Interview with Chad Warrix & David Tolliver
by Janelle Landauer
How and when did your first break in the music industry come about?
David: We’ve both been doing this pretty much our whole lives. I’ve don’t ever remember not singing. We’ve always been involved in some form or fashion. I think we both took a hiatus from it for a little while… (Chad during his motorcycle days – He raced in Motorcross and I, myself decided to quit music for a little while and try basketball. I decided I wasn’t good enough to have a career in that, so I went back to the music again. And, I guess you did the same thing too, didn’t you Chad?
Chad: Absolutely – we always came back and saved the best for last. When David and I got together about 4 years ago to start Halfway To Hazard, we started writing a bunch of songs and we enjoyed playing and sharing the stage together. It turned into a cool project. We got a record deal with Mercury and made our first record with Tim McGraw and got our CD out about 5 weeks ago in a store which is really cool – and comes full circle.
Did the small Kentucky towns that you grew up in have any influence on the kind of music you listened to back then and the direction you decided to take with your music now?
David: Absolutely. Growing up around Hazard, KY – pretty much all there was on the radio was Gospel and country and a few rock stations. We both had older sisters and they grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Journey, and REO Speedwagon, and the bands of the 70's and 80's. That was a big influence too. There’s just so much music and so much musical heritage back there and it all comes together and becomes what we’ve done. We’re both children of the 80’s too so we grew up in the hair metal days. Everything back home – we try to draw from all of that when we create our music.
One of the great things about your duo is that you change lead vocals on different songs often... How do you decide who gets to sing lead on which song?
Chad: When we write songs, it just kind of happens. When we’re sitting in a room together with a co-writer or whatever, it’s just whoever is feeling that part of the song that particular day. I know a song like “COLD” – actually was one of the first songs that David and I ever wrote together. And, I found one of the old work tapes of that song and it was actually me singing lead all the way through. So, somehow – I don’t remember when – but it turned into a David song. And, that’s cool – I enjoy hearing him sing it… We do that a lot in the middle of songs too between choruses and verses. “Daisy” was like that and “I’m Tired,” “Countrified,” and several other songs on our record where we actually switch lead vocals right in the middle of the song. It’s fun and it keeps it fresh and it keeps us entertained. We both enjoy hearing each other sing and so it’s a lot of fun. So, even when we write it sometimes, we think about it that way too, but sometimes it just turns out that way… Sometimes it can be a last second decision; sometimes it’s totally calculated, so you just never know.
For your debut CD, you had the chance to work with Byron Gallimore & Tim McGraw. How did you initially get in contact with both of them?
Chad: We were playing a lot of shows around Nashville and most of them were at a place called 3rd & Lindsley. We’d play early – 5 or 6 in the afternoon – because music industry people would get off of work and want to go have a cocktail and talk about business and they would come to watch us. Byron Gallimore was one of those people that kept coming and the first time he came and watched us, he walked up on stage and said ‘Man, I’d really love to work with you guys.” He came several times after that and he just kept reiterating every time – that he really wanted to work with us and we just kind of couldn’t believe it. Byron is one of the most successful guys in Nashville and so respected… We jumped at the chance and after we got all the legal stuff done with the record deal, and then a production agreement with him, he brought in Tim. And, McGraw wanted to work with us too and really shared a passion for the music and loved what we did (the songs we had written, the demos that we had done and our live show) and he wanted to put his name on it too. We started recording not much longer after that at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville and made a great record that David and I, Tim and Byron, and Mercury and everybody is so proud of for our debut record. It’s been a dream come true.
Do you have any favorite experiences of working with Tim in the studio?
David: Just him being there. I remember the first time he walked in and Chad and I kind of looked at each other… We were like “Hey, that’s Tim McGraw.” But, Tim is one of these people that…
Chad: That feeling goes away really fast...
David: He’s just a great guy and once you’re around him for 5 minutes, he makes you feel so comfortable. He was the first person there in the morning; He was the last person to leave at night and he was very involved. We really didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know if he would just be a signature on the contract or what not – but he was there all the time and we had such a great time working with him in the studio.
Chad: But, we’ve learned about Tim that anything that he does in life, he does 110%. And, we found out that with Halfway To Hazard – it was going to be one of those things. He goes to bat for us over and over again. He’s always defending us, taking us under his wing and sharing information and giving us pointers. And, Faith – she does the same thing for us. They’re both like proud parents. We were on the Soul2Soul tour this year. We’d come off the main stage underneath and they would be there waiting to greet us and give us hugs and high fives, tears in their eyes like proud parents sending their kids off to school every morning. It was a cool thing… and always an open door policy and continues to be with both of them. They’ve been great mentors.
David: And, Tim would brush our hair before the shows – it was awesome. (laughs!)
What was that whole experience like opening the Soul 2 Soul tour this year for Tim & Faith?
