There are now two distinct periods during the Smalltown Poets tenure: before and after their several year hiatus that ended in 2010. Two common threads are woven throughout both: the family vibe within the band and the unmistakable Smalltown poets sound.
Say Hello is the latest LP from Smalltown Poets, the first studio longplayer from the band since coming back together nearly a decade ago. After a string of holiday releases and EPs, the band finally wrote and recorded another strong rock and roll set. This time, not only are their diehard fans waiting for the music, but they’re introducing their kids to the music as well.
We recently spoke with Danny Stephens about the band’s new album and the surprise and inspiration he received from a 20-year-old who tried to introduce him to Keith Green’s music.
CCM: You’re back with a new studio album and you’ve had a few projects out now ever since you reunited years back. Are you guys taking things one project at a time, or is it understood now that you’re just back for good?
Danny Stephens: Ever since we ended our hiatus back in 2010, we haven’t really looked back. We’re always writing. We’re always demoing songs or recording. Then we’re also going out for concerts—not 200 days a year like we used to, since those days are gone. But there hasn’t been any talk of this being a short-term thing.
Over the last few albums since we’ve put this thing back together, we’ve just continued to look forward, really. I think that at some point, there will be another album after Say Hello, although we haven’t had those discussions. At the risk of being super cheesy, we really are a family. Every time we’re in the studio or at a concert, I call it a family reunion. If nobody but us cares, we’re going to keep doing it so we can spend time together.
CCM: Did it feel feel like a reunion when you first came back together?
DS: Yeah, that was a cool experience. We’d not played together for several years, and we got together to do some Christmas recordings. I’d been demoing these ideas, and all of a sudden Miguel [DeJesús] added his bass parts. I thought, ‘This is starting to sound like a Smalltown Poets song.’ Then when Kevin [Breuner] added the guitar, ‘Man, that really sounds like a Smalltown Poets vibe now.’ It was really cool to hear the layers come together. By the time it was done, it was like, ‘Yep, that’s us. That’s what it sounds like.’
CCM: That has to be fulfilling to have a sound that’s identifiably your own, right?
DS: Yeah, it’s really a compliment. It’s hard to craft a sound. We’ve always gone for something timeless, and I hope we’ve achieved it. We just kind of go for good ole American rock ‘n’ roll, so when somebody says to us—and I do get these comments—that they really like our sound or that something sounds like us, I take it as a compliment, because it’s hard to have a unique musical identity. I don’t mean to imply that nobody else has ever sounded like us, that we’re the most original thing since The Beatles. But I love it when people say that we have a sound they like and they identify with it. There’s so much going on musically—now more than ever—that it’s harder to have your own sound.
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