5 Questions With Sister Hazel

We caught up with the alternative rock band from Gainesville, Florida, Sister Hazel earlier this week.  Check out an excerpt from our exclusive interview with Sister Hazel as they share their views on everything from touring with the Allman Brothers to their philanthropic projects.

1.  The band is named for Gainesville’s Sister Hazel Williams.  Do you guys still keep in touch with her?  How does Sister Hazel Williams feel about having a band named after her?

Yep.. She’s in her late 80’s now and finally beginning to slow down. We still send her  a little money and a couple of years ago a fan we know who was working with 5 hour energy drink nominated her for an everyday hero award and she was awarded a $50,000 prize.  She is using it to feed the hungry in our area (Gainesville) and to work with children of the incarcerated.

2.  Block has previously stated that his “favorite memories of those early days was when the band opened for the Allman Brothers Band for two sold-out shows at Red Rocks in Colorado.”  With that being said, will the band plan on visiting the ABB band museum and Capricorn records while in town?

We loved touring with the Allman Brothers Band.  We grew up immersed in their music so to be asked to go out on tour with them was beyond exciting.  We ended up going out with them for several weeks 2 summers in a row. Unfortunately we won’t be able to swing by the museum this trip - but last time we were in town we went to Rose Hill cemetery and visited the grave site of Elizabeth Reed.

3. What can fans expect from the new album?  How is Lighter in the Dark different from your other albums?

First and foremost ‘Lighter in the Dark” sounds like a new Sister Hazel record… But there is definitely a lean into our southern rock and country roots and influences. Kind of a fresh take on where we started. Big harmonies, stories and hooks, and lots of Ryan’s signature slide guitar. We grew up in a small town in North Central Florida (Gainesville) so we think it sounds like ”Florida Music”.


4.  Tell us more about Sister Hazel’s philanthropy and Camp Hazelnut.

Using our vehicle to call attention to worthy causes has always been an extremely important part of who we are as a band.  Our main focus has been Childhood Cancer and feeding the hungry.  I lost my younger brother Jeffrey to Cancer when he was only 18 years old after a rough and courageous 4 year battle so that cause is near and dear to my heart .  And in the Spirit of Sister Hazel Williams we come by feeding the hungry honestly.  Our charity Lyrics for Life has raised over 1 Million dollars through some pretty cool and unique music related special auctions and events that we create for research and programs designed to support children and their families as they navigate the challenges of a cancer diagnosis.  Last year we started this incredible new event called "Camp Hazelnut” (www.camphazelnut.com). We take over a real summer camp with all the awesome activities you remember doing as a kid (archery, water sports, campfires, ropes course, s’mores, etc) and sprinkle it with live music, song writting activities, and so much more - all hosted by the band and camp counselors.  We bring out a mix of fans - the Hazelnuts - and families from the Children’s cancer center in Tampa.  It is an unforgetable weekend for EVERYONE out there!! Life changing and life affirming. It’s especially a great escape for the kids and their families who really need a fun break from treatment - and in turn it uplifts everyone who is a part the weekend.  It was a huge success and we plan on expanding it next year.

5.  Where does the band see themselves in 5 years?

We’ve carved out a nice little career and life for ourselves.  So I hope 5 years from now looks an awful lot like things look now. Every year is a better version of the one before.  Families always come first - because if that’s not working - nothing is working.  Then it’s all about the same things we try to tend to every year.  Write good songs that we’re proud of, tour about 120 dates, put on powerful and fun live shows where people feel like was it was “time & money well spent”, grow and evolve our long time fan centered events and experiences “The Rock Boat” (wwww.therockboat.com)  and the “Hazelnut Hang”, and stay committed  to our service work like our Children’s cancer charity ‘Lyrics For Life” and “Camp Hazelnut”.

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