Robert Plant and his Band of Joy have started their 2011 tour and will be coming to Nashville on February 8th and 9th. They will be performing at TPAC’s War Memorial Auditorium. Providing the bass lines for the band is Bowling Green’s own Byron House. Byron grew up in the South Central Kentucky area and played in many bands here. He now lives in Nashville, where he is a well-respected and very active session player. To coincide with his homecoming (the band already toured the US and Europe extensively in 2010) I thought it would be great timing to ask him about his Band of Joy experiences and find out a little about what’s in store for 2011.
Pennman (PM): Let’s start at the beginning. How was the Band of Joy formed? And how did Robert Plant come to know of you?
Byron House (BH): I was introduced to Robert through my good friend Buddy Miller. Buddy is primarily a Nashville-based producer these days. He’s also a great bandleader, and that’s his role in the Band of Joy. Robert contacted him to put a band together and Buddy called me.
PM: So was there an audition?
BH: Well, because Buddy has such a good reputation, there were no auditions. What Robert did was to work a few sessions with the band Buddy put together.
PM: What was the process like to assure the chemistry was there?
BH: The sessions lasted only a couple of days. Robert went into it uncommitted regarding whether a record was going to be made or not. But he had a lot of material. After the sessions went so well, Robert just smiled and said “I think we’re making a record”.
PM: So the 12 songs on the Band of Joy album were then rehearsed and recorded?
BH: There was a lot of material. We actually cut 21 songs, and 12 made it onto the album. But there was even more material we ran through but didn’t record.
PM: Did you have any past experience playing with any of the other band members?
BH: Buddy and I go back to the mid-90s. I worked on several of his solo albums. Darrell Scott is an amazing multi-instrumentalist. He and I worked together on Jimmy Dale Gilmore’s record “One Endless Night”, and Buddy was the co-producer on that. Marco Giovino and I have rehearsed before and we did 1 gig together that I’m not recalling right now. I have been involved in a recording with Patty Griffin before but hadn’t worked together in the same room. I was in at one time laying down my parts for The Dixie Chicks “Home” album and she was in at another time. We also were both at last year’s NRDC benefit in Nashville (NRDC is an organization dedicated to stopping the mining technique known as mountain top removal). I worked together with Patty for the first time on the second day of the Band of Joy sessions. She wasn’t there on the first day.
PM: I’ve read your artist directory listing in the Amplifier. It’s extensive, so you’ve probably toured nationally before, right? How about internationally?
BH: Yes. I’ve been on tour in all US states except Hawaii. Internationally, I’ve worked in Switzerland, France, England, and Norway. And there was a dobro festival I worked in Slovakia with one of the best dobro players in the world, Jerry Douglas.
PM: Did any one European location stand out over all the others on this Band of Joy tour?
BH: The Palais de Sports in Paris was great. Great audience and a really nice 3,400 seat venue. And we’d get some time off, but not a lot, to sightsee. We usually did two shows and then had a night off. Once we had a three-night stand. Another interesting location was in Italy where we did some TV shows.
PM: So next up is the American/Canadian tour in January and February. Will the Nashville shows be extra special for you?
BH: Well, I have lots of friends in my hometown. I hope as many of them as can will come out. It’s at the TPAC War Memorial Auditorium.
PM: I was a little surprised at the venue. It’s an open floor with seating upstairs.
BH: Actually, that’s the type of venue Robert prefers.
PM: Is there any significant difference playing in a big city like New York vs. a smaller city like Nashville?
BH: Sometimes in a big place there’s a bit of electricity in the air, so there can be a little bit different feel. But the band takes the same approach no matter where we are.
PM: I’ve heard you are pulling a Zeppelin song or two out of the vault at every show. Which ones are you playing?
BH: Yes we are, but they come and go. We’ve played “Tangerine”, “Misty Mountain Hop”, “That’s the Way”, “Over the Hills and Far Away”, “Rock & Roll” (I’m on upright bass for that one), and “Gallows Pole”.
PM: So you’re playing upright bass in Band of Joy?
BH: Oh yes, about 60% upright and 40% electric.
PM: Are you playing any other Plant material outside of Zeppelin that’s not on the Band of Joy album?
BH: We’ve done “Please Read the Letter” in the Page/Plant style, “Down To the Sea”, “In the Mood” in the Raising Sand style (that was Plant’s collaborative album with Alison Krauss from a few years ago), “Nobody’s Fault But My Own”, and “Long Cool One”.
PM: Any more touring planned after February? Any exotic locations?
BH: We are confirmed for the Taste of Chicago, Telluride, and New Orleans Jazz festivals later this year. There are some other possibilities being discussed but they are not firmed up yet.
PM: Are you working on any other projects now or in the near future?
BH: I’ve been doing some recording sessions with Angela Easterling in Nashville. In December I had a lot of fun playing at Jorma Koukanen’s 70th birthday celebration. And I’m also involved in something called the Tokens Radio Show in Nashville.
PM: Are you planning to play at The International Newgrass Festival again in 2011?
BH: I’m planning on it. Hopefully there will be no scheduling conflicts.
PM: It’s been a pleasure talking to you this evening. Is there anything you’d like to add for your fans up here in South Central Kentucky?
BH: I always appreciate all the support I receive whenever I’m in the Bowling Green area. South Central Kentucky was a great music scene to be able to come up in with the likes of Sam Bush and all. I appreciate all that early support too.
PM: Thanks Byron.
You can find more info on Byron House at www.bgdailynews.com/the_amplifier_artists/ads/11094730/ and/or www.nashvillemusicpros.com/profile/ByronHouse. If you’d like to go see him in The Band of Joy in Nashville on February 8th or 9th go to www.tpac.org for ticket info.
About the author: Pennman bought his first 45 at age nine and has been hooked on rock ever since. He has spent much of his disposable income on music, especially live performances. He writes reviews of the shows he sees and keeps a keen lookout for upcoming shows in or near Bowling Green. He has a BA in Communications, specializing in journalism, and has dabbled in music himself, both as a player and instructor. Find more of Pennman's work at www.associatedcontent.com/user/165511/pennman.html or visit him at www.myspace.com/pennman_bg or www.facebook.com/pennman