Gather ye ‘hazelnuts’—your favorite band is coming
ROCK RIDGE MUSIC COURTESY PHOTO
Jett Beres’ life revolves around music and family. While his busy life as a rock star is consumed at times by the latter, it is the former that is showcased in some of his earliest memories.
“I can remember, very vividly, being somewhere between 2 and 3, and I can remember a couple things from that time: one is playing with superheroes, and two is listening on a little record player to three 45’s that I had,” Beres said.
He started strumming the bass in sixth grade, which eventually led him to his current gig—bass player and vocalist for the band Sister Hazel, the Florida-based band named for a minister that will play the Blind Pig March 19.
“We’re always on the road and we’re always writing and always recording,” Beres said. “We just keep it so that there’s fresh material for our fans every year to 18 months, which is kinda new for us, we used to have three-year gaps between records, but the record industry’s changing.”
Sister Hazel first hit the charts in 1997 with “All for You.” Because the song was so well-known, Beres said it defined them for years. But now the group has such a large song catalogue that new fans may not even know the song initially.
In addition to Beres, members of Sister Hazel are Ken Block (lead vocals and acoustic guitar), Ryan Newell (lead guitar and vocals), Andrew Copeland (rhythm guitar, vocals) and Mark Trojanowski (drums). Beres started the band with Block in 1994.
Their latest disc, Release, came out in 2009, and they’re already working on the next one.
“We were just in the studio cutting some tracks,” Beres said. “We kind of never stop writing. At some point along the way, we just realized we’re a career band.”
Not traveling to Ann Arbor with Beres will be his wife and children, but when he’s not on the road Beres, 39, describes himself as a “full-time family man.”
“I travel about 100 days a year, which seems like a lot when I say it, but you gotta think the other 265 that I’m home full-time,” he said.
And those aren’t just words. During the interview with The Washtenaw Voice he packed his kids in the car to take his son to karate and his daughter to a jazz class. That’s not to say working and being a dad is easy.
“I’m sorry; my son is wrestling my dog now,” Beres said after a sigh.
Although Jordan, 7, and Kai, 4, don’t travel with their dad, they do get to see the band perform every year at Walt Disney World. Both cite their favorite Sister Hazel song as 2006’s “Mandolin Moon.”
“Actually both of them, at different times, have come up on stage in front of very large audiences and sang that song with the band,” Beres said, making no attempt to conceal the pride in his voice.
In 2008 Beres released a book, “Starfish, a Lullaby” based on requests from fans who said their children loved Sister Hazel’s song “Starfish.”
Beres and the rest of Sister Hazel rely on communication with their fans, who call themselves “hazelnuts,” and host events like a “Hazelnut Hang” and “The Rock Boat” to stay connected to them.
“I think what the Hazel fans get that maybe other fans don’t is that we have encouraged and helped develop a community and communal atmosphere,” Beres said. “I think that’s a key to bands that are in it for the long haul.”
Sister Hazel’s been to Ann Arbor before, but Beres only remembers two things—the temperature and the name of the venue, the Blind Pig. He’s hopeful it’ll be warmer this visit during a show in which people can expect to hear all their favorite Sister Hazel songs.
“We keep the live shows fresh,” he said, “but the ones that we don’t change, some of the hits like “Your Winter,” “Champagne High,” Change Your Mind” and “All For You,” those are just so well-received by people, everyone’s singing every word, that it makes the tedious aspect of having played it a million times live, makes it fun.”