Interview: Lloyd Buchanan

One of the silver linings of growing older is witnessing the successes of your friends. About fifteen years ago, I was a double major (music and english) at LaGrange College. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in the music building. And because LaGrange College is a pretty small school, the music majors inevitably spent a lot of time together in practice rooms and at various rehearsals. It was during this time that I met Lloyd Buchanan, who even that long ago proved himself to be a tremendous vocalist, bass player, organist and all around musician. Fast forward to present day, and Lloyd now spends his time performing around the world with top notch acts like the Heavy and the Alabama Shakes when he’s not leading an act of his own or teaching music workshops. Lloyd took some time out of his busy schedule to catch up with me to talk about his career, life, and most importantly, his show with Ike Stubblefield and Lola Gulley in Macon on December 2nd as part of the ExploreGeorgia.org Songwriter Series.

First and foremost, talk to me about what you’re up to these days.

Well, I am still traveling and touring with the Alabama Shakes. I’m also still fronting a band from home named Cubed Roots. We’re doing a lot in the southeast region this upcoming year… so those are two things that are going well, and I spend a lot of energy on both.

Sounds awesome. How long have you been playing with the Alabama Shakes?

I started playing with them in December 2014, doing rehearsals at that time, and the tour really kicked off in January the following year. Been doing that pretty much straight through the past two years.

What do you do with the Alabama Shakes? What all do you play?

Well, I get a chance to sing, which is the one thing I have not been able to “just do” in a long time – to just sing. That has been wonderful as much as it has been a challenge. There’s a song called “Gemini,” a duet between the lead vocalist [Brittany Howard] and myself. It’s a challenge every night to match the energy and the cadence…we sing the entire song together.

That sounds intense for sure.

[chuckles] Yes. It is.

 

Lloyd performing “Gemini” on Austin City Limits with Alabama Shakes.

So how did you get hooked up with the Alabama Shakes?

To kind of condense a long story, I’ve been doing a lot of work out in London with a group called the Heavy. I’d been doing that for some time. As it turned out, the manager for the Heavy and the manager for the Shakes  were in relations as far as business goes. The Shakes came to this place looking for vocalists to travel with them and had been auditioning people and not really about finding what they wanted. I got an email from Gerard [Cantwell], who is the manager for the Heavy, who said, “I want to introduce you to Kevin [Morris], who is the manager for the Shakes because I feel like you could be a really good fit.” And so with that, Kevin called and was like, “you bring whoever you want to. We’re looking for two or three people to fill this slot.” We went to rehearsal with the band in Athens, Alabama and that first night was like magic. It’s been a go ever since then.

That’s awesome, man. So this may come off as a silly question but you’re a full time musician right? That’s how you’re paying the bills these days, correct?

Yup. Full-time musician. Whether it’s doing sessions back at home or traveling on the road with them or fronting my own bill. Sometimes I do different conferences where I teach different aspects of music, like church choir. Music is all I do now.

That’s incredible man. And so where is home for you now?

You’ll be surprised. Home for me is still LaGrange, Georgia.

Wow.

I moved away for a moment. Explored other places, but I came back to LaGrange, just kind of settled back here. It’s been good. My son is close, so I get to spend some time with him whenever I’m home. He’s become a fishing fanatic, so being here right on West Point Lake has helped us go fishing as much as we want to. [chuckles]

That’s great. So talk to me a little bit about the show that’s coming up on Friday. What can people expect? What do you expect out of it?

I’ve been kind of excited about it, simply because I’ve been a big fan of Ike Stubblefield –  he is a major monster. So when I got a call from Lisa Love about [the show], I was excited. She’s been doing several different shows a featuring guitarists, but this one is just featuring organists and keyboardists. She asked me about this one with Ike and I was like [screams] YES!!! You’ll hear a lot of different influences that night. Ike is this is real crazy jazz guy and I love it. Lola [Gulley] is more of the bluesy type, but she may throw some Prince in here, some Nina Simone in there. Myself, I glean off the neo-soul sounds as well as some of the classic R&B sounds. You’ll get a good mix of everything that’ll happen. I’ll throw in some newer things that Cubed Roots and I are gearing up to put on the new record. I’ll play some of that. You may hear some things by Wet Willie and some of the old Capricorn bands as an honor to being in Macon to capture that moment. It’ll be a good mix and I think people will enjoy it.

I bet they will. When was last time you were in Macon?

I was in Macon last year for a jazz event. You know what? It may have been two years ago. I played with Jimmy Hall from Wet Willie. We did a birthday bash for him in Macon at the Cox [Capitol] Theatre.

That’s a great venue.

I enjoyed doing that. As far as playing, I guess it’s been about two years.

I’m really excited about the show. Excited to see ya again, buddy. We should meet up at some point before or after the show and catch up.


Lloyd Buchanan, Ike Stubblefield and Lola Gulley will be performing at the historic Douglass Theatre on Friday, Dec. 2nd as part of the ExploreGeorgia.org Songwriter Series.

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