Legendary Rock Interviews: Q & A with Hillbilly Herald’s Jimmy Herald

Hillbilly Herald, Buckcherry, The Last Vegas, Candlebox among May 26 Rock Monkey Ruckus performers

By John Parks

Sometimes you just gotta pay attention to the flashing lights around you when you are interested in hearing a great new band.

I saw Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx tweeting about a band called Hillbilly Herald and thought, “Hmm, maybe this would be worth investigating.” I didn’t. Then, I see they are getting a ton of love from Slash. Then, I get a message from former Guns N’ Roses manager Vicky Hamilton, who again mentions this Hillbilly Herald band. Vicky knows a thing or 10 about rock bands, so now I started digging and found this band is pretty good.

Hillbilly Herald (along with Buckcherry, The Last Vegas, Candlebox and many others) will be a part of the annual WXRX Rock Monkey Ruckus at Rockford Speedway May 26 (wxrx.com). I tracked down singer Jimmy Herald, who talked about the band’s beginnings, their song inspirations and a bit more.

Q: The story has it that you guys have deep roots in L.A. and were, in fact, not working as a musician but a bartender when Slash told you that you could probably kick as much a– as a lot of what was going on in the scene. Is that half right, all right or is there a lot more to the story than that?

A: You’re about 99 percent right. He didn’t say we would kick more a–, because I didn’t have a band at that point. He just suggested I start a band, since I was such a big fan of rock and roll, so I did! When Slash talks, you gotta listen!

Q: The song “Yellow Belly” is as catchy as they come. What inspired or what went into the writing of that track?

A: “Yellow Belly” was written about a friend at the time who I had a huge falling out with over money, girls, the basic stuff friends fight about. It was inspired by what I was going through at that time. Every one of our songs is either about somebody that was in and out of my life, or touched me in some way or another — good or bad. But it seems like I’ve been dwelling on the bad! It’s like therapy to get that stuff off my chest. The good stuff I hold on to. I’ll save that stuff for the Hillbilly Herald Christmas record!

Q: People have a certain uppity, “too cool for school” stereotype about L.A. and Hollywood, but you guys have almost a mudkicker sensibility to you that places you somewhere altogether different in my mind. What is it really like out in L.A. these days, and do you enjoy touring and kind of making wherever you are your “home” for the night?

A: It’s all geography. It doesn’t matter where you’re at. Whether they’re stuck up or not doesn’t matter. I think that L.A. has seen so much bullcrap that they can smell it from a mile away, so they are tougher in a way. They have a lot more choices of what to do on a given night, so if they do come to your show like they come to ours, you had better be on your A game. Everybody out here is the best of the best, and losers go home! Whether we are playing Atlanta, Ga., or L.A. we are gonna give our show 110 percent. It is ALL about the show!

Q: I can kind of see that based on the limited amount that I know about you. You guys strike me as a rowdy live band first and foremost. In your opinion, how much has the material changed from performing it live to the production of the record?

A: We rehearse and write for the live show, not for any recording. When we came into the studio, we played the songs just like we do live, so nothing really changed, except for what we felt in the moment. We’re definitely a live band first and foremost, like you said. We were either lucky enough or brave enough to try out our new songs on the Slash tour. If they dug it, it stuck. If they didn’t, we tried something new. It is ALL about the fans. We did all five tracks in one day. This actually is a live record, no fake crowd noise added in the background to make it seem live! No overdubs, as far as the band and our performances goes — it is all live.

Q: Play armchair psychologist for a second. What does the personality of each member of the band bring to the table and chemistry of the band?

A: Each member knows their role in the game like a football team. There’s a quarterback, running back and sometimes the lineman just needs to block. At this point, we just let each person do what they’re best at. I’m not really into computers or gear, so they don’t have to worry about me monkeying around about that. They’re not really into the business side of it, and that is one of my favorite parts of this, so I handle that. We’ve been doing this long enough where it’s a well-oiled machine.

Q: What do you think the biggest misconception your supporters or detractors have about you or your band?

A: That we’re rich. We do all of this on our own. We solely come out of pocket for this, and every product we put out, we have paid for, whether it’s a record, a video, video game — we pay for it. No label, no management and no backers, up until our recent Kickstarter campaign. That was the first time we’ve really reached out and asked for some help from our fans. I was a little weary of it, but it was necessary to get it out. I think if you don’t ask for help, how can you expect to get help?

Q: You have been a band long enough to have your own quirks about gear set-ups and equipment-type stuff. Is there any one element of your sound that absolutely, positively has to be spot on, or you won’t enjoy the show?

A: Not much. We just need to be able to hear ourselves up on stage! Other than that, we just plug in and go for it. What you see is what you get!

Q: Thanks for talking with us. One last question: What is the most crazy thing you’ve seen, smelled or heard happening while Hillbilly Herald was playing a gig?

A: The craziest thing that’s happened to me on tour was realizing that I’ve only been playing music for five years, and I got to tour and open up for Slash on a U.S. run. All the girls, money, booze and bull will never add up to that! How crazy is that? I was a bartender and Slash told me to start a band, and look at us now (laughs). That is some craziness. Oh yeah, I got another story about this chick and a monkey … we’ll talk about that another time, John.

(For more about Hillbilly Herald, see www.hillbillyherald.com.)

From the May 22-28, 2013, issue

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