3 Questions With Kesha: Sweetwater Abilene’s J.R. Top


As a GO Music Awards “Best Band” finalist and iTunes essentials choice, Sweetwater Abilene has a history of doing things on its own terms and gaining recognition for it. Guest writer Lakesha Bailey sat down with the band’s driving force, J.R. Top, for another of her “3 Questions” interviews that, if our count is right, turned into seven questions… and that’s just what she sent in. J.R. is always a man with opinions and the conviction to speak them. His thoughts on Springfield music, the songs that affect him, telling bands they suck and the mysterious whereabouts of “Shake the Che” follow after the break.

I recently sat down with J.R. Top of Sweetwater Abilene to ask him a few questions on music, life, and everything in between. J.R. and I have been friends for a few years, so I found it difficult to pick my favorite three questions out of our candid conversation. That being said, I might need to revise the title of this interview to, “A Few Key Questions with J.R. Top…”

Kesha: How much does the upcoming election affect your music?

J.R.: Not at all [laugh]

K: What are your thoughts on the Springfield music scene?

J.R.: I am so disconnected from it right now… I think there is a lot of good stuff, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. I just think that a lot of smaller local bands should try to get a larger appeal going but still be themselves. There is a big difference between being good in Springfield and just being good. Bands really have to get out there locally, regionally and nationally. Some of my favorite local bands are My Wasted Life, Jesse James Wax Museum, Cornbelt Chorus and The Verbs. While I was running sound at the Outland, I realized that a lot of bands should take playing live a bit more seriously. I’ve seen some bands be blasted [drunk or otherwise] on stage, and not only is it bad for the audience, but it makes it hard on everyone involved.

K: So, how do you feel about Springfield bands talking trash on each other?

J.R.: I think in some ways it can be counterproductive unless you talk trash directly to the band. Sometimes you have to break it down to build it up. I have had Lou Whitney say, “You suck,” but when someone like Lou tells you something like that, it didn’t make me mad, it made me better.

K: I know at one time you were called “prolific,” but some people turned it into a way to cut your music and you down. How do you define being “prolific” in that context?

J.R.: Look, I write a lot of crap and a couple of good songs.

K: Does this have anything to do with you not playing crowd favorite “Shake the Che’” anymore?

J.R.: I’m just trying to move beyond the novelty.

K: So, which bands/musicians would you like to see return to Springfield?

J.R.: Damien Jurado, Hello Stranger, Jonathan Richman

K: And of course, the obligatory question–what are your top 3 favorite songs right now?

J.R.: Richard Swift: Walking Without Effort (This is actually an album that is part of a two-disc EP entitled The Novelist/Walking Without Effort.)

ZZ Top: “Master of Sparks,” from album Tres Hombres

Al Green: “Full of Fire”

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