Blowed Up Real Good

Hootie gets big while keeping its eyes on the small stuff

"I like to call them demo tapes just because we did them in like a week, and we released them just to make money and to spread our name and songs as much as we could," Bryan says of the early records. "I wouldn't say they were fully released albums. They were just five-song demos."

Kootchypop was the first of the three records to be distributed in a large portion of the country, and it put the band's career on a fast track. It sold 40,000 copies and helped attract the attention of two record companies, Capricorn and Atlantic. The group eventually chose Atlantic's offer, selecting Don Gehman, who is well-known for his work with Mellencamp and R.E.M., to produce.

"We've always been a fan of his work, through Mellencamp and R.E.M. and God, it turns out he did a Bruce Hornsby album, which we really liked, and some other stuff," Bryan said of Gehman. "So when Tim [Summer], our A and R person from Atlantic, suggested Gehman, we were like, good lord, do you know him? And he said, yeah, as a matter of fact, I've talked to him about the band and he likes Kootchypop. So we said, well yeah, let's talk to him. So he flew up to Baltimore and saw a show, and we had dinner with him and hung out with him. He was really cool and he seemed interested in the project. So we went ahead and went with him. And I was very happy, but I was disappointed for one reason. I really wanted to use Don Dixon [as producer]; that's who we've been working with for awhile. We had talked pretty majorly about using him. And for whatever reason, we just decided not to. I guess the main reason was if we used Dixon, we were going to work in Charlotte, North Carolina. And we really wanted to go way away from Columbia, [South Carolina] so we wouldn't be disturbed."

In recording Cracked Rear View, Bryan says the band had a straightforward goal.

"The only thing we wanted to do as far as that goes is get our best songs down that we've written in the last, say, four years, since we've had Soni in the band," he says. "We wanted to make sure we had our best work within that time, and I think we achieved that. I mean, there's a whole other album worth of material that we could have picked. So that would mean the second album; it's not going to take long to decide what songs we're going to play. But we're also writing a lot of new stuff, too. I don't know how the second album is going to go. I just know that the first album is what we felt was our best music to that point."

Hootie and the Blowfish play at 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 31 at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, The Woodlands. Don Dixon opens. Tickets are $18. For info, call 629-3700.

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