Nashville musician EG Vines never intended to sing or be a front man in a band. Growing up in Arkansas, he got into mid to late 90s alternative bands at 13 and initially wanted to play the guitar. A local high school band needed a singer, though, so he decided to give it a shot and found his talent for singing. In 2009, after attending college in Alabama, he decided to move to Nashville to pursue music and give a music career a chance. After finding a job, he later met some fellow musicians and formed the The Bandoliers, who after a few years called it quits, leading EG to branch out on his own. He released his debut solo album Family Business in 2019, which got good reviews from the likes of Billboard, NPR and Rolling Stone and centered him as one of Nashville’s artists to watch. Deciding to quit his corporate day job in order to pursue music full-time ahead of the album’s release, he looks back at his time splitting life between a desk job and music and says it resulted in him being constantly on edge, carrying frustrations on his back all the time. Having more time to commit to his music has allowed his to innovate and experiment with different soundscapes. On August 27th, EG Vines will be releasing his new album Through The Mirror, an album described as part indie-rock nirvana and part reaction to an uber-politicized world. “It’s that social dilemma,” says Vines. “People get in their hall of mirrors and maybe they’re not looking at reality.” Much of Through the Mirror—which was recorded locally at Nashville’s Skinny Elephant Recording with co-producer Dylan Alldredge—sees Vines drawing inspiration from punk and alt-rock favorites from his youth; both musically and socially, and encourages listeners to critically engage with the world around them to inform their own ways of thinking. Calling the album a Rorschach test for the modern world, he delivers his messages through a wide array of subjects on his songs, from American history to what theoretical alien visitors might think when they arrive on Earth. With some live shows and some videos in the works, Vines and his bandmates have no plans to slow down. You can connect with EG Vines and stay up-to-date on all album and tour news via the following links. Photo credit: Nate Brown
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You grew up in Arkansas and started singing when you were 15 in a high school band. What can you tell me about your childhood and discovering your love for music? Did you always know that you wanted to be a musician?
No. I didn’t know. I was probably 13 or 14 and had been listening to music for 2 or 3 years and getting into a bunch of the mid to late 90s alternative acts that were out there. I just decided that I wanted to play guitar and thought I only wanted to play guitar. Then, maybe 6 months to a year into learning to play guitar, I had been hitting up a friend that was in a band, like “Hey. If you need another guitar player…” and he was like “No. We’re covered”. But the singer quit like a week before a gig they had, and when you’re 15 or 16 years old, the gig is the most important thing because you don’t get many gigs. So, they were frantic and I said “Yeah, I’d love to play guitar” and he was like “No. You have to sing.” I said “Alright but I don’t think I’m much of a singer” and he said “You can sing”, so I had to learn about 5 or 6 Metallica songs and a bunch of the alt-rock songs of the time. I had a gig in like 5 days where I had my music stand and a bunch of notes and we just played a bunch of covers for their high school auditorium. So that’s how I decided I wanted to sing and be a front man. It was totally by accident. I just thought I was going to be a guitar player, but a little stroke of fate there totally changed my drive and ambition for what I wanted to do I guess.
You moved to Nashville in 2009 and were in the band The Bandoliers. What led you to move to Nashville and what can you tell me about those early days of living there and what you love and find inspiring about the atmosphere in Nashville?
Yeah. I moved up here after I finished college. I was in school at the University of Alabama. I’d always wanted to pursue music, just kind of…a lot of other musicians I know too kind of get lost in college. You just go and party and figure out who you are. I didn’t play a lot of music but always knew when I graduated that I kind of wanted to get to Nashville and give music a go. So that’s what I did and it took a little while. I had to find a job first and about a year later met the people that we started The Bandoliers with. The first thing you learn when you start playing in a band in Nashville, is you start playing Mercy Lounge and New Faces Night at The Basement and stuff like that. There are all of these different things where they put together 6 to 8 bands and you play 3 to 4 songs and kind of test material. The first one of those you play, you realize that you’re probably the 7th or 8th best band out of 8. The thing I learned in Nashville early was that people don’t play around here. There are so many good musicians, and when you move somewhere like here, you realize where you stand and it will either motivate you to get better or motivate people to go in another direction and choose another career path. I think that was the first eye-opening thing for me in Nashville, that everyone here is the best person from wherever they came from.
You released your debut EP Conversations in 2018, which revealed a more thoughtful and nuanced side to your songwriting. You producer at the time, Eddie Spear, scrapped your initial batch of songs and pushed you to hone your craft before releasing new material. What was the process like of making that EP and in what ways did your producer help you to develop as a songwriter?
