By Nikki Hedrick
Every band goes through an evolution. It’s the growth that begins as the first seed sprouts into songs. As The Southern Gothic knows all too well, not all growth is linear.
In 2008, Connor Christian and The Southern Gothic was formed. Around 2013, they looked poised for something massive, with a music video taking the number one spot on CMT and landing on Billboard’s Country chart. In less than three years, they disbanded. And in about three more, they reformed with a simplified name and a tour stop at Santa Rosa Beach’s Warehouse360 Feb. 22.
The tale of The Southern Gothic isn’t a simple one. “We had these big moments, and then the week after that record came out, the owner of the record label we were on found out he had terminal cancer,” says Christian.
“And six days later, he died. After that happened, that honestly sort of broke him and he quit the music business altogether. And we kind of found ourselves in limbo.”
When the band went on hiatus with no foreseeable plans of reforming, Christian began writing for a Nashville publisher. No longer on stage regularly, but still in the music business.
“We remained friends and remained close after that,” he says. “We were hanging out, decided to get together for a jam. We got together and started playing some of the old stuff, that went well. And I started showing (Spirko) some songs that I had written, some of the stuff that I thought was some of the best stuff that I had written that didn’t get cut and that I thought might fit with our style. We jammed on some old stuff, jammed on some new stuff, and we decided, ‘Hey, let’s get back out on the road and see what happens.’”
The next twist to The Southern Gothic tale is a positive one. An opportunity arose through SAE Institute Nashville to record a song. “He needed a band to record a song for his class so they could come in and watch it being done and see how everything works. And we did that and we were happy with how it turned out. So we released it as a single, and we did a little 10 or 12-day tour. The song came out on a Friday, and we played in New York City that night, and all these kids that were out there had never seen the band before. They knew all the words to the song that had only been out a few hours. So I’m like, well maybe there’s a new generation of music fans that would dig this.”
One of the most obvious changes for the reformed band is the simplified name. What began as Connor Christian and The Southern Gothic is now simply The Southern Gothic. Christian says the change is mostly due to a very practical reason.
“We were having a lot of weirdness with the name for some reason. And I looked this up, and there are literally hundreds of thousands of people in America with the last name Christian. But somehow, because it was in the name of a band, everybody thought that we were a religious act. In some cases, we were getting offered gigs that we were definitely not the right fit for. We were getting offered gigs that were religious gigs, big church camps and stuff in the summer.
“And I’m like, ‘Have you guys listened to us?’ Basically, just based on name and based on the fact that we were popular, they were offering us these gigs, and it was definitely not something that we felt comfortable taking. We felt like that would be dishonest. And then on the other end, we were losing out on some gigs because they were more like outlaw country festivals and stuff and they were like, ‘Oh, we don’t want religious acts.’”
Christian often found himself sending photos of his ID to prove his point, but it was becoming unavoidable that the name had unintended consequences.
The other major change? The Southern Gothic is now a four-piece as opposed to having five members. Three original members remain—Christian, lead vocals, guitar and piano; Spirko, fiddle, guitar and piano; and Shawn Thacker, drums. The fourth, Quinn Loggins, is most often found on bass but he is a multi-instrumentalist.
When it comes to the future, Christian is hopeful for good reason. “When we started advertising that we had a new thing coming out, our Spotify numbers started spiking. One of our old songs picked up almost 400,000 plays and got over a million plays. So I think there’s some momentum. I think people are waiting to hear what it is that we come out with. I think that everybody’s going to be pretty excited about it—I hope they’re as excited as we are.
“We don’t mind taking the step back, I think it’s good for us. If we were to come back out and immediately go and play 1,500-seat rooms as an opener without kicking the rust off a little bit and stretching out and remembering how to do it the right way…that’s not where I want to start. That’s a lot of pressure.”
The Southern Gothic will have a new EP out this summer entitled Burnin’ Moonlight and future tour plans are already being kicked around.
Learn more at TheSouthernGothicMusic.com.