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| 26 August 2022 | Reply

Photo credit: Todd Jolicoeur – Toddstar Photography

According to a recent press release: “Rick Monroe & The Hitmen announced that they will be hitting the road this summer in support of the rock n roll icon Ted Nugent on the Detroit Muscle 2022 Tour. Rick Monroe & The Hitmen’s latest singles include “World Gone Crazy” that was released on April 15, 2022 and “Common Ground” feat. B. Stille from Nappy Roots released on June 10, 2022. World-class entertainer Rick Monroe brings his music and a magnetic presence wherever he goes. With a down-to-earth Country resonance, Monroe is no stranger to the stage: he’s performed in 17 countries – and every U.S. state including Washington DC & Puerto Rico.” We shoot the shit with Rick and the Hitmen (bassist Alan Beeler, guitarist Bobby Perkins, and drummer Jason Bohl) outside the venue during a recent tour stop in Lexington, MI to discuss new music, touring, and much more…

Toddstar: Well, I’m here with Rick Monroe & The Hitmen outside Lexington Village Theater for tonight’s show. Welcome to our quaint small town.

Rick: Yeah, it’s cool. It’s a cool place. Everything closes early, though.

Toddstar: Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, you got a cool opening gig, Ted Nugent.  He’s a Michigan boy and extremely popular in the area. What can you tell us about the moment you got that call, when Ted said, “Let’s go on the road.”?

Rick: You’re going to love this. We were playing Suck Bang Blow at 3:00 in the afternoon, like a horrible slot, and we were hungover, feeling like shit. We started drinking pretty heavily.

Bobby: I think there were like seven people there.

Rick: It was during like a bike rally too, but 3:00pm on a Saturday, no one’s there. I just remember us getting done thinking, “This sucks.” And the first thing I did is I looked at my phone and saw, “Hey, you’re doing the Ted Nugent tour.” I was like, “Yeah!” And the crew was looking at me “What are you so happy about, that you’re done?” And I ‘m like, “That, and we’re doing the Ted Nugent tour.” I love that place, but that was one of those sets that I was not happy with.

Toddstar: Cool. You have new music out. You’ve got two new songs lately, “World’s Gone Crazy” and “Common Ground.” What can you tell us about these songs that fans of your earlier stuff might not grab the first time they listen through?

Rick: When I did the Smoke Out the Window record, I think that started transitioning towards what we’re doing now, so I don’t think it’s really that far. “Common Ground” is definitely a complete departure, but that was something that was created to be something different than just our regular thing. That’s like a side thing, because the album that we did, really “God’s Ear” and “World’s Gone Crazy” are the only ones off of that. When we did” Best of You,” that was something we did separate and so was “Common Ground.” As well as releasing songs off the album, we’re still cutting other stuff just as we go along.

Toddstar: How different is it now to actually go in with a thought process of album or EP versus singles?

Rick: We actually went in for the album to do it as an album, but as we realized, you really can’t. Unless you have a certain level of success, I think putting out an album is kind of a waste of an album, sadly. Because you put out one song and you can kind of work that, but you put out everything, if Spotify doesn’t pick up multiple songs, then that’s it, your album’s over. So why subject all that work to that? But eventually, maybe within a year or six months, we can do an EP. We are working on doing a limited pressing. We might take the set that we’re doing tonight, that we’ve been doing on this tour, because we basically have the same set, and turn that into a vinyl and just make that a cool limited release.

Toddstar: What songs from your catalog do you wish you’d have had that same mindset back then that you have now, where you just don’t think the songs got the attention they should have?

Rick: I definitely think the whole Smoke Out The Window has a bunch of stuff on there, like “Rage On.” I think “Smoke Out the Window.” I definitely think that “This Side of the Dirt.” All the songs on that record, I mean, should get listened to.

Toddstar: Because we’ve got the whole band here. Going around, what’s the one song when you see it or you know it’s coming in the set that you’re just pumped to play it?

Jason: “World’s Gone Crazy.”

Bobby: They all are. I think the beginning of the show is just when there’s the most energy and the most juice is coming. The opening song is pretty bad ass. With the light guy now adopting our show and wanting to do it and making the light effects work for us. Probably the first one, “Devil On Both Sides.”

Alan: Yeah, I’m going to have to agree with Bobby here, “Devil On Both Sides.” It’s our first song and we come out swinging.

Toddstar: What’s the one song you wish you could play live but you either just can’t get it to translate right or you just don’t know how the crowd would take it?

Rick: I would like to play “Let’s Get Drunk.” It goes from four-four to six-eight. It’s an awesome song. But it’s also a long song and we have only a half hour, so there’s a couple things. We wanted to do “Ace Of Spades” and we were going to flip out “Best Of You” with that, but “Best Of You” is too long. And we have our set pretty tight. There’s a bunch of stuff we were kind of contemplating on flipping, but once we kind of got our time set, we don’t want to mess with it.

