Happy 2008

All the best for a great New Year '08.


Schools voted Top 100 Bass Player

The website TeamSugar.com recently posted their list of the Top 100 Greatest Rock Bassists. The list includes bass players from over 5 decades. Widespread Panic's Dave Schools was rated at number 60.

Schools helped form Widespread Panic when he joined John Bell and Mike Houser in early 1985 as a trio playing various venues around Athens,GA. He has also played bass with Gov't Mule, Stockholm Syndrome as well as other bands throughout the years.

See the entire TeamSugar Top 100 list at http://teamsugar.com/898721.

CNN's New Year Party Features Widespread Panic

CNN's Anderson Cooper will be bringing the party to you this December 31st. New Year's Live with Anderson Cooper, is being called the "biggest party on the planet" and will start at 11 p.m. ET, December 31.

Anderson will be at his usual New Year's Eve post in Times Square with Erica Hill and American Morning's Kiran Chetry along with special guest Kathy Griffin.

Featured musical acts will include Earth, Wind & Fire from Las Vegas, Grammy Nominee Miranda Lambert, and Widespread Panic live from Atlanta.

Also you can catch Widespread Panic live in concert during their New Years Eve show from the Phillips Arena in Atlanta via Sirius Radio. Sirius will broadcast the show on channel 17 Jam On.

Widespread Panic Donates Home For Nola

Actor Brad Pitt's 'Make It Right' project is rebuilding the Lower 9th Ward and the ultimate goal is to build eco-friendly homes throughout New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
Pitt has called on foundations, corporations and wealthy individuals to contribute.

On December 3, the actor announced plans to build 150 eco-friendly homes in the Louisiana city's Lower 9th Ward, an area devastated by Hurricane Katrina. In the storm's aftermath, the community's housing stock was largely demolished, leaving many of its residents living in trailers.

Members of the band Widespread Panic are supporting the project by donating money to help build a home.

You can help in their efforts by visiting the Make It Right website at http://www.makeitrightnola.org/

Anyone can "adopt a house" with donations starting at $150,000 or can donate anything from a Solar Rooftop for $5,000, Landscaping for a particular home for $2,500 or a Tree for $500. The organization will accept any cash donations as well.

Contact Make It Right
PO Box 58009
New Orleans, LA 70158


It's that time of year again. Time to give back and that is what Widespread Panic has done for the past couple of years. This year marks the 3rd annual Tunes For Tots charity concert which will be held at the Roxy Theater in Atlanta on December 29.

Tickets are $125 for the show, with a limited number of $500 VIP tickets which will include a pre-show cocktail party with the band. Tickets for Tunes for Tots can be purchased through Ticketmaster.
All proceeds directly purchase musical equipment for school kids in Georgia.

Birthday Wishes to Dave Schools

Dave Schools, bassist for the
band Widespread Panic, turns 43

David A Schools
December 11, 1964
Richmond, VA

Happy Birthday DAS!


Widespread Panic "Free Somehow"

CD Title: Free Somehow
Release Date: February 12, 2008

Track Listing:
Boom Boom Boom
Walk On The Flood
Angels On High
Three Candles
Tickle The Truth
Free Somehow
Dark Day Program
Her Dance Needs No Body
Already Fried
Up All Night

JB and Friends Annual "Hannah's Buddies" Charity

House of Blues Orlando
Sat, February 09, 2008

tickets on sale 11/26/07
ticket price $39.50

Each year, John Bell invites various musicians to join him in performing at the annual Hannah’s Buddies event.

“There is no better feeling than when you can use your natural talents to help someone,” said Percussionist Jeff “Birddog” Lane of Outformation.

About the Hannah’s Buddies Charity Classic

Hannah Elliott was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy in 1997. Soon after, Hannah’s parents, Laurie and Duncan Elliott, started Hannah’s Buddies in an effort to raise funds to support FightSMA and increase awareness of Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

The Elliotts’ good friends, John Bell of Widespread Panic and his wife, Laura, wanted to do something to help. John agreed to hold an annual benefit concert and golf tournament in support of Hannah’s Buddies. The first benefit was held in 2000, with approximately 100 golfers participating in the event. The event has continued to grow over the years and in January of 2007, over 230 golfers participated in the Hannah’s Buddies Charity Classic.

Interview With Hannah and Esme:

MB's interview with Hannah and Esme took place on Saturday, January 20th,2007 the eve of Hannah’s 11th birthday, at the Orlando House of Blues.

MB: Now I would imagine that this is a pretty exciting time for you, am I right? Is this something you look forward to all year long?

Hannah: Yeah, I look forward to it a lot, partly because I usually get to go to Disney World and it’s just fun. All of the people here are always really nice.

MB: Now is it usually around your birthday every year?

Hannah: Every year except last year. It was in February last year.

MB: This is a pretty great way to celebrate your birthday!

Hannah: Yeah it is!

MB: Now Esme, is this your first time here?

Esme: Yes, this is my first time here but two years ago they invited me to come, but I had to go down to West Palm Beach. It’s really exciting for me to be here. All of the people here are really nice. I have met a lot of really fun people. And the hotel is awesome, so it’s really cool!

MB: That’s great! Now what hotel are you staying at?

Hannah: The Grand Cypress.

MB: That’s very nice over there! Now Hannah, I’m guessing that you are a Widespread Panic fan. Have you ever been to a Widespread Panic show?

Hannah: No, I have not.

MB: Well what other kinds of music are you into.

Hannah: Well, I like pop and not so much country.

MB: Who would you say is your favorite?

Hannah: Hmmm….

MB: Do you like Britney Spears?

Hannah and Esme: NO!

MB: Justin Timberlake?

Hannah and Esme: NO!

Esme: She likes Fergie!

Hannah: Yeah, I do like Fergie!

MB: Ahh, Fergilicious!

Hannah: Yeah.

MB: So do you like the Black Eyed Peas then?

Hannah: Yeah, I love the Black Eyed Peas!

Esme: Beyonce is really good too! I like “Irreplaceable”, umm, sometimes I listen to things like “Ain’t No Other Man” by Christina Aguilera.

MB: She has an amazing voice!

Esme: Have you ever heard of Avril Lavigne?

MB: Absolutely!

Esme: She has some pretty good songs.

MB: Right on!

Hannah: I like Drake Bell. He has really good music and he’s cute! I pretty much like everything that Esme likes.

