Preacher Stone Opens Up About New Album V and Overcoming a Challenging Year

It’s been nearly three months since Preacher Stone released their latest album, V. I was due to catch up with them around the time of the release, but forces didn’t align. Not one to be denied, I catch up with four-fifths of the band via Zoom on a Wednesday evening to see how they are doing.

Initially, it’s vocalist Ronnie Riddle and guitarist Nick Nguyen who join me, but as the conversation progresses, bassist Jim Bolt and drummer ‘Yoshi’ Wyatt join the conversation. It’s been a challenging year for the band, with the death of keyboardist Johnny Webb in January followed by the high of the album, which is undoubtedly their best album to date.

Then, founder member Marty Hill passed away in May. It seems appropriate to check in with how the band are doing, given everything that has happened.

“Definitely a bittersweet year,” says Ronnie. “We’ve always had this sense of putting one foot in front of the other since the band started. With Johnny’s passing, it was a real gut check. As with Marty, we knew the disease he was dealing with, we knew what the prognosis was, and we were just hoping for more time.

“That doesn’t make it any easier. Johnny was not in the greatest health, and we all knew that. We knew it was imminent, but we weren’t expecting it on that day.”

Ronnie explains that it was Marty’s wish that the band continue. “As he put it to me, you don’t start a business, and then you die, and it stops. It’s my legacy, you know, carry it on. So there, there never was any real question that we were not going to continue.

“I’d like to say our fans have been absolutely incredibly supportive of us, and that means the world. We had Nick come on board, which is who Marty wanted to join, so things are falling the way as best they can. I use the Dickens line when people ask me about it. It’s the best of times. It’s the worst of times.

“I mean it. It really, truly is. But you know, Nick’s done hell of a job coming in, and he was part of the family before, so it was only natural. So, you know, we’re developing, it’s getting better, and the sky is the limit, I guess”.

At this point, Jim joins us. Cue the usual “you’re on mute” shenanigans.

If you’ve listened to V, then you’ll probably agree that it’s the band’s best album. But there was an eight-year wait between it and the previous release, Remedy. I ask the band if their intention is to make music for them first and foremost, and whether there was any trepidation with such a gap between albums.

Jim’s happy to take the question. “I’ll go with that,” he says. “We were going to do it for ourselves anyway, but we were doing some of the newer songs because we never stopped playing. People were saying, when are we going to be able to hear the new stuff?

“We weren’t necessarily worried about how it was going to be received, but we were more under pressure to put the product out there. But I feel that it was worth the wait, in my opinion, because I really like the record.”

Ronnie joins back in. “I’m trying to get Nick involved here,’ he says. “He’s just sitting there so patiently.” He laughs! “When you say that it was eight years, you go, damn it was eight years. I guess I just lived day-to-day through that period, you know, with the world shutting down. That’s an excuse that everybody’s using, but we were writing songs. We were playing live.

“A lot of life goes on other than the pandemic, and there were reasons. I’m sure we could go back and track those down, but as far as feeling the trepidation, the only trepidation that I felt was we just needed to get it out there.”

Ronnie continues. “All the songs were worked out before we went in the studio,” he says. “For the most part, everything was ironed out. We just went in and pretty much played the album live, did some overdubs, and let Glenn Tabor do his magic with it. We came up with something. I think unequivocally it is our best effort to this day, so it is worth the wait.

“One thing I’m really proud about this band is we’re ourselves. Unadulterated us, I mean. And if you like it, fantastic. We’ve made a connection, and you’re one of our people. And if you don’t like it, no hard feelings cause we’re not for everybody.

“When you put yourself out there like that, you’re very vulnerable because people are going to accept you, or they don’t. And if you don’t accept us. That’s cool. No worries, no problems. But if you do accept this, then we got another person in the congregation. We’ve got another person on our side. We’ve been trying to take the world over one person at a time since we started.”

Of course, looking at time between albums purely in years is like being an accountant, and music doesn’t work like that. “It’s interesting that some people say, well, it’s eight years since you did your last album,” Jim says. “There is movement. We’ve got brother Nick working with us. I think moving forward, Nick, you can speak on this, but you’re not going to have to wait eight years for the next one to come out, I promise.”

Nick’s confident of this. “Yeah, I can,” he says. “A couple of things you touched on that I can kind of bring in is having not been in the band the whole time, addressing the loss of the two brothers and the record. I can give a different perspective coming in as a friend of the guys.

“I’ve known all of them for at least ten years and go far back with Ronnie and Marty. And Johnny, to some extent, you know. We played a lot of those same festivals and have been on the same circuit for many, many years.

