Getting to know Truth & Salvage Co.
Asheville-via-L.A. country rockers Truth & Salvage Co. make songwriting a shared experience. (photo by Cass Bird)
Upon listening to their eponymous debut full-length album, it’s not hard to figure out how the six-piece Asheville band Truth & Salvage Co. arrived at their name. It’s a gritty, powerful album built on the strengths and compromise of the band’s four primary songwriters, salvaging the best of their influences and ideas to arrive at one rocking country sound. Originally hailing from New Orleans, Atlanta and Indianapolis, Truth & Salvage Co. have created a songwriting brotherhood with potential resembling that of their Silver Arrow record label patron, the Black Crowe’s Chris Robinson.
Y!W: How did this band come about?
Bill “Smitty” Smith: This band used to be called the Denim Family Band. Some of us lived in this house in LA called the Gower House. We met this amazing songwriter named Lissie who lived down the street, and Scott [Kinnebrew] and Walker [Young] became her backing band. We were just a bunch of songwriters who’d get together every weekend and drink some beer and just write songs. It was me, Tim [Jones], Walker, Scott and Adam [Grace] with Lissie and George Stanford. Her career took off and she got signed and George got signed. We kept doing our thing and we became Truth & Salvage Co. after that.
Y!W: Lissie has a tremendously different sound than this band. How did it all intersect?
Smitty: We all are basically just songwriters. I think her songwriting has grown tremendously over the last two years, I mean she is really blowing my mind right now. She said I want to cover this Gram Parsons song “Sin City” and we did it. She said I want to cover this Mamas & Papas song “Sing for Your Supper,” so we did it. Her voice is also just God-given natural talent, and that’s something that you can’t really part from. But songwriting is something that you can craft and if you spend enough time doing it, then you can actually get really good at it and I think she is all the time.
Y!W: Where do you think you guys are with that?
Smitty: (laughs) Oh, fair to middlin’. I’m inspired consistently by the guys that are in our band. It raises the bar for me constantly when I hear something they did and I say, “I want to write a song that good. I want to write a song that good.”
Y!W: Does anyone in the band have influences that lie outside of the scatter plot of the rest of the band?
Walker: It’s funny, we all have different writing styles and some of us come from a countryish base, some from an indie rock background and we have that Indiana rock, John Cougar Mellencamp camp. We’re four songwriters, but Adam Grace and Joe Adell add a lot to the melodies as well. Tim: The bullshit-o-meter is at a high scale right now. There are lots of songs I write and never even play for anyone else because I don’t think they’re good enough. We’re also always good judges and never deny anything, that’s the good thing about being brothers, is that we never deny anyone anything. At the same time, we’re very easily able to tell what is good and what is not.
Y!W: How did you meet Chris Robinson?
Tim: We share the same manager and him and Chris and Rich started a label about two years ago. After seeing us play, they wanted us to be the first band on it.
Y!W: What was it about your sound that hooked them?
Tim: Chris said he believed in the sincerity of our songwriting and he really believed in the group of four voices. He thought we were serenading him when we sang together. There’s 20,000 Black Crowes cover bands out there, but we hint at a lot of their sound because we all enjoy their music. I think for the most part he just believed in what we did. Walker: That was the great thing about going on tour with them is that it was similar enough that all of their fans were really receptive of the sound.
Y!W: What kind of direction did he offer when you came on?
Smitty: The biggest thing he did was to help us with our singing. He’s a great vocal coach. Tim: he cleaned the path up a lot. He’s a really good discerner of vocal phrase and cadence. I think he’s the best American rock-and-roll singer alive today. He’s inspired me to sing much better than I ever thought I could sing. Besides that, his guitar collection was amazing.
Y!W: What was the first thing you wanted to pick up and play?
Tim: The Gretsch White Falcon, easily. It was a guitar that Neil Young used to play and there were only about 150 of them ever made, so they’re all pretty valuable. It was like a $50,000 guitar. I don’t know if it made the record, but the Silvertone did on “Jump the Ship,” which is the sound I always try to get out of this’ amp that I have.
wanna hear more?
You can hear an entire live performance by Truth & Salvage Co., archived on NPR’s web site at www.npr.org/music.