With Cracked Rear View, Hootie & the Blowfish’s chart-conquering debut LP, having recently turned 20, one might expect Jim “Soni” Sonefeld, the band’s drummer, to revisit the band’s stratospheric past. But for him, the anniversary wasn’t a big deal.
“We didn’t really think about anyone bringing up the whole anniversary thing with that album,” he explains. “With Darius [Rucker, the group’s singer and a successful country artist] still out there playing some of those songs, however, it keeps it in people’s minds.”
What: Columbia Drum Mafia, Jim “Soni” Sonefeld, Jocobi Gunter, Todd Ellis
Where: Conundrum Music Hall, 626 Meeting St
When: Wednesday, July 23, 7 p.m.
More Info: conundrum.us
What’s good to remember about Cracked Rear View is that nobody saw it coming. At the time, mainstream music was fully consumed by the grunge of bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. So while Hootie’s sunny pop-rock was a hit among college and bar crowds in and around the Southeast, it didn’t line up with the day’s dominant sounds — though its success would certainly send things tilting in its direction.
Fast forward through an almost unnoticed release date to an appearance on Late Night With David Letterman, which threw sales into high gear, and Cracked Rear View was well on its way to reaching historical heights: Having moved more than 16 million copies to date, the album is one of rock music’s most popular debuts. It’s one of the best-selling albums of all time, sharing its peak with zeitgeist-defining efforts such as Metallica’s self-titled “Black Album” and The Eagles’ Hotel California.
“When it exploded, no one could have foreseen that,” Sonefeld says, “But there were plenty of people behind the scenes doing their job to make it possible.” He’s humble to a point about the band’s success, insisting it was a simple formula that just happened to work.
“We certainly were not gymnastic standouts on our individual instruments, but rock ‘n’ roll isn’t rocket science,” he continues. “It’s all about being catchy and having hooks.”
In that regard, Cracked Rear View delivered, with effervescent singles such as “Hold My Hand” and “Only Wanna Be With You” hooking ears with ease. But what many don’t realize is that those songs were brought to the band by Sonefeld, who joined Hootie after playing in local acts such as Bachelors of Art and Tootie & the Jones.
“We knew how to write songs within our weird way of Hootie writing,” he says, “We considered it done by all four guys, so that’s how it’s credited on the albums.”
In recent years, Sonefeld has stepped out from behind the drum kit, writing and recording his own Christian gospel songs, which is what he’ll be talking about at next Wednesday’s Columbia Drum Mafia, a regular workshop and performance event aimed at inspiring local percussionists. Sonefeld will discuss his own transition from drummer to frontman.
“I started writing more spiritual music four or five years ago,” he says, “and I’ve been performing for recovery groups and churches. As a recovering addict and alcoholic, I can speak to that recovery in my music, and my calling from God to speak bolder about my faith is something I’m very serious about.”
Brian Geiger — drummer for the modern rock outfit Crossfade, also among Columbia’s more popular musical exports — created the Drum Mafia series to give others the opportunity to meet and learn from people with such unique experience.
“I thought it would be great to jam with and learn from different drummers,” Geiger says.
Sonefeld may boast greater renown, but the evening’s headliner, Jacobi Gunter, is no slouch; the Zildjian-sponsored player is part of the Charlotte Bobcats drum team during home games, in addition to frequent studio work. Former University of South Carolina quarterback Todd Ellis — now a lawyer and radio personality — will also appear, discussing legal issues that pertain to entertainment.
Having experienced fame and now found his true calling, Sonefeld is pleased to take part, sharing his unique perspective with fellow percussionists.
“It’s all about being authentic and sincere in your art,” he says. “In striving for perfection or speed, they forget it’s an expression.”
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