Josh Kennedy sits backstage at the Crescent Ballroom waiting to hit the stage for a “surprise” appearance by his band The Black Moods.
His mood is jovial as his curly blond locks hang from under his black hat. When the Moods — which also includes bassist Jordan Hoffman and drummer Chico Diaz — arrive on stage, it’s clear that years of touring with the likes of Whitesnake and the Dead Daisies have perfected the Tempe act’s craft.
“We work harder than any other band out there,” Kennedy says. “I look back at our career trajectory and I like that we’re still on the upslope. We haven’t hit the top and gone down the other side yet. The roller coaster is still clicking up. I’m OK with that right now.”
Things are about to change for The Black Moods. They’re playing their biggest show yet in the Valley, 8 p.m. Saturday, February 19, at Talking Stick Resort, and tickets are selling briskly.
VIP packages were available, but they sold half of them in two hours.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Kennedy says via telephone from Missouri, where he’s visiting family. “Talking Stick is really happy.”
The show advances the February 25 release of the new single “Saturday Night” and its video. VIPs can watch the video with the trio backstage at the Talking Stick show. The song’s success will dictate a new album’s release date
“VIPs get to see it first,” Kennedy says. “We’re going to go to radio, push that song and see how it goes.”
Kennedy was bred in the most unlikely of spots for a rock singer — Wheaton, Missouri, in the Ozarks, where his head was filled with Southern rock and country music. Wheaton has a population of only 700.
He found his calling when his dad summoned him to the living room to see a band that he liked.
“They didn’t have MTV,” he says. “This one day I was in my room playing and my dad says, ‘Hey, bub’ — he calls me ‘bub’ — ‘come check out this band.’ It was the Gin Blossoms playing ‘Hey Jealousy’ on an awards show.”
Kennedy’s dad told him he could write music like that because it wasn’t virtuosic.
“I decided when I was 13 that I was going to play guitar for the Gin Blossoms,” he says. “On my 21st birthday, I was on tour with the Gin Blossoms. They invited me onstage, and I got to play guitar.”
Flashback to when he was a teen, when he met the Gin Blossoms’ Robin Wilson, after a show with his side project Gas Giants.
“I was a super fan,” Kennedy says with a laugh. “I talked to him after the show. His advice? Go to college. He was playing 200-seaters to 50 people. Of course, I didn’t listen. I came out here. I found him playing Long Wong’s and I hit him up for a job. I worked at his studio.”
The Gin Blossoms have proven to be a huge influence on Kennedy’s songs like “Someone to Save Us” from The Black Moods’ 2016 album “Medicine.”
“‘Someone to Save Us’ is an example of a song that has the Gin Blossoms kind of feel,” he says. “It also has a harder rock sound than those guys have.
“We take elements of stuff I grew up on — Bad Company, Led Zeppelin. I listen to them just as much as I did the Gin Blossoms.”
Now he has the jangly alterna-pop musicians’ phone numbers on speed dial.
“The 13-year-old me would be freaking out,” he muses.
Music is all the trio does. When they return from touring, they get right back into their Tempe studio.
Their breakthrough album, “Bella Donna,” was recorded with Johnny Karkazis, to whom he was introduced by Adelitas Way’s Rick DeJesus.
“He’s definitely pushed us,” Kennedy says. “He called us names and stuff. He’s turned into a member of the family. It’s shocking when you meet him. He’s a big-time producer who has all these hits. It’s a little intimidating.”
Diaz, who grew up in Tolleson and Phoenix, says Karkazis brought the music out of them.
“He pulled the pieces out of each one of us,” Diaz says. “He turns over every stone. We get it and it pays off.”
“Nothing’s pedestrian,” Kennedy adds. “He doesn’t let things slide by. If it’s not cool, he’s not doing it.”
Hoffman is the newest member of The Black Moods. Raised in Toledo, Ohio, Hoffman was living in Los Angeles working as a musician and server when he auditioned for The Black Moods. He joined September 2017. Hoffman also lends background vocals to the songs. Then, it was something new to The Black Moods.
In a previous interview, Karkazis called this version of The Black Moods the best.
“They’re so talented and dedicated — all the good stuff you can say about a band,” Karkazis says. “It’s a really special band. It makes you wonder why they’re not hugely successful. They’re well known in their hometown, but I don’t know how well known they are outside of there. Maybe they just haven’t been in the right situation. They would meet any challenge I threw at them. They’re the kind of band a producer would love to be working with.
“It’s encouraging to see a band so hungry and so talented. We seem to have a good rapport with each other. It all seemed to fall in place. We don’t know what the future holds, but I love the songs we’ve recorded.”
Karkazis is also working on the forthcoming record, along with Phoenix native Jim Kaufman in LA.
“This is the second record we’ve done with Johnny K,” Kennedy says. “This one, when we recorded it, we had moved the studio to the Ozarks. We packed our whole studio up in Tempe when everything was shut down and nobody could go to a restaurant or bar.
“There was no live music or anything happening. Coming from the Ozarks, I grew up on lakes, creeks, backroads. You can always do that. We could go out on the lake, down to the creek and crawdad, or cruise the backroads.”
Kennedy says he, Hoffman and Diaz had great ideas for songs but they were built from the ground up in the Ozarks, give or take a song or two.
“You can definitely hear the surroundings melded into the record,” Kennedy says. “When I hear it, I can hear the creek. We would be working and get frustrated and hit a wall, so we’d say, ‘Let’s go to the creek.’ We’d jump in the creek and work on vocals and lyrics down with Mother Nature.”
“Saturday Night” and another new track, “Junkie Excuses,” may be previewed at the Talking Stick Resort show.
“We’ll do three or four off the new record,” Kennedy says. “It gets weird when you do new stuff with people who aren’t super familiar with it. Everyone likes to get down and sing along. On the Dead Daisies tour, we did ‘Saturday Night’ and two or three others. Everyone loved it.”
An Evening with The Black Moods
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, February 19
WHERE: The Showroom at Talking Stick Resort, 9800 E. Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale
COST: Tickets start at $25; 21 and older
INFO: 480.850.7777, talkingstickresort.com