Puddle of Mudd plus Saving Abel
Saturday, June 3, 8 p.m.
Midnight Rodeo, 7790 Tanner Williams Road, 251-639-2222
Tickets: $23-$55, available through Ticketfly

Midnight Rodeo is bringing two BayFest veterans back to perform for an army of local fans. Before Puddle of Mudd takes the stage, Saving Abel will warm up the crowd with a set of edgy neo-Southern rock. Known for such hit songs as “Addicted” and “The Sex Is Good,” Saving Abel has spent the past few years enduring changes in both its lineup and the music industry. All the while, founding members Scott Bartlett (rhythm guitar) and Jason Null (lead guitar) have remained passionate about their music.

Bartlett chatted with Lagniappe about growing up in a doctor’s household, surviving in the modern music industry and creating the next effort from Saving Abel.

Stephen Centanni: Your father recently had a clinic at Johns Hopkins named after him.

In my experience, sons of doctors or lawyers tend to grow up to be doctors and lawyers. How did you end up in the world of rock ‘n’ roll?

Scott Bartlett: It’s funny. I went to an all-guys prep school, and went back to give one of those prototypical “follow your dreams” speeches. Like they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. In my situation, the apple fell off the tree and rolled off a hill into a murky pond or something. I definitely went the other route. Science is interesting to me, and it always had been. Nothing ever made me tick like music, and my parents always encouraged me to do what I love. My dad’s passion for medicine is like my passion for music.

Centanni: What kind of reaction did you get from the kids?

Bartlett: It had been so long. I was so far removed. It wasn’t like I knew anybody. I knew a lot of the professors, but it had been 15 damn years. I was well-received, which was good. I was nervous about that. I remember going to those talks. We were a bunch of bratty kids at a chapel service. We just made fun of everybody. We were relentless and ruthless. I was probably more nervous of that speech than playing festivals, news shows or “[Late Show with] David Letterman.” I was nervous, because I was one of those kids who made fun of these people. I had a jam session afterward and played some blues. It was real cool.

Centanni: Saving Abel has gone through some lineup changes over the years. You and Jason Null have pretty much stuck with it. What’s kept you going?

Bartlett: He and I had a long talk the other day … catching up and not talking business. We were reminding each other that we’re brothers-in-arms. He was like, “I’m just so glad that I’m not greeting people at Wal-Mart.” With this music thing that we do, I don’t even think we chose it. I think it chose us.

The state of the music business has gotten so difficult. Bands that I grew up listening to are broke. They’re doing pledge campaigns to get money from their fans, and their fans are complying as well as they can, because they don’t want the music to go away. The thing is that if people like us quit doing it, then it’s going to go away. So, it doesn’t matter how discouraged we get, because it chose us. We’re like the ambassadors of music that have gotta be there and putting it out there.

We were blessed. Anybody can write a good song. We wrote a bunch of good songs, then we had a label that really supported us and blasted it out there for our fans. We got on a platform where people listened. Basically, lightning struck three times for us. Even though times have gotten hard, we still have those hits. Are we working on more? Of course, we are. We should have a new album out for y’all soon. For now, we’ll just try to remind everybody that they can still go out after a hard day’s work and listen to some good ol’ Southern rock ‘n’ roll.

Centanni: You know, you bring up a good point. You guys started hitting big right on the cusp of the big shift in the way the music industry is run. Now, all the up and coming bands tend to concentrate on EPs and singles when it comes to studio work. What’s it been like making that music industry transition?

Bartlett: It’s been very interesting. I tell you what got really frustrating for me is that there’s this whole generation that doesn’t know what it’s like to stand in line and wait for Guns N’ Roses’ new record to drop. They don’t know what that is, but it’s not their fault. I’ve had people look at me appalled when I’ve asked them to go to iTunes. I’ve got a solo EP, and I’ll be like, “Yeah, if you want to scoop it up, and if you hate it, then I’ll pay you back the $1.29. Since we’re talking music and you brought something up relevant to it, check it out.” They look at me like, “Are you crazy? I’m not paying for music!”

To answer your question in a more abridged way, I’ll say this. “Addicted” has been downloaded legally a couple million times. So, that song was able to make us enough to be able to live comfortably for five years. Unfortunately, that well runs dry. We watched it go from buying records to buying songs off iTunes to watching people start ripping them off. We’ve watched record labels fold, because people quit buying music. That’s just technology or progress, I guess. I think it’s more of a regression, to be completely honest, but I’m skewed and biased, because I’m the artist putting it out there and not getting compensated for it.

What do bands do? They start touring more. We’ve made money three ways: the music that people bought, the touring and the merchandise. The music that people bought is gone. You don’t make money off that anymore. So, you’ve got two revenue streams. You’ve got the merchandise and the touring. The merchandise is contingent on the touring. You’re only going to see the merch if you’re on the road.

When we brought the new lineup in, we played 300 shows that year. We weren’t 18 anymore. In order for us to do what we want to do, then we have to basically kill ourselves. That’s what the song “Love Like Suicide” is about. We’re conscious of it, but we’re still going to do it anyway. It’s what we like to do. If we’re going to make our ends meet, then we’re going to slowly kill ourselves with rock ‘n’ roll.

Centanni: So, let’s talk about that new album.

Bartlett: I don’t want to tease anybody too much. We’ve got a ton of song ideas, but in true Saving Abel fashion, we’ve learned that we shouldn’t finish songs without each other, if it’s going to be Saving Abel. We get into the studio with a bunch of ideas and get the right producer. Then, we get a fresh perspective from whoever that producer is.

I’m happy to say that I can go public with this and say that we’re going back with the producer who started everything, Skidd Mills (Skillet, Pop Evil, Saliva). He’s the one that produced “18 Days,” “Drowning,” “Sex Is Good” and “Addicted.” He understands us, and he’s happy to be working with us again. We haven’t had time yet to get into a room and show him our ideas. I’ve emailed him a few, and he’s over the moon about them. Here in the next couple of weeks, we’re going to get in a room with him and get it started.

We’ve never really been the band to drop a single before we have an album. I think that more than likely we’re going to cut about three or four songs. From there, we’ll pick the next single, so you should have some music from Saving Abel by the end of the summer.