David: Wow, being a new artist, you really don’t get opportunities to open for major acts anyway unless you have a huge ‘break out of the box’ hit. And, to be on like the biggest country tour of all time and it’s your first big tour, it’s amazing. It’s a blessing. We learned so much…
David: And, catering was awesome! (laughs!) It was! It was a one of a kind experience. Tim and Faith were so good. They took care of us – like Chad said they treated us like little kids and watched over us and gave us pointers. Aside from my daughter being born and marrying my beautiful wife, it was the best time of my life. And, to get to share it with Chad – it’s unbelievable.
Chad: Yeah, I totally agree with all of that. The thing about it was – sometimes we would just pinch ourselves. We’re out there playing in front of 20,000 people – just David and I with our guitars and that’s kind of how it started. That’s an amazing experience. This year has been full of those. Like we were talking about “Daisy” a minute ago and the video and first single, being on tour – we just keep check marking a lot of dreams off of our list this year. It’s been pretty crazy. Hopefully, our hard work will continue to pay off and we’ll keep check marking some of these things off.
Is there anything that you learned from the other artists when you were on the Soul 2 Soul tour?
Chad: You learn something from everybody you run into. I can remember one experience with Tim. We hadn’t really started the official tour yet with Tim & Faith… but we were out at the ACM’s. And, we were walking the red carpet with Tim and Faith and we started doing the photo thing. It’s just like a little thing that you just don’t know how to do. He was like “Alright, guys…” It’s literally like 100 press people/paparazzi snapping pictures of you… and he’s like “everybody look left, now left center, now center, now right center, now right…” and we kept doing it. And, he had it down of exactly how to do all of those. Those little things that you can’t even think about when you’re lying awake at night that you’ll need to know how to do..
David: I was trying to look at everybody… He’s like “No…”
Chad: Your head would explode if you tried to look at every camera flashing at every time. It’s always the little things like that. He’s always helping us with little things.
Chad: It’s been a really cool year because a lot of our friends are having successful careers as well like Lee Brice, Luke Bryan, Cole Deggs, Trent Tomlinson, Keith Anderson. It’s just really cool to be on the road and cross paths with a lot of our friends and that’s been a really cool experience. We all learn from each other. We all call each other all the time during the week – letting each other know what’s going on. (And to brag a lot…) We do. We brag a little bit, but it’s cool to share those experiences with each other because we’re all trying to make it and we’re all coming up as brothers and sisters.
What is a typical day in the studio like for you?
David: We usually start tracking around 10 AM and we’ll do that for 4 to 5 hours and then we’ll take a break and eat dinner. That’s usually the musical part of it, but it varies.
Chad: There are so many different aspects of studio stuff… The first thing you have to do is get the sounds you want. Even to determine that, you have to decide on what studio you want. Each studio in town caters to a different kind of sound that you want as far as like drum sounds (if you want a big, huge drum sound – you’ll want a big, huge studio). Every studio has a different vibe and a different feel. So, we get sounds first and then we start listening through the control room deciding on what we like. And, then it’s moving on to guitar sounds, bass sounds and putting it all together because each song requires a different kind of mood and texture (a different color of paint, if you will…) Then, you have to make sure you get the right cut of the song. We’ll sit in there and we’ll track it with the other guys (the musicians) and get it the way we want it. Sometimes it’s magical and happens the first time… and sometimes it takes 4 or 5 times to get it right. And, then everyone listens, and they might have a few little fixes here and there and we’ll do some overdubs. Usually, David and I will continue at a whole other session and time doing vocals… I do more guitar overdubs and stuff like that. A lot of times, we’ll do that at Byron’s personal studio out at his house.
Do you have a favorite song on your new CD? If so, what is it and why is it your favorite song?
Chad: I really don’t. I’m really proud of every song on there. I’m proud to have my name on this album – wherever you want to stamp it. I was proud to play on it, proud to sing on it, proud to write and it’s just a really cool thing. The label actually asked us that same question because we’re trying to pick singles. I kind of have (and David would agree with me) – the Elton John concept where we’re proud of every song on there. We wrote 9 of the 11 and each one has a little piece of heart and soul of us involved in it – so you guys (label) pick it. It doesn’t matter to us.
Where do you find the ideas and inspirations when writing songs?
Chad: We draw from everyday life. A lot of them are personal experiences and sometimes that becomes a fault because you don’t want to share too much of yourself with the public. You have to though – that’s part of being an artist… If you can touch somebody with things you’ve felt yourself, that’s when you hit the homerun. Those become the best songs – when you put your whole heart and soul into it and you draw from your own personal experiences.
David: That’s a song… Where people can relate to what you felt; Where you expose yourself, you lay yourself out there for everyone to see.
Chad: Those are the songs that people usually truly relate to. If you’re bleeding your heart and soul, they’re going to recognize it right away and they’ll appreciate that. There’s an energy – an exchange live and even through a CD that you can get.
One of our favorite songs is your single, “Daisy” – How and when did this song come about?
