Contributing Writer Andrea Knapp
Holding onto hope and continuing to fight through hard times are powerful sentiments in any situation, but they ring especially true in our current circumstances. These are the same encouraging words that come to us through Sister Hazel’s “Fire,” which singer Andrew Copeland dedicated to all essential workers on the frontlines of the Covid-19 crisis during a performance for Front Porch Jams.
The band certainly knows something about perseverence. Their single “All for You” was a Platinum-selling hit in the summer of 1997 and is still a well-known classic. Since then, they have found success in the rock and alternative genres, and more recently, in country music. Joining Copeland are Mark Trojanowski, Ken Block, Ryan Newell, and Jett Beres, a seasoned group of musicians whom Performing Songwriter Magazine named “one of the Top 100 Most Influential Independent Performers of the last 15 years.”
They now also have four back-to-back Billboard Top Country Albums Chart entries. Their most recent project, Elements, is a double-disc compilation EP that features “Fire” as well as 24 other songs written by the band and other well-known names in the industry. This endeavor was a labor of love for the band, and Copeland says, “We had such a great time creating this project! From the writing to the recording and playing the new stuff out live!”
Their ability to adapt their sound and take on creative efforts like Element has helped the band achieve a longevity few others attain. Copeland and Block started out together as an acoustic duo after singing an Eagles song at a college football game in Gainesville, Florida, where the band hails from. Now he says his biggest career highlight is “that the five original band members have stayed together, literally become like brothers and continue to put out new music and connect with people.”
With iconic influences like Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Kiss, and James Taylor, it’s no wonder the band has striven to create music with an honest sound. Copeland says, “What makes us is we’re not contrived. We’ve always written, recorded and performed from the heart. We always fight for ‘the song’! Whatever is best for the song we’re working on, that’s the direction we go.”
The honesty of songs like Fire certainly attests to the band’s genuine and philanthropic spirit. When the conversation turns to the Covid-19 pandemic, Copeland says they are trying to stay in touch with the community and to post entertaining content to lift spirits. They are also trying to participate in fundraising opportunities as much as possible. Among those is All for Crew, a campaign to support their road crew, who are out of work because of the pandemic. In an effort to raise funds, the band has promised an autographed Lift CD to anyone who donates money. Copeland says the idea formed as a result of “brainstorming how to navigate this mess. Our touring operation has always been like family to us and making sure everyone gets through this okay is high on all of our priority lists!”
Giving back has been just a part of his time spent in quarantine, which he says hasn’t been too negative overall. He has been enjoying time with his family cooking, being productive, and trying to exercise whenever possible. He admits, “It’s kind-of crazy for a guy that usually has no consistency in my life. My family found a groove pretty quickly.” Though quarantine has been relatively kind to him, there are a couple of things he misses, and he cites attending church as one of the first things his family will do together when the country reopens. He says they have been worshipping at home but adds he looks forward to being around others to “hear all the voices singing and just worship together.” Of performing and being with his bandmates, he adds, “I would say the only thing that might be causing me a little stress would just be the unknown of when we can get back out and do what we do. I miss playing in front of people as a band.”
The pandemic has had a great impact on the things the band had hoped to accomplish in 2020. There will have to be some changes and shifting in order to accommodate, and though he’s not sure what will come of it, Copeland says he’ll be happy to just get back to normal. No doubt the band will be in a hurry to return to the road as well. When asked if they have any fun stories from past tours, Copeland says, “Being on the road period is fun. We’ve had fun playing and touring together for almost 27 years now.”
Those years of touring have undoubtedly helped the band retain their bond and their passion for music, and they show no signs of slowing down. When it comes to future endeavors, Copeland hopes they can keep doing what they do best. “I know that even though we don’t talk about it much, I’d love to see us get another shot at a radio/commercial hit. I don’t know how that would happen – whether it would be having a song catch fire on its own or maybe have something get picked up for a film – but that would be cool to slam into something like that again with the knowledge we have now.”
This enthusiasm for the future is a sentiment we can all rally around right now. And the promise of more good things to come from the band is a sure sign that the current crisis can’t last forever and that maybe there are better things on the horizon for all of us.