“I keep coming back to (Southern food),” he says. “I might not have realised how much I loved it until I started travelling. We have a lot of sweet tea here, with a lot of sugar and milk in it. We cool it down, too. And that’s not even nationwide; you go past Tennessee and it’s hard to get sweet tea. I find that’s something I crave when I’m on the road.”
Speaking with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning, Fogg seems sincerely taken aback by the success Boys and Girls, the band’s debut full-length. Their insanely contagious soul-tinged roots rock has landed them slots on a variety of late night television shows, on the covers of reputable magazines and tours throughout North America and Europe.
Amidst their success, Fogg can’t help but exude hints of naiveté about their ascent, especially when it comes to their upcoming touring schedule. From November 2012 to April 2013, Alabama Shakes will touch down on five continents. It’s essentially as varied a tour as a modern band can set out on, though Fogg doesn’t find it daunting in the slightest. He chuckles after the schedule is read out to him. For Fogg and Alabama Shakes, perhaps the key to their rise to fame is equal parts genuine approach and ignorance being bliss.
“Maybe because we’re oblivious to it, because I certainly had no idea we were doing all of that,” he says once he finishes laughing. “We just try to take things one day at a time. The promo stuff is starting to build though. In the spring Brittany and I did a promo run in Europe. For a couple of days, we were doing interviews all day. That was really strange. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that. Otherwise, I just take it in stride.”
In taking the media attention in stride, Alabama Shakes have afforded themselves the luxury of focusing on their live set. And it’s through their powerful live sets that they’ve won many a fan in big name musicians, most notably Jack White. The Third Man boss has publicly lauded the band and soon approached Fogg and co. about releasing a series of 7” singles on his label.
If the media attention simply rolls off Fogg’s shoulders, it’s the appreciation their fellow musicians have showered upon them which has left a lasting impression. Fogg pauses to take in the notion that they’ve become a favourite of Jack White, sounding genuinely blown away. Of course, it’s hard to imagine him reacting any other way.
“I’d say that’s one of the best feelings in the world, to be praised by someone you respect or admire. I think that’d be in any field; I’m sure that if you played baseball and one of your heroes said you had a good fastball, it’d feel the same way. So it’s not just a great feeling for me a musician, but I’m sure it’s a great feeling for everyone who gets mentioned by someone they respect.”
The big-up from Jack White will certainly help Alabama Shakes moving forward, as Fogg admits that the band only signed a one-album deal with their label, ATO Records, as they “just didn’t want to be tied down to anything, especially seeing as how we were so naïve at the time.”
So has this naivete produced any real learning experiences for the band?
“Every time we go on tour it’s a learning experience,” admits Fogg. “That’s the nature of the beast; you have to make decisions quickly and learn on the fly. We do have a lot of good people behind us. We’re not doing this alone, that’s for sure.”
If Alabama Shakes have made efforts to stock good people in their corner, it doesn’t appear as if these people have been boosting Fogg’s ego or pressuring the band to capitalise on their recent success. The idea of a sophomore full-length is as far away form Fogg’s mind as possible right now.
He’s not worried about following up on the hype. Instead, Heath Fogg and Alabama Shakes are taking it easy and enjoying the ride.
“We don’t even have to try and not think about it, because we’re so fortunate to be in a good position right now. We can make a living by doing this, and we plan on making our next record in the same way. We’ll make it when we’re ready; the labels we’re on right now have us both on a one-album deal. So we’ll get to our next album when we feel good and ready. We’ll just be on our own making a record again, so nobody feels too much pressure right now.”
BY JOSHUA KLOKE