MB: That’s great! Now what does it mean to you that all of these people get together in your name to help out

Hannah: I think it’s really great. It’s surprising how many people participate and everything. I think usually they’re here for JB, but then I have to think they’re here for me too. And everybody is really nice. Everybody knows me. It’s really good.

MB: You know, you’re kinda famous!

Hannah: Yeah, for the weekend, I turn into some kind of famous person.

MB: Does it drive you crazy, having everyone coming up to you, taking your picture all the time, or do you just love it?

Hannah: Umm, well I like it sometimes, but sometimes it can get old after like picture after picture and stuff like that. Sometimes I kind of have to go like hide away for a while. And then I go back. I mean, I never get all mad or anything like that.

Esme: Today, when we were at the golf tournament, Hannah told me that she’s famous and that sometimes people wanted autographs with her. I was like oh, it can’t be that bad! And then I went there today and everyone was wanting pictures. There was this guy and he walked up to her and was like, “I love you! I love you!”

MB: Oh my!

Esme: Yeah, and Hannah had no idea who this is. I was like, do you know this person? She said, no, not really. So it was really amazing that so many people came to help with SMA. I thought that was really cool.

MB: Yeah, it is very cool. Now how long have you guys been best friends?

Hannah: Since kindergarten.

MB: Wow, a long time!

Hannah: Yeah!

Esme: When we were in kindergarten, we got along pretty well. Well at the start, we kind of like ignored each other, but towards the end, we got to be really good friends. And I’d always help her, like if she wanted her feet up or down, helped her get things. So this whole time in elementary school, they have kept Hannah and I together in every class that we were in. So every year, we knew that we wouldn’t be alone. We would always have each other, so that’s nice.

MB: That is just wonderful!

Hannah: Yeah, after kindergarten, our moms realized that you know, I needed somebody to be there and everything.

Esme: I’m what they call their fourth daughter. (laughs)

Hannah: Yeah!

MB: I bet you need Hannah too, don’t you Esme?

Esme: Yep!

MB: Now what do all of the kids at school think about all of this? Do they know you are here this weekend?

Hannah: No they don’t and I’m a little worried, because this is the first time I have actually taken someone from my class. We really haven’t told our friends yet. One of our friends goes like crazy when we don’t include her in something, so we are a little worried about that.

MB: You know, I bet it will all be ok. Just tell them it was really boring, everyone was wearing a suit and tie….(we all share a laugh)

MB: Now I know when you were first diagnosed with SMA, your mom found out that there was not a lot of research being done and that there wasn’t much awareness out there about SMA.

Hannah: Well more people have come and definitely like, the researchers have found out a lot more. It’s getting closer and closer. That’s why we do this, so they can get to that point where they have a cure.

MB: Now what would you say, if you could send a message out to everyone, about how important it is to get involved in the fight against SMA?

Hannah: It’s not much to ask for. You’re going to have fun, but while you are having fun, you are going to be helping millions of kids.

Amen to that.

What is Spinal Muscular Atrophy?

“Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) refers to a group of diseases which affect the motor neurons of the spinal cord and brain stem. These critically important cells are responsible for supplying electrical and chemical messages to muscle cells. Without the proper input from the motor neurons, muscle cells can not function properly. The muscle cells will, therefore, become much smaller (atrophy) and will produce symptoms of muscle weakness. There are dozens of diseases which affect the motor neuron.

SMA kills more babies than any other genetic disease.

Degeneration and death of the motor neurons (also called Anterior Horn Cells) in the brain stem and spinal cord produces weakness in the muscles of swallowing, breathing, and limbs. This disease afflicts infants, children, and adults worldwide. It is estimated that SMA occurs in between one-in-6,000 and one-in-20,000 births. Recent advances in our understanding of the genetics of this disorder confirm that the majority of children and adults afflicted with SMA, have inherited this disorder by receiving one gene from both their mother and their father. This is termed autosomal recessive genetic transmission. Between one-in-40 and one-in-80 "normal" men and women carry the gene for SMA. If both a man and woman carry the gene, the chances are 25% that any of their children will manifest SMA.” – www.fightsma.org

To learn more about SMA and to find out how you can join in the fight against it, visit www.fightsma.org.

Untypical Widespread Excitement

In a recent forum discussion Terry Manning, the producer for Widespread Panic's unreleased new album, said that "Several of the songs are just "band live" with no added accoutrement, whereas a couple go all the way to full orchestra backed wild guitar leads."

He also wrote that
the album mixes have all been approved and that he intended on doing the final mastering very soon. As far as a title for the new album, it appears that is still undecided and no news as far as a release date for the record except that it's slated for Spring 2008.

The single from the album, Up All Night, which was released last month has been receiving a fair amount of radio play
predominately in the southern States. Manning said that the single was not intended as a single however " the band management decided that this one track had the most radio-friendly vibe to it. This track is reasonably short, reasonably up-tempo, reasonably "catchy," and has a recurring theme."

Widespread Panic is not known for their album sales or studio releases. They've achieved, for the most part, their devout fan base through constant touring. In the past Panic has worked on and performed new songs during their live shows before heading into the studio leaving little for fans to anticipate.

It seems as though keeping things secret has created a special kind of excitement that the Widespread Panic fans don't normally have with new studio releases and this departure from the typical has produced anticipation in fans now looking forward to the new release.

We can't wait!

Drug Arrests at Widepsread Panic Halloween Show

from the Asheville Citizen-Times

ASHEVILLE – City police filed 20 drug-related charges from the October 31st Widespread Panic show at the Civic Center.

The charges are broken down as follows:

-Five for schedule I controlled substances, which includes LSD and psilocybin mushrooms.

-Three for schedule II controlled substances, which includes cocaine.

-Seven for schedule VI controlled substances, which includes marijuana.

-Two maintaining a vehicle to store drugs and three possession of drug paraphernalia charges were filed. Two resisting officer charges also were filed.

Police seized 340 hits of LSD; 26 dosage units of ecstasy; 7.5 grams of psilocybin mushrooms, along with a chocolate cookie and brownie laced with mushrooms; 1.8 grams of schedule II controlled substances; 19.9 grams of schedule VI controlled substances; 25 glass smoking pipes; one package of rolling papers; 10 inhalers and one Honda Accord.

Channel 13 News in Asheville caught up with John Bell and delivered this video report on Widespread Panic's Halloween show.....Click here to view


Happy Birthday Todd

Widespread Panic drummer Todd Nance turns 45.
Happy Birthday Todd and many more!

