Fri. Aug 19th, 2022

Being Human. An interview with John Connolly from Projected.

What bands do you think of when you think of the true road warriors of rock? Who’s always on the road, putting on killer shows? If you said Sevendust, you’d be correct. No other band is seemingly as dedicated to their music, their craftsmanship, their fans, than Sevendust. Having said that, I’d like to introduce a spawn, a spin-off, a side-project from Sevendust. The band is called Projected, and it features John Connolly and Vince Hornsby from the aforementioned Sevendust, as well as Alter Bridge/Creed drummer Scott Phillips and Tremonti Project/Creed guitarist Eric Friedman. Their album is a great combination, a sum of all parts involved, and it’s about to be unleashed upon the world. Human is the name of the album and it releases today, September 18th. We couldn’t be happier to have this interview. It’s a great read, and John really opens up about many things. I hope you take the time to not only read the article, but enjoy the music as well.

Today, I’m joined by John Connolly. John is the vocalist, and also a guitarist in the band Projected. First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. I’d also like to welcome you to the UnsungMelody.Com family. We’ll jump right in. I know you are a busy guy. Let’s start by discussing the album Human. To me, it seems like a rather personal album. Was it a difficult process to learn to open up, after being a guitar player for so many years?

It’s definitely something different for sure. It’s something that I had to focus a little bit more on than any other part of the process. Making the record the way that we did, it was a learning process when you are doing a lot of it in the house. Throw on top of that being a singer, and yeah, it’s definitely something different and something that you really kind of had to dig into. I’ve been riding shotgun behind one of the best singers in rock music for fifteen years. I’ve had a pretty good coach so to speak. It’s a whole different world when you step out from behind the frontman when you’re a back up singer becoming a frontman. I think at some point, it’s just coming to terms with the limitations of what you can and can’t do with it. It’s nerve wracking for sure. My hats off to all the great singers in the world. It ain’t easy.

It ain’t easy, and sometimes it ain’t fun.

That’s very true.

Watch It Burn is the first single. How’s the reaction been so far?

It’s been tremendously positive. To be quite honest with you, I think the fans are the reason we went with the song in the first place. We had a couple other ideas of what we wanted to push first, but we just said, ‘You know what, instead of just deciding on something and kind of going with it, let’s test some songs out and see what people are really into.” So for us, it was a matter of getting it up on Facebook. We did two different Facebook polls. We put up three songs, and Watch It Burn won 80% on both polls. Same thing happened when a buddy of ours, Randy Hawk, he’s a DJ at WJJO up in Madison, WI. He ran a song on the air that did really well, then the next day he ran Watch It Burn and it beat the first song. So we said, ‘You know what, let’s not argue with what people want to hear.” It just seemed like people were really into that song. Reaction to it has been great.

You just released a cool lyric video for Watch It Burn. Who did you guys work with on that one?

That was done by a friend of ours, Metal Mike, Mike Ames. He’s actually been our lighting director for about three years now. He’s great with graphic design, video and stuff like that. He was probably one of the first people that really latched onto that song. When he heard the whole record, he loved every song, but for some reason or another Watch It Burn really, really struck a nerve with him. He was like, if you ever have the opportunity to do something video-wise with that song, I want to do something with it. After we realized that Watch It Burn was a song that people were really gravitating to, it was an easy phone call. I just hit him up and said, ‘You want to do that lyric video?” I thought it was just going to be something simple. You know how most lyric videos are, they’re just snapshots with lyrics coming in and out. Just something more of a promotional tool. He kind of took it up. He went above and beyond on that. When he started telling me his idea about literally taking the words, building the city, the people and having everything burn. I was like, ‘Wow, this sounds like a nightmare.” (laughter) He pulled it off though man. He worked his ass off on it, and at the end of the day, it all worked. I think when people saw it, they were like, ‘Whoa, this isn’t a normal lyric video.” It’s not your normal video of the band jamming or anything like that, but at the same time it was something a little bit different. So, it was cool man. Everybody that I’ve sent it to has been like, ‘Wow, that’s not your typical promotional tool.” So, it turned out great. He did an awesome job on it.

Having heard the album, I’m completely entranced with the song Stella. I know most prefer to leave songs open to interpretation. Would you mind giving us a little insight into that song?

That’s one of the more personal songs on the record. That was a tough song. My wife and I were expecting. She was pregnant and we went through our first miscarriage. Stella was our name that we had picked out if it was a girl. We actually hadn’t, we were about two or three weeks out from finding out the sex of the baby. We were all kind of leaning on that name. After she lost the baby, I looked at it and I said, ‘You know what? I should probably change it.” But the bigger part of me said no. The whole song was written about that. All the lyrical content was about the experience that my wife and myself had gone through. So we said, it probably makes more sense to keep it. That’s one of the more personal songs on the record for sure.

I’m married. I’ve been married a long time and we’ve been through that as well. My heart goes out to you on that.

Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

Sometimes you can take something ugly, and make something beautiful and I think that’s what you did.

That was pretty much the idea. It was just such a dark period for us. We went from a point of complete excitement with our whole world getting ready to change and be something completely different. Then, when that happened, being a musician, that’s kind of the one thing that I do have to go to, where I can sit down and let the emotions come out with pen and paper, through music. That was literally what came out. I kind of struggled with it for a bit because I didn’t know if I wanted something quite that personal on the record. The more I thought about it, all we really do, even in Sevendust, is try to be as personable as we can. We don’t write about fictional things. We tend to write about life experiences, things we are going through. It made sense, you know. It was probably the most honest thing that I could do, just throwing that one down the way it went down and kind of leave it alone.

I think the end result shows the emotion, and job well done is all I can say about that one.

Well thank you very much. I appreciate that.

How did the members of Projected come together?

As human, and as naturally as it could. It wasn’t like we sat down with a pen and paper and said, here’s a list of potential guitar players, bass players, drummers, whatever. It never really had that kind of a vibe to it. When we finished up the last Sevendust run, we were on the road, I was in the back of the bus. Call Me No One had already kind of came up with their gameplan. They had the studio set up, and I was kind of working on the same thing. I was talking to Vinnie and I was like, ‘You know, you should track this thing for me if you’re not doing anything.” He was totally into it, so he was the first one into the mix for sure.

Then, I just happened to be hanging out with Scott Phillips. We’ve been dear friends ever since the first Creed tour. We did the Human Clay tour, which was probably back in 2001 with those guys. So, this is going back some 10 or 11 years. I asked him what he was doing. I said, ‘Hey man, I’ve got a bunch of songs I’m going to take in, you want to play some drums on it?” He didn’t hesitate. I gave him the demos and he started making his notes, and the closer we got to the studio timing, the more we talked about how we were going to do it.

We are also very close, obviously, with the Tremonti’s. Eric Friedman was over at Mark’s house, because they were just getting ready to finish up the final stretch of the Tremonti Project. They were working on guitar solos, vocals; those kind of things. Then Eric asked me for the demos. He said, ‘Man, I wanna hear some of this stuff.” So, we played it and he’s like, ‘Man, you’ve got to let me come in there and play guitar and sing on it.” Me and Scott looked at each other and said, ‘Okay.” (laughter) I think at first he was a little surprised, because originally we thought he was kidding. He was like, ‘No, no, no. I’m dead serious. I’d love to be a part of this.” It really just came together that easy, just like that. Just out of friendships, and us hanging out, and just the love of making music.

Scott’s definitely not afraid to step it up and do something with another band. Being the fact that he has Creed and Alter Bridge. It’s the same thing with Eric. You know coming from Submersed, Daughters of Mara, doing the Tremonti stuff, and being a touring guitar player in Creed. So, you know it was kind of a natural thing for them, but for me, I’ve never done anything other than Sevendust. So I was like, ‘Are you guys sure you aren’t going to be too busy?” (laughter) They were totally into it, and it just happened that naturally. Scott and myself jumped into the studio for 5 or 6 days and knocked the drums out. Vinnie came down for a few days, knocked the bass out. Then once Creed had finished that Spring run, Eric came and stayed at the house for a few weeks, and he was busy. They were doing rehearsals for the Tremonti Project, and their first show was coming up at the Social, and they wanted to shoot like a live DVD and all of that other good stuff. So, he was rehearsing with Mark from 10 or 11 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon. Then, he’d come over around 5 in the afternoon, and we’d work till 3 or 4 in the morning on the Projected stuff. So, he went through two weeks of, all he did was eat, sleep, drive the car back and forth, and jam. He was real busy, but you know, it all kind of just fell into place. We didn’t really have any stops, starts, stalls, or anything to slow us down. It flowed nicely. We began the record, and about a month and a half later, we had all the pieces in place. So, we started mixing and we’re like, ‘Wait a minute, we kind of have a band here.” (laughter) Everyone was accounted for.

Originally, I was planning that if I couldn’t get other people to go in, I was going to do most of it on my own. I’d probably had to get someone to help me out on the drums. I mean, I naturally play drums, but it’s always nice having someone else’s feel in the mix. It’s helps it not sound like just me or Sevendust. It was just a natural progression really.

Sounds like an unintended plan came together.

Pretty much. You always hear stories where people say, ‘Man, the planets just lined up.” I mean they literally did. I think at the end of the day, once we heard the record, we were like, ‘Wait a minute, how’d that happen?” (laughter) We knew it was going to be something that was pretty good and pretty cool and pretty special, but we had no idea that it was going to turn out the way that it ended up turning out. So, we were probably just about as surprised as everyone else was. We kind of did it a little unannounced too. We weren’t blasting from the top of a mountain that we were a new band or anything like that. So once we finally started tracking and people started hearing about it, a lot of people were like, ‘Where did this come from. When was the announcement?” There really wasn’t a formal announcement until it was finished.

