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Carolines Spine interview 

Carolines Spine
Submitted by Tom Spinelli on 2008-09-20
One night in 1997, I put on the radio station 89.1 The Point in Rochester, NY and heard a song called “Sullivan”. I was blown away and immediately jumped online to find out it was a band called Caroline’s Spine. I have been following the band and singer Jimmy Newquists solo albums since then. Caroline Spine has released 5 full length albums to date, “Monsoon,” “Attention Please,” “Overlooked,” “Captured” and recently underwent a lineup change and released their new album of 8 songs entitled “Work It Out.” It was an honor to Interview one of my heroes and inspirations Jimmy Newquist and talk about the new chapter in Caroline’s Spine. I just want to Thank Jimmy for taking the time to interview with me and Sandy Rizzo for making this possible.
Hey Jimmy how’s it going?

Jimmy Newquist:
Fantastic! Sandy Rizzo forwarded me the review you did of the new record. Thank you so much for taking a listen to that.

Anytime. Its a fantastic album. First off I’ve always wanted to ask what Caroline’s Spine meant.. It’s a great name!

Jimmy Newquist:
Believe it or not, I signed a solo deal to the now long gone Anza records in San Diego,CA I was living in Los Angeles and I had just gotten out of school and I signed as a solo artist in the fall 1992. Basically, I had a bunch of songs as a folk singer songwriter guitar player, probably 15-20 tunes, went down and the producers called and said “look we’ll sign you to a deal and we’ll do the record but we don’t have much money to do it.” So I was like that’s cool because I have these songs but don’t have a band, so we’ll have to create this thing from scratch.

Over the next year, I brushed up my chops as far as drums, bass, guitar, vocals, keyboard and everything and we slowly designed this Caroline’s Spine sound in the studio. At the time I was thinking hopefully this will do well but my first love was actually music and film. I was working at Universal Theme Park Divison at the time. It became a rock thing then a harder rock thing. I remember constantly listening to the first Stone Temple Pilots record and the second Pearl Jam record to reference tones on.

How this all comes back to Caroline’s Spine is that after a year of doing research and me driving down to San Diego every weekend and figuring this whole thing out, we finally finished the CD. They day it went to press it was literally the flip of a coin “Do we call it a band or do we call it Jimmy Newquist”, so we though “Lets call it a band”. I wrote out 13 names on a piece of paper and one of the names was Caroline’s Spine and it was a reference to a character I developed in film school. I said yeah it’s kind of moody and melancholy like the first record was with songs like “Monsoon” and more aggressive ones like “Psycho.” So we were like yeah why don’t we call it that. Two and a half weeks later we sold a thousand copies of the Caroline’s Spine record.

My Favorite tunes include the songs “Sullivan” , “Work Song,” “Overlooked,” “Unreal” … Where do draw your inspiration from to write these great songs and personal lyrics?

Jimmy Newquist:
A lot of it has to do with the fact that I never learned how to read or write music at all. So I’m not trained or anything like that, but I had a lot of brothers who listened to a lot of rock and roll. From one standpoint, I really, really like folk singer songwriters. The obvious ones like Dylan, Cat Stevens, James Taylor and the way they tell their story. On the other side of it I could not get passed the heavy sound of early Metallica, obviously Led Zeppelin, The Who and those type of things and kind of wanted to mix them together.

So Caroline’s Spine is back with an all new lineup in 2008… So who are the new members how did you hook up with them?

Jimmy Newquist:
We have had probably about a dozen players in the history of Caroline’s Spine. For instance, on the Monsoon record, the bass player that was on there and even the guitar player, Mark and Scott, those guys didn’t actually record hardly any of those parts on the tunes. At that point Scott had just joined the band. For me, having new guys in Caroline’s Spine and moving around is a normal thing for me. I’m totally stoked about this lineup. No previous lineup has really had the power that this lineup does. Each player on this record is an achieved musician in their own right and I think you can really tell there’s a newer energy on the record.

What do the other members Mark, Jason, and Scott think about you going on with the Caroline’s Spine name?

Jimmy Newquist:
I really hadn’t spoken wit them a whole lot since 2002 after “Overlooked.” I held off from doing the Caroline’s Spine “Captured” record for about 2 years because there were quite a few personal problems. I wanted to make that record, if it was going to be the last record on with that lineup; I really wanted to make it a good effort for them. I felt good about doing it. As soon as we got into production, it was very obvious that the guys were not quite into dealing with it and obviously had not played their instruments in a while. I ended up doing the majority of the record myself that it made it personal. I think when you listen to “Captured.” You can tell it was not only rushed. There are 3 songs on the album that will definitely go down in my Caroline’s Spine Greatest Hits that I just love.