Todd Nance - November 20, 1962

Widespread Panic Fall Tour Dates - Thanks for the Great Shows


FALL 2007
Sep. 21, 2007 Memphis, TN
Sep. 22, 2007 Memphis, TN
Sep. 27, 2007 Oakland, CA
Sep. 28, 2007 Oakland, CA
Sep. 29, 2007 Oakland, CA
Oct. 02, 2007 Portland, OR
Oct. 03, 2007 Eugene, OR
Oct. 05, 2007 Seattle, WA
Oct. 06, 2007 Seattle, WA
Oct. 08, 2007 Nampa, ID
Oct. 09, 2007 Missoula, MT
Oct. 11, 2007 Ogden, UT
Oct. 12, 2007 Loveland, CO
Oct. 13, 2007 Loveland, CO
Oct. 16, 2007 St. Louis, MO
Oct. 17, 2007 Ames, IA
Oct. 19, 2007 Milwaukee, WI
Oct. 20, 2007 Milwaukee, WI
Oct. 21, 2007 Indianapolis, IN
Oct. 24, 2007 Nashville, TN
Oct. 25, 2007 Nashville, TN
Oct. 26, 2007 Nashville, TN
Oct. 27, 2007 Macon, GA
Oct. 30, 2007 Chattanooga, TN
Oct. 31, 2007 Asheville, NC
Nov. 02, 2007 Charleston, SC
Nov. 03, 2007 Charleston, SC
Nov. 04, 2007 Jacksonville, FL
Nov. 06, 2007 Miami Beach, FL
Nov. 07, 2007 Tampa, FL
Nov. 09, 2007 Birmingham, AL
Nov. 10, 2007 Birmingham, AL


Song: “Let’s Get The Show On The Road”
Artist: The Michael Stanley Band
Album: Friends & Legends

Even if he’s not really known outside the city limits, Michael Stanley is a bit of a legend in JB's hometown of Cleveland. Had he ever become huge, Stanley would have been Cleveland’s equivalent of Bob Seger. More people probably know this song as a Widespread Panic song as they are prone to covering it in their encore.

Todd and Sunny Chattanooga Interview

The Heartbeat of Widespread Panic
by Fil Manley (filmanley@gmail.com) for The Chattanoogan

The Oct. 30 show here in Chattanooga, was excellent. This is the first indoor show I’ve seen with Panic since 1996 when I saw them with Michael Houser at the UTC Arena. The place wasn’t sold out, but it wasn’t far from it.

Every member of this band does his job with skill and dexterity and, having now seen guitarist Jimmy Herring with the band twice, I have to say that he was a great choice. His guitar skills are explicit. Listening a second time now to the recorded version of the same show, I’m even more impressed. His melodic and resonant leads play well against Todd Nance’s drums, Sonny's percussion, JoJo Hermann's Hammond organ, David School's bass and John Bell’s vocals and guitars, all without being overdone. In addition to musical virtuosity, I was impressed with the quality of the vocal harmonies they manage to pull off.

Embracing technology, encouraging fan loyalty and helping fans to become closer to the band through nearly year-round touring has served this band well. Everything about them speaks to the tightly woven interoperability that can only come from years of not only playing together, but getting a lot of joy from the process.

I interviewed both Todd Nance, the drummer and percussionist Domingo “Sonny” Ortiz, prior to their show here in Chattanooga.

1Fil Manley: I understand that you’re from Chattanooga…?

Todd Nance: I went to Harrison Central High

Fil Manley: So you were one of the original members?

Todd Nance: No, Mike brought me in about a year after the band was officially started. He and I were friends and had been playing together locally for a while. He invited me to Athens and things just seemed to work out.

Fil Manley: I know that you’ve talked about this a thousand times, but how did his passing affect you and the rest of the band?

Todd Nance: It was tough, I mean the whole thing. We knew it was coming, so we were kind of prepared for it, but we just kind of played right through the whole thing. A lot of people thought it was wrong, but it’s what Mike wanted. He knew what he was up against, we all did. After he died, we didn’t really talk about it for a while. It took a long time for us to all kind of come to terms with it in our own ways.

Fil Manley: How was playing in a band like this different from what you had done before? What was it like playing with a full time percussionist?

Todd Nance: Sonny is great, I mean, we’ve been playing together now since 86. It was a little strange at first, but the main thing about getting used to it is just learning to delegate, to listen, maybe. You really have to just listen to each other. After a while, you become more of a single entity.

Fil Manley: And the new guitarist? Jimmy?

Todd Nance: Yeah, he’s a breath of fresh air. It’s a joy to play with him. I’ve liked him since he was doing Horde.

Fil Manley: So, you guys have a new album in the hopper?

Todd Nance: Yeah, we spent 12 weeks, with Terry Manning, at Compass Point Bahamas. They’re mixing the album now. It took two weeks to record it, and there will probably be 12 songs in all. It should be out early next year.

Fil Manley: Is there anything we should know? Is there something completely different about this one?

Todd Nance: Well, it’s always evolving, but at the same time, it’s pretty much always Widespread Panic.

Fil Manley: So, do you have a favorite song or album?

Todd Nance: (laughs) The next one, that’s always my favorite song… my favorite album, is probably “Til the Medicine Takes.”

Fil Manley: Why that one?

Todd Nance: I’m not sure, it’s just is.

I caught Sonny Ortiz a few days later, somewhere out in the ether, midway through their current tour.

Fil Manley: Hey Sonny, thanks for the interview. Todd has family here in town, and I know that Mike was from here also. Does this make things different when you guys play Chattanooga?

Sonny Ortiz: Yes, we used to all room together, and when we’re in town, they treat all the boys like family. When we have days off, we sometimes spend time at the lake house.

Fil Manley: What’s touring like for you?

Sonny Ortiz: We spend an average of nine weeks on, then we’re off for six or eight weeks, usually doing the fall, summer and spring. We tour nine months out of the year, or 180 days per year.

Fil Manley: So, you’ve been with the band almost since the beginning?

Sonny Ortiz: This past Saturday, Oct. the 6th, was my 21st year with the band. Back then, I was hanging out at the Uptown Lounge. They asked me to sit in, and it turned into a regular thing. Mike and J.B. were together since 1980, doing acoustic duo shows, just the two of them in Athens. Then they decided to bring in a bassist and drummer. I was next to hop on in 86, but I didn’t start full time with the band until the Space Wrangler album, in 1988.

Fil Manley: What were you doing before that?

