Hard-charging trio The Cadillac Three is set to kick up some dust with their sophomore album, Bury Me in My Boots, on August 5. The raucous three-piece—Jaren Johnston (vocals/lead guitar), Kelby Ray Caldwell (lap steel/bass) and Neil Mason (drums/percussion)—sat down with Nash Country Daily at Nashville’s The Crying Wolf bar and grill to discuss their new album, evolving as a band, touring with Florida Georgia Line, fighting German hockey players and much more.
NCD: Your new album, Bury Me in My Boots, drops on August 5. It’s your first album in more than four years, since your self-titled debut in 2012. Why such a long time?
Jaren: Well, you know, greatness takes time, my friend [laughing].
Neil: We actually forgot we were supposed to be making an album.
Jaren: It’s funny, we put that first record out by ourselves, and toured it for two years, then got to a point where we couldn’t do it anymore by ourselves. We needed a partner to kind of help us keep building and we signed with Big Machine and they re-put it out. So that was kind of the first time everybody—the masses—actually got to hear that record. After that was when we really started concentrating on writing the new record. We wrote the whole thing on the back of the bus, recorded a lot of it on the back of the bus. And it takes time to kind of, you know, make sure you follow up that first record with something worth a shit. That’s pretty much the bottom line.
NCD: What’s the biggest difference in you as a group than in 2012?
Kelby Ray: We’ve been touring on a tour bus for the last three years, and writing songs on the back of it. Honestly, that’s the biggest thing was playing more shows.
Jaren: Kinda growing into the band that you want to be. I think great examples of the growth are songs like “Graffiti,” “White Lightening,” “This Accent,” things that are on this new record that—“Running Red Lights”—things that nobody’s really heard from us. There’s nothing like that on the first record.
NCD: Do you feel like your sound has evolved a lot since the first record?
Neil: Yeah, a lot. The first record, we made it and we started touring so we really hadn’t played shows as a band yet. Now we’ve played 1,500 shows or something, so now when we went in to make this record, we were a much tighter thing. We were sort of figuring out our sound on the first record. I think we had a really good group of songs so it came together really well, but we were sort of figuring it out that first time and now we’ve spent a couple of years figuring out how we want to grow, but we’ve also had a lot of practice doing it.
NCD: Each of you have a lot of co-writes on the album. What was the songwriting process like for you?
Jaren: It’s a lot of—I don’t know if you ever saw the movie Almost Famous—it’s very, the creative process on this record was a lot of the back of the bus, writing in the studio back there that we have. Kind of just writing and writing and writing, and you know, there’s 1,000 songs and you have to pick 11 or 14, however many that all go together. You just hope you write as many songs as you can that fall into that category and then you slim them down. You know what I mean? Then you just cut through them and try to make a glued-together record.
NCD: The new album has previous singles “The South,” “Party Like You” and “White Lightning,” with 11 new songs. What new tune are you really excited for people to hear?
Kelby Ray: I think “Slide” is a favorite, the second track. It’s kind of a barnburner, as Jaren would say. “Buzzin’” is another new one that’s kind of a slow tempo that’s gonna be a lot of fun to play live. So we’re really looking forward to finally being able to play those because we’ve been holding back because we didn’t want to play too much new stuff too soon before people could buy the album.
Jaren: There’s also things on the record that are showing other sides of us like “Runnin’ Red Lights” and “Graffiti” and “This Accent,” as well as one that’s my favorite is the “Ship Faced” song. I think that’s going to be one that people really like because it’s dark and cool and weird but still kind of has that [waves arms back and forth] thing.
NCD: You mentioned that you hope this album shows a new side of you. What is that side?
Jaren: Growth, I think, you know. That we’re not just three dudes, you know, that sing about fighting and drinking. I think there is that side and there will always be that side of us because that’s something we love and something we started out on, but as you grow older you have life experiences. All we’re doing is touring the world right now, so you see crazy stuff and there is songs about fighting and drinking on there, but there’s also songs about love and trying to get back home and trying to do the right thing and stuff like that and songs about death. I think it’s a step in the right direction as far as us trying to be the biggest band in the world, you know, that’s what we’re trying to do so [laughing].
Kelby Ray: We went from drinking and fighting to loving and death [laughing].
Jaren: We went from drinking and fighting to loving and dying [laughing].
NCD: You mentioned touring the world and seeing some crazy stuff. What’s the craziest?
Jaren: Buddy, some of them I can tell you and some of them I can’t. We’ve been in global fights. I’ve seen a hockey player try to kiss my wife in Germany. That was awkward.
Neil: He was big.
Jaren: He was huge. And I was like, well, this guy is gonna kick my teeth in, and we left.
Kelby Ray: We’ve got to get out of here, baby [laughing].
Jaren: Sorry, baby, but we’ve got to leave [laughing].
Neil: This record is not supposed to be about fighting [laughing].
Jaren: It’s a lot of really cool things and a lot of really scary things you see. We were literally landing back home from London when the France [shooting] happened in Paris. So it’s like you find out, you’re doing all this traveling around and you end up, you’re like goodness, we were so close to a lot of this crazy stuff that was going on. It’s been a crazy three and a half, four years of seeing things. And I think that’s why this record has such a wide spectrum of topics. You try to put it all in there, it’s crazy.
NCD: Tell me about the new single, “Drunk Like You.”
Jaren: We wrote it on the back of the bus with a buddy of ours, Jesse Frasure, who’s a really talented guy. That wasn’t even going to be our song. A couple of these songs we came back to, and I was like, man, this is too good of a song to give to somebody. It’s neat that we’re doing that now when we didn’t do that before. We just gave everything away thinking somebody will have a hit with it. And now we’re at least being more cautious with that because, you know, we are growing into that band. We’re still cool, we’re still the most left thing that’s out there right now, know what I mean? “Drunk Like You” is probably the most us song on this record. Or one of them. We’re excited about. People seem to be digging it.
NCD: You’re out on Florida Georgia Line’s Dig Your Roots Tour right now. What’s it been like opening for those guys?
Neil: It’s been good, man. We did one of our first runs when we started this band, after we made that first record, we went around the southeast with FGL.
Jaren: We were both in vans. Tyler [Hubbard’s] cell phone was on the side of the trailer, a detail company.
Neil: It’s been cool to catch up with those guys. They’ve always been really good to us.
Jaren: And to see how big they are now.
Neil: We’re happy for them. Their trajectory was sort of like [arm up straight up] and ours is sort of [arm slowly moving up]. But it’s good to be out there with them.
Jaren: It’s pretty cool to be—we’re second on that lineup—a lot of the tours you play on, you play early and the people are still filtering in. This tour, there’s at least 10,000 people in there every night when we go on, or right around there, so it’s pretty incredible.
1. “Bury Me in My Boots”
3. “Drunk Like You”
6. “Party Like You”
7. “Ship Faced”
8. “Soundtrack to a Six Pack”
9. “White Lightning”
10. “The South” (feat. Florida Georgia Line, Dierks Bentley & Mike Eli)
11. “This Accent”
12. “Peace Love & Dixie”
13. “Hot Damn”
14. “Runnin’ Red Lights”