Southern spitfire Ruyter Suys, the lead guitarist for Atlanta-based Nashville Pussy, epitomizes the band’s lyrical tract of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. Alongside husband Blaine Cartwright, drummer Jeremy Thompson, and bassist Karen Cuda, Ruyter and Nashville Pussy have been spreading their sound across the world for over a decade, garnering an impressive cult following along the way.

The band are currently midway through The Parental Advisory Tour, their first full-scale US run in quite some time. I had the chance to talk to Ruyter during an intermission in the tour’s racking schedule to discuss From Hell to Texas, smoking weed with Willie Nelson, and how Nashville Pussy became “The Hardest Working Band in Show Business.”

Ruyter Suys

From Hell to Texas was released almost a year ago, and it seems that you all have been pretty nonstop since then. How much time do you generally spend on the road?

We probably play about 2/3 of the year. And no one has a real job, you know, so we play as much as we possibly can.

You guys are on the road with Green Jelly right now. How have the shows been going?

It’s actually been really good. We’re picking up steam as we’re traveling. It’s been pretty cool.

We haven’t done a grassroots American tour for awhile; we’ve been mostly hitting major cities. And it’s a chance to get back in touch with the people, you know?

I was checking out the routing, and the tour seems pretty long.

Yeah! And they keep adding dates too, so it’s pretty extensive. We’re definitely proving the title as “Hardest Working Band In Show Business” right now. (Laughs)

You’ve had quite a bit of time to play the record in front of different audiences. How is it being received, especially in the United States versus the rest of the world?

Well, obviously, our most loyal fan base is in Europe. They’ve caught on–they’ve been singing along with the songs since the day it [From Hell to Texas] came out. But I think it’s slowly catching on here, because there have been a bunch of people singing along. “Why, Why, Why” is one of the catchier songs on the album, and there are people that already know the lyrics when we get in there, so it’s pretty cool.

Someone is playing it! I don’t know if it’s a radio station, but someone is playing this record!

From Hell to Texas

A lot of artists these days regard recording studios as somewhat obsolete, but you guys recorded at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales Studio in Texas. How did the idea to record there come about?

It was just luck, really. A friend of our manager’s, a guy named Gordie Johnson, he used to play in a band called Big Sugar up in Canada. They were pretty big, and he’s the engineer down at Willie Nelson’s studio. So we had an opportunity to get in there, and it was like, “Do you want to record in Willie Nelson’s personal studio?” and we said, “Of course we do!”

I think we had an eight month’s notice that we were going to be recording at Willie’s place, and we just prepared for it that way. It was absolutely fantastic though; it was just a completely unique experience. And then to top it off, we got to actually meet Willie Nelson and smoke weed with him, which, that was just the topper. After having recorded the album and having a really good time, and a really good experience, then we get to meet Willie himself. And it was kind of like being blessed by God at the end–like “go forth and rock.” It was really cool. We didn’t anticipate that, but we were all hoping he’d be there.

I know you’ve had quite a few problems in the past with record labels. What’s your label situation now?

We never personally had actual problems, its just always been the bean counters making decisions.

Record labels fold and record labels grow, and sometimes we get paid royalties and sometimes we get screwed royally. (Laughs) But it’s kind of worked out in our benefit.

The surprising thing is that the people that are running our new label here in the States, SPV–I think it’s called Roadkill, or something like that–but SPV is primarily a European label, and they’re connected with another label now in the States. And we’re working with some of the same people we were working with eight years ago on completely different labels.

We’ve made a lot friends in the industry, and it’s nice to know that they’re still working and we’re still working, and we’re still working for each other in some way. It’s always crazy to be like, “Hey, I remember you! You used to work for Sharon Osbourne.” And “Yeah, you guys used to be signed to Mercury.”

Daniel Rey produced this album, as well as Get Some in 2005. What made you decide to go with him again?

He just knows us really well–he knows our strengths. And he worked with The Ramones! He’s got a talent for finding the hook in music and making us sound, for lack of a better word, poppier. He makes the songs sound catchier. He’s really good at helping us arrange songs, and he’s got impeccable taste. I mean, with The Ramones on his list, you can’t really argue with the guy.

I know he did White Zombie too. He’s definitely got a great track record.

Yeah! He’s got an excellent track record. And he knows how to work with us. He’s a fun guy to be around.

Nashville Pussy

Danko Jones appears on “I’m So High.” How did that collaboration come about?

He’s an old friend of ours from Canada. They used to open up for us, maybe eleven years ago up in Canada, and then we just became friends over the years. We actually played some festivals in Europe with them, and they’ve just gotten better and better. He’s become such a fantastic performer, and he’s got an amazing voice.