Sonny Ortiz: I was out in Austin Tex., and the music there had a big influence on me. It was Reggae, Latin, Country & Western, Rock and Roll. What was interesting to me about these guys was the music. There weren’t any boundaries. It was open, it was refreshing, especially with the kind of music that was coming out of Athens in the 80’s. There were the B-52’s and REM kind of hitting, they were doing something different. Even with all of that, and still today in 2007, and probably for the next 20 years, that good is something we’re still trying to incorporate into this band.

Fil Manley: So your enthusiasm hasn’t waned, even after all this time?

Sonny Ortiz: Even when we’re out there nine weeks at a time, even when we do the last show of the tour, like, the last show of the summer tour was in Birmingham. I remember walking off the stage, on the last show, when we took our (set) break, and kind of feeling like, I want some more, where’s the next show? It’s the end of the tour, but that’s it, the guys, the tour feeling so important to us, and being ready to go to another show.

Fil Manley: So that’s what keeps all of you going?

Sonny Ortiz: It’s a genuine feeling, I’m not yanking your chain. I’m just telling you how I feel. I think this is what motivates us, and the fans, as members here and as part of this whole thing.

Fil Manley: Could you tell me a little more about your song writing process?

Sonny Ortiz: That’s easy, we share everything. We lock ourselves in a room for a while, and someone will come up with an idea, and we’ll talk about it a little bit, then we’ll experiment with it and kind of knock it around. Someone will add something to it, and it will just kind of turn into something, or not. It’s a creative thing which doesn’t seem to end.

Fil Manley: So you guys work on everything together, share credit on everything?

Sonny Ortiz: Yes, that’s the way it is generally. I mean it’s like, the Beatles. I’m not comparing us to them, I mean, I love the Beatles and I’ve always been a fan, but when they were together, when they were writing together, they had that magic, that something, but when they split up, it turned into something completely different. Their music, the music they made as a group was just a certain kind of thing, which people really related to, but on their own, it was really different.

Fil Manley: That’s my quote…

Sonny Ortiz: I’m going to make the Beatles fans mad.

Fil Manley: (Laughs) I don’t think you said anything bad, or anything that most people wouldn’t agree with. I’m a huge Beatles fan. I’ve been listening to them since I was a kid, but in my own opinion, the Beatles in their solo careers, well, they just weren’t the Beatles. It wasn’t the same.

Sonny: Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. There’s something about our group feeling, the chemistry, that pulls out the creativity, and helps us to do more, create something we couldn’t do alone.


Halloween Brings Widespread Panic

Widespread Panic hit Asheville, NC
on October 31 for their highly-anticipated
Halloween show at the Civic Center.
Thousands of fans, ghouls and goblins
showed up for the sold-out performance.

The eerie stage glowed with firey skulls,
trident-laden devils and molten rocks
released from the bloody bowels of Hell.

The unsuspecting audience suddenly
yelled and screamed as they crossed-over
into the abode of the dead as Lucifer himself
took the stage.

Bone pale fingers played the
instruments of evil and celebrated
the night as the costumed souls
danced in merriment.

Mortals eager to please the Hell-troops
presented ritual offerings and sacrificial animals
like the rare Red Elmo.
Elmo took on the the Devil's lexicon
and sang of evil dreams and children of the night.

Set 1
Welcome To My Nightmare >Chilly Water, Ribs and Whiskey
All Time Low >Hatfield >Machine >Barstools and Dreamers, Tickle The Truth, Johnny Appleseed >Ain't Life Grand

Set 2
Enter Sandman >Fishwater >Bust It Big >Jack
Slip Kid >Drums >Driving Song >Time Is Free >Driving Song Pilgrims >Imitation Leather Shoes


Bright Side of Life > Children of the Grave

Sunny Ortiz Discusses New Widespread Panic Album

North Charleston Coliseum set for two nights of 'Panic'
BY KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT For the Charleston Post and Courier

"There's no definition in music," or so says Widespread Panic percussionist Domingo "Sunny" Ortiz.

It's been 21 years and counting for the band. If one thing holds true for a band that never has been inclined to repeat itself, it's that longtime fans have come to expect the unexpected. It may sound like a cliche, but the sentiment rings true.

Having played more than 2,500 shows around the world since forming in 1986, not many other bands — if any — can lay claim to having never played the same setlist twice.

Nor has the group ever attempted to record a carbon copy of any one album.

And, by the way, they've made an awful lot of records, as well.

A long musical history

"We have the attitude that this album is going to sound different than the project before, and the one before that," Ortiz said. "We've never depended on anyone to tell us how to sequence an album or what it should sound like."

Despite their already immense catalog of material, the members of Widespread Panic — Ortiz, John Bell, Dave Schools, Todd Nance, Jojo Hermann and relative newcomer Jimmy Herring — have been "revitalized" by the writing process.

"Writing is still crucial," explained Ortiz. "We've been writing with an open mind. Everybody has been bringing in ideas, and we listen to them all. It's about everybody being together."

Widespread Panic's origins can be traced back to 1981, when Bell and Michael "Panic" Houser, whom the band is named for, began playing together when they were students at the University of Georgia.

Houser, who played guitar, quickly added Schools (bass) and Nance (drums) to the fold before eventually recruiting Hermann (keyboards) and Ortiz (percussion) in 1986.

Within two years, Widespread Panic released its first album, "Space Wrangler," and never lost pace, having released a succession of albums, the 16th of which is due next spring.

Revered by fellow players for their stellar musicianship, heralded by critics as innovative and loved by a loyal legion of fans, Widespread Panic has sold more than 3 million units worldwide.

All their success, however, hasn't come without sadness.

On Aug. 10, 2002, perhaps the most important date in the band's history, Houser died after losing his battle with pancreatic cancer.

"When Mikey was with us, we had an identity that no one else could compare or compete with us," said Ortiz.

True to Houser's wishes, the band never canceled a show and trudged forward. Initially, they called on longtime friend Herring to step in, but the guitarist already was playing with The Allman Brothers Band.

"That relationship started in the late '80s," Ortiz said. "He was one of the guys whose name had come up, but he was busy and was already committed, so we went with (George) McConnell.

"You go with the flow and make changes appropriately."

McConnell joined the band, spent a few years on the road and helped record "Earth to America." When the union between McConnell and the band no longer fit, the guys again called on Herring, who joined in time to tour with the band in the summer of 2006.

"He was in a position where he could say, 'yes,' " said Ortiz, who described Herring as a "studious" musician. "It's something he always wanted to do, but he wasn't ever going to undercut anybody. He's a sweetheart of a guy and breath of fresh air."