Yeah. So, I had the band stuff going on through 2015/2016 and finally started writing some more, I guess, folksier leaning stuff. I had been doing it for a little while and my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, and some of my other friends had heard some of that stuff and were just like “Hey. You should probably pursue this”, so I did. I had about 10 or 12 songs that I thought were good and ready to go and so I presented them to Eddie, who was signed on to produce for me, and it was another kind of wake-up experience. He was like “I see what you’re going for here and can hear the talent, but I don’t know if these songs translate.” He really liked one of them and he sent me back home with a bunch of homework, which was 5 or 6 records to listen to. He just said “Hey. Go and get lost in these records and figure out what sits with you and what doesn’t. Write out some of the lyrics and learn how to play some of them on guitar and then start writing again.” The records he gave me inspired me and probably within 5 or 6 weeks I had written the 5 songs that we ended up using. So, it was just a different way to approach it, but I think he set me on the trajectory of writing all the time and having the work ethic I needed. A lot of the things philosophically and just about the work he showed me are things I do now, as far as if you aren’t feeling super motivated about what you’re writing, just go and get lost in another record and then come back to it and then you’ll have new reference points and new inspiration.
You released your debut solo album Family Business in 2019. What can you tell me about that album and quitting your corporate day job around that time? You had worked in the corporate world for about a decade ahead of the album’s release, so how would you compare the music you wrote during that time with what you are writing now that you can focus solely on your music?
I don’t know if it’s really that different, aside from just having more of my first energy to give to this. Now, I know somebody kind of framed it as that and there is probably a difference, but I think it’s just more that now I have more time to be inspired and pursue angles that may not go in any direction at all but allow me to really search out what’s in me to say. Before, everything was a tight time frame so you are kind of knocking stuff out and now I can get lost in the material. I would say, it might be more true or real only because I have more time to go through anything that inspires me and try all different detours and things like that. I think with this new record, the subject matter is probably somewhat similar between the two records. The other difference is that I had more time to put on the producer role and develop the soundscapes and things like that, whereas before, I just got the song written and went to a producer for Family Business, Jordan Lehning, and let him guide that whole piece. This time, I was able to work and develop my producer skill set, as well.
On August 27th, you will be releasing your new album Through The Mirror. How would you describe the album and what can you tell me about the songs, which you wrote during the pandemic, social upheaval and national elections? What kind of message are you hoping it conveys?
I guess sonically with this one, we turned the guitars up. There’s still some acoustic and piano on this record, but there is a lot more electric guitars and keyboard parts. I think you’ll hear some similarity with the background vocals and melodically from the last record. This one is definitely more influenced by those 90s alt-rock bands I grew up with and punk bands and things like that. It’s a little more pissed off than the last record. The real message behind it is that I think I just got so frustrated seeing everyone go down their hall of mirrors and dive so deep into social media. I have a lot of different friends of all different types of backgrounds and groups and just hearing super liberal vs super conservative and the way people would talk about things and how much people would believe wholeheartedly in something that might not be the truth because they’ve been fed or have chosen to take a feed that is what they want to hear. I just saw so much of that. I guess my hope is that I can help people see that there’s more to it than diving into that and I hope people listen to it and just ask themselves questions. I’m not trying to direct anyone to any approach or mindset and definitely nothing politically. It’s more my hope that people will listen to the songs and it helps them to critically think about what they’re doing and the world and just everything in general. I mean, that would be my hope.
Having spent so many years in corporate America, do you feel that shaped your way of thinking about people/life/the world than perhaps you did before entering that environment?
Yeah. I mean, I think anyone is going to change a ton in 10 years, but you get in the corporate world and get several promotions and start managing people and start having these meetings with the big higher ups. I guess I just learned, and I always knew this, that the corporate world isn’t really my spot. Stepping away has been hard in that you get so, in a discount retailer world, Dollar General specifically, everything is such thin margins and there’s cutting costs, which sometimes means cutting labor or whatever. Every decision is about the dollar, so leaving was hard because I was doing really well there and as much as I like to think about myself as a free-thinker and rebellious and doing what I want to, I still, like anyone else, think about my perception. How do other people think about me and what are they going to think if I do this? So, it’s been kind of hard to go from really well established in a company and making good money in this role where everyone around me thought “Yes. You are on the right path” to leaving and going “Now I have to worry about how do I make money here?”. Sometimes, what I need to be focused on is the art and then let the money fall into place, and that’s the thing I’m trying to work on. Once you’ve gotten into that 10 years of a retail environment like that, your brain is conditioned to almost think of every decision from a money-based concept and you’re like “Hey. If I do this, where will I be in a year?” or “How is this going to pay off and how is this going to work out?”. Mentally, it has been a challenge. My wife helps me with this a lot, to not look at everything as a financial decision and realize “Hey. You’re going to lose some money here, but in the long run you’re doing what you want to do and are on the track you want to be on.” It’s hard, because I see a lot of artists that get to about where I am right now and there’s a lot of decisions you have to make, looking at a year or 3 years down the road. It’s hard for people to do that, and I’m lucky to be in a pretty good financial position after what I’ve done and what my wife does, so I at least have a little buffer. But I see a lot of artists die because they only think about it from finances and either chase “Hey I need a hit” or they sign this deal that ultimately won’t be very good for them but at the moment they think it will get them out of their situation. It’s sad, but it happens all too frequently.
