An Interview With Christine Radlmann, Colin McConnell & Sean Garnhart of Southpaw

Southpaw Interview

Feature Photo: Southpaw courtesy of Deko Entertainment

Christine Radlmann, Colin McConnell & Sean Garnhart of Southpaw

Interview by Andrew Daly

Out of New Jersey comes Southpaw with a savory mix of country music simmered in rock, pop, and R&B influences. Southpaw is fronted by 2022 Josie Music Awards Female Country Vocalist of the Year, Christine Radlmann, and multi-instrumentalists Sean Garnhart and Colin McConnell.

It serves up hooky lyrics, soul-power vocals, and infectious melodies supported by undeniable grooves and hyper-meticulous instrumental arrangements. Since the independent digital release of Unhitched, Southpaw has been played on more than 400 radio stations worldwide.

What’s more, it was named a top-ten national finalist in the 2021 Jack Daniels Battle of the Bar Bands with its cheeky honky-tonk number “Ain’t As Easy As You Drink I Am.” Unhitched has 12 more tracks, including the CD-only extended version of “Up in Smoke” and the featured stand-out track and video for “Within You.”

Southpaw is set to release Unhitched for the first time on CD through its new partnership with Deko Entertainment, “We’re really excited about joining the incredible roster of musicians at Deko Entertainment,” says Southpaw lead singer Christine Radlmann. “And after two years of streaming-only, we can’t wait for fans to have access to the CD version of our debut album, Unhitched.”

Southpaw is also wrapping up its next release, tentatively scheduled to drop later this year, and will embark on a set of shows in 2023. Deko President Bruce Pucciarello comments, “The best country songs make you listen. Then after you listen, you think and you feel. Southpaw’s music will keep you busy doing all this and more. My favorite country band…ever.”

Southpaw recently dialed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to shed some light on their creative process, the recording of Unhitched, and a whole lot more.

What can you tell me about your latest music?

Christine Radlmann: I always know when we’ve got a great song because I get chills when listening to it, and that’s happened to me with every song we’ve recorded for the upcoming album! It has more of a Nashville feel and less singer-songwriter while still staying true to our East Coast country vibe that has influences of rock, blues, and R&B.

Colin McConnell: Coming out of such a dark period with Covid, a lot of the material was written to bring back the fun.

Sean Garnhart: I’m very excited about the singles we’ve been releasing and our upcoming sophomore album. After our first album, we agreed on a certain direction for this album, and we are delivering. It feels so good to challenge myself and be challenged by my bandmates. I so appreciate the respect we have for one another as we continue to figure out how we want to present ourselves to the world.

How have you progressed from your last record?

Christine Radlmann: I’m learning the art of collaboration, and I’m still a work in progress on this front! In the past, I’d be more impulsive and shoot things down too quickly. Three years in, I’m trying to be more open to ideas.

Colin McConnell: As a work of art, Unhitched was a wonderful quilt of ideas. From that, we’ve learned a lot about our creative process and how to work together. For me personally, I learned a lot about Christine’s gifted vocal instrument and how to write for it.

Sean Garnhart: We’re learning more about our strengths and what makes us shine. Our first album was an awesome experiment of sounds and ideas. Our new material is more focused on a narrower lane of commercial music.

What does the current approach look like from a compositional standpoint?

Christine Radlmann: It’s very collaborative, with lots of back-and-forth throughout the whole process. Sometimes we start with a melody, sometimes with lyrics, sometimes with both—it depends on what inspires one or more of us, and we nurture the song together from there.

Colin McConnell: Very collaborative. Very complimentary. Ideas tend to be born as lyrics and music together. From there, the Southpaw machine takes over and turns demos into full productions. Quite a lot of sweating over details.

Sean Garnhart: Southpaw writes meaningful songs. They’re not always deep, but they always have a strong message. I love that about us. We don’t take lyrics lightly and make sure the musical foundation is there to back the lyrics. Whether it’s a playful piano riff or a somber cello line, each part is introduced to further explain what the lyrics are saying.

Are you more comfortable in the studio or live? Why?