Brotherhood of Panic

With Herring firmly in the fold and the others comparing the band's newfound chemistry to that of the Houser era, Widespread Panic is reinvigorated. More importantly, the band is doing what it did more than 20 years ago.

"It's not so much us — it's the fans," Ortiz said. "We wouldn't be out here without our fan base. ... We don't survive on record sales. We're all about touring."

After years of relentless touring, Widespread Panic has developed into one of the biggest bands, as far as ticket sales, on the road today.

The band has sold out venues across the country, ranging from New York's Madison Square Garden to Colorado's Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre (where they hold the record for the most sold-out shows).

They kicked off this year's summer tour playing their sixth headlining slot at Bonnaroo, a festival that has grown to draw more than 90,000 fans.

In the midst of the fall portion of its schedule, the band treks its way to Charleston for two nights at the North Charleston Coliseum.

"Charleston is a super community, and we are appreciative of all the support," Ortiz said. "I remember playing Music Farm in our early years. I even remember playing on a dock once.

"The tour is like our sets — it's always different. This tour surpasses any other. We've coupled new songs here and there, so this is the most exciting it's been in a year or so."

"You have to establish a good working relationship with everyone around you," he continued. "We're all like brothers out here. That's the working end of it. Personally, it's kind of like a marriage."

The question remains: How much longer? How many more years can they or will they continue?

"We can say whatever we want to, but you don't know what's really going to happen," said the percussionist. "So, yeah, why not say another 25 years, but if something were to happen, we'd have to re-evaluate things."

Widespread Panic plans fall CD release

Slowly but surely details of a much-anticipated album from Widespread Panic are seemingly becoming clearer as the CD's eventual release draws closer.

The band originally hoped to release the album by year's end. The date, however, was pushed back to spring 2008, and earlier this month the group instead released its first single, "Up All Night," from the as-of-yet untitled project.

In the meantime, the band has agreed on a "working title" for the album. They're just not saying what it is at this time.

"We made a decision last night," said Domingo "Sunny" Ortiz, following the third of three sold-out nights in Nashville at the historic Ryman Auditorium. The band met with management beforehand and made the decision. "I think we've got one (an album name) pinned down."

Ortiz wouldn't elaborate and, in fact, only became more ambiguous with his comments.

"They gave us a deadline and said you need a title," said Ortiz, when the discussion continued. "I think we have one that we all agree on — the wheels are in motion.

"I just can't say anything. We're going to wait until the official press release comes out."

Recorded earlier this year, the album was produced and mastered by Terry Manning (Led Zeppelin, Lenny Kravitz) and will be the first release with the band's new guitarist, Jimmy Herring (The Allman Brothers Band), who began playing with the band last year.

As fans await further details on the new Widespread effort, the 10th studio album of the group's career, the single is available for free download at www.widespreadpanic.com.

Dave Schools: Ryman Auditorium Interview

Lt. Dan of 100.1FM WRLT in Nashville and The Kynd Veggie Show had the opportunity to interview Dave Schools backstage at the Ryman Theater before Widespread Panic took the stage there on Friday.

Dave discusses vinyl records, the music business and working with Jimmy Herring and Terry Manning.

You can stream the interview HERE.

corrections made 10/29

Widespread Panic Ready to Spook Asheville

Widespread Panic is back for Halloween gig
by Jedd Ferris, for Take 5 Music Online

Widespread Panic has always been good for a night of rowdy improvisational roots rock. But on Halloween, the Southern jam kings let it all hang out. The six-man, Georgia-based outfit has built a massive loyal following after more than two decades of hard touring, keeping fans on their toes with ever-changing set lists from a deep catalog of original material.

The band’s annual Halloween show has become a special event in Panic lore, as past gigs have been filled with elaborate stage themes and unexpected covers from the Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated” to The Doors’ “People Are Strange” to Nelly’s “Hot in Herre.” In the past, the Halloween show has been held in the more reputably decadent environments of Las Vegas, New York City and New Orleans, but this year the celebration comes to Asheville on Wednesday night at the Civic Center Arena .

Halloween '05

In the past year Panic has found a new stride, thanks to the addition of Jimmy Herring on lead guitar. Herring—who joins founding members John Bell on lead vocals and guitar, John “JoJo” Hermann on keyboards, Dave Schools on bass, Todd Nance on drums and Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz on percussion—has done time in the Allman Brothers Band and the Dead and has enhanced the group’s signature tunes with rapid fire runs and skillful touches of Southern psychedelia. Herring is band’s third lead guitarist. Founding member Michael Houser passed away after a battle with cancer in 2002. His spot was filled by George McConnell of the Kudzu Kings until 2006.

Ahead of the big show Bell took some questions from the road.

Question: How has Jimmy Herring helped reinvigorate the group?

Answer: He is a great player, and just as importantly, he’s fun to be around. He fits into our dynamic and adds to it in a positive way. That’s crucial when you’re out there doing over 100 shows a year. He has a lot of great song ideas.

Q: You guys just finished recording with producer Terry Manning (Led Zeppelin, Lenny Kravitz and ZZ Top). What can you tell me about the new album?

A: It will be out in late winter or early spring next year. When we make a record, everyone is encouraged to put their two cents in. We had 25 partially baked ideas after doing some pre-production, and we brought it down to 12 tunes. They’re like a family with different kids. They all fit together with some similarities, but they’re all individuals. What we came up with is an honest reflection of where we are as songwriters, not just throwing it through a computerized meat grinder and coming up with something commercial.

Q: This was the second disc done with Manning. What do you like about working with him at his Compass Point recording studio in the Bahamas?

A: We trust Terry a lot with his wizardry. It’s good to get away from our hometown atmosphere, where everyone can be distracted. Removing ourselves and getting down there to work has had a positive effect. When we’re in the Bahamas, you’d think we’d be at the beach, but we’re in the studio 12 hours a day storming the castle. Next time we’ll take a day off and go fishing.

Q: This is your second show in Asheville this year. Why did you decide to bring this special Halloween show here to town?

A: For Widespread Panic, Halloween is a major holiday, so we like it to be someplace special. Asheville has grown on us over the years. We could tell that’s where the good vibe was going to be. We keep secret what we’re going to do. I don’t even tell the boys what I’m going to wear before the show. It’s the one time we get to play make-believe and do a lot of tunes that we wouldn’t normally play.

Q: You’ve played here 12 times since 1988. Do you have a favorite Asheville memory?

