Sister Hazel might be best known for the 1997 hit “All for You,” but that doesn’t mean the rock-country-alternative band has stopped making music. Their latest EP reached #1 on the iTunes rock charts, and their fans, who call themselves “hazelnuts,” remain as loyal as ever. Last week, hundreds of them packed into Denver’s intimate Bluebird Theater for a night of ’90s nostalgia on the band’s “Earth” tour.
The five original band members have been together for nearly three decades and say they feel a special connection to Colorado. “We haven’t been back in a while, and we’ve got a lot of people out here who were really part of our birth, who were hardcore hazelnuts early on,” says lead vocalist Ken Block.
The band, which got its start in Gainesville, Fl., attributes its large Colorado fan base to extensive radio presence in the Mile High City. “Colorado helped spread us toward the west coast as well, so it’s kind of a hub,” says guitarist and singer Andrew Copeland.
What’s kept them together for so long? Keeping their cool and knowing their priorities.
“We used to argue and fight over things that we shouldn’t have been arguing and fighting over,” says guitarist Ryan Newell. “We’ve learned how to pick our battles, and we don’t fight over tambourine parts in the studio anymore. I think we all share the same sense of humor. We laugh our way through the hard times and the good times.”
On top of that, Copeland says, all the band members have kids, so family comes first: “We all made a commitment to each other, and it was kind of unspoken, that if you’ve got something with your family and you need to be home, go home.”
Even when they’re not touring or making new music, the band loves to find new ways to connect with fans. Every year they host events like the “Rock Boat,” where they rent out a cruise ship for what bassist Jett Beres calls “the world’s largest floating music festival.” They also reach out to the community by hosting “Camp Hazelnut,” a weekend camp for cancer-afflicted children and their families.
The band is named after Sister Hazel Williams, a missionary who helped the homeless, and the members continue to draw inspiration from her message of charitable giving. “She said if you need help, I’m here to help you, and we just admire the work she did,” Block says.
Sister Hazel is now wrapping up a series of 4 EPs, with the last one set to release this September, and they have plans for more new music after that. “I would like to think that we keep taking evolutionary steps with the band,” Copeland says. “I’m not exactly sure what that means genre-wise, because we don’t really care about that.”
You can catch Sister Hazel on the rest of their US tour through December. If you’re looking for the full hazelnut experience, the 2020 Rock Boat will hit in Miami next January.