Los Colognes is a Mobile musical favorite. The laid-back jam band from Nashville plays regularly at Callaghan’s, took the stage at The Hangout Music Festival in 2014, and were a part of the inaugural 1065 Festival in 2015 — a fest they will help open again this year.
We interviewed Jay Rutherford (lead singer and guitar) and Aaron Mortenson (drums and vocals) after their set on June 16 at Sloss Fest in Birmingham.
TSR: How did your relationship begin with Mobile?
Jay: We were supposed to play at Callaghan’s with our buddy Jacob Jones four years ago. Jacob cancelled and we ended up playing instead. Over time it has become a thing down there. There is a natural energy I can’t explain. Nashville has become oversaturated and every time we come to Mobile, it feels like a relaxed party and we always say we could move there or at least get a beach house.
Aaron: We know people with pools too, so we find a way to enjoy ourselves there. We played at Callaghan’s a few weeks ago and enjoyed ourselves too much and woke up on the hotel floor.
Jay: A bunch of cool people are making moves in Mobile. We love Maggie at the Soul Kitchen and Ben Jernigan. Luke and Jake Peavey are doing some good stuff. John Thompson is the man.
Aaron: JT is the leader of the scene. People trust him and he cultivates the music. He is a good old boy with a clue.
Jay: Alabama and Wisconsin are our states. There a few more spots in between.
TSR: You had a good following at Sloss Fest. Why did you end the set with “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door?”
Jay: It happens to be totally pertinent to today’s landscape. Most of us are watching events through a screen and not experiencing it first-hand. It becomes difficult to know how to take action. How do we respond beyond clicking on something on Facebook? It is a weird world we live in.
Mort: It comes down to giving a strong focus to each person you encounter on a daily basis and not being a jerk. If they are struggling, help them. For our own survival, we take on this attitude of “as long as it is not messing with me, I am going to keep on going.” But we have to stop and pay attention and be more active about caring about people around us. That is not easy. It takes work and may cost us a little bit of time and getting out of our comfort zone. Just take a moment to think about why they feel that way. We are so focused on our own goals and not letting anything get in the way of that, but we can pay a little more attention. If someone needs help, help them.
Jay: Mort is right. Empathy is the answer. For us, music helps us find who we are and hopefully that authenticity translates because this is what is real to us. Music is what we are called to do. If it brings something good to people, that is great.
Mort: There is a communal aspect to music that doesn’t need words. It is a melodic encounter that can unite 50 people or 50,000. We are all one people for a little while and that helps us understand each other a little more. People aren’t going to fight at a show when “All You Need is Love” comes on. There is a high of being on a higher level and trying to survive together. There is an energy that has to be love. Those are the moments I live for if I am in the crowd or if I am playing.
TSR: Jay, You just wrote a blog post, The Un-Cool Cool of Therapy: Surviving Emotionally as a Musician in 2016, and told about the need for therapy as a musician. Does it help to be open and get that out there?
Jay: It was an attempt to be vulnerable and transparent about the difficulties of being in a band. You have to forgo some of the other relationships that should be primary to constantly validate each other as brothers in a band. It is a lifelong task.
“At the time our band was held together by the façade of ‘cool,’ the sinking sand of mild ‘success,’ but in reality we were an angry, creatively stifled and resentful glob of subconscious goop (actual Freudian terminology, btw). Fast forward two years later. We’re almost done making the best album we’ve ever made (shameless plug). We ain’t perfect, but we’ve gone into the depths individually and as a group to wrestle with the dirty monsters of the deep. We turned a new leaf. How?”
The Un-Cool Cool of Therapy: Surviving Emotionally as a Musician in 2016
TSR: How did you make your best record while wrestling with the “dirty monsters of the deep?”
Jay: That is always how it goes. It will never be easy. Look at Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. We got through it, and we are shopping the record around now. It will be out early next year. There is a cool cosmic and sensual vibe.
TSR: Part of your advice is to “show up.” What does that mean?
Jay: It is easy to get distracted, but Mort and I long for the rhythmic, melodic universal thing and if we keep showing up, hopefully the people will keep showing up. If you build it they will come. Thank you Kevin Costner. Great man.
Mort: He is an underrated actor.
TSR: Did you know when you met you would be together this long?
Mort: Every time you start a band you think you are going to be the next Beatles. It is not even about how much I like him, it is the ignorant drive that pushes us.
Jay: How effective can we be when we are ignorant together?
TSR: Ignorance has taken you pretty far. What is success for you?
Jay: The evolved answer is being involved in the moment and present in the ride. If we only had this or that, more opportunity or more money. A hot tub would be nice one day. Someone setting up our gear would be nice too. I bet some big bands reminisce for the days when they loaded they own gear, to be the common man again. I would like to see what it is like on the other side.