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Interview: Proverbial’s Guitarist Talks Songwriting, Music Industry, and a Dream Collaboration

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With an incredibly diverse sound, musical group Proverbial, which formed in 2007 in Harrisonburg, Virginia, charts massive territory with their current self-titled set. A seemingly unknown band, consisting of Thomas Whitesell, Phillip Walker, Stephen Holicky, Michael Keeter, Ryan Harlowe, Scott Gerry, and Kevin Condrey, it is quite the opposite as it has opened for megastars Switchfoot, Papa Roach, and Chevelle, just to name a few.

Music is not the only passion the tight-knit group has. It strives to give back to multiple humanitarian efforts, including Monument 10K Run/Walk, Y101’s Show Us Your Cans food drive for the Central Virginia Food Bank, and Relay for Life.

In a recent interview, Gerry, the bass guitarist, opens up about his musical influences, views on the music industry, and what big things are coming in 2012 for the seven-member band.

Who were your musical idols growing up? How do they feed into your songs?

My personal idols were Kurt Cobain, Scott Weiland, and Flea. I started playing music when I heard Nirvana at age 11. I played guitar at first, then shortly after I moved to bass and Flea became my favorite musician and is still at the top of my list. They all inspired me but i don’t think too much of their influence shows through in my music.

How did Proverbial come to be? Did each band member fit naturally into place?

Thomas (sax), Steve (guitar), and Phil (keys) all went to JMU and with a few others formed the original line-up of Proverbial. They all moved to Richmond and got a house together. Mike (vocals) was brought over by Steve, his childhood friend, to jam. In March of ’09 Ryan (drums) was at the river with some friends and ran into Steve, who he used to play with years before when Steve played keys, who invited him to come jam.

My band, and Kevin’s (percussion) at the time, bailed on practice that night so I called up Ryan to jam and he told me about the get together. I came over and we just clicked right away. I think we practiced twice and had our first gig about a month later. Six months later we recruited Kevin and have been going strong ever since.

How did you decide upon a sound and style? What’s the songwriting process like?

It was never really a decision. We all have very different musical backgrounds and tastes in music. We just jammed and songs formed out of nowhere. We have enough common ground musically to be able to play with each other but our own unique influences that make our music what it is. That’s how we still write songs; it’s all freestyle jamming that we record then mold into songs. It’s all pretty organic and fluid.

What has been your biggest lesson? What would you do differently?

Patience. It takes quite a bit of time to gain ground in the music world. I’ve always wanted to jump in with both feet but the reality of it is you get the opportunities when you’re ready for them. The only thing I would have changed is that I would have worked even harder if I knew that before. Every mistake we’ve made as a band is a learning experience and nothing but. You just have to accept it and keep moving forward and then you know not to make the same mistake again.

What has been your favorite artist to play with? Why?

I think our favorite bands to play with so far though were Sublime with Rome, Switchfoot and Flobots. Switchfoot and Flobots were particularly cool guys. Both groups were awesome performers and they spoke to us like equals instead of just an opening band. Flobots, by the way, will literally melt your face off! One of the best performances I’ve seen. If you get the chance to see them you won’t be disappointed.

Your sound is extremely diverse. Are you ever worried that it will be difficult to find traction in mainstream music?

Well, I think mainstream music is losing traction all together. The music industry is changing so fast that the old way of doing things is quickly becoming less and less relevant. With all the online outlets for free streaming music, more people are finding bands that aren’t groomed for radio and TV and are more raw. I think this trend will continue to grow in years to come.

With that being said, our diversity will only help us in the long run as now people can just buy single tracks online. The “album” seems to be less relevant, sadly, but this gives us a broader audience to draw from and sell different style singles to. We have an incredibly diverse fan base and I believe that there are common themes throughout all of our songs that will lure the more fickle fans into appreciating a song they otherwise would ignore. However, given the right circumstances, we have songs I believe would be successful commercially.

Are you currently working on new material? An album? If so, is the approach the same as the first set?

We are always coming up with new songs. We actually have another album’s worth of material we are perfecting at this time. The writing process definitely has the same approach. I think the next album may be even more diverse than the first.

Any big plans for 2012?

February 7, 2012, is the national release of our debut album on Spectra Records. We’re thrilled and can’t wait for this! We’ll also have our single “The End Is Never” featured on Relix Magazine’s “On the Rise” CD sampler at the same time. We have tour plans in the works for the spring and a few other surprises on the the horizon.

What artists would be dream collaborations?

There are so many it’s hard to pick! Basically any truly talented musician that we could really vibe with and make a great song and not just collaborate with for publicity’s sake. But if I had to pick one… I still have a soft spot for Flea.

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