A: It comes about if you have really good publicists. Press like that doesn't come out of nowhere. I hate to debunk the beautiful mythology of rock 'n' roll. But you work hard and you work with the right folks. Now, hitting No. 3 on the Billboard chart, that was pretty weird. Nobody predicted that. And that was for a whole week [laughs].
Q: And how are you handling all that?
A: Well, everything to me is still exactly the same. It's a comfortable, good place to be. It's my job. It's what I know how to do. There's nothing that changes if your record is at No. 3. There's more people at the shows, which is awesome. I love that. But there's not paparazzi outside the hotel or anything.
Q: Critics have praised "Middle Cyclone" as a step forward, in terms of the emotional range of the songs and the range of your singing. How do you see it?
A: When you make the album, you're too close to it to know. All I can do is try to do a better job than I did last time. I hope there's been some marked growth of some sort. It felt good. I felt happy when it was finished. And I enjoy performing the songs, so something good is happening.
Q: Of course, we all love Kelly Hogan here, but could you gush about her a bit for the hometown folks — what does she mean to you and your band?
A: Where do you want me to start? Besides being one of my very closest friends, she's the best singer I know. She is such a perfectionist, and she's just super talented. Nobody can harmonize like she can. I've been badgering her, along with everyone else in the world, to make another record. When she told me that she was in the band, which she announced to me a few years ago [laughs], it kind of took me aback. I was like, "You mean you want to be in this band all the time, when you're you?"
Q: Well, Kelly is a great singing partner, but how was it singing with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog at Bonnaroo?
A: He's actually an incredibly good harmonizer, I found. When they asked us to do it, I was like, "Are you serious?" But that's when you know you've really made it, I guess, when Triumph the Insult Comic Dog wants to come onstage with you.