Documentary director Eric Von Haessler spent three years looking for reasons why his favorite band, Drivin N Cryin, hadn’t enjoyed more national success. Fellow fans Peter Buck, Darius Rucker, Ed Roland, Ty Pennington, and the band spoke with him to fill in the blanks on the fascinating, behind-the-scenes story of musicians that spent nearly three decades creating great music, sometimes in spite of themselves. He compiled & edited the content into the documentary Scarred But Smarter: Life N Times of Drivin N Cryin, now available on DVD. DNC bassist Tim Nielsen took a moment to answer some questions about the documentary, Drivin N Cryin’s music videos, and touring with the Who.
GAMV: It’s been a while since the documentary was finished, but what made you and Kevn decide that you would allow somebody to examine the band this way?
Tim: Eric Von Haessler was a great friend of ours. He’s a radio personality in Atlanta at a radio station. It’s always been there when we started up. When we made the Bubble Factory record, Eric wanted to do a video for “I See Georgia”. And we did – we shot a video with him. And it turned out kind of weird but we became good friends and he wanted to do a documentary. So, we said yeah. He and a lot of people we knew got involved and started doing interviews. It was his baby. He had complete artistic control of what went to the film. And they shot just tons and tons of footage. I mean, there was so much edited out and never made it. But, I mean, yes, we thought it would be a good promotional tour for all the people in the world who never heard about us and you know, which is most of the people in the world.
GAMV: What did you think of it – what did you think of it the first time you saw the completed finished version?
Tim: You know, I kind of looked at it from the perspective of, it’s just a creative work. And I thought it was entertaining. It was captivating, you know? However they portrayed us was his thing. And I thought it was, at times, a bit extreme, but I thought it made it more entertaining. So, I like it.
GAMV: I think you come off a little cranky.
Tim: Yeah. Yeah, that’s fine. Whatever. I’ve had my moments.
GAMV: The relationship between you and Kevn Kinney is very tight. I think it’s really interesting to see a band examined over the course of its time. You guys have lasted longer than most marriages, so…
Tim: I think that’s a quote from a movie. Everybody has their moments, but I don’t have any regrets about my career. I thought it was cool. It was fun and we’re still doing it, you know?
GAMV: Now, after 30 years, do you still kind of get to the same place in your head when you play, you know, some of the Mystery Road songs and the Scarred but Smarter songs? Or do they mean something different to you now?
Tim: I mean, to answer the first part of your question, yes. We get to the same place. But do they mean something different now? Personally, and I think Kevn’s probably got a similar take, we’re just really happy to be able to be doing this. We feel lucky, you know? We’re in our 50s and we get to play rock and roll and get paid for it. And it’s pretty amazing. It’s a gift, you know? And it really touches people, you know, every time we do a show. We get that same level of excitement nowadays that you’re talking about. We sell out shows all over the place now, so, it’s all good.
GAMV: Kevn once said that Fly Me Courageous [their album that spawned a heavily rotated MTV video for the title track] was like going to grad school without going to college, in that you guys were kind of thrown into it. What do you recall from the era as being, you know, some of the weirder kind of moments?
Tim: Weirder moments. I don’t know. We were busy. We were living that lifestyle. We were in a bus, touring everywhere nonstop and it’s kind of like what we wanted to do and so… I don’t know about weirder moments.
GAMV: What do you remember from shooting the “Fly Me Courageous” music video?
Tim: We did it in a Hollywood studio and so it was a fake train car and there was like some guy working on these big wings for the Fly Me Courageous lady. And then, I think those wings were recycled and used in the R.E.M. “Losing My Religion” video. I know that we paid a lot of money for that video. I mean, the record company did or whatever. But, yeah it was cool. It was so long ago. Bits and pieces, man. Bits and pieces. I remember a lot of waiting around. You know, a lot of waiting around and they put you in this train car or whatever and you’re moving around. There’s lights. I don’t know. Those were different times, man. We don’t have budget for stuff like that nowadays.
GAMV: I looks like in the “Build a Fire” video, you guys are standing near a roller coaster or something.
Tim: Yeah. That was actually we had a gig at Six Flags. We’re going for more of a “on the road” kind of a bit lifestyle thing in that video, I think. It was actually a real concert, you know.
GAMV: The last one I want to ask about is “Turn it Up or Turn it Off”.
Tim: That was a weird one, man.
GAMV: You were in a hole in the ground.
Tim: We were actually in this tiny little room of midgets and just weird – I did not… I didn’t even get that one at all. That one was not fun. That was very uncomfortable. That was weird.
GAMV: It looks very claustrophobic.
Tim: Yeah, it was. That was what they were going for – claustrophobic. You can do that without us actually being in a claustrophobic situation. Just put the camera real close to us and… you don’t have to see all four walls. You just see two and… but yeah, it was weird. It was the director’s idea. It’s weird that you’re asking about music videos because I haven’t thought about these things in forever. It was just weird how much money we spent on those things.
GAMV: Do you have any moments you recall with the members of the Who [Drivin N Cryin supported the Who on tour in the late 1990s]?
Tim: We had one day where we actually got to hang out with John Entwistle for a little while and visit, and that was pretty incredible. Kevn actually waited one night for hours to finally get to meet Pete Townsend and I didn’t get to do that. I wish I would have, but they said he was totally cool. Roger Daltrey was always around, but he was always kind of grumpy. But John Entwistle was amazing. He autographed my bass. I took a picture with him and yeah, it was just great to meet him.
GAMV: How has your relationship with Kevn changed since the very beginning?
Tim: Well, I think it’s kind of come full circle because now Kevn and I are managing the band ourselves. So it’s like the way Kevn will say is “we’re back to the tree house” which is the apartment that we all lived there during the time. So, it’s like a working friendship/fraternity or something. It’s like a guy’s club. I mean, we all – we go on the road almost every weekend, but not every weekend. But you know, we look forward to going out and traveling and hanging out with the guys and making music. I think that’s kind of like the reason why we were still doing it is because we enjoy it. And it wasn’t always that way. There was a whole middle period where there was a lot of other moving parts that would cause friction and we wouldn’t even talk to each other. We’d talk to each other through, whatever manager, you know. So, we’ve come full circle. It’s back to the tree house.
You can order the documentary on DVD at the website http://scarredbutsmarterdoc.com/