[Interview] Secondhand Serenade Celebrates the Ten-Year-Anniversary Of Awake

[Interview] Secondhand Serenade Celebrates the Ten-Year-Anniversary Of Awake

I still remember the first time I listened to Secondhand Serenade. Once I heard “Fall For You," my best friend and I were smitten. We had our black eyeliner raccoon eyes wearing skinny jeans and wearing converse that were much too big for our feet, but Secondhand Serenade was our little secret, as he was thousands of others across the country. When I heard that he was bringing his tour to Nashville to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Awake, I lost my mind. Top that with having The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus front man, Ronnie Winter, and it was my dream come true.

The Exit/In was packed full of nostalgic twenty-somethings of all walks of life for the homecoming tour end.  People were already pretty wasted and it was only 8 PM. Kenny Holland was killing it on stage, but sadly I only caught the last song.

Enter Ronnie Winter. I died a little of happiness. He was alone, playing an acoustic guitar and his angelic voice rang through Exit/In. I swear he played “Your Guardian Angel” to ease my soul. The only frustrating thing was that almost the entire crowd had their phones in the air recording the concert. My generation lacks presence, but I guess that’s not my problem. I exited mid-Ronnie for my interview with John of Secondhand Serenade but came back to catch the last few classics.

Why did you relocate to Nashville?

Well, I lived in L.A. for about six years, and as much as it’s a good music town, I felt like I wasn’t being productive. I was working on a record, and I decided to give Nashville a try for a little while and see how it was. I came here and I finished the record, and I ended up staying a few extra months, and then I just ended up getting a place here cause I fell in love with it. It’s amazing.

What prompted the ten-year anniversary release of Awake?

Well, the fact that it was turning ten-years-old, I guess. I mean it’s nothing special. You know everyone likes to celebrate their ten-year class reunion, and all that stuff. It signified a very significant, long, part of my life that was devoted to this. It also signified, not only the ten-year anniversary of Awake but also my introduction to the music industry, period.

I’m sure I’ll celebrate like a twenty-five year, too, at some point or whatever. It felt special to me. So I wanted to do something to commemorate that record because I wouldn’t be here without it. I also didn’t have a lot of money or resources back when I recorded it; so the mixing wasn’t as polished as I would have like it at the time. Yeah, I added some orchestra. It sounds fantastic. I recorded two new songs.

 Tell us about the track “Lost.”

“Lost” has been doing pretty well, which is great to me. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting this to be that big of a deal. I told my manager, ‘How about I, you know, do a ten-year anniversary release? Make a little bit of extra coin or something. See if the fans are into it and everything.’ And he said, 'Well, let me ask you something. I just had an interesting call with your old label. They’re really interested in being a part of this.' And I thought really? Okay. So we started talking about it.

Then we talked about two extra songs. Then I submitted the record. Like it was Christmas. It was crunch time. I was getting all of the mixes back. The record label didn’t hear anything from me, including the two new songs. It was basically just up to me. I recorded them. I tracked them. I sent them out to my buddy to get mixed. When the mixes all came back we submitted them to the label, and the label just seemed to be surprised and really excited about these songs. I mean, everything has just been happening unexpectedly. I was just going through the motions. I wanted to do something for the fans, and it has been going better than I imagined. It’s just the beginning of the kind of cycle.

I’m going to be doing a second leg of the U.S. tour later this year. I’m also going to do some overseas. We continue to get added to a lot of great Spotify playlists and getting some attention with the song. It’s kind of an exciting time.

I remember when Myspace was the go to and I discovered you. How have your fans evolved?

You know what the great thing is, my fans are still, I’m still their little secret. Everybody was like, I know this band and you don’t. It’s the cool thing. Then “Fall For You” came out and it became pretty widely known. I mean a lot of people know that song and learned about me, but now it kind of feels like that secret again. You know, it’s great because we play these shows and the kids are so excited and they come not because it’s old music that they used to listen to. It’s because they love this music now.

