Having fronted Texas pop-punk heroes Bowling For Soup for almost two and a half-decades now, it came as a welcome surprise to many when frontman/guitarist Jaret Reddick announced his first ever solo acoustic tour, ‘Heartache & Hilarity’. We caught up with Jaret himself on the penultimate night of the tour at Gorilla in Manchester to find out more about how it all came to be.
Tonight is the penultimate show of the tour – how has it all been so far?
Jaret Reddick: It’s been a whirlwind, it’s gone by really fast. I can’t believe it’s almost time to go home but I think my body’s telling me that it’s time – I’m definitely a little bit tired. Everything’s been amazing, better than I could’ve imagined to be honest. It’s just literally been crazy. I mean, y’know, it’s definitely taking a chance putting on a tour like this over here not having done anything like this before but I’m super happy with the way everyone’s been responding.
And like you say, this is the first time you’ve ever really done anything like this..
Jaret: Yeah, and y’know, it’s different. I mean, like, we’ve done Bowling For Soup acoustic shows with me and Erik before but the thing about those shows is they still have a certain energy about them that you can always fall back on, songs you know everyone in the audience knows, whereas here it’s less about just playing hits and more just talking about where songs come from and just my life and things that surround me and playing the songs as they were originally written, just me and an acoustic guitar, so just the fact that it’s been received the way it has, again I just couldn’t be happier. Couldn’t be happier.
Obviously, this tour’s been billed under the name ‘Heartache & Hilarity’. How did the initial idea for that come about?
Jaret: Well actually it’s funny because before, about 5 or 6 years ago I suppose, I was in pretty good shape actually and I was at my trainer and she was just kinda talking to me about what I did and I was just like “Basically I just write songs and I always try to put a funny twist on them- I turn heartache into hilarity”. And that kind-of became my Twitter handle, so to speak, or bio or whatever. And so having then kinda been on a rollercoaster of depression and anxiety and dealing with a lot of changes in my life, it just seemed to go really well with the songs – some of them are kinda sad if they’re presented in the way that I will and tell you the stories behind them, and then some of them are hilarious.
This being the first time you’ve done the show, was the intention always to debut it here in the UK?
Jaret: Definitely – I mean it’s pretty clear that the UK is our biggest fanbase, and in a concentrated area, so it’s just that if this was ever going to work then it was going to work over here. So now I definitely feel a lot more comfortable going back over to the States and trying it there in some major cities and stuff. But yeah, I just felt like it would be more relatable to the UK fans who’ve come and seen us every year since 2000, y’know?
Last time I spoke to you, about 11 months ago, Bowling For Soup were just about to play Manchester Arena, and you mentioned how special Manchester as a city is to you and the band – are you excited to be back again?
Jaret: Oh yeah, definitely been looking forward to this one. It’s oddly climactic to be the night before London because you know Manchester’s gonna be great and London’s gonna be great, so it’s kinda all been building up to this. There’s almost an added pressure to me I guess to make sure tonight is really great. *laughs*
So, as we were kind-of mentioning before, this is the first time you’ve really done anything like this out on your own – is the plan definitely to try and take this to other places now then?
Jaret: Yeah, I think that’s the plan. It would be hard for me to do it for like a 2 or 3 week tour in the US but I think that it’ll be easier to kinda break it up, and do it in and around what Bowling For Soup already has going on and stuff. And to me, I think this is something that I could really grow into an ongoing thing as well, just in that we have 19 albums, so like there’s a lot of material out there to go over.
What’s it been like for you to revisit some of the older songs in the catalogue that you don’t usually get to play as much for this run then?
Jaret: Well, that’s an interesting question, y’know. Obviously, I’m playing about three that were ‘hits’ over here, but it’s the other ones where it’s iffy whether or not that audience on each night in that particular city are gonna know a song like Cold Shower Tuesdays or something like that, but y’know, I got to Bristol on I think either the second or third night of the tour and man, they sang that song so loud and it was like super-emotional for a not very emotional song. But it was so cool, because again, that’s a pretty deep cut, and honestly, that’s one that almost didn’t get recorded so just for that to be the reaction was pretty cool. But yeah, I mean, I am having to use cheat sheets because some of these songs I literally haven’t touched in like 16 or 17 years.