Christine Radlmann: They’re such different animals. I love the crackling energy of a live performance, and it can be intoxicating when you nail a live performance. But the studio is where my creativity is tickled pink and where my bandmates help bring out the best in my vocal performance—they’ll push me to places I didn’t know I could go vocally.

Colin McConnell: I’m equally comfortable in both. The spontaneity of a live show is like nothing else. But the unlimited experimentation of the studio is like the ultimate playground.

Sean Garnhart: Man, I love both. The studio is the place for me to get the exact perfect performance. I scrutinize everything in the studio so that when I listen to one of our songs later, I love it and don’t have a single regret. Live is an explosion of energy that can’t be beaten. Christine’s stage show is so captivating, and I always look forward to the spontaneity of the band’s interplay.

Some have said rock is dead. Where do you stand on that notion?

Christine Radlmann: Puh-lease, haven’t people been saying this since the advent of rock? It ain’t dead yet, and country/southern rock specifically is thriving—just look at Chris Stapleton’s current success.

Colin McConnell: I do think that the best rock is probably not on the radio, and much of what we hear is just too derivative. We live in an era of sequels. But I think the world is growing weary of that, and a golden age of authenticity is just around the corner.

Sean Garnhart: I think rock can be anything that makes you tap your foot, bang your head, or feel the energy inside you trying to get out. Maybe “rock” isn’t what it used to be, but music is always changing and re-inventing itself…l ike any art. The key is to find something that makes you rock… that keeps “rock” alive!

What are a few things that you know now that would have been helpful during your earliest days?

Christine Radlmann: Truly caring for my voice is something I wish I’d started years ago—vocal exercises, proper warm-ups, resting my voice after gigs. My voice is my instrument, and I treat it better now. Although I’ve always been using Throat Coat tea, the worst-named but best-working product!

Colin McConnell: Drop D tuning always delivers. Hybrid picking makes a lot of things possible. Sometimes a song just doesn’t need a bridge to be great.

Sean Garnhart: Protools! Collaboration is vital and immeasurably rewarding.

What are some of the hardest things about making new music for a low attention span world?

Christine Radlmann: It’s not easy to captivate listeners who are used to consuming music and media in seven-second bursts. Some of the best song intros in history are 30 seconds or longer. Would “Stairway to Heaven,” with its never-ending intro, take off if it were released today? I truly think about the lack of attention span of today’s audience, and I’m obsessed with delivering killer song intros to reel ‘em in.

Colin McConnell: It’s so easy for people to swipe right or left. So it’s not just about writing great music. Selling music with a great back story, social media content, and visual imagery is another art altogether.

Sean Garnhart: I find it incredibly rewarding when I hear that someone listened to and liked our music. I know they have lots of choices bombarding them every second. And to hear they took the time to listen to Southpaw and comment, I take that and mark that as a win!

How has your overall approach evolved from your younger years? Do you have any cringe factor when listening to older work?

Christine Radlmann: Growing up, I absolutely hated group work in school because I always felt like I ended up doing all the work. In grad school, I hated “workshops” because I felt that people criticized others’ work just because they felt they had to. It was only after meeting Sean and Colin that I became open to collaborating and realized these guys have talents and knowledge, and inspiration that I don’t have, and my work can only benefit from them. There’s one song I wrote way back when that makes me cringe called “Ant Farm,” where I compare humans to ants, and my husband won’t let me live it down.

Colin McConnell: Most of my regrets are lyrical. I was too lazy to do the brutal editing required.

Sean Garnhart: I’ve always been interested in and distracted by the details. So yeah, in my younger years, I didn’t know how to get the precise performance the song really needed. But I chalk that up to experience. I learn more with each project and grow as an artist and producer. One huge thing I’ve learned is simple is almost always better.

What’s next in all lanes? 

Christine Radlmann: Our sophomore album is due out later this year, and it’s gonna knock your socks off! Bigger shows and better videos are in the pipeline as well.

Colin McConnell: New album. More media. More tours. More experimentation. More fun.

Sean Garnhart: More songs, more live shows, more laughs, and more appreciation for this amazing experience I’m getting with Colin and Christine. It’s a gift I cherish!

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Southpaw: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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