There’s a reason The Dirty Guv’nahs have such a devoted fan base. Unlike many other bands, their soul-fueled, roots rock performances are not the average passive experiences. They command full get-up-and-dance, sing-along crowd participation. It’s this kind of infectious energy that keeps fans coming back time after time.
Their latest album, Hearts on Fire, captures that feeling. It is more subtle and nuanced than some of their previous recordings, marking a step forward in defining their sound. They have harnessed the momentum of their previous recordings and have taken it to a new level.
The Dirty Guv’nahs are James Trimble, Justin Hoskins, Aaron Hoskins, Cozmo Holloway, Michael Jenkins, and Kevin Hyfantis.
NYMM: You just released Hearts on Fire. What’s different about this album?
James: We recorded it in Knoxville, TN, in our hometown studio, and Michael produced it. We started our own record label to distribute it. It’s called Summertown Records.
Michael: It’s fan-funded too. We did a Kickstarter to get it off the ground.
James: Yeah, we’ve done two Kickstarters. There aren’t a lot of bands out there that have tried to do two of them.
Michael: It’s a testimony to our fan base that it worked out. We asked people to put out their hard-earned money, twice, to help us. It was a little nerve-wracking at first because we didn’t know if it would backfire. The great thing is that our fans want to be involved, and they’re the reason we can put out new music.
NYMM: This one is sonically different than previous albums. Was that a conscious decision?
Michael: That was the vision. As a songwriter, you may write songs that are all over the spectrum. The previous albums went in the direction we wanted at the time, but after playing the songs live for a year or so, you find out what parts really work live. This time, we set out to make a pure roots rock album.
James: A love for roots rock music is what brought us together. There’s a huge folk rock trend right now, and that’s great – I love it – but that’s not what our desire is. We want to keep chasing what we love and what we’re connected to.
Michael: We poured a lot into the songs on this one. We tried not to let just “average” through. We tried to push ourselves sonically to say something and not just throw lyrics over something.
NYMM: What’s one of the songs that show what the album is about?
James: “Where We Stand” is a song that hung around for a long time. Michael wrote it on acoustic, originally. The lyrics resonate with where we are in our journey right now. We’re in a place where we’ve been doing this for a while and have had a certain level of success, but we’re trying to work out how to get to the next level.
The song is about wanting to do something great, and then getting the courage to do so. Each person has a set of circumstances that they are born into that they don’t choose. You keep some of those and you get to choose not to keep some of those. You can choose to take a courageous step when you decide what you want your life to be.
NYMM: You guys have done a lot of touring. How has that been?
James: We toured for two years in a 15-passenger van with no air conditioning and only one door worked.
Michael: The thing about touring is that being on stage is so rewarding, but there’s a lot of work that goes around that. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s hard work and there’s no sleep.
NYMM: What has been one of your favorite shows?
Cozmo: We played a free show in Market Square in Knoxville for our album release, and 10,000 people showed up. It was insane, and couldn’t have gone better. But then when we tour in the Midwest, we might play in front of 50 people. I think there’s an art to playing the same show for 50 people as for 10,000. I think that’s what a quality entertainer has to do.
James: We got to kick off Bonnaroo Music Festival a few years ago. We were the first band to play. When we stepped on stage, the crowd was so big, I almost had to catch my breath.
Cozmo: From backstage, we couldn’t see the crowd. We were expecting about 2,000 people, and when we came out, it was around 12,000. Pretty amazing.
You can find more of The Dirty Guv’nahs here:
Also catch them at the Wakarusa Music Festival in June:
Title Image by Jon Karr
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