Vocalist Eric Boatright on the young Cullman, Alabama band's modern take on a Styx classic.
by Mike Mettler
photo by Sarah Carmody
Considering the path they're now on, Shallow Side is set to retrieve a nice bounty.
The young band from Cullman, Alabama recently released an energetic, kinetic video for their hard-rocking cover of the indelible Styx classic “Renegade,” which has close to 180,000 views on YouTube as of this writing. See it for yourself by watching the video here. Shallow Side's “Renegade” cover will also be found on the band's upcoming album ONE, which is slated for released on January 13, 2017.
Someone who is markedly thrilled with the sound of Shallow Side is the man who wrote “Renegade” himself, Tommy Shaw. “I’m impressed by those guys. Good arrangement, good performance, good video,” Tommy says. “By far, this is my favorite cover of ‘Renegade.’ Eddie Trunk [the noted rock-radio personality and onetime co-host of VH1’s That Metal Show] sent it to me in mid-November, and I played it for the band before we went onstage at Casino Rama in Ontario on November 18. Everyone really liked it. We love the song, love the video, and think the band has a great vibe. They seem like the real deal. They’ve got soul.”
High praise indeed, mama!
To get the full inside scoop on how this awesome “Renegade” cover came to pass, your Styxologist recently talked with Shallow Side vocalist Eric Boatright exclusively for Styxworld about the impact the song continues to have, how they came up with the video concept, and what Styx song they might cover next.
Mike Mettler: So, Eric, I can give you firsthand confirmation that Styx gives you major thumbs up on your “Renegade” cover.
Eric Boatright: Wow, man. Like… wow. Thank you, man. Thank you guys so much. We appreciate what you’ve done for rock & roll altogether, and to have that tip of the hat pointed in our direction — we’ve turned into giddy little girls, all over again. (both laugh) Please extend our gratitude to the band the next time you get the chance.
Mettler: I will. So let’s get right into it. Why did you guys decide to cover “Renegade”?
Boatright: We were trying to find a song to do a cover of, and so many people nowadays cover the current pop hits — why not, right? A lot of people do that. And I was like, “No — we need rock & roll. Rock & roll is missing nowadays, and we need it.” And while we were talking about it, honest to God — in the background, “Renegade” was playing, faintly. It was destiny. It spoke to us right there, so that’s how we actually chose that song.
Another thing that’s been appreciated by us across the board is the musicianship of Styx. After deciding “Renegade” was going to be the one and we began diving deeper into their known catalog, we took to a brand new appreciation of them. When we first started listening to Styx, we were just listeners. Now that we’ve developed into professional musicians, we’re digging into a whole different world. Now it’s not just listening — it’s us becoming the students to them as our teachers. You really don’t appreciate how much knowledge and effort went into creating that catalog until you dig in like that. It’s kind of incredible.
Mettler: Not only that, but they still do an average of 100 dates live every year since 1999, and they sing all of the songs in their original keys.
Boatright: Wow! If nothing else is inspiring, that right there is. They put in the hard work, and are still dedicated to the craft. I love that.
Mettler: You guys are almost essentially from the same neck of the woods. You’re from Cullman, Alabama, and Tommy’s a Montgomery boy —
Boatright: What?? I had no clue about that. I thought they were from Chicago!
Mettler: Well, the band itself is from Chicago originally, but Tommy grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, and had played in Chicago a number of times with another band of his in the early ’70s. He was actually playing in a bowling alley in Montgomery in December 1975 when he got the call asking him to come up and audition to join Styx.
Boatright: Wow! Full circle right there! I love that! And that’s crazy to hear that he’s actually from our neck of the woods! That just blows my mind.
Mettler: Just wait until you guys meet in person. You’ll have a lot to talk about.
Boatright: I’m not going to know what to do. Somebody might not understand what’s coming out of my mouth. (both chuckle)
Mettler: I think you'll manage OK. You must have heard “Renegade” when you were growing up as a kid. How long had you known about it?
Boatright: We’re all in our mid-20s, and these kinds of songs were all smash hits for our parents. That’s what was on the radio when we were growing up, and most of us are children of the radio. Whatever was the hit on the radio is what would be playing in the car.
So we heard it from our parents, and then you hear it out in the workforce. If you’re in the factories, building the houses, and fixing the cars, you have the radio on, and that song still plays, to this day. It’s a monster hit, so it not only started with us when we were children, it grew along with us as well. And now that we’re adults, we can appreciate a lot more of the song’s meaning, and the depth that comes with it.
