Hitting the Ground Running with Highway 50

Highway 50 is quickly becoming a staple among music listeners and critics alike. Fronted by Al Laughlin, who is an original member of the infamous The Samples, he takes us on a new musical journey with "The Violet Project," an ear-catching EP that blends elements of Ska, Reggae, Jazz, Pop, R&B and a dash of Rock. The group combines melodic lyrics and carefully placed instrumentation, as they bring Highway 50 to life. Recently we had the chance to catch up with Laughlin, who gave us a glimpse on the musical endeavors of Highway 50.

Spending several years with The Samples, what was the inspiration for shifting into a new direction with Highway 50?

I took a break from music for a while until i felt it was time to do my own project. I had been writing songs and thought it would fun to front a band so I put the ball in motion, so the inspiration was wanting to play my new originals in a different band form. The Samples naturally influenced my style especially drummer Jeep Macnichol that plays on my current release from Violet Recording "The Violet Project".Boulder Co.

The name Highway 50 is intriguing. How did you come up with the name, and what significance does it hold?

I ran out of gas on Hwy50 in Utah, Near me were signs that said the route was called The Pony Express Route used by the US Mail by horse.. Down the road another sign saying, "The loneliest road in America" which sure seemed true at the time. I got gas from a disgruntled trucker who thought I was an idiot for not paying attention to the sign 100 miles earlier pointing to the last gas station I'd see for many hours...I always thought Hwy50 would one day be a good band name. 

Being a music veteran, how would you say the Colorado music scene has changed from your beginning days in The Samples? 

As far as I'm experiencing it seems to have diversified . Denver has a great music scene though the dynamic has changed from the 90s in that we don't sell records now sadly. i guess some are sold but in general its downloads. I make CDs anyway because they make good business cards,,,and frisbees. I will say there are thousands of talented musicians and bands here and I can see an interest in live music when I play.

When penning music for Highway 50, what is your biggest inspiration when writing? What peaks your interest?

It's just a way of expressing myself. I try to paint pictures with words telling of my experiences and people can make up their own meaning. I use melody to drive it drawing on all the music I've listened to throughout the years like Reggae, Ska, Jazz, Rock, Folk Punk, Metal etc .  I have faith that people are open to hearing original music. I can see it at live shows. What peaks my interest is when someone is creative with their own music. So most of my tunes send a good energy yet are not targeting a specific world or political issue . its all relative in my opinion in many ways

Do you have any plans to tour with Highway 50 this year, outside of the Colorado area? If so, where?

I'm currently looking at booking agents so when that's locked down we can plan a tour, I'd like to do the East, Mid-West and West...not all together like I did in the Samples. I love Boston(where I'm from) NY,DC, Nashville, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles etc.  I am planning on playing in Boston and the Cape this summer in late July. All my dates will be posted on website and on Facebook (Highway&Al Laughlin).

There are quite a number of people who are in the group! How do you combine forces to skillfully craft your songs? Or, Al, you take the reigns and bring in the main outline?  

Yes I bring in the main outline,well stated. I just took the best players/friends into Violet Recording in Boulder.I did use a lot of musicians because that was the vibe and these folks have been so helpful and supportive. It's also quite a line up with Scott Higgins(owner of Violet) Jeep Macnichol (original Samples and The Plates drummer), Brian Nevin(Big Head Todd) Raoul Rossiter,Chris Wright,Darren Roebuck,James Hambleton,Andrew Mcnew,Sarah Mount,Matt Planer,Liz Forster, Liza Oxnard,Tony G,Bill Keros, Lowell Thompson. Thus, "The Violet Project." Live I use a 7or 8 piece with the horns, and can strip it down to a 4 piece if needed. Just thought they all deserve mention.

If you had to choose one song off The Violet Project EP, which piece do you think best represents the band and why?  

This is tough because they all have different styles. There's Dancehall/Latin, Swing,Rock,and Reggae .. I guess I'd take "Condoplex" with its Dance-Reggae vibe. It always seems to get a good reaction and smiles. Thanks so much for this interview I had fun doing it. I'll be recording another soon!!  

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Artist Highway 50