Recently, Jett Beres read an article about the nature of the music business and the public misconception about what it means to actually make it. And it had him nodding his head in agreement.
“It said that people don’t understand that you cannot be on the radio and actually still have a very good career. People will say ‘I haven’t heard that song in a while. Are you guys still a band?’ They don’t understand. An American working band gets out there and plays for our fans. We fulfill a need for people. And we’re super stoked.”
So let there be no confusion — Sister Hazel, the Gainesville-born outfit for which Beres has played bass for the past two decades, is still a band. Even though their biggest mainstream hits were in the late ’90s, they have continued to tour all over the country and the world, recording music, connecting with fans, raising money for charity and, in some cases, serving as the namesakes for various fan offspring.
And Beres, who lives with his family in Palm Beach Gardens, can’t imagine his life any other way.
“It’s just surreal,” says the bassist, whose band plays Sunday at the Meyer Amphitheatre. “Twenty years later, our career is as strong as ever. We’ve very, very fortunate.”
A touring favorite named after a Gainesville missionary who fed the needy, Sister Hazel scored two big hits, “All For You” and “Change Your Mind.” They also amassed a loyal following, affectionately known as the Hazelnuts, many of whom have followed them since their formation in 1993. They don’t just go to shows — they populate an annual cruise called the Rock Boat with the band and other groups (the January 2015 outing features Barenaked Ladies, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Kris Allen, Will Hoge and more) and even helped build a feeding center for a Honduran village along with Feed The Children.
“They rally to the occasion, sponsored some 350 kids in the village, and helped build a school. It’s a whole transformation,” Beres says. “The fans follow us into all these battles that we drag them into. Collectively as a band and fans, to see the impact on this place is pretty gratifying.”
The band’s latest release is called “20 Stages,” celebrating their 20th anniversary, features 20 songs, each recorded in a different one of Sister Hazel’s favorite venues. Beres says the live shows are what keep them going, and the response they get make it clear that they’ve done the right thing by sticking it out all these years.
“There’s not been much slowing down of people wanting to see us. The response to (the album and accompanying documentary) have been amazing. The fans have been patient, because they like what we’re doing,” Beres says. “There’s something right on stage, something still connecting us to them. As long as that happens, there is really no reason to stop what we’re doing. And there are absolutely no plans for slowing down.”
IF YOU GO
Sister Hazel, with Big Sky
When: 3-6 p.m., Sunday
Where: Meyer Amphitheatre, downtown West Palm Beach.
Cost: Free. Information: WPB.org