Mettler: And you put your own spin on it, with a 3 Doors Down kinda vibe running through it. What did you guys talk about when you were cutting it to make it different from the original?
Boatright: We wanted it to be honest with our own style of music. We’re all from north Alabama, so I guess when you compare it to 3 Doors Down — they’re from north Mississippi, which is only 2 hours away from us, and I can see how those kinds of sounds intermingle.
But we wanted to keep it honest with ourselves. Music is being created for the creator. After it’s been created, it’s for the listener — after it’s done and on the tape, then it’s sent out to the listener. So we were playing it and making it as much our own as we could because we love the damn song so much. We wanted to make it feel like we had done it all over again. It felt so good.
It’s one of those songs that, when you play it and you’re nailing it and everyone’s on their spots, you can just feel it. I couldn’t imagine what it felt like to lay that down in the studio for the first time, back in the day [i.e., in 1978]. I just think the emotions surrounding it when we were doing it had that same vibe.
So that’s where we were coming from. We wanted to make it our own and add a newer vibe to it, and bring some of the new age of rock & roll to it, right there where it left off.
Mettler: Well, you guys have nailed it. This sounds like a total 2016 track to me.
Boatright: Yeah, that was the goal, and, honestly, that was one of my “scare points” for Tommy and the guys, because I didn’t know how they would take it. At first, I didn’t even know if they’d ever even be able to listen to it. I imagine how busy they must be and how much your entire team has going on, so what would make you take time out of your day to listen to it?
But I was thinking, if there was a chance for them to listen to it, I hoped the new spin and newer vibe on it didn’t take away from something they created — and I don’t think it did. I think we did it well. I’m completely humbled that they’ve heard it, and that they like it.
Mettler: That they do. Let’s talk about the video, because that’s pretty cool too. What was the inspiration for it? Who came up with the idea for the storyline?
Boatright: It was one of those deskroom stories, where we all sat around a big table, pitching ideas back and forth. It was our new take on where “Renegade” ended. The first single we released from this album was “Rebel,” and this one picks up where that one left off. One of the taglines in that song is, “I don’t give a f--- if you call me a rebel,” and that same mentality of being on the run led into “Renegade.” That’s where the storyline takes off for the video.
The high-speed cop chase happens, but it wasn’t a bank robber type of getaway — these are just some bad dudes who are out there, going after it. They don’t really give a sh-- because the drummer is slinging beers out of the back window and everyone’s raising hell. (chuckles)
It ends off with a party scene happening with the cops cornering us, and we’re pushing back. There’s a lot of stuff going on in America about the cops and the citizens, and we were trying to add a sense of humor into a sensitive spot. It’s a Dukes of Hazzard type of version.
Mettler: That could be a really touchy approach these days, but the video has just the right amount of humor and drama mixed together.
Boatright: Right, and that was the goal. Ever since we released that video, we’ve had several police officers at our shows, wanting to be a part of it. If we see a police offer in uniform at a show, we make sure to give him our respect. We’ll gladly have our picture taken with him too.
The police officers in the video are really good friends of ours, so it all worked out. It was a good story, a good shoot, and we really got the right balance out of it.
Mettler: Whose Chevy truck is that in the video, one of yours?
Boatright: One of our friends'. We actually put up a few posts, saying, “We want to see what Alabama has to offer — bring out the big toys!” The trucks and the cars that showed up for this thing were incredible!
Mettler: If you had a chance to do a sequel Styx cover, do you have another one of their songs in mind?
Boatright: Hoo! Uh, well, covering Styx is not a very easy job to do. Let’s see. (pauses) I think an acoustic version of “Come Sail Away” — it’s such a beautiful song, and that would be an easy hit! But we wouldn't set it up the same way they do it, so I would like to bring it into an acoustic light. That would definitely take some practice right there, though.
Mettler: There’s a reason why Styx music is as popular as it is — it’s that good. And I’m so glad we’ve got a new generation of younger listeners and musicians like yourselves who recognize this is good stuff, and you don’t care what critics have to say about it. It’s good music, period, and you’re going to let other people know about it.
Boatright: Yeah. One or two guys can have an opinion, but when you start going up against a few million people who like this music, you gotta start questioning things: “Wait a minute — why am I listening to you? All these other guys are all together on it.”
Like I said when we first started our conversation, we needed that handshake into listeners who already listen to good music, and “Renegade”did that for us. We had a firm foothold in saying, “The world needs rock & roll again.” We need to be reminded that there are still renegades on the run!