Tabasco & Sweet Tea

Tabasco & Sweet Tea

The Cadillac Three already released one album in 2020—the freewheeling, rough and rowdy Country Fuzz— but one album wasn't enough for the rule-eschewing country-rock trio. The band explores their funkier side on surprise album Tabasco & Sweet Tea, an 11-track outing that has more in common with Bruno Mars and Chic than it does boots or barstools. Frontman Jaren Johnston's twangy rasp sounds right at home over spacey, syncopated guitar and deep-pocketed grooves, as on standout tracks "Sweet Southern Spirit" and "Turn the Radio On." "I had really started thinking about working on this record and taking a bit more funky, laidback route this time, rather than trying to sit down and write a damn country hit," he tells Apple Music. "I was just kind of trying to explore different things." Lyrically, Johnston and company chronicle late-night smoke sessions and the end of the work week with laidback, good-natured humor, resulting in an album that was likely as fun to make as it is to listen to. Below, Johnston shares insight into the creation of Tabasco & Sweet Tea.
Tabasco & Sweet Tea “I was trying to come up with something that I hadn't heard before, like lyrically, as far as a title. Because you're always trying to find the new 'sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll,' or 'Back in Black,' you know what I mean? And I was like, man, we need to do something like 'Tabasco & Sweet Tea,' two things that are just really bizarre together that you normally wouldn't hear, but could also explain my wife. Because she has her moments of being just as hot and fiery as Tabasco, but then other times she's as sweet as sweet tea."
Stop That Girl "I'm a big Bruno Mars fan. And it's funny, I've seen a lot of my country star friends try to go down that road a little bit in the last couple of years. Thomas Rhett kind of dabbled in it on more of the pop side. Growing up and hearing James Brown, and then seeing that kind of thing come to life again in the last couple of years with what Bruno is doing, I just wanted to incorporate that, less on the pop side and more of the actual soul side."
Head Over Wheels "I was going down an Eagles rabbit hole. Throughout our whole career, I've really tried to write our version of 'Life in the Fast Lane' or 'Those Shoes,' like one of those just badass, classic, timeless things. So that's kind of where that came from, as soon as I had that riff and those lyrics comparing the girl to the car."
Sweet Southern Spirit "A lot of [the album] is made to be jokes and stuff, but there's some really sweet sentiments in there. Like falling in love with a girl who can quote every lyric from 'Free Bird.' That's me jumping down a road that's kind of Hitsville-ish, almost. Like really accessible, but then pulling it back because I want us to keep our cool. So 'Sweet Southern Spirit' was definitely one of those where I'm writing about my girl."
Road Soda "I remember hearing, I don't know, Johnny Paycheck or somebody say that, 'I ain't no chauffeur, but I can keep it in the road.' And so I always thought that was pretty funny, and so I was like, well, what if we tack on 'soda' on the end of that and make this whole song about how you're taking the girl out. And the main point of the whole fucking thing is you don't want to spill your beverage while you're riding in the back of this car. And I mean, that song in particular, that one and 'Devil's Lettuce' are great examples of why it's so fun to be in this band. You can pretty much say whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want, in whichever style you want."
Bridges "Frank Rogers and me and Neil Mason, our drummer, wrote that, and [Rogers] had that title. Then we started talking about a story and how it could be about life and love and all this stuff. And then I was like, 'Well, with a title like 'Bridges,' it's got to be the funkiest shit you've ever heard in your life.' It almost leans into, like, Midnite Vultures, the Beck record when he went that route. That story unfolded really quickly and we had a lot of fun. I think we drank about 15 beers each while we were writing that song."
Devil's Lettuce "I've always been a fan of the movie Dazed and Confused. When I was in high school, that was a huge thing. Believe it or not, that was very similar to me and Kelby [Ray] and Neil's and all our friends at the time, because we all went to high school and grew up together in that little world in the late '90s. I'm a huge Butthole Surfers fan and Cake's one of my favorite bands of all time. And so I think 'Devil's Lettuce' was me jumping down the Cake road. You know, 'Looking at the clock and there's a four and there's a 20'—it's a chronological progression of the night. It's basically a normal night that could have and probably did happen when we were kids. And probably honestly very similar to what happens to these days when we're on the road."
Crispy "I've worked all week and it's time and I've got a $100 bill. You know what I mean? I think it was me and Tyler [Hubbard] and BK [Brian Kelley] from Florida Georgia Line, we were down at our beach houses down in 30A, and we were actually writing at the time. Originally this track was supposed to be on their record, and they didn't end up recording it, so we did. And I remember Tyler, we were ordering lunch or something, and Tyler was like, 'I got it. I got a crispy.' And I was like, 'Holy shit, I don't know what that means, but I love the way that sounds.' It fit so perfectly with the vibe and the funk thing that we were chasing."
Money Ain't Shit "That one was the turning point of the record, where I needed three more songs. I had just gotten a Fender Strat guitar that I really was digging the sounds of and I'd never used before. So that riff kind of came out, and then we had [songwriter] James [McNair] on the bus and he wrote it with us at the beginning of this year. We didn't have a hook for it, but we had all the rest of the song. And I was like, 'Why don't we just say money ain't shit?' And then sure enough, I looked at my phone and I'd had that written down as a title."
Turn the Radio On "We've had some success at country radio, and we have a lot of friends in country radio. It's just it's a hard game for somebody that's not willing to play like they want to play sometimes. And so I think that song just kind of came out of me. I think we'd had a situation the night before, and I didn't really like the way that it went as far as the way a radio person handled something. And so I was like, 'What are we doing? Why are we doing this shit? They're not playing us anyways.' I was irritated about it and wrote a song about it the next day."
Sabbath on Cornbread "We were in the UK. They always asked, 'How would you describe your sound?' or some bullshit question like that. And then the one guy from the back of the room goes, 'Oh no, mate, it's like Sabbath on cornbread, yeah?' And I was like, 'Holy shit, that's brilliant.'"


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