I think it was just a labor of love from a songwriting standpoint and les about the band. We did that tour and one of the guys went back in to rehab and the tour got cancelled and at that point I was like ok I called Sandy Rizzo who was our former manager and said “I’ll do another Caroline Spine record, but I need different guys and I got these songs but there’s no way this lineup could handle this and the whole thing. She’s like “Look you guys are still popular around the world and on the internet and we’d like to see you put something together. So that’s how this whole thing started to get “Work It Out” out.

The band seems to have a fresh new attitude on the new album “Work It Out.”

Jimmy Newquist:
I can’t tell you how proud I am of this new record. These songs have been in the works for several years. A couple of them I held off from the last record because I knew they wouldn’t be delivered the way they were supposed to be.

Now did you record the whole thing yourself this time or is it the whole new band on the record?

Jimmy Newquist:
No, this is one of the first times in Caroline’s Spine history that I didn’t touch a rhythm guitar or a bass or anything like that. Basically we showed the guys the tunes I wrote, we rehearsed them a bit as a band and then everything you hear on this record, with the exception of slight guitar work and all the vocals are those guys.

Do you guys have any National tour plans or anything for the new record?

Jimmy Newquist:
With Sandy on board now, there’s been a lot of interest especially from people like David Cook from American Idol. He was a kid when we were dealing with him. It will be interesting to see how this record catches on. Its one thing to be Number One at worldwide and another thing to be Number One at worldwide. With that said, getting on a national tour as an opener or co-headliner, we would absolutely love to do it. I think its just a matter of 18 Hour Management finding the right fit for us. The music industry is in a very odd place right now.

So you produced the whole new album too?

Jimmy Newquist: I did. I actually produced every record and co-produced with Roy Thomas Baker on “Attention Please.” I am totally into anybody who is into The Caroline Spine songwriting and the way the band represented itself. I think anybody who doesn’t have a clear idea that this thing was like me and a sketch pad in a bedroom trying to figure out what kind of band I wanted to put together.

Like I’ve heard all sorts of stories about me being found to be the singer and me wining an audition (laughs) and I’m thinking to myself man, I was doing this before anyone really cared. It’s really my plight as a songwriter to make sure that this music is always represented on a record the way it should be and that will continue to be the case. The minute I find great players, I like to do great records with them and if we don’t see eye to eye on anything else, it’s my job to make sure that Caroline is taken care of and we have a really great team built around this band moniker to make sure the music is great and the legacy is great. It’s very important to me.

So, Why only 8 songs on the new album, why not make it a full 10 or 11 songs?

Jimmy Newquist: Originally we were going to try to do a 10 or 12 song but frankly I didn’t want to put another set if acoustic songs on there. With the last two records and dealing with some of the other guys, it was absolutely necessary for me to go in and come up with songs at the last minute because I ended up doing most of the record myself. There were times when some of the other guys wouldn’t even show up. This is definitely not he way I do this project and I’m very fortunate to have music in my life. It was no problem for me to grab a guitar and put down a song that I was working on like that “Surprise” song on “So Good Afternoon.”

With this record, all 8 songs are incredible and blistering, every single one of them. There’s not a song to skip on the entire record. I normally don’t skip any songs on any of our other records but on some of our other records, we can take you to almost a completely different genre of music. This one I wanted to be all rock and roll. I wanted to get the point across. Its like “Guys, there’s been 12 people in band.” I get letters on what happened to the first bass player the band has never been the same and then I get letters saying what happened to the sixth guitar player. It depends on what state your in and when you found the band. If it’s the songwriting that connects you to Caroline’s Spine, then you have a friend for life with us because I’m never going to stop doing these records. With the music industry today and independent music, the artists can do that. So I’m all for it.

With the internet and technology these days and indie music people just record themselves and release records themselves which is almost the way I feel it should be.

Jimmy Newquist: You know I got to tell you you’re more honest in saying that than I think people realize. I stay in touch with music and the industry and I work with a lot of bands and a lot of different projects. It is unbelievable to me that any band that really wants to make it today would have trouble making it (depending on their definition of making is) but my version of making it with Caroline’s Spine is always generating enough from the previous CD to make another CD and thanks to our die hard friends cause I don’t think we have a lot of fans but we have a lot of friends. The music really touches in a very different way and it comes from a very different place in me as a songwriter. I think that’s part of the inspiration of it. With all of our friends around the world, I think its going

Recently I read about a deal with Sony, What’s happened with that?

