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Marc LaBelle of Dirty Honey on music, touring & Northern California road trips

Dirty Honey Portrait
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

This year is a big one for the Los Angeles rock band Dirty Honey. They embarked on their first European summer tour and have opened for bands such as KISS, Guns N’ Roses and Rival Sons. The Travel Addict caught up with vocalist Marc LaBelle who talked about their project “Suitcase Sessions” and recording in Australia.

Dirty Honey recently released a cover of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” They are no strangers to covers as they also covered Aerosmith’s “Last Child.” LaBelle talks about his influences and touring with some of his favorite bands such as The Who and Guns N’ Roses.

Later this year, they will be on the road in North America with support from Dorothy and Mac Saturn. Their show is as high-energy as any rock band on the scene right now. They bring a full-on performance every time they step on the stage.

I have photographed the band for several years at festivals and when they played earlier in the day, they blew the crowd away. The band sounded like they could carry headlining an arena-sized stage.

Check out our interview with Marc LaBelle of Dirty Honey below.

Can you talk about “Suitcase Sessions” are and how you chose the locations?

Suitcase Sessions is an idea I have had brewing for quite a while. I have always wanted to have a mobile recording rig. We started using it on the last tour for demos for the new record. When you are at a venue and all the mics are setup for the show, it is easy to plug into an interface and start doing demos. We sort of perfected that and as were gearing up to shoot a music video for “Heartbreaker.” It got cancelled because of the Coronavirus so we decided to give this a shot.

We headed out to a location I often go ride motorcycles at, one of my favorite places in the world to camp at and hike and ride. The guys didn’t really know anything about it which was cool. I was thinking about it in the back of my head as we were driving these guys don’t know where we were going. None had taken the time to go out here.

It was literally one road as you are driving in it gets really picturesque and beautiful. They got really excited to get out of the car and do some exploring. I found it on a whim motorcycle riding through Northern California. It’s Mount Whitney, it is the really picturesque. People get really obsessed with Yosemite and other places they feature but this one flies under the radar a bit. It is Mount Whitney in Lone Pine, California.

What was the highlight of recording your self-titled EP with Nick DiDia in Australia?

We were in Byron Bay, that’s where the studio is. We flew into Brisbane and drove down to Byron Bay which is about two and a half hours and posted up there for two weeks.

Then on the back-end of the recording session, I actually flew over to New Zealand and did a motorcycle ride through the North and South Islands and did the fjords and took some time to travel. If you are going to go that far on a plane, you might as well do something to quench your travel thirst.

I was happy I got to see New Zealand in a little bit of an off season. I woke up in Queenstown to a blizzard on a motorcycle with six inches of snow and thought “This isn’t good.” But you make lemonade out of lemons you are given and we kept going. It was an incredible trip. It is literally one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

You have opened for some of the biggest rock bands in the world Guns N’ Roses and The Who. Have you been star struck at any point?

When you are watching The Who do their thing, not many people get to experience that. When they  and their team come up to you afterwards and say they enjoyed the show, that takes your breath away. Bill Curbishley, their legendary manager said, “You have a bloody good rock n roll band under you mates.”

I was like, “You have been with The Who your entire life,” so that was definitely a moment I was totally taken aback by. I have read all the books about all the bands I love and they are definitely one of them.

Being backstage with Slash the first time was crazy because he was in full Slash regalia, top hat and everything. He is this celebrity and then you talk to him and he is extremely nice and awesome and totally supportive. We have had good experiences with our heroes so far.

You had a number one record without a record label which doesn’t happen very often. How did you make it happen and why have you gone the route without the label?

I think our team is incredible. Our manager is such a bull. When he has something great and he knows it is great, he is going to work really hard for us. He has other clients too that say the same thing. He is a really hard worker. It stems from passion. He is someone I wanted to work with professionally just because he worked with all my favorite bands, from Aerosmith to Guns N’ Roses to Black Crowes to AC/DC, the list goes on.

Our musical tastes clearly align, fortunately it worked. He put a team around us that he really trusts and is obviously confident and they are good at what they do. He would be the first to tell you it starts with the music, if you don’t have the songs, you are spinning your wheels to try to make someone to listen to they ultimately don’t love. From all the feedback we have heard from “When I’m Gone” people are saying it is a one listen, awesome song. That certainly helps when you have the goods musically.

As far as not having a record label, we work with bands all the time, even the big ones, our heroes to the smaller ones, we have never heard anyone say they love their record label. They are always telling you there are problems, problems marketing this and that. Our peers say they wouldn’t do it if you don’t have to do it for the money, just try to avoid it.

We have been fortunate enough, “When I’m Gone” got going so quickly, we were able to sustain ourselves financially without a label. We are certainly not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination but we didn’t have to sign our life away to sacrifice our creative control and that’s the biggest thing.

You have done both festivals and more intimate shows. Which do you prefer?

Marc Labelle of Dirty Honey
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

We have done some big festivals this past year in the earlier time slots. There would be 5,000 to 10,00 people out there. But we would come back two hours later to see Halestorm doing a set at 4:00 pm and there are 40,00 people. It’s way different, just a couple hours later. I would imagine I would enjoy that aspect of festival life but I feel comfortable at the smaller shows. I love a 1,000-person hall. That feels really good to me.

I don’t really like seated venues either, just the energy is different as an opener. People are looking at you, judging you whether they like you or not, just really strange. We played the Great Chicago Theater, a beautiful theater, a seated venue. People sat down during our entire set for us and even for Alter Bridge because it’s easy enough to just chill. We went to Kansas City the next night in a similar size venue, not seated, and it was one of the craziest nights of the whole tour so I don’t know. I tend to gravitate toward that environment.

What is your go-to guitar to play?

Marc Labelle of Dirty Honey
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

I gravitate to my Taylor Acoustic a lot for writing. It is hanging on my wall in the living room all the time and I grab it if I have an idea. If I am plugging something in I have a ’61 SG re-issue, a 3 pickup white and gold. It is a beautiful guitar I like. I literally look at it all the time and can’t believe I have it. It is the one I like to plug in the most.

What is one of your favorite song to play live?

I really like “Down the Road.” But I think my favorite song from the EP is “Scars” actually. It is really strong. It is a little different from everything else. Lyrically, I think it is by far the strongest song. It is personal to me even though it is vague at the same time. It means the most to me and it is really cool when you start the show with that and people are already singing to that song because it is a deeper cut. That one is special for sure.

You started music when you were young. How did that help support to where you are today?

I actually wasn’t trained, I just started really young. I started in middle school, being in bands and writing songs. Just doing it, especially as a singer, is the most important thing. You inherently become something as you continually start progressing just as a virtue of playing shows live.

You figure out how to work an audience and keep people entertained, or certain things you can do with your voice to make people’s ears pop up and pay attention to you for a second. That is the struggle.

When you are playing a bar to 200 people who would rather hangout with each other than discover new music, you have to learn on the job to get people to notice you. I think anybody in Rock ‘n’ Roll will tell you, you have to go out and play a lot.

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