Do you think you lost unrecoverable momentum in that time?
BUCCIARELLI: Oh, absolutely. Without a doubt. That halted all promotion for our second album. It sold almost 500,000 in six months. It was on pace to do way more than our first album ever did. It took two, two-and-a-half years for the first album to sell almost a million copies.
So momentum-wise, we were on top of the world. We debuted at No. 3, we were in arenas with the All-American Rejects. We had the Nintendo Fusion Tour. The next step probably would have been our own arena tour. So it absolutely halted any kind of momentum we had going forth.
How did you decide to manage yourself?
WOODRUFF: It’s another one of those business things: The band always moves faster than the industry can, because everybody else always has other clients, whether it’s the record label having other bands on the roster—and managers, the same thing. And that’s kind of an unfair situation for the band, so we just thought, “Why not work for ourselves?”
Our most fun times are playing at, like, the Grog Shop [rock club] in Cleveland and having people packed in and sweating with us, singing along with no barricade. And if that’s the most fun for us, why is somebody trying their hardest to get us on a tour [with a band] who doesn’t really fit with us? I guess it’s about personal accountability.
Now that you’re a decade in the business and you have families, can you pay your bills playing clubs like the Grog Shop?
WOODRUFF: Yeah. You certainly can. If you do everything the right way and still have a core fanbase. We live in Ohio—we don’t live in New York or L.A. or some place that has astronomical living costs. We’re born and bred in the Midwest, and we live modestly. That’s exactly where we came from and exactly what we want.
We’re not trying to live in a mansion by playing [smaller clubs]. We’re not trying to play the Q [arena]—not many bands are playing arenas, and we’re not trying to fool ourselves by thinking we can. We can definitely still make a living the way that we want to make a living, the way that we set out to. And we don’t have a lot of people taking percentages—that helps.
So what advice do you have for choosing a label or a manager?
BUCCIARELLI: It’s different from when we first started. Nowadays, a band have the ability to manage themselves. A band should realize that nobody’s going to look out for themselves more than you are. If you want to pursue music as a long-term career, you’ve got to treat it as a business. If you turn the reins over to somebody else, you’re essentially giving them all the power, control and money. I would caution any band against signing to a label just so they can say, “I’m on a label.” I would say slow down, try to figure things out on your own.
Losing someone close to you is a process that never really stops. Do you still think about Casey often?
BUCCIARELLI: Absolutely. Every time we play a show. He was such a great personality onstage. My wife and I were just talking about Casey’s stage presence and what he brought to our live show. It definitely does not hit you all at once.
WOODRUFF: That comes back pretty much every day. Any time you lose somebody that’s really close to you—Casey, I consider him a family member, a brother. You wake up every day, and something reminds you of him, and you immediately get sad, or sometimes you get happy, because you think of a great memory. It’s loss. Loss is probably the hardest emotion to deal with. You’re dealing with something you truly cannot get back. There’s nothing you can do about it.
Have you been tempted to call it a day and quit?
WOODRUFF: I don’t think so. The hardest decision was what to do after losing Casey, just because that’s real life. You lose a best friend, and you don’t know how to wake the next day, let alone how to stay in a band. That decision was leaps and bounds harder than any decision about a record label and how and where to release music.
This stuff is all easy. People make it a lot harder than it needs to be. We still have a great core fanbase that supports us.
What do you have lined up for the tour’s setlist?
BUCCIARELLI: It’s going to encompass all our albums. We’re going to play a lot of songs we haven’t played in five years or more, several songs off of our first and second albums. We’re going to bust out “Blue Burns Orange” from our first album. I don’t want to give everything away. We’ll definitely play “Ohio Is For Lovers,” “Silver Bullet,” the favorites. We like to change the setlist up entirely every tour.
Has being a parent changed how you feel about touring?
BUCCIARELLI: It’ll be rough this time, because [my daughter] has more personality now, and she has more of a bond with me.
WOODRUFF: It’s definitely a game-changer. It’s one more person to leave behind. It’s one thing to leave behind a wife or a parent, because they understand that you’re coming back. It’s a lot harder to tell a son or daughter, “Daddy’s got to go work.”
JT, are you still working on solo material?
WOODRUFF: Yeah. I have a lot of fun. I just played a show the other night, just around town. I appreciate my guys for not thinking that that encroaches on Hawthorne Heights. They understand I’m not trying to start this other band. It’s just me and a guitar. It’s just an outlet for me to play songs that would never fit in Hawthorne Heights and to be a little more of a storyteller live.
Do you feel like the drama has overshadowed the band?
WOODRUFF: I think we’ve been through more than some bands have been through, but it’s all relative. I think that media outlets think our problems are bigger than they really are, but they’re just real-people problems. They day after an album come out, people will ask us, “When’s your new record coming out?” They don’t know that we fought with our record label. They just want to hear music.