Jason Scavone's voice is soaked with excitement and anticipation. His hurried tone sounds as though he's talking to me while on the phone in the middle of an afternoon jog. He's a bit more chatty than he was the first time we talked in 2007 about his Charlotte band The Noises 10. It could be his nerves, after all. Scavone's girlfriend is due to go into labor at any time and while this conversation is more focused on giving birth to a debut album with his rock band The Hot Gates, his mind is probably on his first foray into fatherhood. But there's also a sense of relief that comes across -- relief that both events have finally reached the due date.
It was nearly four years ago that pop-rock outfit The Noises 10 had been signed to Jive Records on a development deal that quickly fell apart. They then got picked up by Roadrunner Records, but that too disintegrated before an album came to fruition. Months spent holding label showcases and traveling around the country for recording sessions and meetings were taking their toll.
"I just felt like everyone was spent and we didn't have the same drive and motivation," Scavone says. "They're all my really good buddies, and I didn't want us to not like each other because of it. I think we naively set our expectations really high. Looking back, we would have been better off signing with a smaller label and building it in a smaller way. Now, I want to go back to what I was doing before — writing music because I enjoy doing it."
While working with Jive Records and producer Eric Valentine, Scavone got stuck in a rut of writing for a particular demographic and reworking choruses numerous times. "Eric is a brilliant guy, but it brings a whole different perspective on how you write songs," Scavone says. "I got burnt out on worrying about how quickly I could get to the chorus. It sucks. It's not really music to me. That's more of a craft than an art."
Scavone wanted to take a break from a rock band trying to make it big and go out on his own. While working with producer Al Sutton (Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow) in Detroit through a publishing deal, he started writing for an album of his own. He named his new project The Hot Gates after the William Goulding novel.
"The whole idea of a solo artist going by their own name is something I've wrestled with," he says. "It's kinda silly, but I can't imagine wearing a Jason Scavone T-shirt. I couldn't get comfortable with that. I wanted to make a record that was a band record and not a singer-songwriter thing."
The finished product,Ride It Out, contains Scavone's sensibility for writing solid hooks and choruses but in a different setting than The Noises 10. While that band leaned toward pop and indie rock, The Hot Gates infuses a '60s-rock energy and live-in-the-studio feel with weathered lyrical content. It works well against both the alt-country backdrop of the title track or the straightforward rock of "The Ghost."
One song that didn't make the album is a duet Scavone recorded with Brandi Carlile called "My Repair." It was released on a Starbucks album of duets in February, but didn't work into the sequencing of Ride It Out.
Backing Scavone on the album are bassist Jim Simonson, drummer Eric Hoegemeyer and guitarist Jackson Smith. The husband of The White Stripes' Meg White, Smith also is the son of Patti Smith and the late MC5 guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith. "He's plugged into a world that I can't even imagine," Scavone says of his 29-year-old bandmate. "We'll try and do some short tours when our schedules line up, but I'll also have some local and regional guys to play with me when they can't."
The project is driven by Scavone's vision and songwriting. At 31, and starting a family, his perspective has changed. "On the album, I'm trying to go for something a little bit more classic rock and roots/American rock 'n' roll instead of a modern-pop sound," he says, adding that the album will be released on his own label. "The music business has changed a whole lot. If you're not trying something different, then it's going to be difficult to do anything."