Yes, Ozzfest has come and gone, but I still haven't shared my little talk with Corey Brandan Putman, vocalist for the Christian metalcore outfit Norma Jean. And funny thing, I can't get them out of my mind. I enjoyed our chat, their release, "Redeemer" (Solid State Records) and their performance at the huge concert, yet there's more to them than the fact they keep my attention.
Georgia's Norma Jean was nominated for Best Recording Package at the Grammy Awards 2006. They were originally called Luti-Kriss and released their first album in 1999. In 2001, they released "Throwing Myself" and then changed their band name to Norma Jean to avoid confusion with rapper Ludacris, who is also from Atlanta area. Putman joined the group in 2002, replacing departing original vocalist Josh Scogin. The lineup continues with guitarists Scottie Henry and Chris Day, bassist Jake Schultz and drummer Daniel Davison.
I began our talk by asking Putman how he came to join Norma Jean.
"Me and the guys have been friends for a very long time," Putman replied. "I was in another band before and we played a lot of shows together and we were fans of each other's bands. Unfortunately and not unfortunately, the band broke up. After a while they asked me to come sing for them for a tour and I stuck around. It was really fun. We connected right away, musically, all our writing, it's so easy, we're totally into the same things."
We went further back.
"My family on my mom's side is musical. My great grandfather wrote hymns for a living." Putman confides, "This is kind of a weird fact, Dolly Parton bought his piano and it's in her museum."
For the unfamiliar, Dolly Parton's Chasing Rainbows Museum is in Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
"I've always loved singing," says Putman. "I was in plays in school when I was really young. I was always the loudest kid. I was yelling at the top of my lungs, my face would turn red."
He attended college briefly.
"I hated school, so I quit doing that," Putman tells me. "I just pursued music. I've been playing in bands since I was 16 years old and now I do this full time.
"I was a single parent with two kids for seven years. Obviously I wasn't totally alone, I had my parents." Putman shares," I worked in factories, restaurants. I worked when I was in college for the little time that I did go and then I had a second job after school, it started at five o'clock and I would close the restaurant and then I would go straight to another restaurant and the next morning I would get up and do it all over again. There was a time when things were really rough."
Today, life is looking up.
"I'm married now so I like being with my family. If I'm not on tour, I just want to be home," Putman says and rattles off a few of the family-type things he enjoys doing.
Norma Jean is noted for their passion for barbecue. The band likes eating barbecue together when on tour and has even created their own barbecue sauce. In fact, they have "BBQ" tattooed on the inside of their lips-- just for fun.
"Whenever we're together, we're all like, 'Let's get barbecue.' It's turned into something that has sentimental value," Putman laughs.
Here we spend a few minutes comparing pulled pork recipes. Most of my friends and I prefer a more vinegary sauce with the meat served on cheap buns topped with crunchy cole slaw. Putman agrees to a point, but has his own takes on the sauce.
I wondered how Norma Jean felt being a Christian band at the very secular Ozzfest.
"We are totally a Christian band, but we're a seriously heavy, crazy band and we can handle it. We thrive on being the most aggressive we can be when we play live," Putman states.
So you have a crossover audience, I counter.
"To us it's not really crossover that is our audience." Putman explains, "Music to us is not Christian or non-Christian music, it's just sound. If you clap your hands you can't say, 'Was that a good sound or a bad sound?' It can't be good or bad or wrong or right, a sound can't have an opinion. The music itself has nothing to do with our beliefs at all, with the lyrics, that's when that steps in to play. We write about what we believe in, that what a musician does. Whether you're Christian or not, whatever you believe in, that's what they write about."
OK, well what else can I learn about Norma Jean's writing. I know that Putman lives in Arkansas while the rest of the group lives in Georgia, so that has to be a little tough.
"We all write at home separately and we'll make little recordings here and there and then when it comes time to really write and bring the record together, we'll take all of that and just throw it in a big pile and piece the music together from all of the things we've thought of. Usually we're not writing entire songs, somebody comes in with some riffs. We all definitely write together," Putman tells me and adds that all of the members play guitar and all writer parts of the music, as well as the lyrics. "I've been in other bands throughout my life and this one is just so easy to be in. No one has an ego or anything."
We discuss the music scene.
"We do whatever we want and when it comes to writing, we won't do the same thing twice," states Putman. "We're always trying something new, it's no challenge creating the same record over and over. When we write, we isolated ourselves completely."
After the Ozzfest tour, Norma Jean took a break, "Redeemer" was released and they went on to a headlining tour, as well as some other stops.
Catch Norma Jean when they return and visit www.normajeannoise.com
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