Sister Hazel's Andrew Copeland (rhythm guitarist) talks new single "Love You More," the lasting impact of Lyrics For Life, & much more!

(Interview, written piece by: Jeffrey Kurtis/photo credit: Paul Privette)


(from L to R Andrew Copeland, Ken Block, Ryan Newell, Mark Trojanowski, Jett Beres) 

At a time when the mid-90’s grunge era was experiencing a shift into an overly aggressive nu-metal branding, the adult rock side of things was refreshingly gifting us with a helping of artists who were walking their rock essence very close to their obvious country influences.

The airwaves filled with smash hits from Hootie & The Blowfish, The Wallflowers, Gin Blossoms, Edwin McCain, and surging favorites Sister Hazel.

The Gainesville, FL based group quickly earned notoriety when their debut single “All For You” rocketed up the charts to the #1 position in 1997. However, the measure of success doesn’t rely solely on radio play, but on an ability to grow a rabid fan base through a calculated equation of consistently great music, explosive live shows, and a striving to adapt and change while expertly holding to core signatures.

This equation is one that Sister Hazel has been rising up to meet with perfection since forming in 1993.

Ultra-popular songs such as “Change Your Mind,” “Champagne High,” “Your Mistake,” and “Mandolin Moon” layer their catalog and outline their setlist to entice sold-out audiences night in and night out, while diehard HAZELNUT’s stay in friendly debate as to why Elements, Release, or Lighter In The Dark is their personal favorite era of the groups storied legacy.

With the turning of the page into their next highly anticipated era, the Platinum-Selling/ Grammy-nominated group opens the new year with the next look at their forthcoming chapter, which started this fall with “Coconut Trees” and now continues with their brand-new single “Love You More.”

“I think it’s reminiscent of the songs we put out back then,” excitedly shared rhythm guitarist Andrew Copeland with us on the throwback feel of the song that he, Ryan Newell, and Jack Sizemore (Jason Aldean guitarist) co-wrote. 

Giving us a behind the scenes look at the songwriting process, and the songs transformation from writer’s room to record, Copeland tells that “it still sounded like a Sister Hazel song [in the writer’s room], but it was slightly different than the version we ended up with,” enthusiastically championing the wide open approach that the group would carry into the studio when it came to laying down the final cut of the song.

On the writing session itself, he pulled back the curtain to tell us how the long-tenured friends allowed the idea to organically fall into place:

We kind of started the process by humming along with some chord changes, and then sometimes you just kind of throw in some lyrics that sound good cause they flow with the music that you’ve got going. This thing fell together equally from all those parts. But as we kept moving forward, it started to dictate what it wanted to be and that’s where we went with it. We just followed the song.”

Switching then to the recording aspect and the basis for its natural evolution, he continued:

Then when we got into the studio, we were working with the song…and working with it and working with it. It might have been our bass player who said let’s try and think outside the box and see where we can take it. Then Ryan came up with a great idea for the chorus and from there the song transformed into what it is today.”

But consistently good music is only one part of the three-part equation that’s determined the high achieving success that Sister Hazel has reached throughout their career. Though certainly well-respected for their incredible studio work, their renowned live shows provide a dynamic that brings fans into each song’s energy and allows them to become an integral part of the overall aura.

We break our live shows down occasionally for different songs, but for the most part we try to keep it upbeat and fun,” chimes Copeland. “[“Love You More”] has the kind of energy we like for our live shows, and so I think it’s one of those songs that once it hits our setlist, it’ll be a staple for us for quite a while,” he foreshadows while teasing things still to come from a bigger project that is well in the work, optimistically telling of a rocking new song that’s being road tested right now and is already getting a pretty good reaction.

However, when you reach a certain status level in music like Sister Hazel has there often arises within your every heartbeat the need and want to somehow give back; whether it be to your fans, the next generation of future music stars, or to those who can’t ever return the blessing.

Though their music absolutely holds strong connection between them and their fans, fast-tracking the audience to a memory of a specific time and place as they sing along with their personal feelings attached to each and every word, the charitable/giving back layer of who this celebrated group is off the stage is clearly the most impactfully important as Copeland states, “We hope this is a legacy that we can leave behind.”

Starting with the strong community that their decades long fan outing “The Rock Boat” has created, he beams with a knowing veteran smile on the importance of reaching back to generation next while talking of the opportunities that it’s provided for younger acts to connect with the Sister Hazel fanbase and in turn build themselves their own grassroot following.

Something which he also did when providing advice for those trying to find their road in the music industry right now, sharing the words that legendary producer Frank Liddell (Miranda Lambert, Lee Ann Womack, Eli Young Band, David Nail) once said to him:

You must be present to win…and by that, you’ve got to show up! I don’t mean just to the places you’re told to go, but you have to show up in the writing room every day. You have to show up for yourself; meaning grab your guitar and sit down and write. It’s like working out…when you stop, getting started again is difficult but as you’re going it gets better and better and better.  Do yourself a favor and show up!”

But on what was a very laid-back chat that Copeland attributed to the coffee he was sipping during it, it’s the humbleness that he exuded when talking about their incredible efforts toward trying to find cures for cancer through Lyrics For Life (www.lyricsforlife.org) that he peeled back the “stage” persona and brought us into what always supersedes the music on the scale of importance.

I’m very proud of the impact we’ve made with trying to come up with cures for these cancers. It’s something that we all hold very dear to our hearts. We’ve all been affected in one way or another by cancer, so we’ve taken a lot of pride in these events.”

Providing the perfect lead-in to talk about the atmosphere of the next Lyrics For Life function in Gainesville, FL on March 2, 2024, which features Sister Hazel and Pat Monahan of Train, Copeland transparently spoke of how these events hold such a different feel than what you’d get from them during one of their normal tour stops.

While painting the picture of what to expect if you attend the event, with a pure appreciation to last year’s featured guest Darius Rucker,  Copeland says, “There’s a gala feel to it. There’s a lot of food and auction items set up throughout the building. There’s bars set up where people can have a cocktail and converse while looking at the auction items…And there’s lots of cool items! I’m talking hand-written lyrics on just about anything from anyone you can name.”

But as with any type of giving back that someone participates in, it’s often the person performing the charitable act for the least of these that feels an overwhelming blessing returning to them; an unexpected impact that shakes their own foundations.

The place where I’ve visually seen the biggest impact was several years ago; we have these fan driven events and decided to do one called Camp Hazelnut. It was geared just as another fan driven event where people would come to this place that we grew up going to camp just outside of Gainesville. They would come there, and we would have campfires, beach parties, and all that kind of stuff. The very first year that we launched it, it wasn’t received as well as we had hoped. So Ken (lead singer) had a call with a friend of ours who worked at a cancer hospital down in Tampa and through that discussion they were like why don’t we bring up some kids who are going through the process of battling cancer as well as their families and siblings and give them a weekend to get away from that; to put it in the rearview mirror for a minute and have a good time.”

And in that moment of seeing the way that entire families were being impacted, Copeland experienced that unexpected return at his core:

Watching the reaction, not from just the kids battling cancer, but watching their siblings get to participate and be a part of it just as much as their sibling who’s battling cancer...and then the parents who were just able to watch their kids having fun. That was super impactful for me to see the difference that this was making.”

As Sister Hazel continues to amp to the next level within its many deep rooted layers, a difference making impact sits at the center of it; not only within their own amazing efforts in the charitable world, but as each note through the speakers resonates with the listener, traveling them through a gamut of varied emotions that ultimately winds up at the five members of Sister Hazel becoming the trusted, longtime friend who is always there for you with an addictive positivity as their music helps walk you through every twist and turn that life inevitably presents.


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