A few months ago I hit a local bar in town to catch one of my favorite artists playing an acoustic set with his friend Jasin Todd. Shinedown fans know Todd as the guitar player, founding member and co-writer of some of Shinedown’s most riff-laden and clever songs off their first two records, Leave A Whisper and Us and Them. I was fortunate enough to spend time with him after the gig, discussing music and life, and how many strips of bacon one can expect from an order of bacon at 4a.m. He admitted he was recovering from industry burnout, and though he was unsure of his next steps, he knew the music bug had infected him once more. Before he left town, I made a point of doing what anyone with half a brain would do; I friended him on Facebook.
A few weeks later Todd invited me to “like” a page called Vanilla Women. I clicked the link and much to my delight discovered he had a new collaboration with Adam Latiff and Damien Starkey (Puddle of Mudd), and Zac Gilbert (Cold). Over the next few weeks they would release a track via Facebook called “Shakin My Cage.” Within the first minute of this gritty, funky earworm, I was hooked. I immediately hit Jasin up for an interview, and he was kind enough to take time from the studio to talk with me about his new collaboration.
Shockwave Magazine: Tell me how Vanilla Women came together, and how you came up with the name for your new band.
Jasin Todd: Guess about a year or so ago I came back into Jacksonville Beach, Fl and ran into Adam Latiff somewhere, and mentioned if he would be interested in putting together a project. He agreed that it could fun, and we set up a write along with Damien Starkey.
As far as the name goes, it’s a play on the word ‘vanilla’ … everyone knows it means sorta plain or conventional, not exactly adventurous. Some people say music in general, at least in the popular formats, has shifted back to that — boring. We try to bring back the risk-taking spirit of rock n’ roll. People seem to absolutely loathe the name, at first, which is wonderful to me. Then over time, it seems to grow on them. So I believe we chose the right name to represent the music.
What was the writing process for your first song “Shakin’ My Cage”? Has that changed as you’ve continued recording, or do you think the method is working right out of the gate?
The process for VM has been the exact same since we wrote together for the very first time. It’s something I’ve certainly never been exposed to. The three of us show up to Damien’s studio, exchange our hellos, and then say, “Ok who’s got what?” No one comes prepared, no one comes with any ideas — nothing … which is absolutely insane to me, from a writer’s standpoint. We literally wait until we see each other in the studio, come up with a riff, lay it down, and then the train just sorta starts laying it’s own tracks. It’s pretty intense to see it all unfold, speaking for myself. Even on the tones of the instruments, we never spend more than a couple minutes getting sounds. It’s pretty much Les Paul/Marshall or Telecaster/Marshall. This shit isn’t rocket science; the greats have already showed us what works. Plug in and let the song speak is our motto. Within five hours top, we have a fully tracked record, with everything completed, usually including a rough mix as well. It’s insane. We’ve kept this philosophy through the recording of what has turned into five tracks now.
You’ve embarked on a few journeys since your Shinedown/Fuel days. You’ve mentioned on social media that music comes so easily to you and the guys in Vanilla Women. What do you attribute that to, and what about this collaboration is making this new venture so rewarding for you?
Music is all about chemistry. You either have it or you don’t, it’s not something you can force or fake, well, actually you can, but at this point in my life and career I choose not to. I’m been really lucky with all the bands I’ve started or toured with and only made one mistake a couple years ago now. I got with some really horrible people, on a human level as well as musicianship, and it messed me up mentally for awhile. So Vanilla Women has really put me back on track spiritually and musically. It’s so rewarding to be around people that speak a common language of music, but most importantly know how to be humble and treat others with respect.
If I’m keeping count, there are now three Vanilla Women songs available for purchase and/or streaming. Are there plans for an album release in the near future?
As of now yes there are three tracks available for purchase and download from all the usual sources, with a forth dropping soon. It’s by far our most exciting track yet and we’re super stoked for everyone to hear it. As far as a full album of material, we’ll have to see what happens and if there is enough interest. Guess we’ll have to leave that up to the public.
Do you have any touring plans so Jasin Todd and Vanilla Women fans can come out and support you?
As of right now, there’s nothing solid lined up, but I’m always out on an adventure of some sorts so the best way to keep track is to check my Facebook fan page or track me on the Bands in Town app.
There’s a reason why so many musicians jump at the chance to work with Todd, reasons that became clear to me the night I saw him sitting on a wooden stool in a small bar. Todd isn’t showy. He doesn’t rely on gimmicks. I know that’s not remarkable in and of itself, as the same can be said of many great artists who play for the love of the music. What I mean to say is, that’s the bar for any great artist, and yet Todd, dressed down with nothing but a guitar and a mic, so greatly exceeded that expectation I had to take notice. That night I got a small sampling of the depth of his intellect, the passion he has for music, and the amazing fact that he is, at the end of the day, a humble goddamn genius. He doesn’t just play music, he exudes it, and Vanilla Women testifies.