“So, I would often come up and jump up for a couple of songs or something. That was something we had going. We were friends. I got to know Jim over the years as well, just as friends. I knew the other guys as well. For me to come in was very natural for everybody.

“It’s not the first time I’ve unfortunately had to step in when somebody passed away, and this is the most natural for sure. And that’s what you always hope to bring in somebody who, especially if they knew the guys, can feel the same pain.

“I’ve told a few people this it is a painful experience. I don’t know if it’s joyful, but it’s cathartic for sure because you are living helping to bring Marty’s music or contribution to the music with the rest of the guys.

“I’ve heard all their music for many years now. So when I had the whole record to listen to and learn, it’s been really special. And so yeah, it’s a joy to work with the guys and feels very natural”.

I wonder if I’m reading too much into the order of the album and the release of the singles from it. I point out that three of the four singles are in the second half of the record, and I note that bands often frontload albums with the singles.

Ronnie explains that it was Jim who put the order together on V. “Picking the songs was one of the hardest damn things to do,” he says. “About as hard as putting it in order,” says Jim. He explains that the band could have put out any of the tracks, such was the belief in the record.

At this point Wyatt finally joins us. He’s cooly dressed, chilled and laid back. After we make our introductions, I turn the conversation to the band’s UK dates in 2023. Although the band have played on several boats before, I wondered how the show at the Thekla in Bristol had gone.

“We’ve done quite a few cruises,” says Jim, “but never a gig with that much history tied up to the pier. We never had to load in those steep steps on the boats that we normally play on. But at least Freddy and the guys (From Sons of Liberty who coheadlined that tour) gave us a little head up.

“But it was pretty cool to do the boat. It was cool. We haven’t done one like that before”.

These were Preacher Stone’s first-ever UK gigs. “We’ve done mainland Europe before,” explains Ronnie, “but as far as coming over there, the reception was fantastic. Doing the shows with Sons Of Liberty, I mean each of these guys can speak on it. I thought it was well received, and we made lots of new friends. We look forward to coming back.”

Wyatt adds his thoughts. “Man, I had a great time there,” he says. “I cannot lie. I found out my last name, Wyatt, the name I go by, is a Scottish name. That was so intriguing. Our family crest as a lion. I’m a Leo. It was just a lot going on.

“There was a lot outside of music going on, and it was cool. A really great experience actually. I hope you don’t get in too much trouble, but I think that you care a little bit better than the other side. It was nice over there, man”.

We move on to discuss the forthcoming UK shows that Preacher Stone are scheduled to play in July. Alongside their debut at Maid Of Stone, the band are playing a handful of dates including a show at one of MetalTalk’s featured venues, The Patriot – Home of Rock in South Wales.

Ronnie is a motorcycle enthusiast and is quite excited with the news that this venue is also home to The Patriot MC. Unsurprisingly, this leads to a conversation about Sons Of Anarchy, who used a Preacher Stone song in their soundtrack.

Ronnie explains a bit more. “The bike culture kind of connected with us early because of Sons, and it’s not too far out of anybody’s comfort zones. We just kind of embrace those people, and they embrace us. So, we are all good”.

“We just played in upstate New York this last weekend,” Nick says, “and we were flipping pizzas with bikers. That was a great time”.

Jim joins in, laughing at the memory. “You were trying to flip pizzas with the bikers. Like Nick, do not hit the guys with the biker vest with the pizza!”

“It’s just part of being us,” Ronnie says. “We do a lot of bike stuff. I was doing a bit of research and I saw guys in Patriot vests and stuff and realised that is that is their home base. It’s all good”.

Given the cost of coming over from the US, I ask the band how they are back again so soon after the 2023 shows. “No, it’s not cheap for sure,” says Jim. “We were over there before the record dropped last time. Now, we’re coming over in support of the release of V and playing anywhere we can.

“It worked out with the Maid Of Stone festival. We were going to come over and play the festival anyway. And then Wes O’Neill, Freddie Hale, Tom Killner and all those guys had more to say about it? They wanted to keep us over there for several more days. So, we were like, yep, we’re flying over anyway. Let’s do it”.

“If I may throw out our evil plan to take on the world in front of everybody,” Ronnie laughs, “the resurgence or the response to our genre of music in the UK is hotter than in the United States. Our goal is to become a regular in the UK because if you look where our people are, a lot of our people are in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain.

“Sweden is a big place for us and Norway. Our hope is to come over there and bring a little bit of the Americana over there. That’s the goal. That’s the plan. That’s why we’re back so soon because it’s time to be back.”

Wyatt joins in. “Not to mention, some of our heroes are from over there, so playing those venues and some of the same places is the reason we’re doing this. They grew up there. It’s priceless. It’s bucket list stuff.”