A: Playing at the Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam a few years ago was really heavy. There were some great players there, and I got to play with Sam Bush and John Cowan. It’s such a fun event for a great cause.

Q: What does Panic listen to in the tour bus?

A: Dave and Jimmy just turned me on to Jeff Buckley. His album “Grace” just blows me away, from the lyrics and vocals to the production to the overall mood. It’s a very heavy record. We also watch a lot of comedy. We just watched Patton Oswalt do a hilarious 2 1/2-hour ramble. Comedians are so performance-based. It seems a lot more live than some of the music you can expose yourself to. It’s raw nerve.

Q: Since you and Michael Houser were the original foundation of this group, did you have any reservations about continuing after he passed?

A: I considered the options and immediately realized it was never going to be the same. I think we did the right thing by sticking it out and continuing to play. But there’s still a healing process going on. We wrote so many fun songs together that I didn’t want to lock up the kid’s bedroom and never go in there again. I wanted to keep as much of the experience and relationship alive as I could. I don’t regret it at all.

Q: A lot of the grass-roots bands that Widespread came up with have called it quits. Why have you guys continued so strongly over the years?

A: You’ve got to do your best to stay open and make the right decisions along the way. A lot of it stems from recognizing each individual’s talents and forgiving each other when a lacking shows up. It’s a human thing going down. We don’t have a formula. We just go at things with the best intentions and have respect for each other. Outside of that it’s just keeping the creative juices flowing and writing songs together.

Widespread Panic Fans Hit Rock Bottom

pics by sydhartha

By Jeff Sherman
for OnMilwaukee.com

Widespread Panic, the Athens-based jam band, came to town this weekend for two shows at the Riverside Theater.

Of course, this also meant that their fans, many who travel from concert to concert, much like the die-hards who for years followed the Grateful Dead and Phish, also set up shop Downtown.

In the Rock Bottom parking lot, hours before the Friday show, concert goers (looking like hearty campers and tailgaters) from across the country started setting up. Dogs, people, vans, vendors and music filled the area all day and night.

Fans take over the
Rock Bottom Brewery parking lot

From Indiana, Alabama, Nevada and other states, fans filled the lot near the Riverwalk at Plankinton and Wells Sts.

One fan, Mike, from Las Vegas follows the band from show to show. He wholesales stereo equipment on side, but like many Panic fans uses the pre-show tailgates to support his concert habits. For Mike, this means selling pizza along with his friend Christopher who called himself the "general manager" for the pizza business.

Other fans sell hats, tee shirts, stickers, photos, grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, bracelets, books and other items. It's a community and a family that loves the band and the lifestyle. And when we say family, we mean family as many of the fans travel with dogs and their young children.

With a near perfect weekend of weather, the loyal fans loved Milwaukee. "The churches, the architecture, the development and Mo's," said one fan when asked about Milwaukee.

The band moves on to Indianapolis Sunday. Many of the fans, who paid $8/day to park in the lot, will follow the band immediately after Saturday night's 8 p.m. show.

Milwaukee, WI

John Bell Interview from Daily Times-Call

Enduring Panic
John Bell talks about Widespread Panic’s upcoming album, touring and the band’s longevity

By The Ear
The Daily Times-Call

LOVELAND — Long a Colorado favorite, Widespread Panic plays two sold-out shows at the Budweiser Events Center this weekend. This is the first ever back-to-back sellout for a rock band at the venue. The band’s annual three-day pilgrimage to Red Rocks attracts fans from all over the country.

Often compared to the Grateful Dead and Phish because of the three-hour shows and extended jams, Widespread Panic has crafted its own place in rock ’n’ roll. Its music resonates with Southern rock and country-western influences, but with its own stamp.

Among the many challenges this Athens, Ga., -based band has overcome was the death of founding member and lead guitarist Michael Houser in 2002 of pancreatic cancer. Following Houser’s wishes, the band never missed a show. Now, it is fresh out of the studio with its yet-unnamed 11th CD, due for release later this year, and ready to get back on the road.

The Ear chatted with the band’s frontman, vocalist/guitarist John Bell, on the eve of Widespread Panic’s fall tour.

THE EAR: Things are going well for Widespread Panic right now. Your shows are selling out from coast to coast, multiple Red Rocks shows sell out in 10 minutes, and the band has an excellent catalog of CDs. Did you ever think the band would have this level of success?

BELL: When we started out about 21 or 22 years ago, you just kind of hope while you’re having fun. And if things grow, that’s great, and if not, at least you had the experience. Right now, we’re still in the middle of it, inside looking out.

If you apply the word “successful” to us, we would define it as still being creatively viable while having fun. We’re very grateful that all that stuff is still happening.

THE EAR: Widespread Panic is about to start its fall tour. Are you looking forward to going back out on the road?

BELL: Yeah, a little bit. I get more excited when I’m out there in the thick of it. Right now, there’s that leaving-home thing that’s kind of a drag.

THE EAR: Did you take a vacation or did you work after the summer tour?

BELL: Mostly, I spent the time off doing the things you need to do to get caught up on the home front. We took a little time for ourselves. My wife and I and some of the guys from the crew and their wives piled into the car and went to the beach for a while. It was fun.

THE EAR: Widespread Panic tours are often 16 weeks or more. Is it hard to be away from home so much?

BELL: It kind of tugs at you a little bit, but it’s been part of the package for a long time now.

THE EAR: How do you account for having such a loyal fan base?

BELL: You’ll have to ask them about that (laughing). I can only say that we are real lucky to still be doing what we are doing. We’re lucky the folks keep coming out, we’re lucky to have the venues to play in, and lucky the system is in place for this thing we do to keep happening.

THE EAR: How is the new CD coming? Are you enjoying working in the studio with Jimmy Herring (The Allman Brothers, The Dead)?

BELL: We finished it! It was great working with Jimmy; he had a lot of great ideas. He fell into our unusual songwriting process very easily.

THE EAR: How does the songwriting for Widespread Panic come about? Is it collaboration, or do the individual members bring songs to the band?

BELL: This time, it was pretty hip. We had a session with Terry Manning (famed producer for Led Zeppelin, Al Green and ZZ Top) in the Bahamas for about a week, and everybody brought their ideas together. We put them in a big pile and started chipping away from there. We zeroed in on what felt good to everybody and went where inspiration led us. You are trying to get to that place where the music is at a magical level, where the music is playing itself. That’s when I’m the happiest.

And that magic is never a given; you can’t make it happen. If you try to make it happen, that can put the kibosh on it real quick.

