As the unmistakable voice of pioneering metal band Sevendust, Lajon Witherspoon has spent a lifetime transforming the landscape of heavy music.
Over the course of his nearly thirty-year career as the frontman for the Atlanta outfit, Witherspoon's keen ability to infuse melody and soul in a style of music that is fundamentally raw and aggressive, is a unique signature that has often been imitated and is rarely, if ever, replicated.
In terms of legacy, Sevendust are a point of reference due to their unparalleled ability to translate such a meld of styles with such fluidly. A big part of that versatility is in the commanding voice of Lajon.
On the verge of releasing their 13th studio album, Blood & Stone, Sevendust remain tip of the tongue in terms of relevance and resonance. Still showcasing their brand of heft that endeared them to legions of fans the world over, the band manages to avoid becoming redundant, delivering a deft cache of songs that are equally familiar and fresh.
In exploring Witherspoon's career contributions, past and present, a trek back even further into the frontman's earliest influences paint a vivid picture of the kind of artistry that was destined from the get go. Raised on a healthy diet of rock, soul, and funk, Witherspoon creative consumption was indicative of the kind of artist he would eventually himself become.
Though it's likely too dramatic to say these albums saved Lajon Witherspoon's life, they certainly did shape it.
Stevie Wonder - Songs In the Key of Life
Witherspoon - I can remember as a kid hearing Stevie's voice. Any of his albums, but this one in particular, really had an impact on me and how I understood music.
Jimi Hendrix - Are You Experienced
Witherspoon - This album really was part of a movement. From the music to the clothing, to the style and the freedom. Plus the fact that Jimi was a black man in rock music was really something that I identified with.
Prince - Purple Rain
Witherspoon - I really wish Im could've been like Prince. He was able to hone in what Hendrix did and become this complete star. You never, ever saw Prince looking anything less than his best. With him it was always look your best.
Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath
Witherspoon - Growing up in a Christian and Baptist family, this was one of those albums that immediately intrigued me. Just the name on it alone is enough to get your attention.
Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
Witherspoon - Marvin Gaye was the inventor of a new era of soul music. He did things like incorporate orchestra and broke down barriers as an with his music.
Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
Witherspoon - Man, I can remember having that Pulse CD case with the blinking red light. I would smoke weed and imagine being in a band like that. Actually, the cover art for our new record ('Blood & Stone') references the artwork from 'Dark Side of the Moon.'
James Brown - Live At the Apollo
Witherspoon - My cousin Charles was actually in James Brown's band. I remember seeing how they dressed and their style, and I wanted to be like that. Everything about James Brown was stylish. He came to play, but he didn't play.
Alice In Chains - Dirt
Witherspoon - There was just something about Layne Stalley voice. There were a lot of good bands during that time but something about Layne Staley voice really made them stand out. Alice In Chains really was the best bands of that era.
OUTKAST - Speakerboxxx / The Love Below
Witherspoon - I have to give a shout out to my guys from Atlanta. Outkast really were a movement. Doing things different and using live instruments in their music made them different.
***Lajon would go on to recall a moment where Sevendust and Outkast crossed paths at a studio in Atlanta. He would explain that Andre 3000 seemed especially interested in the band's gear. Not long after that, Lajon would see Andre 3000 in the video for 'Hey Ya' embracing a rock esthetic. It was a moment.
Sam Cooke - Ain't That Good News
Witherspoon - Particularly with the song, "A Change Is Gonna Come." I can't listen to that song without crying. To think about not being able to walk down the street, afraid as a black man... his message in that song is something that we need now more than ever. We should be progressing and we're regressing.
SEVENDUST releases Blood & Stone on Rise Records October 23rd. The album is currently available for Pre-Order - HERE