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article imageTom Cusimano, leader of Americana-leaning collective The Walcotts Special

By Adrian Peel     Jan 10, 2016 in Music
Hailing from Los Angeles, The Walcotts are a nine-piece outfit who recently supported Chris Stapleton, star of the show at last year's CMAs, on a sold out tour of the West Coast. Their frontman/guitarist accepted the offer of an interview.
I've always loved American country/rock/soul/blues bands with big lineups (The Allman Brothers Band, The Doobie Brothers, the Zac Brown Band, etc.) and so, it seems, does Tom Cusimano. The Vermont-born musician settled on the name The Walcotts after a 46-year-old song by one of his favourite acts, The Band, entitled "W.S. Walcott Medicine Show."
As well as opening for the already-mentioned Chris Stapleton during a run of shows at the tail end of last year, the eight guys and one girl, who play a variety of instruments between them including horns, fiddle, pedal steel, guitar, piano, bass and drums, have also put out a single, a cover of "Spanish Moon" (produced by world-renowned knob twiddler Ross Hogarth) by another American band with its fair share of members, Little Feat. If you'll recall, Little Feat were founded by the late Lowell George in 1969.
"We were actually asked by Lowell George's son, Luke, if we would be interested in doing a cover of one of Lowell's songs that he'd written," explains Tom, discussing the track, "and of course as big Little Feat fans we jumped at the chance to do it. The reason behind it was at the time his son was working on a tribute record for his dad, which unfortunately at this time has fallen by the wayside...
"So in the midst of all this, we ended up recording this song and the timing was just right. Luke flew out from Austin, Texas and brought his dad's guitar, which I got to play. Rami Jaffee, who plays keyboards for The Foo Fighters full time and who's a dear, dear friend of ours, he's on it too and it all worked out perfectly. We play it all the time live and the crowd just eat it up. It's a big favourite of ours."
The Walcotts on Stage.
The Walcotts on Stage.
Max Knight
Interestingly, "Spanish Moon," given the seal of approval from Little Feat co-founder Bill Payne - the only original member still performing with them today - is the first single The Walcotts have ever officially put out, although they have had an independently released four-track EP available on iTunes and Spotify since 2012, the year they first got together (they also have a seasonal number, "Christmas Is Leading Me Home," that came out last November). 2016 should see the launch of their long-awaited debut album.
"We have an album and then some, to be quite honest with you," reveals Tom, commenting on a possible release date. "We've just been recording like crazy the past year or two and kind of figuring out who we are as band, what we sound like. We're trying to find the right label partner for distribution, so we're in the middle of having all those conversations right now... I would anticipate something probably summertime, fall at the latest."
Discussing the sounds we'll hear on the record, the skilled singer/songwriter muses, "Well I think the biggest thing for us is it's kinda hard to nail down exactly who we are, so you're gonna get a little bit of country, you're gonna get a little bit of blues, you're gonna get a heavy horn section on some songs, you're gonna get a ballad or two...
"There are songs about having a good time. We have a song called 'Let the Devil Win,' kind of a devil-may-care sentimentality. We have a song called 'Phineas Gage,' which is a biography song about a railroad worker from Vermont who had a metal rod shot through his head back in the 1800s but somehow survived... There's the song 'Should've Been Me,' which is on the EP. It's a little bit throwback, a little bit rock 'n' roll."
We moved on to the subject of the Chris Stapleton tour, a jaunt that began in November just days after the bearded star had won Best Male Vocalist, New Artist of the Year and Album of the Year (for Traveller) at the Country Music Association Awards (CMAs).
"Yeah, it was about a week and a half after and it was crazy," admits Tom. "We had the tour booked before that happened and when we confirmed it, I found out he was gonna be on the CMAs and was like, 'Oh, that's really cool, that'll probably bump up ticket sales.'
"So I was home alone watching it, having dinner and thinking to myself, 'Holy s**t, this is amazing!' I was a little curious about how it was gonna come across with Justin Timberlake, who is a great entertainer and jumps around genres, from pop to R&B and that sort of thing. I didn't know how it was gonna be, but they knocked it out of the park.
"Then the next morning, my wife she's like, 'A friend of mine is trying to get tickets to your show in San Francisco, but it says it's sold out.' I thought, 'Well that's crazy...' Then all of a sudden, Chris was just trending everywhere and the entire tour sold out after that performance, by 9 A.M. the next morning because once she'd told me that I went and looked at all the other dates.
"So on this tour, it was automatically a packed house every night. I think the shows had sold well but they weren't sold out, so you've gotta figure a good amount of these people had never heard of Chris two weeks beforehand - and they certainly hadn't heard of us...
"We just rocked out there and from the first note every night, the crowd was just 100% paying attention and just screaming after solos, screaming at the end of every song - and just these massive rounds of applause... It was one of the coolest things I've ever done in my life and probably the coolest run of shows I've ever done - ever. It was incredible and interesting to see how the other half live!"
Look out for The Walcotts' debut album later this year.
For more information on the band, visit their official website or Facebook page.
More about tom cusimano, the walcotts, chris stapleton, cma awards, Country music
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