What was the first album that blew you away?
It was Elton John. The first record I ever had my dad gave me, and I’m looking at it right now; it’s in my kind-of trophy case. It’s Elton John’s Greatest Hits. My dad was stationed in Korea; he was a career army guy and a total country-western fan, no room for rock ‘n’ roll. But he came back from Korea—I hadn’t seen him in a long time—and he had this box of records he had acquired over there. He was kind of thumbing through some stuff and he said, “Here, a buddy of mine gave me this, I’m not really into it. You want it?”
Let’s fast-forward to today. Sir Elton makes an appearance on your new album. Given your history, what did it mean to walk into a room and see Elton playing your music?
[Laughs.] That’s just an unbelievable thing. I’d met him in Vegas, saw his show, and he was a fucking cool dude. And to walk in and see the lyrics and the chart that I wrote, what it represents to this band—being the title track and dedicated to Layne—and representing all we’ve gone through and the decision and the courage to take on the challenge of what we have and to come out of it with the type of record that we have. All of those things and to have Elton playing on that song—it’s incredible. It’s one of those really cool moments in life that you always will treasure.
How did it come about?
A guy that’s been with us from the beginning had worked for Elton for a period of time and he’s like, “Why don’t you call Elton up?” And we’re like, Yeah, okay, right. Sure, I’m sure Elton’s gonna play on the fucking tune—not thinking that would ever happen. And he’s like, “Fuck, dude, you never know, give him a fucking call.” So I called a friend of our mutual friend who works for Elton, got his e-mail, wrote him a little note, and just explained kind of what I said to you: how we’re huge fans, this song is the title to our record, it’s a beautiful song—a deep, kind of raw, open-hearted song to Layne—and just all that. I said, “Hey, I know you’re a busy guy, but you never know unless you ask. Here’s the demo and if you get a chance to listen to it and if you feel anything for it at all we’d be completely honored to of course have you be a part of it.” And he fucking did it. It was awesome.