Tedo Stone has been playing music in Atlanta and Athens since the age of 12. His latest, Marshes, wanders through familiar territory with some new twists in the countryside. This is the kind of music that demands careful production, which is clear on tracks like “By Your Side” and “Mind Wasted” as diversions from the traditional rock-stomp that anchors the record.
We spoke to Tedo recently about his music. You can see him at the Basement East in Nashville on December 2nd, with more dates to be announced in January.
BE: So, you’re gonna be up here on December 2nd. It seems like you come through here quite a bit. What do you like about playing Nashville?
TS: We played the Five Spot the last time we came through. I just love coming to Nashville. Kinda reminds me of Atlanta a little bit, the way the city is laid out. On our last run, Nashville was one of our favorite shows. We had a great crowd response and people seemed to take well to what we were doing. And I’ve got a couple of friends who are living in Nashville. It’s always a good stop on a tour when you get to see old friends and obviously Nashville, you know, there’s a lot of music and stuff going on. We always have a good time, and you don’t always get that.
BE: On a similar note, being in Atlanta, it must be great to have access to Athens. What’s the scene there like right now?
TS: It’s kinda funny, because we’re split—I just moved from the east side of Atlanta to just outside the city. My bass player and drummer live in Athens, and I feel like we’re more part of that scene. We recorded in Athens, and there’s a lot of people doing cool stuff, bands we played with three or four years ago are finally getting some breaks. Our old drummer plays with a band called Mothers, they’ve been getting a lot of buzz. Cicada Rhythm just put out a record, they recorded with our producer and we’ve played shows with them. It’s great to see people coming out of that scene and getting their name out to the rest of the Southeast, or up in New York. We’ve all spent a lot of time playing this small area, honing our chops, and it’s good to see that’s paying off. I think you’ll see a lot of bands out of Athens over the next year or two.
BE: About your music, what stuck out to me right away was your guitar sound. What guitars do you like to play? What effects do you like to use? I see you’re playing a Reverend right now, right?
TE: Yeah, that’s my main guitar. My guitar player plays a lot of Strats. He’s got two or three that he likes. When we did the record, we put a Gibson SG on a couple songs, there were some other guitars that we had access to. There’s a guitar luthier in Athens right next to the studio who does a lot of work for Drive-By Truckers, Widespread Panic, R.E.M., a lot of Athens bands. He was kind enough to let us go in there and we’d grab, you know, a Danelectro 12-string. We’d say, “We want an electric 12-string on this song,” and we could just go over there. He had all these crazy guitars, I couldn’t even tell you what some of them were. Mainly, I was using my guitar for tracking but there’s a lot of layered guitars, and on some songs we’d do some subtle things.
But as far as Reverend—I stumbled across that company through a friend who referred me to them. I just love my Jetstream. It’s hard for me to get away from it.
BE: When you were doing your record, you did it all to tape. Is that something you’ve always done?
TS: No, this was our first time with tape. This was our first time working with Drew Vandenberg and he typically uses tape. I think it definitely added something sonically, and it just feels good to do things that way. Drew had a pretty good process. It’s probably more difficult for him, because of the limitations of the medium. But for us, we all sat in a room together and played live, to get the feel right. I think it really made a difference in the sound.
BE: There’s a huge difference when you hear a record that’s been pieced together as opposed to one that has that live foundation.
TS: You’ll work for two days on a song and then you’ll think, “It really needs to be faster.” And what do you do then? If you’re all in there together you can go back through it and get a better take.
BE: About your songwriting, how do you approach your lyrics? Where are you coming from on those, and what do you like to write about?
TS: A lot of the lyrics come after a melody. As I’m working that out, I’ll stumble across a phrase or something that connects with something in my life. I was writing a song the other day and we’d just gotten back from tour. I was recording it on my phone, and when I went back to listen there was something in there about being lit up in the dark, and I realized it was about being on stage, being on tour, and I just went from there.
For this record, I was moving around, the band was on hiatus, and I was trying to figure out what to do next musically. I was traveling a lot between New Orleans and Atlanta, and I had a relationship that was dissolving around that same time. There was a lot of change going on in my life. And I think a lot of the ideas came from that.
At the end of the day, my lyrics are pretty simple and open-ended. I like to be able to listen to songs and relate to the lyrics in my own personal way, and so that’s also what I’m trying to create.
BE: Once you’ve got everything down, having written and recorded everything, how do you translate that into a video? I’m thinking of the “By Your Side” video in particular.
TS: I was looking at some local bands, the Black Lips and Gringo Star, who are two bands that I really like in Atlanta. I was watching their videos and saw that this guy Brian Bankovich had directed them. I sent him an email asking if we could do a video for “Mind Wasted” and he was really into that, so we set up a meeting. And he ended up pushing for “By Your Side” instead, that was his idea. And I let him run with it, because he was adamant about his vision and I think it turned out pretty good.
BE: It can be a good thing when somebody creative like that comes in with a different perspective.
TS: Right. And the song is very dark, in terms of the lyric content, but the music is upbeat, it has a bouncy feel. On a first listen, it seems happy and upbeat, and the video keeps getting weirder and darker. It runs parallel to my songwriting—I don’t always write storylines. Sometimes it’s just phrases pieced together that make sense to me.
BE: What do you have planned? What do you want to do next?
TS: We just got done with a couple weeks of touring. We’re doing some writing, and we might start doing some pre-production. We have a few one-offs, and then in January we’ll go back on tour for a few months.
It’s a weird business, but I feel like we keep gaining ground. The goal is to get in front of as many people as we can.
BE: Now more than ever it’s difficult to be in a band, to try and market yourself in the chaos. It’s a ton of work for very little money. What’s the most rewarding part of it for you?
TS: Having a connection with people. It’s always good to have someone come up to you and tell you they’ve been listening to your music. That’s awesome. With the live show, and going out and touring—just having that 45 minutes of being on stage every night, being able to let go and turn your mind off, it’s my daily meditation.
Everybody needs something like that, and for me it’s the best way to clear my head. It keeps me going.