Jimmy Newquist: Believe it or not I ended up signing with them. That was more for me as a songwriter. I signed a licensing deal with Sony and Sony direct and I just completed one with Universal. Of course on the internet that got blown up to me kicking someone out of the band because Sony didn’t want them or whatever. To me all that stuff is bogus. If you know how to right songs and your proud of what your doing then I’m going to release those songs and im going to make sure they are represented the best possible way they can be. It’s a tough place to be in when you have to make tough decisions and a tough place to be in when you have to sell everything you own, wait your job, leave your girlfriend and go live out of a car for two years to see if you can get a major label.

Live with the new band, Do you change any of the old songs are play them the same, do they have that urgent fresh sound to them?

Jimmy Newquist: I have to tell you I truly believe that at this point in time we have the best live band lineup that’s been in the history of the band. A lot of that has to do with our management. Dealing with guys that are musicians first themselves rather than guys who have other issues that they have to deal with first whether that be family or alcoholism addiction or drug addiction or their in jail, I found myself recently in a band with drug addicts that played music and guys who were in jail when they weren’t on stage. So what I would like is a musician who digs what were doing and puts his best effort into it and when he leaves this stage he goes and does other music because that’s what I do. I go and I write other songs that someday will be Caroline’s Spine songs or someday will be songs for other artists but music is it and everything revolves around my family and music.

I feel I’m finally in a band with guys where that is the case where before I never though I needed to be. With the changing day of the music industry people don’t like to have to go from doing things certain way to and then having to do them another way. For me, it’s all about changes. If you can change with the music industry now and still continue to release quality music, that’s success. I’m all about throwing a party as long as people are into hearing my music and if I can be the band at that party then that is where I am most comfortable. If there’s anyone who doesn’t want to be at that party they should take off and go find another party because they are taking up the space that should be used up by someone else.

Do you have any plans on releasing another solo album or is Caroline’s Spine you main focus?

Jimmy Newquist: I love calling then solo records because then I can actually put my name on them. But really every Caroline’s Spine record is a solo album. The name came from my solo record deal. If the coin was flipped a different way then we would be talking about the Jimmy Newquist band and not Caroline’s Spine. I though Caroline’s Spine was much more fitting to the dark and melancholy music I was writing at that time. There will absolutely be more Jimmy Newquist records, there will definitely be more Caroline’s Spine records and my company 7th Kid Entertainment is always looking for musicians and artists to work with. Like I said as long as the priority is music, I don’t mind having family guys that play music because for me family is first, but if you a jock who plays music on the side then were not interested or you’re a drug addict that plays an instrument then were not interested. Show me your music man, express yourself throw this thing and show me what you got.

We’re obviously not talking about the captured record. But that song “Show Me” on the captured record is the most deliberate representation that I have as a songwriter towards some of the former lineups of Caroline’s Spine. It was like man, when you see the light of what’s going on here, Is it going to make you clean up your act cause I don’t know where to go from here. You’re not showing me what originally attracted me to have you be a part of my music. So if you have nothing to show me you should bail. In those sessions I think I know that two of those guys were going to be gone within 6 months and who know that all of them would be gone in 3. Within the next 3 weeks I was scouring through audition tapes and got calls from guys like Jeff Rambo that’s played on a lot of nation records and bass player Dustin Rhodes. These guys are phenomenal musicians. I was so honored to be able to speak with them and it was awesome to do a record with them.

Do you think you’ll ever mix up your solo material Live with the new band and play both solo and Spine songs together live, I love “Come Over Here,” It would be a killer tune live with a harder edge?

Jimmy Newquist: I absolutely think so, I think maybe the next time I do a tour. You know, “Come Over Here” is one of my favorite songs I have ever written. Even though its kind of a pop thing, it too has a darker sensibility to it. Absolutely. I grew up in Phoenix and that’s where I have always lived. Everyone always says Caroline’s Spine is a Salt Lake City band or Sand Diego or Tulsa band. It’s always been a Scottsdale, AZ band, that’s where i write all the stuff. Where do you think we got the title “Monsoon.” Those are the kind of storms we get out in Arizona. When it comes to the solo thing and playing with a live band, as long as that band can represent what were doing in a fashion that I think is cool and will be respected, I’ll definitely do it. I am currently writing for another solo record as we speak and also for the new spine record. I put down a riff on it last night.

Out of you’re whole entire Caroline’s Spine or Solo catalog .. Do you have any favorite songs?

Jimmy Newquist: I would definitely say the song “Overlooked” is in there and “Sullivan.” I would think a song called “The Answer” which is a great acoustic song.

It has been an honor talking with you and I want to thank you for your time …. If you couldn’t make music what would you be doing?

Jimmy Newquist: I would go back to designing theme park rides. It was what I was doing before I created the band. I worked for Universal Studios in their theme park design department.