Have there been any songs you looked at including at first, but didn’t work in the set for whatever reason?
Jaret: Um, well no – I pretty much knew in my head where I was gonna go. I mean, I knew that I wanted to at least address my weight gain, my anxiety, my depression stuff because that’s been kinda in the forefront of what people have been asking me lately. So I knew that I needed to address that, and that kinda lends itself to some stuff, but some of the songs I didn’t really have an exact idea of what I was gonna say, it just happened organically. I mean, I did the setlist on the way here, on the plane. The show just sort-of built itself, the outline came through the first night, I was happy with it. I was telling my tour manager the first three or four nights I’d probably change the setlist and he finally just stopped asking me because it’s working the way it is.
And the setlist’s been pretty much the same throughout then?
Jaret: Pretty much, yeah – there’s a couple of songs that I’ve thrown in on the odd night, or skipped over a couple. You know, some shows I’ve only had an hour and a half, some shows I’ve had two hours, so I think the sweet spot is that it just kinda depends on what works. Like, last night was a much quieter crowd; well I say that, there were a bunch of really loud drunk people too, but so it was a completely different vibe and much less intimate, and like by the end of it I was just pulling out hits just because that was the atmosphere. And not really what I wanted to do, I don’t really wanna have to fall back on that but I also know that I want people to leave thinking they had the best night ever.
Is it enjoyable for you to be playing these gigs in far more intimate environments than you’d otherwise necessarily be doing with Bowling For Soup then, since you’re now at the point where you’re playing big venues and sometimes even arenas with them?
Jaret: Well, it’s been awesome, and I knew I had to do it that way because I think if the crowds were too big then you’d lose that intimacy. The storytelling part of this show is just as important as the songs themselves and I think the bigger the crowd, the harder it is for them to be locked in and actually listening to the words that you’re saying. So y’know, it just has to be that way – there’s a certain amount of people, like I think when you get over say 400 people, then you’re gonna start losing people. And that’s relative to even how we sorta do Bowling For Soup shows really; if we’re playing to 2000 people we know we can get away with a lot of jokes and a lot of talking and just the entertaining kind of Bowling For Soup show. If we’re doing an arena we kinda can’t get away with as much of that just because it’s gotta be bigger, everything has to be bigger. So the idea was to take all of that which I’ve learned and shrink it back down again, and it seems to have worked really well, again, I haven’t really heard anything negative and I know I’m super happy with it.
You’ve brought The Lounge Kittens out on the road with you again this time as well – how have they been as tourmates?
Jaret: It’s been awesome, I mean they’re definitely…we all think the same things are funny – in fact, I was really into the comic strip Bad News and I’ve never met people besides myself and my friend Linus who actually have it memorised, and they do. And so that’s just one example of the amount of fun we’re having and they’re just, they’re like dudes but they just look good in tights and they’re a lot of fun to hang out with. And so talented, and they’re just destroying every night, they’re so well-rehearsed and amazing, it’s been great having them.
Just to kind-of wrap things up now – you’ve obviously been involved with quite a number of different projects over the years at this point. What’s coming up next for you after this tour ends?
Jaret: Well, actually, Bowling For Soup is planned out for the next couple of years now – we’ll be doing a tour announcement later this week of the UK, we’ll be coming back. Then Jarinus is coming back too, we’ll have new Jarinus material out hopefully by the end of the year. And then Kelly Dollyrot and I are writing a duets album front-to-back – we wrote six songs in three days that’re all demoed and everything, so we’re hoping to have a pool of about 20 songs to pick from and have that album out hopefully by summer of next year but I don’t know; she’s got two kids and I’ve got three, and there’s hurricanes and all kinds of crazy shit going around so it’s like, we’re doing our best.
Finally – is there any message you’d like to give to the fans of your work amongst the readers of Rock Sins?
Jaret: Yeah, I just wanna say first-of-all thank you for giving us; we’re almost into our 24th birthday as a band next year, so thanks to everyone who’s given us an amazing career and keeps supporting us, and well, check out my podcast! *laughs*
As alluded to in the interview, Jaret Reddick and the rest of Bowling For Soup will return to the UK in February 2018 for their biggest ever headline tour as they headline the return of The Get Happy Tour, also featuring The Aquabats! and Army Of Freshmen. Get your tickets from www.bowlingforsoup.com.