Toddstar: We talked a little bit before this whole interview started and we talked about previous tours, previous shows, things like that. You were the face of Jägermeister for a while. Looking back now, a help or a hindrance?

Rick: Hindrance. I’m being straight up. I think it was a help in the sense that I understand tours and it gave me the ability to get out there. We came out here very prepared because I’ve been on big tours. But as far as being an artist, I don’t think I got taken seriously for a long time because they’d be like, “Oh, you’re the Jäger guy.” I think that kind of set me back a long time. This band’s only been a band about a year, and this is what we’ve done in a year. It’s a whole different thing. I think anybody if you’re like, “Oh, I’ve seen Rick before.” It’s like, “No, you haven’t seen me before.” Because I’m not out here having to play “Family Tradition” or do whatever. When you’re out in front of 4,000 Eric Church fans, you’re doing anything to stay alive. But I mean, it was good for me because I have no fear about going on stage, but as far as a career thing, I don’t think it was very helpful. But being with Monster on the other hand, our new sponsor, they’ve been extremely helpful because they’re about us being us. They also kind of hit a wider range, in my opinion. A wider demographic. They have everything from UFC to bull-riding, to racing, to skateboarding to whatever people who do, tag buildings. I mean, it’s a pretty big company.

Photo credit: Todd Jolicoeur – Toddstar Photography

Toddstar: Looking back on your tours, and we talked about it – you had Aaron Lewis and now you’ve got Ted Nugent, who’s the one artist that you think you walked away from the best piece of advice on tour?

Rick: Best piece of advice. I’m trying to think. I mean, actually, Tim gave us the best piece of advice before this tour started. “Don’t play like pussies.”

Toddstar: You can’t on this tour.

Rick: I don’t know if you can print that or not, but that’s pretty much what he said. “Don’t play like pussies.” So we didn’t.

Toddstar: Yeah, in this crowd you’d probably get chewed up.

Rick: I mean, some advice I’ve always got is, “Do this because you love it.” The other one is, “Do you want to be successful or famous?” You should want to be successful, not famous. Those kinds of things. The only thing I’ve actually learned more than anything on the big tours is the energy of the crew and everybody definitely rolls from the top down. So when you meet a really nice crew and everything, you know that the boss man or whoever’s on top is a decent person because it has an effect on everybody.

Toddstar: Well, and that’s a perfect segue because we talked about a venue that’s near and dear to my heart, and I know it is to yours as well, The Machine Shop and owner Kevin Zink. Like you said, top down. What’s it about your band, your sound, and your vibe that you bring across live that just plays to that kind of room, something like The Machine Shop?

Rick: Well, I mean, we’re kind of labeled as a country band, but it’s like we’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing without a doubt. Like I said, we do Motörhead, we do all this other stuff. So I think we kind of surprise people in a really pleasant way, and I think we can put the hammer down and kick you in your teeth, but we can turn. Like, we’ve opened up for the Oak Ridge Boys and Queensrÿche and not missed a beat throughout the whole thing. And we’re doing it honestly. It’s not like we’re trying to change who we are. It’s just we, I think, have that much depth in our ability in music.

Toddstar: What’s the one professional misstep that you wish you had another chance at, even if it didn’t change the end result? What’s the one thing you want another swing at?

Rick: I probably wouldn’t have done all the Jäger tours, I would have stayed in town and written more. When I kept going out of town to do these tours, and yeah, it’s great, I made money, I paid for a house and all this stuff, but they were all sitting around writing, and writing, and writing in town, and all became hit writers. And I was having a career, but they now have that kind of a career.

Toddstar: What’s the one thing that you’re the proudest of that you hope is your legacy? And it doesn’t have to be professionally, just in life. What’s the one thing?

Rick: The one thing is I think I’ve done it my way. I don’t answer to anybody. We don’t have really a label that we answer to, we don’t have anybody that tells us how to create what we do. We create everything that we want to create and how we want to create it, when we want to create it. And I think that in itself is impressive that we’re here right now and able to keep moving forward.

Toddstar: You just talked about you’ve been a band collectively as a year.

Rick: Yeah, Bobby’s been here five years, Bobby Perkins [guitars]. Alan Beeler’s been here about three years, that’s the bass player. And Jason Bohl [drums], he came in when we were doing the record and he really just never left. It’s been about a solid year of us being like, “Okay, we’re going to do this. Everybody’s going to commit to this.”

Toddstar: We’ll pretend Rick’s not standing here for a second. Did you ever think “Really? Rick Monroe?” Was there ever a moment where you thought there was something better down the road? Was this just a stopgap at the time? What’d you all really think?

Bobby: It’s a couple paychecks, but next gig comes along, I’m out. It’s like Price is Right or whatever. $200, $201.

Rick: You actually came in for a fill in for another guy that was supposed to come back to his gig, but when the guy came back, I was like, “Sorry. You’re out.”

