In the mid-1980s, local alt-country band Semi-Twang was on the rise. An amalgam of diverse talents from various musical backgrounds, the group caught the attention of record labels after opening for Emmylou Harris in Madison in 1985 (which, by the way, was their first gig). Semi-Twang signed to Warner Brothers in 1987 to record Salty Tears, which was released to universal critical acclaim, but little fanfare. Tours never materialized, a second record fell through, and little money was left over for promotion once the album was complete.
“It was so unlike the rest of my life before and after,” Sieger says of the experience. “It was stepping out of your life for a minute and into another reality.”
Not long after Salty Tears, Semi-Twang disbanded and went their separate ways to start families, work on other projects and come down from the brief brush with fame and the fantastical world that is the music industry. Sieger lived in Nashville for several years, writing songs for larger country acts and working with other artists and musicians. He kept in touch with other band mates and they continued to make music together in various incarnations. In 2009, Semi-Twang reunited for the 20th anniversary of Shank Hall, whose stage they christened back in 1989.
There were no fancy studios, no big name producers, no pressure – just a group of musicians doing what they loved. And just like that, Semi-Twang (whose members never really took a break in the first place) was back together, and the future is looking bright.
“We’re rebooting,” says Sieger, “and it’s exceeded my expectations.”
Today, I’ll chat with John Sieger about songwriting, show business and the revival of one of Milwaukee’s great bands.
(Windows Media Player)
Check out Semi-Twang live at Summerfest Friday, July 1 at 6 p.m. on the Harley Davidson stage. On today’s podcast, you heard “Sonny Liston” from Semi-Twang’s new album Wages of Sin. To hear more, click here.
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