Michelle LaRose talks with Jimmy Farrar for Road To Jacksonville
Photographs by Michelle LaRose
If Gator Country sounds familiar, it should. Gator Country was a huge hit for Molly Hatchet it is also the name of the band that Hatchet alumni are going by.
Jimmy Farrar, Steve Holland, Bruce Crump and Riff West have all been in Hatchet at one time or another. Rounding out the band is Paul Chapman formerly from UFO and Linni Disse.
We found Gator Country in… well, Gator Country! [Also known as Florida] We were able to sit with vocalist Jimmy Farrar and find out about their new single, the band and the meaning of life.
Jimmy: There’s an album in the works right now. We’re in the process of writing it as we speak! It’s going real well. We just wrote two new songs. As a matter of fact, we wrote them Thursday night. They’re just rough sketches. That makes eight songs that we have now for the album. So it wont be long.
RTJ: When might we see this new album?
Jimmy: We’re planning on getting it done as close to the first of the year as we can. One side or the other. We’re hoping that we can get it done in January. Don’t hold me to that because it can change. We are in the process right now of getting a new product.
RTJ: This will be Gator Country’s first album.
Jimmy: Yeah. Our first as a band, yes.
RTJ: Who’s writing the music?
Jimmy: All of us.
RTJ: Do you tentatively have a title for the album?
Jimmy: Not yet. It’s still pretty much just getting the songs together right now. After we get them all together and get them all concrete, each song a separate entity and not just a sketch then we’ll decide on the album name.
RTJ: How did Gator Country come to be?
Jimmy: Oh! I have a friend that lives in Nashville, he works for Sound Image, a company up there and his name is Everett Lybolt. I was kinda’ knocking around, I didn’t have anything to do, I was working a “straight job”… Oh God.
Jimmy: I was working at a “straight” job but I injured my back so they made me retire. So I was deciding what I could do and I went to see Everett who was in Atlanta at Chastain Park with Clint Black. I went up to see him and he said, “Why don’t you put the band back together?” I said, “What band?” He said, “The Molly Hatchet band!” I said, “Well, there’s already a Molly Hatchet.” I said, “We couldn’t call it that!” He said, “It really don’t matter what you call it.” He said, “The talent’s there.” He said, “You should do it!” So I told him, “How bout’ calling Keith Johnson for me and tell him to call me.” Because I didn’t have Keith’s number. So he calls and Keith calls up and asked me what I wanted and I said, “I want to put the band back together.” It was like thirty seconds before he said anything. He said, “Are you serious?” I said, “Yes I Am!” So that’s where it started. That was eighteen months ago and we’ve come this far in eighteen months.
RTJ: You seem to have quite a bit of concert footage. Have you
considered making a live DVD?
Jimmy: Possibly. Possibly. I think we’re going to be recording this show today as a matter of fact. It’s just according to how it turns out. I’m sure it will be presentable. You know, there’s a “presentable” performance, there’s one that’s “adequate” and there’s “a really super good” performance. We hope they’re all really super good but unfortunately some are not. You run up on glitches here and there. Yeah, we’re recording the show today so who knows what’s going to happen.
Jimmy: I met a guy that used to work for Molly Hatchet on the crew. He went to work for the band that I was working with, which the name of it was Raw Energy. He was going over to the Armstrong Agency in Macon to pick up a royalty check. He asked me, “Would you please come over. We’ll take a tape over and let Pat Armstrong listen to it.” I said, “Sure. Maybe we could get some bookings out of it.” So I went over, Pat listened to the tape and signed me to a management contract that day! About three or four weeks later, maybe a month or so he called me up and told me that he wanted me to audition for a band. I said, “Who is it?” He said, “Well I can’t tell you that.” I said, “Then I can’t show up.”
Jimmy: I was being kind of bitchy that day. So he told me, he said, “O.k. It’s Molly Hatchet.” I said, “I’ll be there!” They rented The Warehouse, a club called The Warehouse and set a concert stage up and I walked in and played three songs and they hired me.
RTJ: Sweet. That’s excellent. You’re not allowed to call yourselves Molly Hatchet for legal reasons. Are there other restrictions imposed on the band as far as that’s concerned?
Jimmy: We just can’t use the name. That’s because it’s licensed out to someone else. As far as playing the music, we wrote the songs… we can play them. We love to play the old music but what we’re concentrating on right now is a new product. Molly Hatchet was a great band, a great band. Powerful, like a well oiled machine, but the day of Molly Hatchet has pretty much passed. We all still have the talent that we had then, our idea is… why not put it to work and see what we can produce now. Let’s give the people something that’s not out there right now. That’s the way we feel about it. I love the music that’s out today for the most part but it seems like it’s lacking in melody on some fronts. The musicianship is not as good as it could be in some cases. Far be it from me to talk young folks down, I mean I’m not going to do that. They’re musicians, they’re making a living; they’re doing what they want to do. So you know, go for it guys. Do what you got to do to make your living. But, you know, treat the music with respect. You treat it with respect, you do it to the best of your ability and it’ll be good to you.
Jimmy: That’s what we were thinking. As a matter of fact Duane Roland heard it. He was our guitar player that passed away. When he was coming to Atlanta back from Florida, he was moving back, he heard it and said, “We need to do that song.” So it just progressed from there. It turned out good. It doesn’t sound dated to me. It’s an upbeat song and it’s very bright and it just feels good. It feels good. It’s a good song.
RTJ: You also play with the Southern Rock Allstars. How did you get in with them?
Jimmy: Well, it just so happens that I knew Jackson Spires, he used to be the drummer for Blackfoot. I had known him for years. He called me up and asked me if I’d like to come out and do a show. I said, “Sure!” So I went out and did a show and Boom! About a year or so before I started with Gator Country, when they made me retire from my regular job, the next day the phone rang. It was Jackson. He said, “Would you like a job?” I said, “You bet!” So I started back on the road with them. I toured with them for about two or three years on and off. Then we started the Gator Country thing. Then I started swapping out between them. Life’s been pretty good.
RTJ: Can you tell us about your newest member Paul Chapman?
Jimmy: You bet I can. Indeed I can. Paul is a wonderful, wonderful man. He has his share of talent and someone else’s too. This man is one of the best guitar players that I personally ever had the pleasure of stepping on a stage with. We all felt that when Paul came and auditioned that he was the last piece of the puzzle. So our membership is set. Paul is a marvelous addition, marvelous addition. He has wonderful ideas. He is an excellent musician. You couldn’t ask for a better guitar player. Paul doesn’t fake it like the rest of us. He reads music and he knows theory. He’s a guitar teacher. He has his own business where he teaches guitar. Some of students, I’m telling you… he’s real good! Paul just fits like a glove in the group. He really fits.
Jimmy: He’s great. You’ll see when he plays today. He’s been tested and there is no trace. It’s gone. It was like stage four oral cancer. It’s completely gone. Bruce has a super strong faith. Bruce is truly, truly a Christian man. He’s strong mentally as well as physically. Bruce is a wonderful man. Absolutely wonderful. Always has been. The kind of fella’ that when you look out your window and you see him coming up the driveway, you are always glad to see him. Always! That’s the kind of guy he is.
RTJ: What is the meaning of life?
Jimmy: What’s the meaning of life? For me it’s doing what you want to and doing it well and having fun. Life’s too short to drink bad whiskey and dance with ugly women!
RTJ: [Slapping knee and laughing hard]
Jimmy: [Laughing hard]
RTJ: Thank you for talking with Road To Jacksonville today.
Jimmy: Thank you Michelle.