I know Sevendust is about to begin recording again soon. Is that going to limit the touring for Projected or do you have some cool stuff lined up?

Well, the thing about it is, we figure we’ll be finished with the tracking of the Sevendust record in about a month. This record comes out on the 18th. I really didn’t want to do it while we were doing the Sevendust stuff, but I was like, “It’s probably better that we do the release around the Sevendust stuff. That way we can focus a lot on the press stuff, a lot of the PR stuff that’s going to be going on around it.” I think it’s just a matter of trying to figure out what works with the other. The nice thing about the Sevendust situation is that when we’re recording, we’re not going to be doing any shows. The only thing I think we have on our schedule for the rest of the year, is Shiprocked. We do the cruise in late November. Then, possibly a Christmas show here and there, and of course the New Year’s Eve thing. But, we’re off the road until next year. Once the Sevendust thing wraps up here in New Jersey, it’s going to be full speed ahead back into Projected. So, we’ll see what we can get on deck and hopefully we’ll be able to get out for a few weeks this year, and maybe a few weeks early next year.

With this being a second side project from the members of Sevendust, should fans be at all worried about the future of the band, or are these just creative outlets?

No, I think these are just creative outlets. If anything, these are the types of things that makes Sevendust stronger. It’s another skill set, ya know? Every time that somebody does something that they are not used to doing, then you can bring that back into Sevendust, then that’s a positive. Stepping out and being a lead singer is not easy. It’s a tricky thing, but there is a certain beauty of doing it and then going, “Okay, now that I get back into the Sevendust mode, I can really get back into my complete comfort zone.” So, it definitely affects the writing process in a lot of ways because you’re not focused on so many different things. You can focus on your role, but you have the ability to kind of do those things. With Clint stepping out as a singer, and myself stepping out as a singer was something for us to improve ourselves. I get that question a lot actually. I have four guys in my band. Clint has four guys in his band. They’re both side projects. We’re going to take every opportunity that we can to get them out on the road, and have some fun with it. But, Alter Bridge is not going anywhere. Sevendust is not going anywhere. This is just something else for us to do. Something for us to kind of push the envelope. Like I said, anything that we do that betters ourselves as a musician, a songwriter, a singer. Whatever it may be, when we take that back to Sevendust, that’s just going to make Sevendust stronger.

That’s really what I figured.

There’s always a lot of speculation. Anytime you see these side projects popping up, once you see Sevendust being quiet, everyone wants to start saying, “This must be the beginning of the end.” In some ways, I think these side projects actually make us closer. I know that we all are really, really excited about starting the new record. Clint’s got a pile of demos, I’ve got a pile of demos. Demos are great, but I know that at the end of the day, it’s going to be that magic when we all sit down in a room and start jamming without any idea of what we are actually jamming. Just listening how stuff comes together. That’s when most of the magic with Sevendust really happens.

Alright, I always end with a random question, so here’s yours: If you could witness any concert, past, present, or future; Who would it be and why?

My first reaction, gut reaction, knee-jerk reaction would be Pantera. That obviously has an asterisk. Obviously, Dimebag was one of my biggest heros, one of my biggest influences. I definitely would love to see them do it again, but I’m kind of torn on whether I would like to see them do it with somebody else. There’s been a lot of speculation out there, that if they did it, obviously Zakk Wylde would be the guy who’s probably closest to Dime. He’s probably the one guy who could do it. I don’t know too many other guitar players that can go in there and pull off all of Dimebag’s stuff the way a guy like Zakk could. I’m torn though. As much as I love Black Label Society, and as much as I love the stuff he did with Ozzy, Zakk’s a great guy, and I have no doubt that he would get in there and crush it. It would be bittersweet. On one hand, you’d be able to hear those songs, and you’d be able to see them onstage again, but on the other hand, my hero wouldn’t be there. It’s kind of tough because as much as I’d love to see that happen again, it would be a bittersweet situation for me.

Other than that, Pink Floyd. You know what, bury the hatchet, get up there (laughter) onstage and do a show. On the flipside, those two guys are still alive. I know there is a lot of bad blood between them, and a lot of really weird history, but at the end of the day, you’re one of the most iconic, influential bands going. When you lose people, you realize that fighting over monetary issues, and fighting over creative things, at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. You only have so much time on this earth. David Gilmour and Roger Waters have been blessed to have had the careers that they’ve had, but there are so many people who would love for them to get back up there and have one more solid tour. So, I say, “Hey man, get over it!” (laughter)

Stop being selfish dangit!

Exactly! We want to see The Wall with everybody. (laughter)

Alright John, I appreciate your time very, very much and hopefully we can help spread the word, and we can get caught up at a show sometime.

Projected members:
John Connolly – Vocals / Guitar
Scott Phillips – Drums
Vince Hornsby – Bass
Eric Friedman – Guitar / Vocals

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Check out the lyric video to Watch It Burn by Projected below: