Interview by Danielle Boise
The Bitteroots are an Atlanta-Decatur jam band fused with a grassroots bluesy rock that is filled with heart and soul, emphasizing on the heart of the matter with Laura’s Dee’s enigmatic voice full of lush notes drawing the listeners and rounded out with a stellar cast of musicians. If you’re musical tastes runs the gamut from Melissa Etheridge to The Tedeschi Trucks Band and Beth Hart, then check out The Bitteroots.
How would you describe your sound?
Mike Davis (drums): We’re kind of a mixture or jam and pop. Underneath Laura’s really powerful vocals there’s a solid band that’s not afraid to take chances and stretch out a little.
Kyle Bryant (guitars): I think Mike’s description describes it pretty well. We can play back to back songs in a set where the first is a three to four minute structured pop song, and the next is eight minutes long jam with a lot of improvisation. We like to fly without a net a little bit.
Laura’s vocals are bittersweet and heartbreaking, especially with “Under The Big Sky,” what inspired this song?
Laura Dees (vocals): Each year, we take a trip for a writing retreat to south Georgia. The location is secluded, private and extremely laid back. There are no distractions which allows us to explore and focus on our writing and quite honestly, the home on the property is so conducive for our creativity.
One beautiful day during our retreat, Mike captured an amazing photo of the farmland surrounding the old historic house we were staying in. What really caught our eye was how clear and blue the sky was that day. For me, it was an open and honest feeling and it inspired the lyrics and melody of “Under the Big Sky.” We knew after seeing this photo, it had to be the cover and after the writing was complete, we had our title.
What inspires your writing process? Who are you currently listening to that you are absolutely blown away by?
Kyle Bryant (guitars): For me, I’m always looking to come up with a guitar part that adds to a song as a whole. I feel like my guitar part should be a memorable part of the song, whether it be a signature hook or riff, solo, or just a simple chord change that is just a little different than anticipated. For two songs of our recent EP, “Defenseless” and “Under the Big Sky,” I was just playing riffs in between practice breaks that I had written years and years ago that had never developed into full fledged songs. Thankfully, the band liked them, and every member added their own touch and feel (and great lyrics from Laura) to create the songs they are today. I’m looking forward to seeing what else we can come up with as a group moving forward
Laura Dees (vocals): Everyday life inspires me. My own personal journeys, watching, engaging and listening to others around me also drives my curiosity. I’m currently listening to Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle. The songwriting is so pure and real – I just love it.
How would you describe getting up on stage and performing live verses going into the recording studio to write and record?
Kyle Bryant (guitars): As much as I love recording new material in the studio, my favorite part of being in a band is absolutely playing live. Having an audience, especially one who is actively into what you are playing, makes all the hard work of playing music worth it. Plus, with the improvisational nature in which we approach a lot of our songs, we have a chance to play them differently every time we are up there. It’s definitely exciting to start a song or solo and know where you’re going, but not exactly how you’re going to get there.
That said, you have to write and record new material to have songs to play. It’s definitely a rewarding process in itself to leave the studio with a recorded document of exactly where you are as a band at that moment, and share with everyone.
Laura Dees (vocals): I personally love the energy the audience brings when we perform live. When recording it’s difficult to capture the “it” moment such as one of Kyle’s incredible guitar solos or Bill and Mike feeding off each other as they work their way into a jam session. Their talents really shine during our performances and you can see it and feel it. It’s just so much fun to be a part of!
You are getting ready to celebrate six years of performing together, who has the journey been so far? Where do you see the band going?
Bill Taylor (bass/vocals): These past 6 years have been really amazing. We’ve played on some of the biggest stages in town playing main stages at The Dogwood Festival, The Sweetwater 420 Festival (in both 2011 and 2013), The Decatur Arts Festival and The Summer Shade Fest, just to name a few. We’ve produced 4 recording projects – 2 full length and 2 EPs. We played with some of our favorite bands including The Freddy Jones Band, Allgood, and Col. Bruce Hampton. We played live on the 11Alive morning show and currently have our song “Defenseless” in rotation on 100.5FM as part of their “Local Licks” program. It’s been a great ride so far!
In some ways, we feel like we’ve just started to hit our stride. The band’s sound has been morphing for the past few years, but with the recent addition of Kyle Bryant on lead guitar, we’ve really opened up the sound and we are really enjoying the new direction of a more improvisational approach to our live shows. One of the aspects of our live shows, is that we almost always bring in guests to sit in and augment that particular show. No two shows are ever the same. One of the benefits of being part of local music scene, is we’ve met some incredible musicians. And we’ve been able to bring in some of those musicians as guests on percussion, saxophone, harmonica, vocals, guitars and pedal steel guitars which has been great and always keeps everything really fresh.
Up until about a year or so ago, we had primarily played in Atlanta, and mostly in our hometown of Decatur, but this last year has taken us out into the suburbs and other venues in Metro Atlanta. Later this year, we have dates in Macon, Milledgeville and Athens, so we are finally taking the show on the road. We are probably going to take 2014 to continue to work up the new sound. I’d expect we’ll have another full length album (possibly a live album) sometime in 2015.
Laura Dees (vocals): With several line-up changes through the years, I feel we are finally capturing “our” sound. We’re always moving forward and challenging ourselves to try new things, but the scary part has been change. As we push forward, we have learned change can be a wonderful thing. Kyle has been a crucial part of the shift in our live performances, our writing and our overall sound.
How is it being a local band on the scene? What advice have you found to be beneficial?
Laura Dees (vocals): I’m so happy to be a part of this band and a part of the musical community in Atlanta. We have met some talented and creative professionals and the support they have shown though the years has been amazing.
As far as advice, a really good friend gave me a little advice/reality check the other day…”don’t worry about what others think and stay true to who you are.” Although you always hear this in life…but it’s so hard to follow when you’re pulled in so many different directions. Oh yeah and “always have a Plan B if the music thing doesn’t pay the bills.”
The Bitteroots Concert Schedule
April 30 – Atlanta @ Limerick Junction
May 17 – Decatur, GA @ Eddie’s Attic
Jun 28 – Duluth, GA @ Sweetwater Bar and Grill
July 9 – Atlanta @ 10 High Club
July 26 – Marietta, GA @ The 120 Tavern & Music Hall
Aug 9 – Woodstock, GA @ Ronnie John’s Sunset Grille
Aug 23 – Atlanta @ The Star Bar
Sept 6 – Decatur, GA @ Big Tex Cantina
Sept 14 – Atlanta @ Atlanta Arts Festival
Sept 20 – Milledgeville, GA @ Buffington’s