The band, which hails from the sleepy little backwoods town of Cullman, Alabama, had the honor of working on the record with 3 Doors Down’s Chris Henderson. They entered the studio in Mississippi, with Henderson producing, in 2005, laying down the tracks in short order. Then, the hurricane hit, leaving the studio, and the master recordings for the album, under twelve feet of water.
Not easily deterred by Mother Nature, the band and Henderson reconvened in the same studio (completely rehabbed from the hurricane damage) in 2006. Again, they laid down the tracks, completing the majority of the recording in three weeks’ time, only to find a computer glitch had rendered a large portion of the recordings unusable. Because they had meshed so well with Henderson (who said he really wanted to be involved in the rest of the recording), the band was willing to wait to work around his 3 Doors Down schedule in order to re-record the tracks that needed to be redone in Henderson’s new Rivergate Studios in Nashville in 2007.
“This band is so easy to work with,” says Henderson. “From a production standpoint, they provided me with a wide open palette, bringing some amazing riffs into the studio, then taking my suggestions to the next level in their continuing songwriting endeavors. And they’ve been so amazing about recording the album three times. It was not anyone’s fault; it’s just the way that things went down. But they took it all in stride and they made it fun.”
“Chris is the hardest-working guy I know,” says guitarist Wesley Smith. “When we were in the studio with him, he’d only get four to five hours of sleep before he was back to work. It was fantastic being in the studio with him. He’s very down-to-earth, and he gets what we are doing.”
The result is HalfDown Thomas’ third-full length album, “Beautifully Strange,” which will be released via Rock Ridge Music on February 17, 2009. In addition to Henderson’s production, the album boasts mixing by Geoff Ott (3 Doors Down, Nickelback, Unwritten Law) and Kirk Kelsey (3 Doors Down, Creed, Redding). Bobby Capps of .38 Special contributed vocals on several songs, and Ivan Arnold of Five.Bolt.Main engineered some of the album.
HalfDown Thomas (or HDT) was begun on the verge of the new millenium by a group of friends with one simple goal: to start a band and see how far it could really go. Eight years later, singer Randy Ayers, guitarist Wesley Smith, bassist George White, and drummer Mark Underwood are finding out. Starting as everyone does in sweaty little clubs, opening shows for renowned local acts, HDT spent their time developing a high-intensity stage show to compliment their hard-driving modern rock sound. The band came to the attention of their label after they won a Birmingham, AL, Battle of the Bands and went on to compete in the finals in Biloxi, MS. Henderson’s 3 Doors Down bandmate Todd Harrell was the creative force behind the contest. Rock Ridge Music CEO Tom Derr, who was a judge at the Biloxi contest, was so impressed by HDT that the efforts to sign them began immediately.
The band has continued to plug away live, sharing the stage with acts as diverse and influential as Kings of Leon, OutKast, Evanescence, and Fuel, just to name a few. At the same time, HDT has also worked hard to hone their personal sound. With two full-length releases, three EP’s, and numerous compilation spots under their belts, writing and recording have been a large piece of the equation. Somewhere between Pearl Jam and Nickleback, between Stone Temple Pilots and Breaking Benjamin, is where you’ll find HalfDown Thomas’ sound. Throw in individual influences as varied as Southern rock and 80’s hair metal, and what shakes out is modern rock alternative with scorching guitar solos, bombastic rhythm work, and attention to lyrical hooks that create an interesting and listener-friendly mix.
Just how far can four guys take a dream? The answer seems to be a lot farther than anyone expected. And they won’t let a little something like Mother Nature get in the way.