuff. They really wanted to space the releases out: Milk this album as long as we could. We put the first EP out, which was just six songs, called Dusk and then… single by single. *Chuckle* Then we released Dawn single by single. And there’s actually two songs that were not on either of the EPs that are on the full album. The first one’s called Ghost, and that’s gonna release November 10th [streaming]. And the other’s just an acoustic instrumental with three of us playing called Buddy’s Song that’ll release December 8th. So then the whole 13-song album will be out in the digital world. Of course, we’ve been selling the CDs and the vinyl on the road and through our website.
– J Zimmerman: That’s the way things are going these days: You gotta have both digital and physical. There are people who only do physical and others who only do digital.
– Clint Woolsey: Right! We’ve never done vinyl before, and this one ended up being a double vinyl. It’s really cool going through the process of making the cover art, actually having some liner notes to read. I was always a liner notes junkie, man. I always loved the vinyls, reading all the stuff about where it was recorded, who wrote it, who produced it, who played what on what songs. So that was a big deal for us to finally do some vinyl. We ended up using a new company in town called The Vinyl Lab. They’re kind of a boutique vinyl pressing plant. They did a hell of a job on it. We couldn’t be happier with it.
– J Zimmerman: I’m a bit of a vinyl fanatic myself. I’ve always thought you get a lot more out of that piece of cardboard and plastic than any streaming service.
– Clint Woolsey: Oh yeah! Absolutely! Streaming is cool, and it is what it is, but it’s hard to replace vinyl.
– J Zimmerman: When I was listening through Stone Senate’s latest album, I noticed there was a lot of play on the gray area in life. Was that a natural part of the songwriting process or was it a decision?
– Clint Woolsey: You know, when we came up with the album’s title, that was actually some of the lyrics from one of the singles, Whiskey Helps. We just thought that was such a cool phrase. And the more we thought about it, man, it really explained the album as a whole. There’s some heavy-rockin’ kind of stuff on there, and there’s some… not sad so much, but more mellow, not-so-rockin’ stuff.
– J Zimmerman: Yeah. It gets a little introspective at times.
– Clint Woolsey: Yeah! It’s a little bit of both. It’s rocking and it’s heartfelt, and it’s all true stories. It was a full band kind of operation, writing and putting all these songs together. Well, the full band and then our producer, Toby Wright. He worked his magic with it, helping us arrange all of the music. But that name, Between the Dark and the Light, it was a perfect explanation of all the music on this album.
– J Zimmerman: That struck me too. After giving it a listen, all I could think was, “That title sums it up, doesn’t it?”
– Clint Woolsey: *Laughter* It’s got almost a little bit of everything on there. No steel guitar or fiddle, but just about everything else.
– J Zimmerman: I took some notes about what I was feeling when I listened through each song, and the first one that really stuck out was Down, how it was a perfect razor’s edge between rock and country. My first thought was “AC/DC in cowboy boots.”
– Both: *Laughter*
– Clint Woolsey: You’re exactly right! We’re all big fans of good ol’ classic rock. So there’s a lot of that in our songwriting. We’re also big fans of classic country. Nowadays, and I just recently learned this when we were starting to market this album, they call what we do ‘country rock.’ We’d always called what we do Southern rock, being from the South and all. In the streaming world, it’s country rock as a sub-genre. That was kind of confusing some folks. *Laughter* They’d say, “Well, I don’t think you guys are real country.” So explaining that whole thing was difficult.
– J Zimmerman: I’ve always found that weird how streaming services just slap a name on something like, “That’s what you are.” Well… okay? *Chuckle*
– Clint Woolsey: They kinda pigeonhole you almost. And now there’s so many sub-genres… there’s everything in the world out there as far as being titled like what it is. I guess you gotta play the game, ya know? If you wanna get playlisted and all that stuff. But we’re all good. We got a lot of help from our label and marketing folks. We just kinda follow their lead with that stuff, and it’s working out for us so far! Onwards and upwards. *Chuckle*
– J Zimmerman: I noticed a lot of variation from song to song. Whiskey Helps really stuck out with how bluesy it was. Did you listen to a lot of blues coming up in Nashville?
– Clint Woolsey: Yeah! James Edwards, one of our lead guitar players, he actually had that opening riff and everyone loved it. That was the first song we started working on for this album. Then he came back with some great lyrics, and we put a chorus and all that stuff to it, did all the arrangements. It almost pretty much wrote itself. *Chuckle* James, he’s a brilliant songwriter, man. We just maneuvered a few parts around what he brought in. [Whiskey Helps] is one of my favorites, man. We get requests for it all the time, and it’s cool to see folks in the crowd singing along at live shows and wearing Whiskey Helps t-shirts. It could be it’s own marketing explosion. *Laughter*
– J Zimmerman: Yeah! I can see that one going over especially well with barflies.
– Clint Woolsey: There’s a lot of folks that love drinking whiskey. We could really take advantage of that aspect of it, I think. *Chuckle*
– J Zimmerman: The song’s sound was so… ‘Down home’ too. Like, I’m from Arkansas, so there was a very familiar aspect to the song while sounding brand new.
– Clint Woolsey: Yeah! There’s a familiar quality about it, even if you’d just heard it for the first time. I feel like people really dig it.
Clint brought up one of my favorite venues near me, and after discussing a few venues between my hometown and Nashville, the conversation shifted to touring.
[End of “Stone Senate Interview with Clint Woolsey – Part 1”]
To finish the remainder of the interview check back to Nashville Bypass on December 6th, 2023 for “Stone Senate Interview with Clint Woolsey – Part 2”.