Now You Too Can Drink Like a Rock Star
We chatted with Jay Buchanan, lead singer of the rock band Rival Sons, about life on the road and his favorite whiskies.
When you have opened for the Rolling Stones and toured with Black Sabbath, it’s safe to assume that your life is a montage of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, right?
But Jay Buchanan, lead singer of the band Rival Sons, paints a much more business-like picture of being a rock star.
“I’m all about a good time and every night is Saturday night around here for sure, but the music comes first,” he assures me. “Going too hard is not going to sustain you.”
If that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that there’s a limited amount of time on tour spent hanging out with other bands. “There’s not a whole lot of sitting around and chewing the fat,” Buchanan says. “It isn’t just hanging out. This is our job.” (In fact, Rival Sons—whose number-one radio hit “Do Your Worst” appears on their album Feral Roots—just wrapped up a tour this past week and announced a 12-city circuit with Stone Temple Pilots that kicks off this fall.)
It all sounds…responsible. But what was it like to travel with Black Sabbath for a year? “Those guys are giants. I’m really thankful that they gave us the opportunity to headline their final tour. That’s like being knighted or something. I don’t take that lightly,” he says. “At the same time, I always try not to ingratiate myself too much with these people.” After some prodding about Sabbath’s prodigious partying past, he admits, “most of those guys have hung their guns.”
Buchanan did, however, cop to drinking a bit during his shows. “I always keep a drink neat on stage in a mug,” he says. “Just taking a tiny sip of whiskey, just enough to wet my palate. It helps my throat while I’m singing.” (Pro tip: “If you keep drinking water,” he says, “that fills your belly and it will weigh your down.” He insists that with the water also comes the possibility of embarrassing burps.)
Despite the on-the-clock drink, he is very careful not to sip too much on stage because “it will catch up with you.” He’s learned that lesson the hard way: “You have a good time and next thing you know, you’re out there in front of thousands of people and you’re going oh man, I’m more buzzed than I want to be.”
After the show is when Buchanan typically loosens up and has a whiskey. “I’ll go back to my room and sit and listen to music and just unwind,” he says. “Take a shower. Change my clothes. And have a drink then.”
“I play rock ’n’ roll and it’s rock ’n’ roll every day,” he says. “So by the time I get off stage I’m so bombarded with sound that I just want to chill out man.” He’ll play some jazz or perhaps some Van Morrison, whose “music just sounds like whiskey to me.”
What fills his glass? Often a few fingers of the Irish pot still whiskey Redbreast. A friend gave him a bottle three years ago, on the night before his wedding. “I love the Redbreast 12. The 15 is really good. I pretty much always have a bottle ready in the cabinet,” he says. “For my regular, I just take it neat typically with a good solid ice cube. Then let it sit for a couple minutes and it really changes.”
On the road, Buchanan will occasionally enjoy Oban or Laphroaig single malt Scotch. He tried a Russell’s Reserve Bourbon recently that really impressed him. “There are so many bourbons and it’s great to explore. I like trying new things,” he says. “You can typically tell from the nose what’s going to happen, so I’ve dodged a few bullets.”
At home he has a small collection of whiskies, which “cycle in and cycle out.” When we chatted, he had bottles of Macallan 15-Year-Old, Johnnie Walker Black Label, Blanton’s, Buffalo Trace, Belle Meade Bourbon, Lagavulin 16-Year-Old and Elijah Craig 18-Year-Old. “I like to have whiskies that have a different characteristic,” he says. “I do know that.”
Does he like that people play his music in bars or when they’re drinking? “It’s a good feeling to know that you’re part of their good time,” he says. “It’s a really big deal. It’s magical in a way. When I see people coming to our shows I don’t forget that.”