Toddstar: Now you’re billed as Rick Monroe and The Hitmen. That’s why I asked this question because you weren’t for the longest time. You were Rick Monroe. They were going to be the side gig.

Rick: Right.

Toddstar: Have you all felt like it’s been that band feeling from the beginning? I know you stepped in for someone, but did you get that welcoming feeling from the get from Rick and the team?

Bobby: Yeah. I don’t necessarily think it was a whole band thing for me. I came into this town, I think a lot of people had in mind, they’re trying to a gun for hire kind of thing and obviously I wasn’t joining a band with a name, it was Rick Monroe, so it was an artist name. So I’m like, I’m going to come in more as a side guy. We committed to the project, and as time went on, get more married to the songs if you will, you’re kind of like, “Okay.” You get married to the style, the genre. Just keep the ball rolling. I’m not really a songwriter per se, so I wasn’t really doing anything new with him. It wasn’t really until Alan came in and they started collaborating because he did a lot of songwriting on the side, because he plays guitar, too. [Bobby to Alan] I’m describing you, like your autobiography. I think those two worked together, more songs came about, I throw some bells and whistles at some things, and it became more of a band out of that. It took time.

Rick: COVID was a big part of that, though, because we were kind of stuck together. Through that, started doing the streaming and started to be like, “Well, we should make this more of a permanent thing.”

Jason: Yeah. I have more of a unique perspective just because I was the studio guy and I met all these guys in the studio and to me it was already a band. So being asked to join these guys and play, I’ve always kind of felt like it’s been a band the entire time.

Photo credit: Todd Jolicoeur – Toddstar Photography

Rick: They made the bus, too. I told him, I said, “Before we do this, man, you all better commit to a couple years, man, because I’m not putting that on, man.”

Bobby: Well, not only that. He had a whole catalog of songs so it’s not like I came in, had to learn eight and then we were good. It was good from there as a side guy or something like that. There was a lot to learn. I didn’t come in with a side guy mentality because I didn’t want to and I was like, this is kind of the role going forward. But once Alan came in, he was in it for the long haul, so to speak. That’s where it just kind of started morphing and changing and more songwriting started to come out. It’s like, “Okay, we’re not just playing an old catalog, we’re going to start a new catalog and come out and whatnot.” And that’s kind of where I felt like I was part of a band, but it was becoming more surreal. It was like, “Oh, we’ve actually got kind of a new image forming in a way.” It’s still the old, but the old with some newer twists coming in. To me it was cooler because it was one thing that my buddy said before I moved down, “You might have to become a side guy or you might finally join a band and it blossoms into something.” And it’s like, “Huh, I did one thing, but yet I’m still in the same thing that’s blossoming into the other thing we talked about.” It’s like, “That’s kind of cool.”

Toddstar: How different is this process from the writing, recording, getting out on the road now, after the pandemic? Forget the pandemic, but is the process different for you than it was 2019?

Rick: No. No, I mean, it’s still the process. You’ve got to write, you’ve got to put songs together, you’ve got to get them in the studio. But I mean, the one thing, I think when you’re doing stuff like this, this is a whole different thing than doing the club level. And I’m really glad that we put a lot of time into being prepared because we can roll in here and be from opening the van to ready to sound check in 20 minutes. I mean, we’ve streamlined everything, we’ve color coded shit. I mean, we’ve been really super anal retentive about setting it up. And I think that’s made them like us a lot better, because they’re like, “Oh, these guys are easy.” We want to make everything we do to be pleasant for them. And then it’s the opportunity of the songs that we wrote, we know translate really well. I mean, after you see the show tonight, you’ll be like, “Wow, that’s pretty crazy. I had no idea that this country band sounds like that.”

Toddstar: Again, that’s the benefit. I’ve heard the music before, so I know what you’re talking about when you say you’re kind of labeled but you’re not. On a parting note, what’s the one thing you hope to achieve and then continue to build on after the Nugent tour? What’s that next step and how are you going to build on it?

Rick: Just more of this. I love being able to go out, especially with legacy artists like this. I think that’s a really smart thing to do for artists like us, especially because we don’t fit completely. Country music has just gone so sideways for us. It’s all the hip-hop kind of stuff. I don’t think there’s a home for us there as much as there is with some of these fans. I don’t think these fans have had new music in years, and I think we’re giving them the opportunity to find it. That’s what people like about, “Holy crap, their band sounds like what I want to hear.” I mean, there’s a lot of people out there that would like that. Just keep doing this, keep touring. [Tornado siren blares in the background] Is that the fire department thing or is it a certain time of day?

Toddstar: [laughing] That’s how they call the fire department.

On that note, the bands dinner arrived and without any fanfare, we snapped a quick photo by the van and I left them to their meal until I saw them just before the show that evening.  Check the review HERE.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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