David: “Daisy” was one of the first songs Chad and I wrote together when we decided we were going to be a duo. That’s one of those songs – where, thank goodness we haven’t experienced that first hand (the death of a loved one). We just sat down with our guitars and we tried to make a 3 ½ minute novel. When we got done, we kind of sat back and looked at each other and were like “we think we have something special here.” It’s always going to be special to us because we think it’s a great song, because we’re a little vein like that! (laughs)
Chad: But, it’s our first single out. And, what an amazing experience to see the characters that you created on paper, in your mind and playing with chords and melody – turn into actors on a set.
That was something that we will both never forget. It’ll always be the first song, and the first single, the first video in everything that we ever did no matter how far this thing goes. If it ends tomorrow, we’ll always have that… And if we go on for 20 more years, it’ll always be the experience we will remember. It’s a great song and a lot of fun to sing live. People seem to be really touched by that song. We get so many hits on our website and our MySpace and when we play it live at clubs, shows, opening for Tim McGraw or wherever, we see people singing every word and you can see the tears in their eyes. We get people that comment and say “that song really touches me… I have someone that passed away and it reminds me of them.” How it kind of comes back with the circle of life with the little Daisy.
Chad: Those are the kind of things that people really can relate to, like we were talking about earlier with emotions. It’s an emotional song and I think it really hits people emotionally a lot of times. That’s a cool thing for us that we're actually allowed to tap into that – whatever that emotion is – because it was flowing out in the room that day when we wrote that song.
What goals have you accomplished and what do you still hope to accomplish with your music career?
Chad: We have a video on GAC, CMT… just to create a video and have a single on radio that charted in the top 30. Then, to have a record that’s actually for sale in stores across America and Canada and wherever; The tour with Tim McGraw & Faith Hill; We just continue to do so many things that we’re proud of, but we’re just at the beginning of the hill. There’s a long climb ahead.
David: My goal is just to do this the rest of my life and still be at a place where people want to hear us play music. And, to be able to take care of my family…
Chad: That’s the bottom line. To be able to afford to do this as an actual living and support our families. Second of all, it’s nice sometimes to be recognized by your peers – by some of these Awards shows. It would be nice to have our name up there beside some of the people that we respect so much. To be on some of the fan-based voting shows as well. Those are always important and those are amazing – to have people who love your music so much that they’d put you up there on a pedestal with some of the people that we respect so much. Those would be great things that we look forward to doing as well.
How do you balance your music career with your family and friends?
David: As much as we can, family comes first. It’s been really hard, especially when you’re a new artist. You have to do pretty much everything you can to try and get all the exposure you can. Chad and I, a few times, had to say ‘we’re going to have to go home for a couple days…’ because we both have small children and we both have wives at home. Sometimes we’ll be out for 20 days at a time and you have to get back and see them. That’s the foundation for everything you do…
Chad: We did a couple 4 week runs this year… where we were gone literally 4 weeks at a time (twice) and several 3 week things. That’s tough. I was explaining that in an interview earlier today. It’s like if you look at it like a pie chart – the little pieces of the pie (the very small slivers) are for personal time and family. That’s the sacrifices that we make when we’re at this point when we’re really pushing to build for the future. Hopefully, we’re earning time for the years to come. It’s not time that we have right now but by pushing really hard and working as hard as we can right now – it is going to earn us more time back next year and the year after that, and the year after that and as we go along with our career.
David: And just staying on the phone and calling as much as we can during the day. We’re both a little computer savvy so we have the video conference thing going on too. So, we try to do all that as much as possible. It’s really hard, but we do what we can.
Chad: We were just talking… It’s hard to find time to even write songs right now, we’ve been so busy just doing interviews, playing shows, meeting with radio station people and fans and keeping up on our website. David and I are actually personally involved with both of our two websites – the MySpace and the halfwaytohazard.com and just doing video blogs. We just stay so busy… Sometimes it’s hard just to find time to pick up the guitar and play and sing, and that’s what we love to do. Sometimes the only time we get to do that is onstage and that’s why it’s so refreshing to play live and that’s why we enjoy it so much as artists.
Finally, is there anything you would like to say to all your fans and all our readers?
Chad: We love you guys and thanks for buying the record. Thanks for supporting us and what we do. And, just to let us keep doing it!
David: And, don’t buy anybody else’s record! Especially Luke Bryan’s – because he’s sold too many albums. He’s kicking our butt on the charts – and I don’t like that… If we didn’t know him, it’d be different. Tim – we don’t mind… because he pays our bills. (laughs!!) No, we're kidding – we’re just happy to be able to do what we do. And, we thank them so much for giving us the opportunity to do it.
Chad: Fans never cease to amaze us. We’ll be playing shows sometimes in the middle of nowhere and someone will show up and be like – “we drove 6 hours to see you guys play.” That is always an unbelievable testament to do what we do. That’s why we do what we do because we can have a moment with people like that and touch them with music that we created. So, that’s amazing. This whole business is driven by fans. (album sales, songs on the radio) – It’s all about the fans. That’s what makes us tick and they’re the heart and soul of the industry and we appreciate them so much and God bless them.
Special thanks to John for setting up the interview... and to David and Chad for taking the time to talk with us!
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