THE EAR: Who are your musical influences? What are your favorite albums or CDs?

BELL: At home, I listen to the whole Van Morrison catalog. I always have my ear peeled for new Van Morrison stuff that comes out. He’s so prolific; he puts out a new album every six months so. I feel lucky to get to be a fan and not be picking his songs apart for song structure, a pitfall that comes with being a musician.

I’ve never seen Van Morrison live, but at the end of our last tour, we missed him by one day when he played Atlanta. If it had been a day earlier, I’d have been there.

THE EAR: Can I ask you about Michael Houser’s passing away? The band didn’t cancel any shows or take a break for more than a year. How did you have the strength to do that?

BELL: Oh, you know, maybe a little feeling of responsibility. There’s a whole machine going with a lot of people who are employed and benefit from the business side of Widespread Panic. Also, playing music for our own heads and hearts was very therapeutic. And there was probably a little dash of denial in there. It helped us from getting too wigged out about his death. It was what it was, and now it’s part of the whole story.

THE EAR: Did you enjoy the hiatus (the band took its first-ever extended break in 2004-05)? Will you be doing that again? Do you think it adds the longevity of the band to take that much time off?

BELL: Yeah, I enjoyed it while I was doing it. It was the first time we had taken an extended break, and I had to reset my gears. My autopilot system had been dismantled after taking 14 months off.

We’d do it again. It was a gas to be able to just sit there writing songs and doing other things. It helps you appreciate the rock ’n’ roll experience that much more. And it allows you to do other things that will, hopefully, complement the way you apply yourself and make you more rounded.

THE EAR: I know you are into Major League Baseball and playing golf. Does that help keep you relaxed when you are on tour?

BELL: Yeah, it was like I was saying about other things that add to the experience, that add a little spice. With both of those games, you’re out in nature, and in both games, you don’t know what’s going to happen from the first pitch or the first golf ball you hit. The turn of events (isn’t) choreographed, and that’s kind of the same with us. I like seeing that parallel in a non-musical experience.

New Panic Single plus New Years Shows



Going To Radio and Available for Free Download on October 15

Band Continues Fall Tour and add New Year’s Dates, December 30th & 31st at Philips Arena, Atlanta GA

Widespread Panic is excited to announce the release of their New single "Up All Night'" and their annual New Years shows at Philips Arena in Atlanta. You can listen to the new single Now on the Panic Audio Player and on October 15th, the first day of New Years Mail order, you can download the single for free to take with you.

The band’s intention is to offer the track free for download on all music sites permitting, with no strings attached. The song will be available to download free of charge starting October 15th www.widespreadpanic.com. The single will offer a sneak preview of Panic’s 10th studio album slated for full release in Spring 2008 on Widespread Records.

Recorded earlier this year, the yet to be titled CD was produced and mastered by Terry Manning (Led Zeppelin, Lenny Kravitz, ZZ Top, and Al Green) at his Compass Point recording studio in the Bahamas, Nassau. This will be the first release with the band’s new guitarist, the legendary Jimmy Herring, who began playing with the band in Fall 06.

Herring has played with such luminaries as The Allman Brothers Band, The Dead, Phil Lesh and Friends and the Aquarium Rescue Unit.

Currently in the midst of their fall tour, Panic’s infamous Halloween show will take place in Asheville, NC for the first time. Halloween is inevitably one of most anticipated shows of the year as the band is known for their outrageous stage productions and costumes. This year is no exception with the show selling out 8,000 capacity Civic Centre in just minutes. Past Halloween shows have included themes such as Mars Attacks, where a space ship crash landed onto the stage, and a Mardi Gras themed Bourbon Street.

The annual end of year Tunes for Tots benefit show and New Year’s Eve dates will also be announced shortly.

New Widespread Panic Single Coming Soon

From the control room at Compass Point

According to Terry Manning, Widespread Panic will be releasing a single on October 15.

Wed, 10 October Manning wrote:
For any who have been following this thread, there will be a single released next Monday, Oct. 15.

The song is "Up All Night." It originated from Jojo, and then received further band input. Background vocals are sung by the same three person group that backed Al Green on all of his great soul hits, and a horn section (part of which played on the Wilson Pickett classics) honks throughout.

And it can now be told that Panic's contract with Sanctuary was up with the last album, and they have decided not to go with a major label for this new one. Their own label, Widespread Records, will be handling things directly with the consumer. A subcontracted indy distributor will ensure hard product gets into appropriate stores (any stores that are left) and one stops.

By the way, all of this happened well in advance of the recent "Radiohead" news and resultant threads, so this is not a "copycat" scenario.

The new single will be available free for download in an mp3 format from various sites.

iTunes will be carrying it, but so far Apple have not allowed the band to give it away through the iTunes site, so there (for now at least) will be a 99¢ charge for the AAC.

Radio receive the track tomorrow.

As for the rest of the album, we have been experimenting with a few other little overdubs, but things are almost finished now.

Thanks again to all for your interest.
Earlier, Manning talked about the upcoming album and said:
I think the fans, as well as the general public, will be quite surprised by this album. It is something that few groups today can, or could make, both from the musical sense, as well as the ability to spend the time and money necessary to achieve the results.

We have songs in 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 6/4, 7/4, and other tempos I'm not sure I can quantify. We have acoustic instruments, electric instruments, synthesised instruments, antique instruments, you name it.

We have very hard rock. We have very quiet rock. We have symphonic rock. We have almost-approaching country, and jazz, and vaudeville.

We have:

Electric guitar
Acoustic guitar
12 string guitar
Mando guitar
Hammond organ
Wurlitzer electric piano
Rhodes electric piano
Orchestral tympani drum
Protein powder can lids
...lots more percussion instruments...
Baritone Saxophone
Tenor Saxophone
Alto Saxophone
Soprano Saxophone
French Horn
Double Bass
Lead vocals
Male backing vocals
Female backing vocals
..and lots more on this album.

We all look forward to the new album coming later this year.


Journeyman guitarist finds peace with Widespread Panic

By Michael Deeds / mdeeds@idahostatesman.com / for IdahoStatesman.com

Jimmy Herring finally finds home with old friends

When the Allman Brothers Band was looking for a top-notch guitarist to fill the formidable boots of Dickey Betts?

Jimmy Herring got the call.

When The Dead needed a musician brave — and nuts — enough to take over Jerry Garcia's former role and, as the New York Times pointed out, "go in front of 20,000 fans and play music that they probably know better than you do"?

Herring was the man.

