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Raising Cain with...
Saving Abel

By Deborah Wagner

There wasn’t much to do while growing up in Corinth, Mississippi in 2004. But Jared Weeks and Jason Null – the founding members of Saving Abel – used their time wisely, exploring their music, writing songs and making ends meet until they could put their rock band together and hit the road.

This talented group of five is now living their dream with the success from their self-titled, debut album featuring three chart-topping hits including their mega-hit “Addicted.” Now joined by Scott Bartlett on guitars, Eric Taylor on bass and Blake Dixon on drums, this good ole rock group is enjoying what they’re doing and learning just what it takes to make their fans happy.

Produced by Skidd Mills (12 Stones, Saliva, Submersed) Saving Abel the CD was released in March 2008 by Virgin and officially went gold one year later. “Addicted,” their platinum selling single, won the group attention and notoriety from millions of new fans as well as the respect of top selling artists like Nickelback – who offered them a coveted spot on their US tour.

Growing up listening to southern rock and blues, Saving Abel knows what makes a good rock song as well as a powerful, honest ballad. Their sounds and melodies let them connect with their fans in a way that makes them stands out from others bands.

Going from playing bars and clubs one year to opening for Nickelback the next has been a dream come true for this group of fun loving, southern boys from Mississippi. Recently, we spoke with lead singer Jared Weeks about their success, where they came from, being back on the road and their bright future in rock.

You and Jason formed Saving Abel back in 2004 while you were both in other bands. What was it about Jason that you knew was such a good fit for you creatively and musically?

Well you know, growing up in a small town you kind of know everybody and Jason was always four or five years older than me, and back in the day he played in a band. You see, there is nothing to do in our hometown besides play music or do drugs or go to church. (laughs) We chose to play music. He had a band that I was a really big fan of and I would go to see them play all the time. Eventually they broke up. I don’t know how much drama could go on in our small town to make them break up, but they did. (laughs again) Then one night we met up at a friend’s house and we were playing music. He got up on the guitar and played one of his songs from his earlier band and I sang it. So, it was kind of like a date, I mean not in a gay way, but we exchanged phone numbers that night and the very next night he was over my house and we were writing music acoustically. It was just there from the beginning. It was something you couldn’t ignore.

Is it true that Jason came up with the name from the Biblical story of Cain and Abel?

Absolutely. We were at that time in the band’s life, we had all the songs written, we had an album, we had gigs booked, but we just didn’t have a name for the band. So, you have five people in a room trying to throw out band names and you have lots of different opinions. We could never come up with anything we liked, you know? We’d shout out names like Rodger Dodger and Cherry Bomb… Shit like that, but it was when Jason was googling the story of Cain and Abel and one of the options said, “There was no saving Abel from his brother Cain.” The way he tells it is that those words kind of spoke to him, kind of sang to him and stuck in his head for a few days. Then he went through it with the rest of the band and we all liked it and so we went with it.

So I guess Jason actually did go to church sometimes in that small town in Mississippi, huh?

Yes, I guess he did. (laughs) But believe it or not, growing up my Mom would be in church and we’d be sitting there watching the preacher wash the windows. There are churches on almost every block. It’s the Bible belt.

I believe you had played guitar for your first band? How did it come about that you do the vocals for Saving Abel?

Well, I did play guitar and when we started the band I had a guitar in my hand. Then we ran into Scott Bartlett in Memphis, Tennessee. He’s the big bald-headed guy that’s the latest edition to the band but dude, everything he plays is just so tasteful. It’s just awesome. I kind of wanted to concentrate more on a show and doing more with the crowd. Besides, I put the guitar down because he can play it sooooo much better than me and I’d rather not embarrass myself. (laughs)

What bands would you say you are mostly influenced by?

Oh, that’s easy! Three Doors Down. When they put out there first album, the “Kryptonite” album [called The Better Life], I found out those boys were from Mississippi and my face lit up. Once I heard that album and saw how good it was and how big those guys were getting, it definitely motivated and inspired me. I thought if those boys are from Mississippi and they can do it, then my God, we can too! But Three Doors Down, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, you name it. I even own the Bon Jovi Crossroads album. Good music is just good music, right?

I read that you really paid your dues out there while playing with the band and holding down a day job to pay the bills. Did you ever get discouraged?

Every day I woke up at 4:00 AM, I did.

(laughs) And you were a Phlebotomist?

