HomeInterviewsSXSW Artist Spotlight: Old Heavy Hands

SXSW Artist Spotlight: Old Heavy Hands

Southern rock band Old Heavy Hands will bring their high-energy “y’allternative” to Austin’s legendary Continental Club March 15 at 1 a.m. as part of a SXSW official showcase. The Greensboro, North Carolina-based five-piece recently released the album Small Fires, which was produced by Danny Fonorow and engineered by Ted Comerford and Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Pavement, Wilco). Nate James Hall and Larry Wayne Slaton, Old Heavy Hands’ primary songwriters, took time from their tattoo artist day jobs to chat with 360°Sound about the new album, songwriting, leavin’ it all on the dancefloor, and more.

Editor’s Note: This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Find the full video interview at the bottom of this article.

360°Sound: For our readers who are unfamiliar with your music, please give us a brief history of Old Heavy Hands.

Nate James Hall: We started in 2015. We all live in Greensboro, and me and Larry and David Self, we all tattoo. When we had downtime from the shop, we just started writing songs. I guess we just kind of wrote the songs that we wanted to hear. It kind of just keeps evolving. We continue to make music with our best friends.

Your music has been described as “y’allternative.” I’d never heard that term before. I guess that’s the new term for alt-country. What do you think of the y’allternative label?

Larry Wayne Slaton: It’s pretty clever, I guess. I didn’t make it up, but I don’t mind it.

Hall: It’s kind of hard to put us in one certain category. I guess it’s kind of Americana, kind of Southern rock, kind of punk rock. We got a lot of different backgrounds, so it comes from a lot of different areas.

When you’re telling people about the band how do you describe your sound?

Slaton: I always tell people that it’s like Southern rock mixed with punk rock. I hate describing our sound to people.

Tell us about your latest album Small Fires. I understand you had some well-known producers and engineers help with the record.

Hall: I think we just kind of tried to take it to the next level with the songwriting and with the sound and everything and try to capture more of what we sounded like live. The first stuff was written mainly on acoustic guitars, and we weren’t really playing with a band. And so, as we progressed with playing with a band, I think the record Small Fires is just kind of taking that natural progression.

The Old Heavy Hands press release said you’ve “built families, survived cancer and beat addictions.” What are some of the ways in which adversity and life experiences informs your songwriting?

Hall: I think you write about the shit you know. I think it’s hard not to put yourself into it. Even if it’s not directly about you, I think those kind of life experiences, whether they’re good or bad, are reflections on things.

Your song “Shelter Me” is a slower song that was written in response to racial injustice and the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others. Talk about the impetus for that song.

Slaton: I wrote that song in the middle of COVID when all that stuff was happening. I remember Rodney King, and I know Nate does too. But to see it’s still happening is like, “What the fuck, world? Come on, get it together.” So it was it was a bummer, to say the least. I feel like it’s the artist’s job to try to make sense of the world around us. That’s me trying to make sense of everything, which I still can’t make sense of that.

What can SXSW attendees expect from your live show?

Hall: Hope to have as much fun as possible. Show them what Greensboro is all about. I’m sure we’ll play our asses off like we do every night.

Slaton: Go out there and leave it all out there when we play.

Hall: Leave it out there on the dance floor.

Slaton: That’s right.

What are your plans and hopes for the future of a band?

Slaton: We just want to play for as many people as we can and try to move as many people as we can, literally and figuratively.

Hall: Through good times and bad, man. Thanks to everybody who’s been listening. And we’re definitely stoked to see everybody out there. Sing along with us at the shows.

Old Heavy Hands play the Contintental Club on Friday night, March 15th, at 1:00am (so technically that’s March 16).

Keep track of the band on oldheavyhands.com

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