Like a hired gunslinger with a lifetime silver-bullet supply, the 45-year-old musician — who's also played lead guitar for The Other Ones and Phil Lesh & Friends — has made a career of replacing the seemingly irreplaceable. But he never stays too long. The next challenge is always too great to resist.

"It's so weird, man," Herring says, phoning from the road with his latest musical pit stop, Widespread Panic. "In my entire musical life, I've never looked for a gig. And I've been very blessed. These things just keep falling on my doorstep."

Bearing this in mind, would it not be wise for fans of Panic to avoid falling in love with Herring's incredible playing? Won't Herring eventually just leave them at the altar for a younger, more attractive band?

"No," Herring says, sounding content and relieved. "I think I'm done."

That long-term commitment is huge news for Panic fans, aka Spreadheads. The

Athens, Ga.-based band — which plays Monday, Oct. 8, at the Idaho Center — has earned a diehard following during its 20-plus-year career. For the past eight years, Panic has ranked among the top 50 grossing touring acts.

But the lead-guitar role has been difficult for Panic, known for a combination of Southern-fried rock and jam-band improvisation. Tragically, founding member and lead guitarist Michael Houser died of pancreatic cancer in 2002. His replacement, guitarist George McConnell, left the band last year.

When Panic phoned Herring, he was not about to refuse.

An expert player with a background in Southern rock and jazz fusion, Herring might still be playing bars in Atlanta if not for Houser, singer-guitarist John Bell, bassist Dave Schools, drummer Todd Nance, percussionist Domingo Ortiz and keyboardist John Hermann.

Herring was a struggling local musician when Panic walked into a bar he was playing in early 1989. Herring had a one-night-a-week-gig with a gleefully inaccessible act called the Aquarium Rescue Unit, a band led by the irreverent frontman Col. Bruce Hampton. Herring describes the group as "a sort of a free jazz group in rock 'n' roll clothing."

"It was one of those 99-cent beer nights or something like that," Herring remembers. "These guys come in, and we didn't really know them at all."

It was the members of Widespread Panic, who were blown away by what they heard. They invited Aquarium Rescue Unit to open for them for three sold-out nights in Atlanta. Then they took Aquarium Rescue Unit on tour.

"They believed in us, man. They were so cool," Herring says. "They brought us into their family, basically."

Aquarium Rescue Unit soon met and played with Phish, Blues Traveler and the Dave Matthews Band, "and it was all because of (Widespread Panic)," Herring says. "So when they called me (last year) and needed my help, I was like, absolutely."

Nobody mentioned this until years later ("That's the kind of people they are," he gushes), but Panic even prevented promoters from kicking Aquarium Rescue Unit off the first touring H.O.R.D.E. festival in 1992.

"The promoters didn't like Aquarium Rescue Unit. It's not hard to understand," Herring adds, laughing. "We weren't really what you call a big draw. But the musicians, for some reason, liked us."

Friendly and devastatingly talented, Herring soon became a sought-after musician. A graduate of the Guitar Institute of Technology in Hollywood, Calif., Herring is capable of slashing, jaw-dropping licks. But feeling also plays a large role in his musical vocabulary.

Feeling also is a big part of his life. It's the reason he lasted just seven months with the Allman Brothers Band, which had fired Betts.

"I never would have imagined myself being a guy that comes into bands that retired icons as a replacement," Herring says. "And it's a tough spot to walk into. You walk into Dickey Betts' spot, and think, ‘I started playing because of Dickey Betts.'

"I did that for a while, and then I was, like, ‘Man, I can't do this. I'm too much of a fan. It's so close to home.' It was an incredible experience, and I loved it, but Dickey didn't pass away or retire. I just felt like, ‘This can't be right.'"

The line between playing guitar right and wrong has been a fascinating balancing act for Herring. He likens each new situation he's been in — whether it's the Allmans or Widespread Panic — to learning a new language.

"You've gotta tip your hat to the original," Herring says, "but you can't copy it. It's really fun, and it's a big challenge. I can't just go in and play the way I play, because that's not what the gig needs. It's like, ‘OK, you've got to listen to this, you need to internalize it, and start from the same kingdom this music is from.' Eventually, you can fit your own voice into it."

Herring's searing guitar solos were more restrained with Phil Lesh & Friends than, say, his all-guns-blazing Aquarium Rescue Unit, a group he still performs with to this day. Some of Herring's friends even gave him grief about not unleashing more notes at Lesh concerts.

"That was horrible! You never even got out of first gear!" Herring remembers them protesting. "I'm like, ‘Look, man, you don't understand. You can't go 80 miles an hour in a 35 zone.'"

Herring has gained musical wisdom by filling the shoes of guitarists before him — and by studying the peers they left behind. He remembers Lesh telling his group,"OK guys, I don't want to hear any solos. I want to hear people having an interactive group conversation."

"And he had one basic rule," Herring adds: "If you find yourself in your own space, stop, listen and react. And that's a beautiful philosophy."

The joyful nature of jam-band audiences has had a significant impact on Herring's success. Whether he stepped in for Betts or the late Garcia, fans have been almost universally positive, he says.

"The common thing between all of them that I've noticed is, ‘God, they're so with you,'" Herring says. "They're so supportive. I've been very lucky, too, because it could have gone the other way."

Musicians have been equally supportive. When Herring got the call to join Widespread Panic, he had two weeks to learn songs, he says.

Talk about ... panic.

The group not only has a vast repertoire, it takes pride in never playing the same set twice and in making selections at the last minute.

"They've been really great with me," Herring says. "Because I was like, ‘Guys, please, help me out. If you could give me tomorrow's set list tonight I could work on the gig in the hotel room.'

"I'm still struggling to just keep up and learn these songs," Herring admits. "So I'm spending a lot of time listening to an iPod that's got, like, 300 Widespread songs on it. ... Luckily, everything I've done before this has kind of prepared me for this."

A year into the band, Herring feels less like the new guy every day, he says. He collaborated with Widespread Panic on every song for a new studio album. (A release date has not been set yet.)

Joining Widespread Panic after the band helped Aquarium Rescue Unit so many years ago feels like "coming full circle," Herring says.

So it's really not just for a tour or two? Not just for the money?

No, Herring promises.

"It's funny to me," he says. "Because I've never done anything for the money. I've been blessed and got some great gigs. But I would have done them for a lot less money. It's a musical journey. I was just looking for a home, and sometimes it just doesn't work out for people. But I've never done any gig that I didn't want to do."