Surreal probably doesn’t do justice to the experience singer/songwriter Scott Terry and his Red Wanting Blue bandmates had when they stepped onto the Ed Sullivan Theater stage on July 18, 2012. Late-night TV music slots are usually the exclusive realm of hot new major label acts or established legacy bands. After scuffling for 16 years as “America’s local band,” David Letterman introduced Columbus-based Red Wanting Blue and when the Late Show camera tally light clicked on, the band kicked into “Audition” from their ninth album From The Vanishing Point.
Fanatic Records - FR240
It was quite an accomplishment for the Ohio band with a distinctly midwestern ethos of hard work, honesty and independence. Red Wanting Blue had built an enthusiastic regional fanbase but was still searching for more widespread acceptance and critical respect. "The great thing about being on a show like the Late Show is that it seems to validate you to so many other markets, where typically they'd just say 'I'm not interested,' or 'we'll think about it.' Now it's sort of like 'Oh, you're good enough for David Letterman, but you're not good enough for your college radio station?' I think we're considered a safer bet now," Terry told the Akron Beacon Journal during the subsequent tour.
"I felt like for years like my mother and father were like, 'Yep, he's still in the band,' and people were like 'Oh my God, they're still doing that? Geez," Terry continued with a laugh. "So, it's nice for my parents to be able to gloat for a hot second or have something to talk about and the whole community was really excited about the show."
Formed in Athens Ohio in the fall of 1995 while the New Jersey-born Terry was attending Ohio University, Red Wanting Blue (RWB) moved to Columbus in 1999 for the same reasons people continue coming to the 14th-most populous U.S. city. “The way it seemed to us…to me at the time…that Athens was a great, creative place to get started,” Terry told the Fresno Examiner in 2013. “However, it’s an hour and a half away from anywhere, pretty much any direction you go. You’re pretty far away. So Columbus, being the center of the state and its capital, it seemed to be the town with the most going on. It seemed like a natural, evolving move to go to a more central location.” Frontman Scott Terry, a dead ringer for Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood, eventually relocated to Brooklyn, New York, but the band has remained headquartered in Cbus ever since.
After almost 15 years of proud independence, RWB signed a 3-album deal with upstart Fanatic Records. New Yorker Josh Bloom founded Fanatic in 1997 as a music marketing company, but he was interested in beginning a label and in 2010 landed a distribution deal with Caroline/EMI. Bloom’s goal with Fanatic continued to be artist development. The label wanted to reissue the band’s most recent independent release, These Magnificent Miles.
“We signed with Fanatic and our fans were expecting something new,” Terry told CityBeat in 2012. “We had to shine them on for another year. The label said, ‘The rest of the country has to hear (These Magnificent Miles) first.’”
Early in 2011, RWB began recording what would become From The Vanishing Point at their own Columbus studio, El Rancho Relaxo. Magnificent Miles producer Jamie Candiloro (R.E.M., Lisa Germano, Ed Kowalczyk) returned for the sessions. “We were represented by this guy who managed Ryan Adams, and he put us in touch with Jamie Candiloro, who produced Ryan Adams’s Easy Tiger record,“ Terry told Cleveland Scene. “I thought that was more our speed. I didn’t want to try to pull off wearing black pleather pants and being a big rock star. We’re more blue jeans and brown boots.”
With Youngstown’s Dean Anshutz having joined the band on drums in late 2009, From The Vanishing Point was the first RWB album to include the quintet of Terry (Vocals, Tenor Guitar, Ukulele), Greg Rahm from Toledo (Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals), Mark McCullough (Bass, Chapman Stick, Vocals), Eric Hall of Westerville (Guitar, Lap Steel, Vocals) and Anshutz (Drums & Percussion) which continues today. “From the Vanishing Point was written on the road,” Terry told OU Daily. “We’re always driving. We’re a road band, and we’ve done this for most of our lives. The road is our home. Our world has opened up to having a national presence, and the record sounds that way. It has a bit more of a feeling of this is a band who has been around for a very long time, and we’re sort of entering the national stage. We wanted it to be a welcoming record for people that have never heard of us before. This record is an introduction to who we are and more importantly who we are now.”
While not a dramatic departure from the midwestern Americana style the band had settled into at this point, From The Vanishing Point was in many ways both an introduction and a consolidation. They re-recorded “Audition,” which originally appeared on 2002’s Model Citizen, and released it as the first single in September 2011. While their crowds continued to grow larger, RWB filmed the video for “Audition” at their October 13 Newport Music Hall gig.
After pushing back the release date, Fanatic finally released From The Vanishing Point on January 10, 2012. The cover featured artwork from Scott Terry’s brother John Tavener titled “Step Right Up Folks.” The album debuted at number 10 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart and big-time talent agency Paradigm added RWB to their roster. The band would draw their largest crowds to date on the ensuing tour. The woman who booked the music for the Late Show with David Letterman at the time was in one of those New York crowds.
"It's definitely a big step, a nice highlight to add to your resume," guitarist Eric Hall told ThisWeek. "I grew up watching Letterman, and I always thought maybe someday I'd be in a band that would play (on the show)." If the gig didn’t ultimately launch them to stardom, it did gain them some national recognition along with some much overdue respect from their hometown. “There’s something satisfying about seeing a band from your hometown on national TV,” Chris DeVille wrote in Columbus Alive. “Particularly when that band has been gutting it out on the road for as long as Red Wanting Blue has.”
The summer of 2012 saw RWB playing slots at major festivals like All Good. The band's headlining gig at Rockin’ On The River in Cuyahoga Falls drew over 9,000 fans. If most music careers are an arc, this was RWB’s apex and it must have felt pretty sweet. With a work ethic that demands respect, RWB is Ohio to the core - literally flying the Ohio flag on stage and displaying the state seal on the bass drum head.
“I want to let people know that we’ve been in your backyard for 12 years,” Terry told Columbus Alive. “Lift that stuff. Don’t suppress it.” Well said.
Drew's pick: Playlist
12 Pour It Out
Phonographic Copyright ℗ – Fanatic Records
Copyright © – Fanatic Records
Recorded At – El Rancho Relaxo
Recorded At – Sage & Sound
Mixed At – Banana Chicken Studios
Mastered At – Marcussen Mastering
Vocals, Tenor Guitar, Baritone Ukulele – Scott Terry
Bass Guitar, Vocals – Mark McCullough
Keyboards, Guitar, Organ, Vocals – Greg Rahm
Guitar, Lap Steel Guitar, Mandolin, Banjo, Vocals – Eric Hall
Drums, Percussion, Glockenspiel – Dean Anshutz
Additional Keyboards, Guitar, Percussion, Dragon Slaying & Magic – Jamie Candiloro
Producer, Engineer, Mixed By – Jamie Candiloro
Mastered By – Stephen Marcussen
Engineering Assistant – Greg Rahm
Cover Art – Tavener Terry