THE BACKSTORY - After selling 500,000 copies of their first two albums (their self-titled debut and Potter’s Field) and touring relentlessly, 12 Stones decided it was time for a break from the road. The band packed up their gear and headed back to Mississippi and Louisiana. And what did these guys do on their time off? Well, as singer Paul McCoy put it, they "grew up a lot."
All of the guys are now fathers, and they spent a good deal of their time away from music with their families. However after a few years away from touring, McCoy says, "I really just couldn’t wait to get back to making music."
THE INSPIRATION - 12 Stones has always thought of themselves as the "underdog" in the music business. Sure, they have hundreds of thousands of fans but they fought for each and every one of them. The band has yet to have a big, break-out radio hit at pop, but active rock has embraced their sound since the release of the debut. Their fans have stuck by their side and continue to reach out to on a daily basis through their website and MySpace.com page. This support is evidence that hard work truly pays off, and even after a long absence from the scene the faithful are still by their side.
McCoy says the resolution to make the best of what you’ve got was only intensified during the 2005 hurricane season. All natives of the Gulf region, each member of the band felt the hardships of that fall. Whether it was seeing family and friends pack up and move away from their hometowns or witnessing the region’s morale drop in an instant, the band felt the effects Hurricane Katrina. "We know what it’s like to be on the losing end but be making the best of the situation at the same time," McCoy says.
THE SONGS - 12 Stones did not set out to write an album for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Still, the loss felt in their local neighborhoods had its obvious effects on the band members, and they were compelled to write about the recovery taking place around them. "Anthem for the Underdog" spells out 12 Stones’ philosophy for those working hard to get back on top. McCoy sings, "We´re here now feeling the beat of a thousand hearts coming back to life again, we can make it." The lyrics are a testament to the spirit of those affected by this tragedy.
On the other hand, the weather is not the only thing that is uncontrollable. People prove to be just as unreliable in songs such as "Lie To Me," "World So Cold" and "Arms of a Stranger." McCoy sings about betrayal and loss in "Lie To Me," as he passionately offers, "All the times I shared with you, were you even there at all? Nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, you´re scared of the truth; I’m tired of the lies." Yet, through all of the loss and pain in these songs, there is still an underlying feeling of triumph in the end.
"There is a real sense of urgency to get back on top throughout the album," McCoy explains. "We know what it’s like to be the underdog but that doesn’t mean we always will be. It’s important to show our fans that things can change, life does get better."
THE RECORDING PROCESS - McCoy, guitar player and co-founding member Eric Weaver and drummer Aaron Gainer spent months meeting with "big time" writers and producers only to be let down over and over. McCoy says, "The big name producers made us feel like the underdogs once again, like we were lucky they agreed to meet with us." All of that changed however when the band traveled to Memphis, TN for a meeting with Justin Rimer (former guitar player for Breaking Point) and Skidd Mills (who has worked with Skillet, Saliva, and Sister Hazel). There was an instant chemistry between 12 Stones, Rimer and Mills, and the band spent the following eight months in Memphis recording Anthem For The Underdog.
Rimer has anxiously waited to team up with 12 Stones for years. They both share the same manager, so they have kept up with each other’s work from the beginning. Rimer says, "The first song we did was ‘It Was You,’ and as soon as we played it for everybody it just clicked. I got the offer to work on the entire album right after that. I didn’t want to take them too far from where they had been as a band in the past, but this is a diverse album for them. Paul definitely wanted to kill me by the end because I had him singing in higher ranges than he had ever sung before."
When the album was complete, the guys were not ready to say good-bye to Rimer, and invited him to join the band on the road. "We had never been so open to criticism or trying new things in the studio as we were when working with Justin. It was great to have someone working with us who really knows their way around a studio," McCoy says of their new guitar player.
Weaver also appreciated Rimer’s contribution as the second guitarist. He says, "Justin comes from more of a metal background than I do, so it is nice to mix the different flavors of music. He is a great addition to the showmanship of the band." Rimer calls playing with 12 Stones "like home." "I was in Breaking Point for years, but I am just as comfortable playing with this band."
THE FUTURE - 12 Stones has been through a great deal in the past few years, but somehow the band has made the best of what they’ve got and come out the better for it. They continue to strive for the top, and McCoy says they "are ready to step up and take the lead. This album is the best attempt we’ve got to grab new fans, and we’re ready."
"We are really proud of this collection of songs, and think the fans are going to love it," McCoy continues. "We’ve been gone for a while but can’t wait to get back out there – we’ve never been in a better place."
Underdog? Not for long…