Saving Abel is a band that doesn't seem to be phased by bumps in the road. In fact, despite some significant lineup changes and the lack of a major label, the Southern-based hard rock outfit is hitting the road harder than ever.
"We played more shows than anybody in the world last year. Granted, it wasn't for 10, 15, 20,000 people, but there were people that came out to see us play," says Jason Null, the band's lead guitarist. "I really love what I do, so there's really no bad shows or good shows. As long as I've got that guitar in my hand and my buddies are sitting there with me and we're having a good time, that's what it's all about."
Before Saving Abel became road dogs, they found themselves on an unexpected fast track to mainstream popularity. The group was co-founded by Null and then-lead singer Jared Weeks in 2004, and the two began cranking out songs, tossing demos on stage at other people's concerts and slowly putting together the group's original lineup. The band found what would be the template for its sound when it wrote the raucous ballad 18 Days (which appeared on the band's first EP and later its self-titled debut album). But things really took off with Addicted, a mid-tempo rocker with a memorable and sexually overt chorus, which led to their major label debut in 2008 and became one of the most-played rock songs on radio in the country that year.
"We had just named the band at that point, so that's how far the song was ahead at that point before we were actually ready to go," Null says.
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Writing and recording instantly catchy hard rock tunes laced with sexuality turned out to be something Null and company had a knack for, as evidenced by Saving Abel's 2010 follow-up Miss America, which charted the singles Stupid Girl (Only In Hollywood)) and The Sex Is Good (which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Song chart). That led to their playing to big crowds touring with hard rock heavyweights like Nickelback, Hinder and Papa Roach among others.
But according to Null, once the band delivered their record label hits, they only wanted more. They wanted every song they wrote to be a potential single, which zapped the band's creative juices.
"Every single song, we were under the gun," he says. "It took the fun completely out of it. The only little bit of fun we had was the artistic expression and that was taken out because we couldn't express ourselves the way we wanted to."
Null said despite containing some of the band's best material and stretching themselves both lyrically and musically, Saving Abel's third release, Bringing Down the Giant, didn't get the support from the label it needed to take off. Then, the band suffered a serious setback when Weeks left the band in 2013 for personal reasons and to pursue a solo career. Saving Abel refused to slow down and soon replaced Weeks with new lead singer Scotty Austin.
When Saving Abel recorded Blood Stained Revolution in 2014 with a new singer and on its own independent label (named Tennessippi Whiskey Records, harkening back to the band members' Tennessee and Mississippi roots), Null said it allowed the band to move on to a new chapter that was void of major label pressure and to give the fans something new and genuine both in the studio and on stage.
"One thing we did not want to do was try to replace Jared, the person. We did not want to clone him because we saw this opportunity to get to something fresh," Null says. "If you haven't seen us live since we did the change, you should see it. Scotty, whether he feels like it or not, he's going to make you have fun and I think that's the great way to be when you're the frontman of a band."
Through all the ups and downs and changes, Saving Abel lives to play live, and the group's upcoming show in Lexington at Cosmic Charlie's on Tuesday is proof of that. In between some of their larger shows where they plug in to rock out in larger venues, the band's current lineup of Null, Wilson, Scott Bartlett (rhythm guitar), Eric Taylor (bass) and Steve Pulley (drums) will find the time to book a gig at a smaller venue like Cosmic Charlie's and do an entirely acoustic set for a more intimate fan experience.
After a career where it stood near the top of the rock charts, Saving Abel is now experiencing a different kind of success that's not as large but just as sweet.
"We're basically stress-free. We play gigs because we want to play them and we write music because we want to write it," Null says. "I always just wanted to make a living doing what I want to do, and that's exactly what I'm doing."