Yeah. I used to wake people up at four in the morning and stick an eighteen-gauge needle in their arm. Do you think they are supposed to be happy about that? No one ever thanks you for doing that job, I promise you. But that’s how “Addicted” was written. I used to have to be at work so early in the morning and there’s hardly anybody there. The lights are all off and everyone’s sleeping. I would just walk around the halls singing that song to myself for like three weeks. Then finally I was passing by the nurses’ station and wrote it down. It got really lonely there in the morning, but something good did come out of it, so I’m not complaining at all.

Now that you’ve been signed by Virgin, and your self-titled CD has gone gold, what is it like to finally be getting the airplay and recognition you’ve worked so hard for?

Well, actually it’s appreciation for all the people that work for us and network for us and get our name out there. It’s appreciation for all the radio stations that play us and the fans who request it. As long as they’ll keep listening, we’re going to keep playing it. A lot of bands don’t look at it like this but your fate is basically determined by what the people want so we want to always keep it fresh and keep it real for them.

I know you and Jason write most of the songs though I know the other guys are also getting involved too. How have you both changed and matured as songwriters since 2004?

When you first start doing it, you’re just looking to write good music, trying to figure out what you’re doing and dreaming of being a rock star. How we used to do it is a little different than how we do it now. Jason and I used to sit in a room, drink a bottle of wine and write songs acoustically. Now, it’s a bit of a different process. We’ve gotten up to the computer age where if our producer hears a song, he can make a demo and email it to us while we’re out here on the road. We listen to it, we all sit down, pull out guitars and play it and write the lyrics to it. We can finish the whole song out here on the road. That’s what we just recently did. We had three weeks off and we went in to the studio in Nashville, Tennessee and we got five songs done for the new album and everybody got involved this time. Blake wrote some of the songs and we are definitely not opposed to someone else coming in and writing from the band. It used to be just Jason and I, but now everybody in the band is getting involved. I think it’s good for us.

Do you all share similar writing styles?
No. They are definitely different. Blake has a real good way with words. He has a good way of explaining things. He’s great at it. Some are better with melodies than other while others can play the guitar and hear the riff better. You throw it all in the pot and if we don’t like it… We hit next! But you always keep drinking during it! Because that’s when it gets really fun! (laughs)

Addicted is a great song and was the huge hit. It really introduced your band to millions of new fans. What was your inspiration for the song and were you surprised that it was the song on the album that really took off?

My inspiration for the song… like I said I was working at the hospital really early in the morning and I’d been doing it for about a year and I was so sick of working, man. And, oh yeah, there was a girl too. (laughs)

Oh yeah, there’s always one of those huh?

Yeah. She’s not there anymore but we thank her for all her (laughs) kind words and inspiration, let’s say.

The tamer version is what gets the airplay, but do you prefer the original version, which you perform live?

Absolutely! Absolutely! Well, not just because it’s just more “bad-ass” but just because you’ve got to hear the song the way it was originally, how it came out originally. It’s covered up and edited and I’m so glad they play the edited version but to me personally, I like the original one. It brings me back. It’s nostalgic.

You know, I agree. And personally, when I saw you guys do it live a few months ago, my favorite part was seeing the looks on some people’s faces who didn’t necessary know there was an un-edited version. It was pretty funny.

I know man. It’s funny up on stage sometimes watching the people. Of course if there’s kids in the audience, we try to keep it pretty PG-13, but some days you don’t feel good and just want to cuss a lot.

“18 Days” was the second single released and also became a hit climbing the charts. How surreal was it when your second single took off too?

Well to tell you the truth, I had wanted “18 Days” to be bigger but we kind of sealed our own fate. By no way are we complaining but I think that “18 Days” couldn’t climb as high since “Addicted” was still there and we were kind of battling ourselves. But it still did its thing. I think they ended up using it on Now 30 and it’s just a great song overall and we were glad it did so well. But when it came out and started climbing that’s when you can really start appreciating your own work and fully realizing what’s going on and it’s just like you said – surreal.

Now, I believe when I saw you live you said something about “18 Days” being written or dedicated to your brother or friend in Iraq. What’s the story behind that song?

