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London Y’alling: Inside Cadillac Three’s Rowdy U.K. Tour

“They are so enamored with the idea of three long-haired guys who walk and talk and act like brothers,” says TC3’s Jaren Johnston of the overseas crowds

The Cadillac Three

The Cadillac Three recently completed a sold-out tour of the U.K., including stops in London and Glasgow, Scotland.

Justin Nolan Key

Something peculiar happens every time the members of the Cadillac Three — singer-guitarist Jaren Johnston, lap-steel player Kelby Ray and drummer Neil Mason — walk onstage in Europe: The audience stands motionless, eyes wide and mouths agape.

"It's bizarre. They are so enamored with the idea of three long-haired guys who walk and talk and act like brothers, and with the idea that we're so far away from home," says Johnston. "The first two or three songs, they're just staring at you. Like, 'Wow, this is actually happening.' They don't ever hear people talk like us. It's like going to the circus for them."

But Johnston says the audience members know all of the redneck rockers' songs, from upcoming new single "White Lightning," off their forthcoming album, to the ACM Award-nominated "The South," with its "This is where I was born and this is where I'll die" war cry. "They love that because that's like their Braveheart moment; that's their William Wallace," says Johnston, who nonetheless admits it's surreal to hear a club full of English or Scottish accents sing the chorus to "The South." "'Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi…' they have no idea what they're singing about, but they love it. It's super cool."

The band shared exclusive photos, taken by Justin Nolan Key, from their March tour of England, Scotland and points in between with Rolling Stone Country, with Johnston offering his signature candid commentary.

The Cadillac Three Jaren Johnston

This Finger’s for Morrissey

Johnston says the British fans often mistook the infamous photo of Johnny Cash giving the finger on his T-shirt for a pic of Morrissey. "Is that not fucking weird? I mean, it's kind of torn here, but that's such an iconic shot, at least in America," he says, offering the regular commentary he would hear from fans. "'I thought it was that guy from the Smiths we all hate.' Why would they not like Morrissey? The Smiths were huge over there."

The Cadillac Three

Bad Mother Trucker

The band was caught by surprise by a particularly passionate Scottish fan, who even spoke in a faux Southern accent. "I was like, 'Where is this fucking guy from?' I could tell he was putting it on. And then he pulls out his phone, and he has this room in his house that is all dedicated to Southern rock and outlaw country. On his wall, he had five or six different types of Jack Daniel's, all on taps. It was wild. Then he goes, 'You gotta see this hat,' and he turned it around, and I go, 'Oh my Lord, we have to get a picture of that.'"

The Cadillac Three Jaren Johnston

The Illustrated Man

All three of the Cadillac guys have ink. Some are good tattoos, Johnston says, while others…not so much. "Kelby has some real bad tattoos. He says he doesn't regret anything, but his first tattoo is a cut on his rib, and it's bleeding out and the blood spells his name: Kelby Ray. It's fucking awful!" says Johnston, howling. "When I started touring, I was playing drums at 18 for a gospel/Christian artist. I remember where I got [these tattoos] 'cause it was my first tour. Then when I got home, that's when I started filling it in."

The Cadillac Three Neil Mason Jaren Johnston

Drum Duel

Near the end of the Cadillac Three's show, Johnston joins Mason for a drum-off, often with damaging results. "Neil hates this part of the show. I get going, and I end up breaking his new sticks and I'll break a drum head. He's like, 'Damn it, Jaren!' 'Cause he has to fix it the next morning," says Johnston. "We're usually pretty drunk — it's really tough to play together when you've been drinking for 90 minutes."

The Cadillac Three Jaren Johnston

Peace, Love and Dixie

The Cadillac Three released a special EP, Peace, Love and Dixie, exclusively in the U.K., and Johnston embraced his inner Englishman while shopping in London. "You can disappear in these alleys, and people are selling everything, from that Johnny Cash T-shirt I bought to fake Ray-Bans and fake Rolexes," he says. He tried these Ye-like slotted shades on as a lark. "I'm not a big Kanye West fan, and I was talking shit. 'Look at me, I'm Kanye West!' It's a pretty hilarious match between the Ole Smoky hat and those glasses."

