Sevendust’s Lajon Witherspoon: Metal Has No Tolerance for Inequality
Sevendust's Lajon Witherspoon was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. With the band's 13th album, Blood & Stone, set to arrive on Oct. 23, the singer discussed a bit about the group's recording process and they once again worked with producer Elvis Baskette.
The frontman also touched on the the topical subject of racial inequality, expressing his belief that the metal community is a welcoming one with no tolerance for racial bias and prejudice of any sort. As a Black man, he vows to continue to be a voice and leader in this area with a focus on love and unity.
Elsewhere in the interview, Witherspoon addressed Sevendust's cover of Soundgarden's "The Day I Tried to Live" and the pressure he experienced when confronted with the idea of singing anything by Chris Cornell.
Read through the full chat below.
The new Sevendust album, Blood & Stone, was recorded relatively quickly at the end of the last touring cycle. What's different about the new music as a result of working so quickly?
I just think we were ready to go into the studio. We had had that time off and did the tour and we were just ready to go back in. We had great writing sessions. Morgan [Rose, drums], John [Connolly, guitar] and I went to a town and did a writing session. Clint [Lowery] was doing stuff at home.
So, once we all got together, there was a lot of material already to enter the studio. It was fresh and we just felt good. Going back into the studio with [producer] Elvis [Baskette] was a very comfortable feeling. The first time we did it [on 2018's All I See Is War], it was a magical vibe. The second time, it was even better and it just seemed like everything was aligned right. It went very well.
Sevendust, Blood & Stone
The new album is going to be Sevendust's thirteenth album. At this point, what aspects of the process of making an album together are now completely intuitive?
That's a good question. No matter what happens or how we write an album, the best thing comes out of us when we're together in a room, and we're looking at each other and we start from that first note. Maybe it'd be Morgan tapping off in the drumbeat to John or Clint starting that guitar riff... that's where our magic comes in.
We're always able to do that. Another thing that's great is we have a room that's set up — when we're at Elvis' place or wherever we go — and we have a jam room. We're able to record live from that for the album. You never know what you're going to come up with and with Sevendust, that's our power when we're all together.
The band released a cover of Soundgarden's "The Day I Tried to Live." What positivity do you hope that song might bring to people, especially now?
Oh, my goodness. Well, first off, when recording this song, I couldn't believe that Elvis brought that song to the table. It could have been any song by Soundgarden or Chris Cornell, and I would've said, "Of course," but then I thought, to myself, "Well, who's going to sing this song?" We all laughed. I just put my heart and soul into it.
Sevendust, "The Day I Tried to Live (Soundgarden Cover)
With the album being pushed back, we were looking and thinking, "How ironic that this song felt like it fit what was going on in the world today. Let's give everyone something off this album."
I think this is a good thing and that's what we were able to do. I hope everyone understands the song. The meaning behind the song is "trying something different," and is about getting along and going about life in someone else's shoes, in a sense.
I thought it was fitting — we all did — and I hope everyone enjoys it. It turned out nice and I was very proud. I hope that I did Mr. Cornell justice, rest his soul, and the rest of the band, too.
You're an African American in a music genre that has usually been predominantly white. In this time of heightened awareness in America, how can your role as a metal singer best affect positive change?
No one has really tapped into that and asked me anything. Today, we definitely can see that there's been a lack of equality in this world that's being put in the forefront. Luckily, in the industry that I'm in, in the metal community, I feel like that's definitely something that's not tolerated, as far as I've seen.
I feel like this community is incredibly welcoming and I've been very blessed to be in it. I also feel like there's definitely a lot of people that are hiding behind masks, who are racist, out there. But if there's anything that I can do, I will always be a leader in bringing peace, love and equality to this industry and to what I do.
I can say love sees no color, but I do believe that people do see color, obviously. But I still want to bring everyone together and it not be a problem. In our community, there's everybody — Black, White, Asian, etc. — and that's what this world should get. We should definitely get to that page and to the point, again, to where we don't have that problem. I pray that we get there.
But me, musically, I feel like, "Thank you for letting us have our voices and to be able to speak and to bring people together." I think that's something that we're able to do, as Sevendust. People see us and they see a bunch of different guys from different backgrounds and different ethnicities. It's something that we've done for 20-something years. We haven't stopped, and I hope that's something that people will understand and see and learn from.
Lajon, last year you were working on songs with Sahaj Ticotin (Ra) for a solo album. What exhilarates you and intimidates you about making a solo record?
What exhilarates me is the fact that I'm able to work with one of my very closest friends and someone I look up to musically. It's an incredible energy that we create together. Being a singer, it's scary. I've been in Sevendust, it's my thing, it's my baby.
I'm not afraid to step out, but then I have my reservations about doing something different than Sevendust. I still think those Sevendust cats out there and family will definitely dig what I'm doing. I don't want to go out there and do something too quick and force it on people. I'm taking my time with this because I'm doing the right songs and I'm feeling comfortable with it. My life is like a chess game and I'm trying to play it the right way, so I've got to let all the other circus acts go through town before I come through. [laughs]
We were talking off-air about how Sevendust are trying to figure out how to tour. Can you tell us about that?
We're still trying to figure out touring. We've had talks about doing something we call a "master run" which is from Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday in these towns, cities, and states that are allowing [live music]. But at this rate, we can't even say when that's going to happen. How many people will be allowed in? Until we can get to some type of certain point where we can be all safe together, I can only imagine. I can't wait to see what the future holds for us as artists, radio... just everything in life.
It's definitely been hard being at home. I've also accepted the fact that I'm home and I've been [focusing on] really being a dad, being a husband, and really taking advantage of that time. But I just sure cannot wait to get back out there and to be in the front of people — our beautiful family out there.
This music is a healer. I've always said that. Without music, this world would be an even crazier place so thank you for allowing us, again, to have a voice and for people to hear music. How we're going to do it in the future — if it'll be social streaming — I don't know. That's weird.
But eventually, we're going to get back together. It's going to be over sooner or later.
Thanks to Lajon Withserspoon for the interview. Get your copy of Sevendust's 'Blood & Stone' here and follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.
See Sevendust in the Most Streamed Spotify Songs for 66 Rock + Metal Artists