After more than two decades making music together, the members of Sister Hazel have figured out a few things along the way. For example, each member brings something to the table and fans make everything possible.
They were all in their late 20s when the band’s biggest hit “All for You” came out in 1997. They partied more than they should have and would leave home for months to tour, living on a bus together night after night. There was tension and times when things didn’t look good for the band’s future.
“I think we probably thought that we had more figured out than what we really did have figured out,” said Andrew Copeland, who plays rhythm guitar. “… I think a lot of times in the life cycle of a band there’s a point where you either implode or you make it past that and then you’re kind of together for a long time. I know we had those moments where things didn’t look so good but we made it through those struggles.”
The band will perform at The Plant in Dothan on Nov. 15.
Sister Hazel formed in 1993 in Gainesville, Florida, with Ken Block on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Jett Beres on bass, Copeland on guitar and vocals, Ryan Newell on lead and slide guitar, and Mark Trojanowski on drums. Seven years ago, Dave LaGrande began touring with the band on keyboards and saxophone (while he’s been asked, LaGrande has not officially joined the band). The band was named for Sister Hazel Williams, who ran a homeless shelter in Gainesville and passed away in 2016.
Looking back at their peak in the 1990s, Copeland said he’s thankful they made it all these years.
“We’ve been together now for over 26 years. It’s really a family,” Copeland said. “We’re all like brothers, and I mean that in the best way and the worst way. We can fight like brothers but we know in the end no one’s going to have my back more than the rest of the guys in that band.”
The band has continued to put out albums and even found themselves on the country music charts — although their sound really hasn’t changed that much. Their most recent releases involved a series of EPs called “Elements” — four separate releases in 2018 and 2019 titled “Water,” “Wind,” “Fire” and “Earth.”
The members all have families now, so they no longer tour for months at a time, and they have used their success to raise money for pediatric cancer and to host a camp for kids facing cancer.
Copeland said there were a lot of elements that were key to the band staying together. First, they all have a similar sense of humor which helps keep them laughing when they’re on the road together. Second, each member of the band has their own niche role they play outside of the musical roles they fill. For example, Copeland said, bass player Jett Beres is good at coming up with new ways to entertain fans at special events — known as “hangs” — that the band hosts around the country. And lead singer Ken Block loves making contact with fans and has embraced the band’s social media presence, which includes more than a million followers.
Having these roles helped cement their friendships and their work as musicians, Copeland said. But he said none of their musical success would have been possible without their fans — known as Hazelnuts. The band hosts different events each year, including an annual cruise, centered on their fans.
“There’s an appreciation for the fact that we can’t do what we do without people that like what we do and buy what we do,” Copeland said. “So we’ve never taken that for granted. Nobody has ever owed us anything.”