I had a chance to interview Flyleaf founding guitarist Jared Hartmann at a recent stop on their current tour with Drowning Pool. We discussed a number of interesting topics including: the band’s new singer Kristen, new demos, their current tour, and much more.
HHM: So how has the tour with Drowning Pool been going so far for you guys?
Hartmann: It’s been great, you know it’s the first tour we’ve done in two years – we’re just excited to be back out and see all our fans again.
HHM: How did you guys end up hooking up with Drowning Pool?
Hartmann: You know, we’re not really sure – we keep asking each other but I think it was our booking that hooked it up. The tour’s been great though, we love Drowning Pool: they’re a lot of fun to hang out with.
HHM: Have you guys been winning over some Drowning Pool fans? How has the experience been playing to a mixed group of fans like this?
Hartmann: I think it’s been good, I’ve seen some shows where some Drowning Pool fans leave after their set but most people have been sticking around and enjoying the show – I think our fans can kind of connect on some levels as well; there are some similarities in the music.
HHM: How did you guys decide on the set list for this tour, now that you have 3 full-lengths released?
Hartmann: It was kind of nice having a lot of material to pick from – I think we wanted to keep a high energy set so we picked some high energy songs from each record and of course we have to play the singles as well as the new material.
HHM: As a guitarist, which track have you had the most fun playing live on this tour?
Hartmann: I really like playing “Swept Away” very fun to play.
HHM: On a different note, despite announcing the departure of your former singer right before its release – New Horizons cracked the top 20: debuting at number 16 of the billboard 200.
HHM: Were you surprised by this? Any personal vindication?
Hartmann: Well I know Memento Mori debuted higher on billboard but we were just really excited to get the record out – we’re all very proud of New Horizons and looking forward to more people hearing it.
HHM: did you guys expect it to chart that well [top 20]?
Hartmann: Yeah for the most part it was pretty smooth – the transition was different but we were happy it did so well; we have great fans.
HHM: Do you think the strong debut was a showcase of your fans’ unyielding support?
Hartmann: Oh yeah, definitely
HHM: You guys decided to stick with longtime producer: the Grammy nominated Howard Benson, who has worked with such notable acts as Bon Jovi, Papa Roach, and Saosin. How was the experience working with him again? And what aspects of the Flyleaf-Benson relationship produce such great records?
Hartmann: Well, Howard’s big focus is on the lyrics and the message of the songs – we came into this record with just the songs we had already recorded and we were like “This is it, this is going to be the record” He was like “I love these songs” he kind of helped us flush out some ideas in them but it was a really fast process – I think we were only there about a month doing all of the instrumentals, then Lacey came in and did vocals for a week or so and the record was finished.
HHM: Has working with him kind of become like home?
Hartmann: Yeah it is – because every couple of years we’ll go see him, it’s still the same theme, and it’s like family.
HHM: Your single “New Horizons” had a pretty impressive radio stint and reached number 1 on the Christian Rock Chart – How did you guys decide on that track for the first single?
Hartmann: Well the label was really excited about that song and it was kind of upbeat – we were all just really excited about that song and there was something kind of special about it so we thought it would make a good single.
HHM: This past December: you put out a video for the album’s second single “Call You Out” it was a pretty interesting graphic display, can you tell me a little about the concept?
Hartmann: You know we were kind of at a crossroads at that point because Lacey was gone and we didn’t really have a lot of options for videos – we were getting treatments in and this animated treatment came up; we thought it sounded cool and just kind of went with it.
HHM: How have you evolved, as a guitarist, coming out of New Horizons?
Hartmann: Just playing guitar I got different influences and learned new things; I like to play a lot of metal so that’s been an influence and then I love Pop-Rock like Third Eye Blind: an influence you can kind of hear on New Horizons.
HHM: Seeing as this is Kristen’s first tour with Flyleaf what are some differences you’ve noticed in your live show?
Hartmann: No one really knows who she is so it’s kind of like fans are seeing us for the first time again – it’s like they’re examining us and analyzing it in their head “Do I like this? Do I hate this?” but by the end of the night people are really excited and into the show by the time we start playing songs like “All Around Me” and “I’m So Sick” I think that’s been the biggest difference: they’re our fans but it’s kind of like they’re becoming our fans over again.
HHM: Were there any challenges getting in sync with the new lineup?
Hartmann: Well we didn’t practice very much before this tour and prior to it we had only played one show. It was like becoming a band again; trying to meld together – I think touring is going to be the best thing for that and it’s just getting better and better.
HHM: How did you guys decide on Kristen as your new singer? Can you tell me a little about the process?
Hartmann: Once Lacey told us she was going to step down we kind of secretly reached out to potential singers that we liked and auditioned a couple; Kristen ended up being a really great fit.
HHM: How did you guys know of Kristen, was it from her previous band?
Hartmann: No, actually we had reached out to another singer but she was busy and recommended Kristen to us.
HHM: On an ancient history note, RCA passed on signing you guys after a showcase but Octone quickly shopped you following that – in the long run, how has the experience been working with A&M/Octone?
Hartmann: You know, they’re a great label and they’ve been very supportive; especially in this time of transition. They really believe in us and support us – we’re fortunate because we’ve heard horror stories from other bands where their labels were just like “If your single doesn’t do well in two months, you’re done.”
HHM: Are you guys still under contract with A&M/Octone? I guess what I’m asking is it probable you will be with them for your next release?
Hartmann: Yeah, I mean they have the option though.
HHM: So you recently told me you guys have tracked two new demos [featuring Kristen] with Benson – how is this material coming so far? Any hints to the sound and musical direction.
Hartmann: It’s still going to have that “Flyleaf” sound – kind of where we left off in New Horizons; it’s still in that vein of music, it’s real melodic. I love my rig right now though!
HHM: What rig are you using right now?
Hartmann: I play through a Diezel Einstein and I have a modded Marshall JCM 800, and for effects only I’ve been using the POD HD pro – man it’s got everything, the best I’ve ever used: hundreds of delays, re-verbs, mods, filters…
HHM: Is there any chance of fans catching one of the new demos live later on in the tour?
Hartmann: Probably not this tour because we literally wrote those songs a week before this tour – we’ve only heard rough mixes so far but we’re really excited about it.
HHM: I know you guys have had a busy schedule but are there any “official” plans in place for a new flyleaf album featuring Kristen yet, or is it too soon to speculate?
Hartmann: It’s a little too soon, nothings official yet but we do want to get new music out this year.
HHM: You guys just announced you’re playing the XL102 Festival with Three Days Grave and Eve 6 – pretty excited?
Hartmann: Oh yeah! It will be great playing with Three Days Grace again and I use to listen to Eve 6 when I was young – I don’t think I’ve ever seen them live.
HHM: What else is in the future for Flyleaf after this tour?
Hartmann: We just confirmed we’re going to South America – we’re going to go to Brazil for the first time; I know our Brazil fans are going to be really excited because they’ve been begging us to get over there.
Interview by Matt Crane – HHM