Well it’s kind of cool how that song choreographed as military. I do have a brother-in-law, well I call him that because he’s like a brother but he’s my longtime girlfriend’s brother. He’s in the Marines and he’s serving and I just talked to him yesterday, which was cool. But with the song, there’s no denying that it started out as a love song. Then the whole military story behind it came when we finished the song and put it out on MySpace and a fan posted a slideshow on our page with soldiers reuniting with their families and war pictures, stuff blowing up, action pictures and the whole time, “18 Days” is playing in the background. It was kind of hard to watch without putting a lump in your throat. Then we made our video for “18 Days,” which we recorded on the USS Hornet in San Francisco. We were up on the flight deck with all the planes. It was so cool. So, it definitely was a military video but that’s how the whole story started… That one fan sending us the slideshow with the song and someone from the label saw and then we made a military video for it. Then, coincidently, we found out that when soldiers get leave from Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever they’re serving, they actually get an eighteen-day leave. But that was coincidental and we didn’t know that before.

The CD also includes more rocking tracks like “New Tattoo” and “In God’s Eyes.” Do you prefer writing and performing those songs or the ballads?

Well, Jason actually wrote the song “New Tattoo.” I’ve heard him tell the story about meeting the girl outside of Florida. “Get Out Of My Face” and “In God’s Eyes,” Scott Bartlett helped write those songs and they were just some more songs we put on the album, because we had some ballads and the label wanted a couple more rocking songs. They are the two we came up with. We were really glad we did too because when we play we start the set with “In God’s Eyes,” right before “Addicted” and “Get Out of My Face.”

Like I said, I saw you guys a few months back in Philly opening with Seether for Nickelback. It was a great show and I really enjoyed your set. Are you looking forward to going back out on tour now?

Absolutely, man. I mean I can only sit at home so long before going stir crazy. When you are out here on the road you’re going from point A to B to C so quick with everything going on. When you’re at home, you’re sitting on the couch, watching TV and twiddling your thumbs – wondering what the hell you are supposed to be doing. So, yeah I’m glad to be back out. Today is actually the first day. We’ll be getting back out with Nickelback, Hinder and Papa Roach real soon, but first we have a couple of shows with Shinedown. I’m real excited and we’ll get to see our friends again, which is very cool.

What’s it like being on such a successful tour and how did it come about that you would open for Nickelback?

Well, “Addicted” has done so much for us. I mean, the fact that people really loved it and requested it is why we are here and we’ll never forget that. We’re just glad to even be part of the Nickelback production. Their whole show and their whole crew, everybody is just wonderful. Really.

Did you always know growing up that you wanted to be a rock star?

Absolutely. I remember telling my Dad when I was sixteen. I was serious and we were having a serious talk, father to son and I said, “Dad I want to be a rock star.” I laugh about it now but his answer to me was, “Fine. You can do whatever you want as long as you can pay your bills.” (laughs) So, I paid my bills and I was a rock star from five until I had to go to work the next morning. (laughs again) I always had his support as long as I could pay the bills.

Do you consider yourself mostly a singer or a songwriter?

I’d like to say singer because I like so many types of singing. I mean I can’t sing Frank Sinatra by any means, not even a hair close. But I just love melodies so I would say I’m a singer.

Any misconceptions about the band you would like to clear up?

No. We’re just pretty much coming out and doing our thing. We’re not hiding from any body and we’ve learned a couple of lessons over the past year. We’re going to try to not make the same mistakes again. Take a few more precautions. A little more safety. And we’re all trying to be better people, every day. (laughs)

What’s next for Saving Abel?

Well, like I said we have five songs for the new album. And three of the five I’m totally freakin’ psyched about. The others are good too but I am really digging these three.

That’s awesome.

We are going to have some time off after September 26 and then in the beginning of October we’ll go back in and do some more. It should be coming out probably next spring. Before that we still have some touring to do with this album. Thank God for that stability. We also have an acoustic album coming out that’s gonna have five or six songs on it. We kind of changed up “In God’s Eyes” and gave it a Stone Temple Pilot kind of sound. We did a cover by Credence Clearwater as well. It’s like back porch acoustics, you know. Yeah, so that will be out, but I’m not really sure of a date. I guess I’m not networking for my band really well. (laughs) It will be out soon and I know you can actually go onto iTunes and get it now.

When growing up, what bands did you like to listen to?

I remember as a kid, I always, always had good musical influences. My Dad would clean the house every Saturday with Hank Williams – not Hank Williams, Jr. but Hank Williams – playing on the record player so I remember that when I was little and I always had good influences. I lived 40 miles north of Tupelo, Mississippi, the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Then from Memphis, blues has always been around. But everybody goes through a Lynyrd Skynyrd phase and that happened. Three Doors Down, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Shinedown, I’ve heard those guys since they came out. It’s kind of cool to actually meet them and hang out with them and get out on stage and play with them. We have a lot of be thankful for.