So Blaine wrote the song, kind of with Danko’s voice in mind. He was trying to write a Temptations song, and he came up with “I’m So High.” Since he had Danko in mind, we were really happy when he agreed to sing along.

Over the years, you’ve done quite a few cover songs. I know that you’re a big AC/DC fan, so a lot of the choices are pretty obvious, but how do you all decide which songs you want to cover?

We’ve always got a back log of stuff that we think is cool, and it’s all over the place; something as obvious as AC/DC, to Ike & Tina Turner, to a Coasters song–we’re all over the place when it comes to getting influences. It just depends on whether or not it works. We’ll try a song, and if it doesn’t work, we’ll scrap it immediately.

We wanted to cover “Nutbush City Limits” since we started the band, and Karen was the first bass player we ever had that was good enough to pull it off. The bass line is really difficult in that, and we had a couple of our other bass players try it and they just couldn’t do it. We showed it to Karen and she figured it out on spot, in the studio, and we hadn’t even planned on doing that song in the studio–that was on Get Some.

And bam! We had it done in about an hour and a half, because the rest of the band, we’d been playing it in our minds for years. It was always like, “One day, it’d be so good if we were capable of playing this song!” and sure enough, Karen pulled it off perfectly.

What are some of the less obvious musical influences for the band?

Of course, we listen to a lot of metal, but that’s not our primary influence. We listen to a lot of classic rock, obviously, too. We listen to a lot of funk and a lot of soul–The Eisley Brothers, Funkadelic, James Brown, The Temptations. Anything that’s on Stax Records, Southern R&B, and stuff like that. That’s not so obvious, right?

Nashville Pussy has been playing music in this vein for a long time, but there’s definitely been a resurgence of Southern rock in recent years. What’s your take on a lot of what’s coming out these days, considering a lot of Southern rock isn’t actually being played by Southerners?

(Laughs) Oh man! If they play it good, then I’m all for it! As long as it’s not lame. I mean, I love Southern rock, and if they do a good job, then that’s great. It’s better than having a bunch of bands that sound like Coldplay. And it’s better than anything on the fucking radio, man. I’d rather listen to that than have to listen to another whiny fucking emo band.

What’s changed for Nashville Pussy musically since your first record?

We learned how to play. (Laughs) When we recorded that first album, I don’t think we really knew that we were a punk rock band. I think we thought that we were rock ‘n roll. And then we listened to it, and it was so fucking fast–we recorded our whole set in 27 minutes or something like that. I was like “Damn!” because I honestly thought that we were a rock band. And I was like, “Oh my god, this is way too fast!”

But yeah, we definitely got better at playing our instruments. Other than that, there hasn’t been a whole lot of evolution. Blaine’s lyrics are funnier than ever; his lyrics are just fantastic. We’re definitely better players all around. But we’re still a fucking punk rock band!

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I saw that Elle Magazine included you in their “12 Greatest Female Electric Guitarists.”

Yeah, isn’t that crazy?

What was that all about? Did you know anything about that beforehand, or was it just a complete shock?

No, nothing whatsoever. I got an email from our old sound guy and he said, “You’re never going to believe what I saw in Elle Magazine.” And I was like, “What are you doing reading Elle Magazine?!” He was like, “They voted you one of the top female guitar players” or something like that. And I thought, “Right on! Maybe I should be reading this Elle Magazine.”

Any last words for our readers?

Come out and see the shows! It’s an intimate evening with Nashville Pussy. And it will probably be awhile, quite honestly, before we come back again. After this, we’ve got the rest of the world to take care of. The whole world needs some Pussy!

It seems like you guys are taking care of California pretty well–you’re playing ten dates out here.

Yeah, thank god! We’ve actually been neglecting you guys for awhile. We spend so much time oversees, and the last time we came through was with Motörhead. I think we only had three dates in California, and we went on at 6:30 and only had a half-hour set. If you missed it then, now is your chance to see the whole set. You’ll get a solid hour of some Nashville Pussy.

The Parental Advisory Tour California Dates:

5/17/2010 The Independent – San Francisco
5/19/2010 The Avalon – Santa Clara
5/20/2010 The Key Club – Los Angeles
5/21/2010 The Crest Theater – Fresno
5/22/2010 The Catalyst – Santa Cruz
5/23/2010 Fat Cats – Modesto
5/26/2010 Ventura Theater – Ventura
5/27/2010 Galaxy Theatre – Santa Ana
5/28/2010 The Dome – Bakersfield
5/29/2010 Brick By Brick – San Diego

For more information on Nashville Pussy, check out:

www.nashvillepussy.com