Saving Abel – Not Just About the Sex

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Jared Weeks, frontman of , rolled into Des Moines, Iowa just a few hours before the band was scheduled to perform a free military concert. He’s been chillin’ in his bus wearing jeans with a tracksuit jacket and a Redlight King – a band which has previously toured with the band — t-shirt peeking out from underneath. A wad of chew is beneath his bottom lip. Hooked to his side is his blood glucose monitor, due to his struggle with diabetes, which was publicized in 2009 when the band was forced to cancel tour dates because of his diabetes-related illness. The minute he speaks, his deep Mississippi southern accent is apparent. As Weeks starts talking about his band and their passions it’s immediately obvious the group is not only devoted to their music, but also to the causes they hold dear to their hearts.

The single Addicted, a raunchy song about rolling around in the sheets from the album, put the band on the “music map.”  The second album followed suit with another sex-infused song, The Sex is Good. But if you think these boys are only making music worthy of playing in strip clubs, you’d be wrong. Listen to the rest of any of their albums and you’ll hear songs with a lot more depth that have little to do with sex at all. Weeks explains, “I don’t really like going out and promoting sex. I just fight for the fact that a good song is a good song. When we were writing Addicted it basically wrote itself. And I don’t argue with that. I don’t argue with something that comes out so naturally. We’re really thankful for where we are. And where we’ve gotten because of those songs. Every single night right before Addicted or The Sex is Good, even if nobody knows the words to any songs, they know the words to those. It makes me have a better night. Last night we played Fort Wayne and right before Addicted they just got so loud. There was 1000 people there. We did a free show and everybody came. They came to rock. It’s moments like those that always bring me back and make me feel like a little kid again and get excited when I’m on stage. So I thank God for those as well. We’re just thankful you guys like the songs we do play. As long as ya’ll are listening we’re going to keep playing.”

But with the newest album release, Bringing Down the Giant, the band left the sex songs behind, writing not a single song about the subject. The title song, Bringing Down the Giant, speaks to a larger issue and has an apparent bullying theme. The band filmed a bully-themed video for the song at their high school in Corinth, Mississippi. Weeks even mentions Jason Null, the band’s lead guitarist, was made fun of growing up because he was a skinny, buck-toothed little boy; he got made fun of because he had big teeth. But Weeks expounds the song is more so about fighting whatever your giant is. “Whatever your giant is, you are no longer going to let it stand and tower above you, and control what you do. Whatever it be. Whatever you need to do to get over it. You’re not going to sit here and be quiet about it any more.”

The love and compassion is clear in Weeks’ eyes and voice when he talks about 8-year-old, “Jersey.”  She’s a girl he’s grown close to who’s been fighting her own giant. Jersey is the daughter of bass player Eric Taylor’s girlfriend.   She’s battled cancer for eight months, going through radiation and was just recently diagnosed cancer-free. As Weeks recounts Jersey walked up to him and told him, “Jared, I just want you to know my giant was cancer and you helped me.” Weeks says he couldn’t ask for anything more. Jersey has been an inspiration to him. He comments she’s so mature for her age. “She’s had to deal with such a big giant. She’s my hero. She’s always got a smile on her face. She made the best of every single day.”

At a recent concert, after Jersey was declared cancer-free, the band pulled her on stage and proclaimed to the crowd, “Fuck cancer.” As Week says, “She overcame it so fuck cancer. It was bigger than her and now she’s bigger than it. I’m a diabetic. I’m waiting on a cure as well. I have to wear my pancreas on my pocket. Fuck diabetes.”

Another passion for the band is supporting the military. They play often for the troops, and have went on tours in Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. Weeks had six uncles growing up who were in the military and his grandfather fought in the Korean War. He explains since he’s a diabetic, they don’t want him. “I feel like it’s my duty to shake their hands, whether it’s here in the states or thousands of miles away. September 16 we’re heading out to Okinawa, Japan to play at a military base. We go a long ways away to say thanks. It’s something we’re proud to be a part of.”

Grammy-winning producer Skidd Mills worked with the band on the new album as well as their previous two albums. Weeks and Null initially hooked up with Mills when they were looking for a studio to create some demos. Originally the band started with just Null and Weeks as an acoustic duo named Shade of Grace. They’d been given advice to look for a producer in the Christian industry because “they are less likely to screw you,” Weeks explains. Mills had worked with one of Weeks’ favorite Christian bands, Third Day, so Null and Weeks decided to approach Mills. In those early days Null and Weeks paid $60/hour to record 10 of their songs. After producing the demo Weeks and Null did a production deal with Mills. They agreed to form a band around the songs the two of them had written. As Weeks explains, “We went home and had to hire everybody. About six months later we were signed with Virgin.” When he reflects on why they continue to work with Mills, he comments, “You find something that works, you stick with it. He’s a genius.”

The band decided to broaden their horizons with the new album, crossing over a few different genres. Michael Jackson’s Jacket has more of a pop sound, while Pine Mountain is bluegrass. Weeks explains they would love to appeal to a broader audience. He grew up in Mississippi listening to a variety of genres. “I grew up listening to bluegrass. My dad plays the mandolin and the banjo. I grew up listening to Hank Sr., not Hank Williams Jr. Even on Sundays, man, we’d stay after church, everybody would get in a circle and play their banjos, their mandolins. They even had a couple washboards. It’s my heritage. Good music is good music. I don’t care if it’s country, Christian, rock.” As Weeks explains the band went back to their roots in creating many of the songs on this album. They blew jugs on some songs and played the mandolin. Null even learned to play the jaw harp, chipping a couple teeth in the process. If you listen to the song You Make Me Sick, you’ll hear Null starting out the song with vibrated sounding words produced by the jaw harp. “That’s something we tried to do on this album. There’s a lot of versatile songs on this album. The other two albums we had to write while we were on the road. I was thankful we got six months off to write this album. We brought out the foot stomp. This album’s got rock, ballads. It’s even got a country rock song. I’d Do It Again has a country twang.”

is currently touring through September to promote Bringing Down the Giant, before heading out to the military base in Japan. It’s primarily a solo tour and the band is doing what Weeks refers to as “low dough shows” because the economy sucks. As Weeks explains, “We want people to hear us. It’s not about the money. We’re just so proud of this album. It’s one of our best. We’re excited to be out touring and shoving it in your faces. We’ll sell $10 or $12 tickets. Come in for a night. This is rock-n-roll and this is why we’re here. So let’s have a good time.” After the band returns from Japan, they plan to hit the road again. Weeks wants Saving Abel fans to know, “If we’re not coming to your town yet, we will be there. Saving Abel never stays at home.”

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