You have said that with Family Business, you didn’t set out to make a concept album but it kind of turned into one. Do you feel that Through The Mirror turned out to be a concept album, as well?
I think people have different definitions for a concept album. I think this one is pretty much about what I was talking about earlier, the hall of mirrors and the social dilemma. I think if you look at it from the front to the back of the record, it is about that and about questioning what’s really going on in society and how we play a part in it. So, I guess there’s a common thread. Family Business, I think, was a good record and there’s definitely some highlight moments. I think this one is more of a front to back listen, and maybe the last one was. It feels cohesive to me and I think if you listen to it front to back, you’ll realize the common thread of what’s being said, even though some of the songs have kind of a different feel and vibe to them.
What can you tell me about the transition for you of being a solo artist after being in a band? Do you miss being in a band or do you prefer to do your own thing solo?
Bands are hard. And it’s kind of a band. I mean, most of the shows I play, I play with a band. I do some solo touring too. You kind of have to sometimes in new markets, because it’s kind of the only way you can get through the door in some places. We went to the Northeast and I couldn’t take the band up there last year for the whole week. It’s just a hard thing to do. I have my bass player, Ben Cunningham, and the drummer John Rodrigue, who are pretty bought into what’s happening. In our downtime, before we started touring again, we’ve been writing and kind of doing some more band stuff in the room. I still have the elements, but the good thing about being a solo artist is that you want to drive the art and have the vision for where the project is going. I’m lucky enough right now to have some people that are bought in and involved and will probably be around for a long time. The reason bands get hard is because there’s usually one or two people in the band who work harder on the non-music stuff and then people start resenting people and then the one who works really hard sees the ones who don’t do much and then they quit doing as much and that’s how a band can die too. I do like the fact that I can strategically set the vision, both artistically and business-wise and we can chart a path from there.
What kinds of things do you like to do outside of music?
Going to Alabama, I’m a huge Alabama sports fan. I mean, in the last couple of years, with shows and stuff, I haven’t been to as many games, but football Saturdays are pretty sacred around here. In addition to that, I still like going to shows in my downtime. I know that now that it’s my main gig, I don’t go to as many, but I love going to shows around town. I also get out on bike trails a lot. We have Shelby Park down here and I probably go out there 5 or 6 days a week and hit the trails.
What can you tell me about your Sunday Scary Series on Instagram? What led you to start it?
I was just looking for ways during the pandemic to…it’s really hard to grow when you’re not playing shows. Even if you put out videos and stuff, it’s a hard thing to do without that person-to-person interaction. I was just trying to figure out something I could do weekly that would keep the people who were already following me involved. I’d sit down there with a guitar a lot and just noodle and come up with something, so I thought “Hey. What better way to keep people involved than doing something creative each week?”. Not only did it keep people involved, it kept me creative and kept my chops up because I said “Hey. I have to put something out every Sunday, so I’m going to sit down and come up with something” and it was almost always a minute thing and loops. I think of it almost like a mini song, because I come up with a riff and then a lead part and do the whole thing. It was just something that was really fun and I’ll probably start doing a few more of those now that I’m not gone quite as much in the next couple of months.
What’s next for you? What do you have coming up?
Later this month, we’re going up to the Midwest. We’ve got, like, Chicago and Madison. We’re playing Tomato Fest in Nashville in August and then in September/October/November, I’m working on quite a few runs right now. We’ll be going to Texas and over to the East coast and then some Midwest and Southeast stuff here and there. The album is released August 27th and we’ll hopefully have some other features and we have another single coming at the beginning of next month. We’re possibly going to have some videos, some short film kind of things coming out too, so that’s in the works. Who knows after that? We’re just trying to get out as much as we can and develop new markets and keep honing in on the ones we have and just keep writing and keep moving!