The Cadillac Three Neil Mason Kelby Ray

Southern Comforts of Home

Mason and Ray enjoy a Coors Light onstage. Johnston and the band considered it a "good night" when they found their dressing room stocked with U.S. domestics and whiskey. Normally, they had to make due with local beers. "We drank a lot of Carlsberg, and a lot of heavier beer, because the Guinness and the Boddingtons is so much better over there off the tap," says Johnston, who was unable to indulge his taste for Patrón. "If they have any tequila at all, it's shitty ass stuff — and I'm into tequila these days more than whiskey cause I'm taking a break."

The Cadillac Three Jaren Johnston

Hold onto Your Hats

The Cadillac Three recently started working with the Old Smoky Moonshine brand, who supplied the band with assorted swag, including Johnston's camouflage hat. "One guy in the crowd had the same hat on, but it was a white one. He kept yelling at me to trade. He'd say, 'I want your hat!'" Johnston says in his best English accent. "But they're not asking…they're like, 'Give me your fookin' hat!' You kind of get scared."

The Cadillac Three

The Labyrinths of London

"This is in London, in Camden. It's like a big street fair and there are mazes and mazes of [these stalls]. You can get lost. If you were on some drugs in that place, it would be weird," says Johnston. "You go into these little areas where they're trying to sell shit and you feel like you might get stabbed and left for dead. It's that vibe. But it's a really cool part of town though — aside from that."

The Cadillac Three

All About the South

One of the Cadillac Three's tour stops included a show at the Cathouse in Glasgow, Scotland. Johnston says that although they were playing for an English-speaking audience, there were some phrases they just didn't understand. "They get 'Hell yeah,' and 'We're the Cadillac Three from Nashville, Tennessee' but they don't get where Nashville is, or the South. If I do any interviews over there, the first question is always, 'So, what is the South? What's so great about this place you always sing about?' Do you know how hard it is answer that question?"

The Cadillac Three

Punk Unicorns

"We didn't go in here, but it looked like a cool place," Johnston says of the establishment with the  "punk unicorns" sign. He's sporting a T-shirt for fellow Southern rockers Whiskey Myers. "They think I'm supporting them when I wear that, but I have five of those shirts cause I love the way they fit. We have the same manager and I had them send me five shirts so I can wear them onstage," says Johnston with a laugh. "I do love those guys though."

The Cadillac Three Kelby Ray

Man of Steel

A lap steel guitar, like the one Kelby Ray plays, could be as difficult to find as a decent burrito in the U.K. "We found one American-themed bar in London that had everything, including Patrón. We spent two nights there 'cause we were wanting a cheeseburger," says Johnston. "The burger was good, but they're way off on their Mexican."

The Cadillac Three

“How Y’all Doin’?”

The band was surprised to run into a fellow Southerner on the streets of London. "He was from Kentucky and was over there to see us. He comes up, and he was like, 'Hey man, how y'all doin'? Y'all good?'" recalls Johnston. "The club is like a block away, so we were walking around and he saw us. We'd go on around 10, but people lined up at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. The line was around the building."

Cadillac Three

A Gift From Keith

Johnston, along with the guys in LoCash, wrote Keith Urban's 2012 Number One hit "You Gonna Fly." Urban gave him a guitar as a thank-you. "I just started touring with it. It sat on my wall on my studio for a year and a half. It's a custom job; he had it made for me. On the pick guard, in 14k gold, it says, 'Thanks for letting me fly your bird around the world. I'll always take care of her. Cheers, Keith.'"

The Cadillac Three

Up Close and Personal

At London club Dingwalls, the band's tour manager had to fend off fans from rushing the low stage. "Pat, our tour manager, is six-foot-five and the whole night he was mean mugging these people to make sure nobody comes up onstage. But if they wanna get to you, they really can," says Johnston. "There is a backdoor there, but if there had been a fire, we'd have all died, because they oversold the show and you can't get out. It's terrifying, man."

The Cadillac Three

Anarchy in the U.K.

"There hasn't been a headlining show that we've played in the U.K. that hasn't sold out. We've been over there five times in the last 13 months," says Johnston, who admits the overseas fans view them more as a rock band. "There's no country market or country radio really. It's Americana or rock or pop. 'Party Like You,' our most down-the-middle country song, is the Number One most-played song on [U.K. radio station] Planet Rock, because they don't have any of that."

In This Article: The Cadillac Three

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