The band recount their amazement at playing Bannermans in Edinburgh, with the plaque on the side of the wall. “It says Thin Lizzy and AC/DC played there,” Ronnie says. “That is an incredible feeling. That night I was standing where Phil Lynott stood. Where Bon Scott stood. To have the privilege to take what you’ve written and put it together overseas to another country, I can’t begin to tell you how cool that is.”

The discussion continues and we touch on the band’s relationship with Sons Of Liberty, the desire to pick up cheddar cheese in the UK, soaking up the music and literary culture that the UK offers.

This, in turn, falls into some serious banter that focuses on Wyatt’s snappy dressing, his gaming obsession and his dislike of mornings. “I’m a pretty spiffy dresser, if I do say so myself,” he says. “I like to go out, look good and walk around. You know what I’m saying?”

This then descends into tales of the road, the need for an HDMI cable and whether that needs to be on the rider. I manage to bring down the mood by asking Preacher Stone about the song ‘Til We Meet Again, which carries extra poignancy since the death of Marty and Johnny.

“Originally, Marty wanted to write a song for all the friends that we lost,” Ronnie says. “We hadn’t lost Johnny at the time. We had the music done, and then I had a dear friend of mine pass. When I think of certain key moments in life, I think you remember the dumbest things. You think of the best things that happen.

“The lyrics to that song were very simple, but it just says that I’m going to remember you, but we’re going to see each other. We’re going to meet again. So, until we meet again, I’m just going to be thinking about you.

“Obviously, with the passing of Johnny and then the passing of Marty, it goes way deeper.”

July

13jul7:00 pmPreacher Stone - Tom Killner | BristolThe Louisiana

14jul7:00 pmPreacher Stone - Tom Killner | CrumlinThe Patriot

17jul7:00 pmPreacher Stone - Tom Killner | LichfieldFeathers Inn

What about picking a set list from five albums for a show that won’t be more than around 75-minutes? The band takes their time, and it’s evident that some difficult decisions have to be made. “I think with the 60 minutes, whittling down from five albums, trying to figure it out is a little rough. Tell you what, you’ll just have to come and see what we play.”

I laugh at this, as, of course, I’ll be at The Patriot on 14 July, where Preacher Stone is likely to focus on songs from V. Ronnie explains that in the US, there are some songs that the band are unable to avoid playing.

“I love the people that come up to you right before showtime,” Ronnie says, “and they catch you. They go any chance we’re going to hear something we haven’t played in five years, and of course, there’s not. Then they’re just crestfallen. You can’t win. But this show will be V heavy because that’s what we’re promoting.”

“Even with me in the line-up,” Nick says, “we’ve got over two hours of straight material with no time in between. They sent me 30 songs that we’ve rehearsed at some point, even though they haven’t pulled them out with me. We’re playing at least eight shows on that run, so it’s going to be good.”

Just to twist the conversation, the boys put me on the spot. “What song do you want to hear, Paul?” Thankfully, I’m ready for this and reply that I was to hear Horse To Water. “Oh, you will,” says Ronne, with Jim adding, “Yeah, that’s definitely going to be one that we will play,” before being shouted down by his bandmates for giving out spoilers.

“God Dang,” says Ronnie. “So, I’m telling you, we’re playing that one. The cat is out of the bag. I need that to play that or psychological reasons.”

To avoid a band bust-up, I move on to the new single Rain Or Shine. It’s a song about the mixed messages from the media, being true to yourself and friends, and living your own life.

Does the craziness of the world influence the lyrical part of the band’s work? Ronnie isn’t sure. “I mean, we all have collectively a lot of the same values. And just right from the perspective of how you feel and how you view the world. Simply put, our view of the world is if you take everybody as individuals and you are kind to each other, you’re living in a whole lot better world than the news is telling you that you’re living in.

“I’m not discounting hardships and troubles across the globe at all, but I don’t believe all the things I see on the news. I don’t think most smart people believe everything they see.”

Neil adds a bit more. “As an outsider to having learned so much of this material, I was talking to Ronnie about it. He’s such a storyteller. So a lot of these songs, people assume that he’s talking from his perspective. He’s an author. He’s a poet, a rock ‘n’ roll poet.

“Regardless of the century he would be in, he would be doing some version of this. So, you know, you listen.”

Indeed, we do. A fun interview with a genuine bunch of good-hearted and talented musicians. Preacher Stone are back in the UK from 13th – 21st July and V is out now.

Preacher Stone - Tom Killner UK Tour dates
Preacher Stone – Tom Killner UK Tour dates
Maid Of Stone Festival 2024
Maid Of Stone Festival 2024

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