Most great artists can find charm in places that not everyone else can. Such was the case as heartland rock band The Nadas set out to record their latest, Lovejoy Revival (releasing February 2013). The name stems from the Lovejoy Building, a 100-year structure in downtown Des Moines that was originally a Mack Truck plant, and later became home to the printing company owned by the family of Jason Walsmith, singer/guitarist for The Nadas. Today the building is mostly vacant, but still houses the office for Authentic Records, the group’s own imprint. And it occurred to them at some point that recording an album there might give it a warm and interesting vibe, especially given what they were striving for.
“We tried to make a more hopeful record this time around,” said singer/guitarist Mike Butterworth. “I am not sure if that happened but that was the discussion we had. Most of the tunes were written after we decided to record in the Lovejoy, but I wouldn’t say it affected the songs thematically much. Sonically, it really affected the record—a lot of my guitar sounds were recorded in an old bank vault.”
The end result, thanks to the building itself as well as the Midas Venue 48-channel console with Pro Tools set-up and some other vintage recording equipment, is on full display on Lovejoy Revival, a solid collection of the type of music The Nadas have been making since 1993—a mix of rock and alternative with a hint of country twang. In other words, it’s tailor made for the AAA (adult album alternative) radio format, which has embraced the band over the years despite the lack of a traditional record deal. For a band that released its debut, Not a Sound, in 1995 with Lovejoy Revival being its eleventh release overall, victories and defeats are part of the process. “We've been around long enough to have lived through some victories and defeats and have a bit of perspective on those things,” said Walsmith. “Our songs are fiction and non-fiction, literal and abstract. They’re about life.”
Those songs on Lovejoy Revival move effortlessly between mid-tempo anthems such as “Hard Rain” and “Starcrossed” to up-tempo rockers like “Honor” to one track tailor made for weddings, “Meant to Be.” “We had friends that were getting married that asked for a wedding song,” said Walsmith. “Another friend who had never written a song before then helped us, lyrically, to create what became this song.” They also added a cover for the first time ever, The Rolling Stones’ classic, “Beast of Burden,” with Walsmith’s baritone vocal offering a unique interpretation of the song.
In 2001, Playboy Magazine featured The Nadas in an article called “The Best College Band You’ve Never Heard Of.” A win to be sure, but as Walsmith says, “It was a cool thing but has been beaten to death at this point.” They’ve also had a song that ran as the theme to The Speed Channel’s Pinks, and have compositely sold over 200,000 albums.
“Since we started, virtually every aspect of the music business has changed,” said Butterworth. “Recording technology becoming more accessible to everyone, the need for having a record label to make a splash on the scene has evaporated, and the power of the Internet has allowed us to connect directly with fans.”
And The Nadas are happy to continue making the same brand of heartland music they have been making for twenty years, especially for those fans who have kept the band going all these years. “In all seriousness, our fans have demanded that we continue to make music,” said Walsmith. “I attribute our longevity to those fans.”