Herman plays fiddle, guitar and mandolin in the band with superstar Carrie Underwood, and he’s also part of a new group in Nashville, Oklahoma – The Band.
Y’all had a pretty good break over the winter and spring. Was that by design or is something big in the works?
“We were on tour for 10 months straight, until last October, and I was home about 12 days during that 10 month period. I’m married and have two young children, and my wife is a musician but she stays home with the kids. It’s just one of those things that you know the tour is going to come to an end and then you’ll have a good break. It’s always good to get home but especially after a long tour like that.
In another interview with That’s My Gig.com you said “But my first day waking up in Nashville, I knew it was where I was supposed to be and everything was going to be alright.” Can you describe that feeling of being in “the” town where you hoped to find greater success?
I was playing gigs since I was a kid and always knew I wanted to live in Nashville and work for this kind of gig, for a top act in Nashville. From high school on, I was trying to figure out hot to make that happen. I lived in Milwaukee and tried to make it but never felt right, y’know? When I got to Nashville I had $300, my clothes and my gear … but I got downtown and it was like a calming feeling, like it was going to happen.
Knowing the history of the town, the history of people who have been in The Ryman, it’s pretty incredible. The biggest thing for myself is I was so driven that the biggest problem was just getting there. Once I got there I had a good feeling it was going to work out. Give or take a couple of days, a year later I got the gig with Carrie.
She’s made quite a leap from American Idol to superstar. What’s that like and how did you get hooked up with them?
The group I was with was playing a summer Wisconsin festival show in Oshkosh and Carrie was performing at the show. I’d never seen her live and I begged our guys to just stay and listen to Carrie. I’d never heard or seen her perform.
I was standing backstage, chatting with her manager, just shooting the breeze talking about the festival and music and nothing really special. We maybe talked about 10 minutes and listened to the show, and that was it. Several months later I got a call about coming in to play, and it just happened. You never know how things are going to turn out in life.
Check out this video interview with Jimmy:
You’re from Wisconsin, a great deer hunting and outdoors state.
I grew up in Pleasantville, a nice town about 40 minutes south of Eau Clare. I definitely grew up hunting and we have a creek there so I did a lot of trout fishing, too. But it was mainly deer hunting, which I really loved. My dad and brother are pretty hardcore at it, too. I’ve been hunting since 1993 and have missed only one year, on tour.
I love going home to Wisconsin because it’s really secluded compared to Nashville city life. It’s a pretty awesome balance to go from being on tour playing in front of thousands of people and on buses to sitting in a barn while your brother’s milking a cow or going out with him to throw hay. It definitely balances you out.
Do you get to hunt or shoot your bow on tour?
I have a little bit on some tours. Portland had a pretty good outdoor range. We stayed at like a Four Seasons and had our bows, and got on a tram that dropped us off. Sometimes we would shoot between the semi-trucks that hauled our gear. On days off might try to set up a hunt, but with only one or two days off you basically have to be with a guide.
How many shows do you do in a tour?
We’ve done up to 150 to 170 shows. The first tour with Carrie, we did was 180 dates, four shows a week. Four shows in a row is pretty brutal. Playing 90 minutes, driving all night, get to the hotel, sleep a few hours, and then do it again.
Carrie’s like a robot when she’s singing, and I say that in a good way of course! She’s amazing.I saw her at an awards show with, like, the worst cold ever. I didn’t think she’d be able to sing but that night she was perfect.
What’s it like being part of the explosion with her? She won American Idol and then, bam!
It gets crazy sometimes with all the things to do. She’s really level-headed, very low key and professional, especially for the level she’s at. The time it hits me is when we’re doing the morning shows and get out of the van, and there’s paparazzi there waiting on us early.
What do you bring to the table?
I think I bring some spontaneity and energy, for sure. When there’s energy to be needed, I think I provide it.
How did you get going with the fiddle?
That was it from the start, man! My parents took me to see Ricky Scaggs when I was two or three years old and I was hooked. Grandpa’s old fiddle was at the house and I played it all the time. A couple of years went by and they realized I was serious, so they got me some lessons, and my father had a polka band. I started playing polka music with them and then just about anything else that came along.
Nashville has become a pretty big rock scene, honestly. Lot of Los Angeles guys have moved to Nashville because of the culture of music. Some guys are into the Christian scene, you have some the hardcore AC/DC guys … everyone has something to bring to the table that’s different from each other and lends itself to each other. As far as the general musician in Nashville, they listen to everything. I’m a huge Zeppelin fan but will listen to pretty much anything.
Do you get to do any other hunting?
Mostly deer since we have a farm in Wisconsin. I also have elk hunted in Idaho … and that’s one thing that almost might take over whitetails, the elk. It’s just so beautiful out west and they’re such cool animals.
What’s your preferred weapon?
I’ll shoot a bow or gun but if you give me the choice I’d take bow hunting over a rifle any day. The challenge of it is way more appealing to me. You have to hunt when you’re bow hunting. For me, it’s like any hunter and you want to harvest an awesome animal, but with bow hunting you’re getting closer and that appeals to me.
Hunting appeals to me in general because you have to study the area, go scout, figure it out, maybe monitor with trail cameras, learn about it and what you’re hunting, and then hunt it.
Do you get to hunt around Nashville?
I have hunted a little bit down south of here. The biggest thing that surprises me is the size of the whitetails down here compared to up north where I’m from. I got spoiled bigtime coming from where I did. I’m used to seeing these big Wisconsin deer and down here they’re smaller.
Does anyone give you a hard time about hunting?
People are pretty cool about it, for the most part. The ones who give you a hard time never have done it. They don’t get it and won’t get it. Craig Morgan opened for us and he’s out there shooting every day, out there telling hunting stories. We had a good time.
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