When asked if there was a prophetic moment in his childhood, one that pointed to a lifetime of making music, American Hotel’s Jeremy Lister says, “I remember playing with my junior high band, putting my horn down and listening in awe as all the different parts worked seamlessly together to create something beautiful. I knew then I wanted to create something like that.”
On a sticky Tuesday in August, Lister and bandmate Jesse Hall take shelter from one of Nashville’s spontaneous and torrential storms at Ugly Mugs café to talk about their band, their debut album, and The Beatles.
“My father was a preacher, so growing up we were only allowed to listen to Christian music,” Lister continues. “We had to sneak the other stuff, the really good stuff.”
At age 11, fascinated by melody and composition, he taught himself the guitar and shortly thereafter began composing songs. “When I was young I heard The Beatles perform ‘Hey Jude,’ and that was it for me. It is the benchmark foreverything I create. The Beatles are the predominant influence for American Hotel.”
Hall was introduced to The Beatles at an early age, too. “My dad was a record producer,” he says “When I was very young, he shoved The Beatles down my throat, which I, of course, rebelled against, paying more attention to hip hop, metal, and sports. When I was about 18, something changed, and I decided to pursue music. I still love hip hop and metal, but there is not a day that goes by I am not in complete awe of The Beatles and what they accomplished. My dad was right.” With The Beatles as their muse, American Hotel hopes to draw inspiration from the legendary quartet’s creativity and ingenuity. “We want to create something a little bit different, but something that still appeals to the crowd,” Lister says. As American Hotel’s principle vocalists, Lister and Hall are the mainstays in the group’s multi-harmony sound.
“We have been playing together for years,” Hall says. “It started in front porches and backyards. Eventually we realized when we played, we were really just playing for each other. We were both so captivated by the other’s abilities each session was just a chance to impress one another.”
After years of playing together informally, American Hotel was born about a year ago. The name is derived from a poem written by American novelist Richard Brautigan. “His work has always inspired me,” Hall says. “When we were trying to choose a name, I couldn’t think of anyone better to represent us.”
American Hotel is the most recent stop on Lister’s musical journey. After releasing a pair of independent EP’s and signing a solo deal with Warner Bros. Records, Lister became a contestant on NBC’s The Sing Off in 2011. The reality series showcased a cappella groups from around the United States battling for supremacy. Lister’s group, Street Corner Symphony, nabbed second place and the hearts of devoted fans. Street Corner Symphony, which included his two brothers, followed up their appearance on the TV series with two albums and a nationwide tour.
Hall got his start in Pittsburgh, singing, playing piano and guitar, and writing songs for the folk band Bear Cub, which relocated to Nashville in the summer of 2010.
In addition to Hall and Lister, American Hotel includes “a broad spectrum of talent,” as the latter puts it: lead guitarist Anthony Fiacco, multi-instrumentalist Justin Loucks, drummer Vince Gard, and bassist Adam Binder.
Fiacco fronted a Washington, D.C. blues-driven rock band called The Blackjacks. Of Fiacco, Hall says, “He knows more about The Beatles and old school rock & roll than any human I’ve met. He is equally influenced by Willie Nelson. He brings great variety to
Louks, nicknamed “Juice,” is the band’s auxiliary player. He has been performing for over 15 years and has shared the stage with entertainers ranging from small indie acts to major label artists. Additionally, Louks produced Lister’s last solo album, The Bed You Made. “He has an expansive musical pallet and is always turning us on to really great new artists,” Hall says.
Gard is a founding member and longtime drummer for the Nashville-based band Mona. He specializes in hard-hitting drums. “He loves rock, but when it comes to Beatles or Stones, he’d likely side with Stones, making him the lone wolf of our group,” Hall says with a laugh.
Binder is a veteran of numerous local bands and has been Lister’s chief bassist for
“We have all had these awesome solo careers and opportunities with other bands,” Lister says. “They provided us with experiences that shaped us as musicians, but we are pretty excited about all of that coming together into this
In June, American Hotel played the Bonnaroo Music & Art Festival to good response, but there’s nothing quite like playing to their home crowd in East Nashville. “Playing on the East Side is always a lot of fun for us,” Lister says. “East Nashville is our home and playing to friends and fans of the area is what it is all about.”
Continuing, he says, “When I came to Nashville over a decade ago, I had the preconceived notion it only sustained country music. I planned on staying for six months and then moving elsewhere. Little did I know Nashville is a great melting pot of many different sounds and a ton of support.”
The group has been hard at work on their first album, which Lister says they hope to release “early in 2016.” One of the tracks, an infectious bit of Brit invasion-influenced pop rock called “Pretty Young Girl,” is streaming on their website. “Our main goal is to put out the album. We want to dedicate ourselves as much as possible to producing something authentic and unique.”
Recently the band wrapped on a track with producer Brendan Benson called “Dizzy Bird.” Benson, who is best known for his work as a solo artist and as Jack White’s bandmate in The Raconteurs, helmed the track at his Readymade Studio in midtown. “Dizzy Bird’ was the first song the band wrote together,” Lister says. “Working on it with Benson made it feel
With the album underway, Lister and Hall are feeling good about their band. “We are so lucky to have this experience,” Hall says. “Hearing your work on the radio and getting the chance to play with your idols is indescribable.”
Lister echoes that sentiment: “It is something we never expected and something we are
eternally grateful for.”