The Cadillac Three have always had a sound that’s all their own and there’s no better way to describe it than using a phrase they’ve coined themselves: country fuzz. The trio, made up of Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason and Kelby Ray, are now officially staking claim to that phrase by making it the title of their new album.
“I think just calling us country or just calling us southern rock or just calling us metal — none of those things quite make sense,” says Mason in an exclusive interview with Sounds Like Nashville. “So, what we’re really trying to do is we’re trying say, well, we’re kind of our own thing, and our own thing is called country fuzz.”
The group gives examples of ‘country fuzz’ in each of the record’s 16 songs, 15 of which were co-written by at least one band member. Some songs are country leaning, others are hard rock, and some are even funk and soul influenced, but they all bear the unique artistry The Cadillac Three is known for. Track number two, titled “The Jam,” kicks off the funky side of the record. Co-written by Johnston, Brian Kelley, Corey Crowder and James McNair, the song was originally written with Florida Georgia Line in mind.
“I’m so glad we looked at ‘The Jam’ because otherwise we probably wouldn’t have the other funky songs that we ended up cutting, and then it wouldn’t be country fuzz — it would be country or fuzz,” says Johnston with a laugh.
From there, the band settles into their country-rock roots with “Hard Out Here For A Country Boy,” which is a humorous take on the trials of “chugging that cold beer, loving that hot girl, living that slow life.” The song features Travis Tritt, who recorded his part on a tour bus while the two acts were touring together, and Chris Janson, who happened to call Johnston during the recording session and wanted in on the track.
Another song that adds to the funky side of Country Fuzz is “All The Makin’s Of A Saturday Night.” This uptempo tune is about all the ingredients needed for a perfect Saturday night, which of course includes friends. Lead singer Johnston name-drops some of these friends in the bridge, singing, “We got Dierks and Blake and Luke Combs too, and Janson shows up with some Mountain Dew.” The Mountain Dew comment comes from a real-life story in which Janson came to write at Johnston’s house with a twelve pack of the drink.
Toward the middle of the project is a song called “Labels” co-written by Mason, Corey Crowder and Luke Dick. This song departs from the more lighthearted tracks before it by sending a poignant message about shedding the titles society forces upon us.
“I’ve just always been a fan of that song that sings about somebody that maybe doesn’t fit in or doesn’t feel like they fit in, and trying to say, ‘Well, nobody wants to be looked at this way, but it’s okay to be who you are,’” says Mason.
Johnston, Mason and Ray continue with their distinctive country fuzz sound in “El Camino” and “Heat,” the latter of which showcases Johnston’s impressive vocal range. The album then closes with the quiet love song, “Long After Last Call.” Overall, the band’s goal for the 16 songs on Country Fuzz was to stretch themselves musically while also maintaining a cohesive listening experience.
“I think each record you want to feel like you’re doing something new and fresh,” says Mason. “Between all the touring that we’ve done in the last two and a half, three years, and working on writing a record, it’s a process to land on something that we’re all excited about, and we feel like we’re still big fans of, [which is] a complete album and something that we feel like works as a whole piece that you could listen to top to bottom.”