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Rival Sons: Scott Holiday on writing new songs, playing with The Stones and buying a puppy

Rival Sons group shot
(Image credit: Sam Huddleston)

When Rival Sons kicked off the UK and Ireland leg of their current tour, in Norwich on June 27, 10 years and 364 days had elapsed since the release of their second album, Pressure & Time

A 10th anniversary edition was originally scheduled to emerge in March this year – on gold vinyl, featuring reimagined cover art, a hardbound book and a bonus 7" single – but the release was delayed. It finally ships next week. 

“It’s been cool to get to know those songs all over again,” guitarist Scott Holiday tells Classic Rock, although he's more concerned with the future, and a new Rival Sons album is almost ready to go. 

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Each of us suffered during lockdown, but how challenging were those times for you? 

It was tough because we were in the cycle of our most successful album [2019’s Feral Roots], which had brought us two Grammy nominations, and everybody in the band felt good. A tour had been booked, and suddenly the brakes were thrown on. 

Many people learned a new skill or perhaps spent time working on a defect of some kind. Did anything like that happen to you? 

The upside was that each of us in Rival Sons is a family man. I have a couple of kids, and at Christmas time I got them a puppy. I learned how to be a better dad, which felt great. I got comfortable and did some DIY. Just before everything closed down I had found myself thinking: “I could really do with two years off.” I hope I didn’t bring this on myself! 

Did you use the time to write new music? 

Yeah, we wrote tons of new songs. The second the tour got cancelled, Jay [Buchanan, vocals] and I sent them back and forth. This new record of ours is now mostly complete. But not only that, I also started producing some other bands as well. 

What can you tell us about your seventh album? 

We should be mixed in the next month or two. When it will be out is such a business question, but it’ll be next year. It’s a bit soon to say too much.

The band did some live streaming during lockdown. How enjoyable was that? 

It was fun. It was trippy [to play without an audience]. I saw some other bands and wondered: “Wow, why are they doing that?” And then we did it. But we were really particular. We took a boat over to Catalina Island [just off the coast of California] where there was a beautiful historic ballroom, and we played our debut album Before The Fire [2009] in the middle of that room. Also we did another night in a movie theatre, where we played our self-titled EP [2010]. Both of those were really cool. 

Tell us about the first gig back with an audience. 

Oh, that was fantastic. The feeling was so exciting, not only for the audience but for the band. We all live in different parts of the world, so being back together again… I was with my guys, I had missed my friends. I felt really good, very natural. 

Rival Sons were to play the UK with Aerosmith earlier this year until the headliners cancelled

Yeah. Even before the pandemic we had heard through the grapevine that the tour might not happen. With a band like Aerosmith there are always a lot of ups and downs. When the dates were pulled it was a complete bummer. 

The set for your recent dates revolved around the band’s second album, Pressure & Time. What’s your relationship with that record? 

It’s been cool to get to know those songs all over again. Some of them had never been played live, or at least very rarely. Range-wise they were a little too high, even for Jay, so we’ve done some fancy things to make them work. For instance I play White Noise on a baritone guitar, and that gives it a complete new life.

In what ways have Rival Sons progressed during the eleven years since that record? 

As writers and artists we’ve really moved on. And that’s the responsibility of every band. You take on new influences and grow as people. After each record has been recorded and toured, it’s like an exorcism – you go somewhere else entirely. Revisiting Pressure & Time for the tour [which began in the US] almost felt like time travel. 

Rival Sons have supported so many legendary bands. What did you take away from sharing a stage with, say, the Rolling Stones, Deep Purple and Lenny Kravitz? 

You learn that it’s not just about the four or five guys that are on the stage. Touring is one big road family. You’d expect that huge artists like the ones you just mentioned might lose that type of connection. I was happy to learn that they don’t. 

Apparently the Rolling Stones invite their support acts into the dressing room on the first night to make them feel at home

They do. But I’ll be honest, it felt a bit clinical. They have a wonderful assistant who tells you: “Guys, get ready, [in hushed, reverential tones] you’re going to meet the Rolling Stones. The camera will be over here.” When the Stones came in they were nothing like that. They strode in like deities, but they were congenial – their personalities were just like you expected them to be.

The 10th Anniversary edition of Pressure & Time can be ordered now (opens in new tab)

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.