Latest release: Cold Day Memory (Stomp)Website: www.sevendust.com

Towards the end of our conversation, Lajon Witherspoon, frontman for multi million-selling Atlanta metallers Sevendust, discusses his passion for music and remarks that as a musician, you don’t need to have the best voice in the world as long as you have conviction.

Interestingly enough, this ethos is reflected in his own speech and mannerisms. Therefore, because of how personable and charismatic he is (including good naturedly joking around and querying Loud about Australian slang), even when he’s espousing sentiments that may seem rather cliched on paper, you believe him because of the conviction in hisvoice.

“I think the realness (is what has kept the band viable to so many),” he ponders. “We’re not rock stars, we’ve been very blessed and everyone out there has made our dreams come true and we still deal with things like everyone else. I feel like music is a magic thing and to be able to take your mind away from when life gets to you, the boss is getting on your damn nerves and not being able to pay the bills, because we deal with the same shit.

“But you know what? For some reason we’re still here and it’s the music that’s magic and the people, they keep us going. I can’t believe they still buy the tickets to see us, you know what I mean? It’s so crazy in the times that we’re dealing with, but I honestly feel like, for a few hours that you can come out and get your aggression out. That’s what music does. If you can forget about all the bullshit in the crazy world – from the wars, the killing, to not everybody being on the same page and level-headed – I think that the medium that brings us all together is music. I love music, man; I just love it all. It’s something that’s always been in my life and growing up with horses in Tennessee and going up to the farm, you had rock ‘n’ roll and country music blasting through the barn. You’d get back to the house and you listen to R&B, so it was always everything and that’s what music to me is. It’s a beautiful thing, it’s a part of life. It’s in my blood.”

This enthusiasm has been a major driving factor throughout the band’s eight-album, 15-year career. New record Cold Day Memory also marks a significant occasion for the band; their first studio release since the return of guitarist and key songwriter Clint Lowery, who departed following 2003’s Seasons. Witherspoon is again audibly pleased to have his “brother” back in the fold.

“I think we’ve always been passionate and we’ve always been driven, but I feel like Clint was definitely the missing piece of the puzzle to the original sound of Sevendust,” he surmises. “We had it and we almost able to display it, but we just had that one piece missing piece. It’s like, ‘it’s there, but we just can’t frame it yet’,” he adds with a laugh. “We can’t put it in the frame yet, because we’ve got to find that piece, it’s somewhere lost. But we know where it’s at (now) and we need to get it to stick in there and then we’ve got the picture framed. I think that’s what came out on Cold Day Memory.

“Just to have him come back and feel like he had really a lot to say and just (wanted) to get it out. To be back with his family, to be back with his brothers, man. I think within himself he had to find something within to make sure. He made a point to make sure that everyone (knew that), ‘hey, you’re back and you’re bringing it’. And he brought it.”

In the vocalist’s view, Lowery’s return has also boosted their on-stage presence, chemistry and energy as well. “Definitely man, it’s on. It’s just different man, it’s almost like we have to make a point, you know what I mean? Like, it’s not a joke to us – this is what we do, this is our lives and this is serious. We do not take this for granted man, we’ve been very blessed to be here and we worked our asses off and missed out on families, babies growing up and stuff, so you know what man, now that Clint is back in the band we’re doing what we’re doing, it’s really serious. To even still be where we’re at right now, I can’t believe it. So I feel like we not only owe it to ourselves, but owe it to those people that have grown up with us, kept us out here. The only reason that we still have a damn job is because of all the beautiful people that have supported us; which I don’t call fans, I call them family and friends.”

On the touring front, the band will make their third trek to our shores, as part of next year’s stellar Soundwave Festival bill, which also includes the likes of Iron Maiden, Queens of the Stone Age, Slash, Primus and more.

“I cannot believe that we are going to be doing that tour,” Witherspoon states. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, because I have to watch every band that plays. I hope that this will even build a bigger relationship with everything in Australia. It’s a pleasure to be a part of. Not even just the festival, just to come back over and see you cats again is cool. To be with the likes of Iron Maiden… it’s awesome. We really look forward to doing it and I hope that this is not the only time that we get invited to do this. Even after this festival, to come back and really rock it again on a headlining tour, or opening up for whoever, just to be there will be great.”

Also on the bill is America’s DevilDriver, fronted by ex-Coal Chamber mainman Dez Fafara. Sevendust drummer Morgan Rose revealed in interviews upon the release of Seasons that they had penned the track ‘Enemy’ about Fafara, with whom former Coal Chamber bassist Rayna Foss had a falling out. Several years on this is surely all water under the bridge now; so much so that Witherspoon almost leaps through the phone to reassure me relations between the two camps are completely fine.

“Oh, man, all that stuff was young, crazy, Morgan was married to Rayna, they got divorced, we grew up man. Dez and I, we hang out with DevilDriver and I think they’re one of the baddest bands as far as bringing it live. You can’t deny it; they drop it like it’s hot. I’m friends with those guys, I can’t wait to see Dez again. That whole silly stuff back in the day… It was crazy, but we went on, we were able to do a song and get our angst out. I think we’ve all grown up, we got kids now and you know what, that was just a page in our lives. I think the press really made that more about that than we did. That song was more just about the fact that someone being just that way anyway. The press ran with it and you know, whatever. Dez and I have never had any issues – ever,” he laughs. “It’s always been nothing but, ‘what’s up? Let’s have a glass of wine, let’s kick the smoke and see what happens’.”

In wrapping up our chat, Witherspoon again wishes to rave about our country in his typically engaging style.

“The first time that we went there, staying at the hotel right there on the water, across from the Opera Theatre, a guy was standing outside. All I remember and everyone in the band – we still say it – he just kept screaming at the top of his lungs, ‘Australia – look at the view!'” he chuckles. “It was beautiful. Man, it’s still imprinted in my brain, that experience from the first time and we just can’t wait to get back to you guys. God bless you and thank you for making us feel at home when we’re so far away.”