Even very regularly I have people learning about me for the first time. They’ll say, ‘Hey, I just found out about you from so and so or from Pandora and I can’t believe I haven’t learned about you until now.' But it’s great. We live in a good age right now and it allows people to find your music, even if for the first time. I’m not sure what rock they were under if they haven’t heard “Fall For You." It’s pretty crazy for me, but I’m very grateful and I feel very fortunate.

 During your career, how important has social media and streaming been?

I feel like I still have a significant career because of social media. I feel like if it wasn’t bringing people towards my music then people would have forgotten about “Fall For You” and I would have had a stagnant career. I think it fuels itself. Like I said, people are finding out about me every day and it’s not because people are telling them it’s because people are finding out about me on social media. They’re finding out about me online through different internet radios and all of these different things and it’s so important this day in age. Especially in a day where people don’t purchase music anymore. They still do on iTunes, but my Spotify numbers have surpassed my iTunes numbers. As you know, it takes a lot of Spotify spins to equal a purchase, but still, Spotify is outweighing sales at this point, which is a crazy thing.

I remember, in the point of my career, when I thought one day this is gonna happen, and now it’s happened times two or three. Still, it’s better than people downloading illegally. Now they can freely spin music without paying every time they play it and they don’t feel like oh they’re spending money, even though they pay for a subscription. Or they just do the random shuffle and that’s free to them, but we still get paid. A lot of people have a problem with Spotify and streaming companies, but I think that we wouldn’t get paid if it weren’t for them at this point because there are just too many ways to get music. I’m happy with how things are now.

 What do you see for the future of Secondhand Serenade?

I always saw myself as always staying around and every once in a while coming out with a new release, but this has kind of been an exciting time. I’m seeing these two new songs on this record as kind of a bridge to a new acoustic record that I might get into in the near future. So that. Definitely some touring. I also have my other project, The Rebel Roads, that I’m working on with my fiancé. Between all of that, I’m kind of a busy person right now. 

Hawthorne Heights wasn’t someone I listened to. I mean maybe I did, but they weren’t a staple in my life. Even so, they were awesome and they brought a huge following. An acoustic tour is already everything I could ever dream of, but a full band playing acoustics? There are no words. They have a new EP called Hurt.

Kenny Holland came back to play a song. They spoke a little about suicide prevention and played a song they wrote for a friend. (If you or anyone you know needs help call 1-800-273-8255 or visit the National Suicide Prevention Hotline here.) It was so moving.

Then right in the middle there was a group of people screaming ‘Chug!’ at the top of their lungs. Everyone in the venue was staring at the bar. I almost rushed over and choked the group as a whole, but Hawthorne Heights let it slide like true gentlemen and continued their phenomenal performance. They gracefully finished up their performance, and we laid in wait for Secondhand Serenade.

John came on stage, with his acoustic guitar, and a bar stool, and serenaded us. Everyone knew every lyric. I sang my little heart out. He spoke of his wedding, which is taking place this week, and his fiancé, Veronica Ballestrini. John played “Broken," which was the inspiration for Awake. He played every hit, like “Vulnerable” and “Maybe."

“It’s Not Over” he saved to sing in Nashville only. The same chugging group annoying bugged him to take a shot, but he took it in stride. Someone snuck past security and tried to crowd surf, but didn’t make it. Not sure why you would crowd surf at an acoustic show.

Once again, Kenny Holland was brought back to sing “A Twist In My Story." John told us it was completely impromptu, and it was out of this world. As quickly as the show began it was over. The crowd chanted ‘One more song!’ and made his way back on stage. We just wanted to relive Awake for a few more moments.

He brought Veronica, his fiancé, on stage to sing a song and closed out the show with “Fall For You."  I walked back to my car with a weird feeling of fulfillment and nostalgia, and I hope everyone does a ten-year anniversary tour so I can relive everyone one last time. Although Nashville was the tour end, Secondhand Serenade is going on a second leg of the tour and you can check back for cities, dates, and tickets here when they are announced.

Photos by Garry Walden for Bullet Music

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