It has been a whole year since MetalTalk last spoke to frontman Steve Harris from deep south soul shakers Hillbilly Vegas. Then, the band had just done their first UK show at the infamous The Troubadour [as reviewed here and here] and were already hot on the heels of finalising details of their return.
Now, with just a few months till they would be back across the pond for a double bill tour – which will see them support Thunder guitarist Luke Morley on his solo album tour before embarking own headlining stint – we sat down with Harris once more to find out what Hillbilly Vegas had been up to and what they had in store for us next.
“Well, we had another few radio singles that were good for us,” Steve told Monty Sewell. “Then we went on a tour with Ted Nugent, where we spent all the summer with him, which was great. We absolutely loved it.”
From Orlando to Oklahoma, Hillbilly Vegas was on the road with Nugent for just over a month this summer just gone. “Ted was wonderful. His crew, the best, the band, the best. They just treated us with total first class. Then, after Ted, we came home and rested up a bit. We are currently writing a new album and, of course, getting ready to come over and see you guys in the UK.”
Though Nugent has – in recent years – drawn attention to particular personal political views, there is no doubt heading out on the road with such a renowned musician as himself would draw vast amounts of intrigue as to what the experience would be like on a more intimate level.
“When going on tour with someone like that, you get all kinds of mixed messages from people. Oh, ‘he’s this way or that way.’ We just kept an open mind, and I can tell you that he was wonderful as a human being.
“He was terrific as a performer at 75 years old. I don’t know where he got the energy, but he was amazing every night. He never got tired. You wouldn’t know it even if he were tired. He was a great example.
“We learned a lot from him as a performer, how to handle things on the road. Professionalism, the whole thing. It was probably the best experience we’ve ever had on the road.”
Did the experience have any effect on your music written after that? “Yeah, a little bit. Because when you get out there in front of several thousand people every night for a few months, you start seeing what works, what might, and what doesn’t.
“But we are still who we are. So we will write what we feel like writing, but there is always influence everywhere.” With a distinct sound with warm, homegrown roots warped within their music, Hillbilly Vegas truly own who they are and what their music means.
“Listen, we are always only capable of being who we are,” Steve says. “We cannot sound like anybody else. We cannot even try to pretend to copy anybody else. Even if we try to copy anybody else, It would sound strange. So, we’re just who we are, and hopefully, it keeps working, you know what I mean?”
For a band with such a clear image of who they are and what they bring, their album The Great Southern Hustle – out last year – brought it all to life to critical acclaim. Twelve tracks of pure wild west, guitar twang thump was released upon the grateful masses.
With success from their first album still boot-to-heel in tow, it was interesting to hear how this had changed their recording process.
“As a matter of fact, we have simplified it,” Steve says. “Working with hardly any overdubbing and recording, we did everything pretty much right then, with first and second takes only. Doing it as live as possible and keeping the tracks and the overdubbing as minimal as possible, too. Trying to get what we get live on our recordings a little more.”
More of a live feel on their next studio record? We’ll take it. From performing at every major bike rally in America to garnishing nothing but sterling reviews of their shows, I can say from first-hand experience Hillbilly Vegas unfailingly nails it every time with their live sets.
Any changes in the run-up to your trip over here in January 2024? “Well, we have a new guy to work in before,” Steve says. “But we plan to do the same thing we’ve been doing this past year: add more songs and make the show a bit bigger.
“We are dually preparing for the first half of the tour with Luke and the second half on headlining. Just working on being a great support act and then a great headlining act.”
Though the excitement for the tour is prevalent, some news from the band led them to make a temporary lineup chance.
“Unfortunately, our bassist Robb Edwards has cancer, but his recovery looks good. It means he cannot tour with us for the remainder of this year and most of next year. A really good friend of ours, Todd Ron, who is currently the basis for Bad Company, will be touring with us while Rob is out. “
From the whole of the MetalTalk team, we send our very best to Hillbilly Vegas, Edwards, and his family. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to support Robb in this difficult time with mounting medical expenses, which include treatments, medications and doctor’s visits.
What struck a cord from their last visit to the UK was the band’s incredibly tight-knit family feel. We look forward to seeing Edwards back on his feet and back on the bass soon.
As Harris drops hints and thoughts on the – currently in creation – impending new album, we get an inclining of when that drop might be. “We will probably release the next album sometime before we return to you guys in the summer for festival season.”
It is crazy to think that lineups for next year are being solidified, but for Hillbilly Vegas, their roster of upcoming exciting news roll-outs is gaining more and more traction.
Who knows, perhaps a 2024 Christmas record is also on the cards already? “You know what? No Christmas tracks,” Steve says. “And I’ll tell you why. I don’t believe in new Christmas music. It should all be the old stuff. We’ve been asked before to write Christmas music. And we always say, no, we don’t believe in New Christmas music. We only like old Christmas music. We can’t improve that.”
Many would certainly agree.
But things Hillbilly Vegas would never do aside, the guys have one big desire when it comes to bands they would want to go touring with. “It is always going to be Lynyrd Skynyrd,” Steve says. “We are really trying to get that to happen. We are trying to get a bug in their ear, talk to some people, and see if we can work that out.”
As hopes continue for this on-the-road collaboration, Harris and his bandmates have a few more things going up to 2024. “We’ve got two or three one-off shows,” he says. “The next thing we do in a few weeks will be in Nashville at a place called The Mockingbird Theatre in November. Then after that, we have a thing out in California, a private event for a sponsor that we’re going to go do, and then we’re just going to get ready to come over to the UK.”
Needless to say, it will be a spectacular return to our side of the pond and not one to be missed. As we sign off, there isn’t anything apart from intense excitement, an impending great time and much more Hillbilly Vegas to come.