Rob Aldridge readies a new Proponents record.

A lot happened in 2021 for Rob Aldridge & the Proponents. During the recording of their new record, bassist Stone Anderson suddenly passed away. Anderson was a longtime collaborator and friend of Aldridge’s, and the sudden loss was difficult. But Aldridge focused his energy into ensuring that the record that Anderson had finished recording with the band would be released, and now, that effort will be rewarded. The first single is out tomorrow, and the full album arrives in January.

Rob and I talked about the year that was and the year that lies ahead as he returns to Birmingham to perform in-the-round with Jay Burgess and Caleb Elliott.

Where are we at on the new record? I know it’s been a long time in the works.

We are scheduled to release on January 21. I actually just listened to the test pressings of the vinyl, and everything seems to be good and squared away. We’ll have a few singles released. The first is [out Wednesday].

And the entire record is Stone’s recordings?

Yeah, he finished all his parts and he’s on there.

I guess that kind of became a mission for you to make sure this was finished on his behalf. How important was that for you?

It was huge. I was so thankful that he was able to finish all of his parts. That time is a whirlwind in my memory. But I remember me and Jay Burgess going into the studio to start mixing, and he had just passed away – listening to his isolated bass parts – just how great of a job he did on the record. It was hard. It was great. It was awful. But it had to be done. It made me appreciate the record and appreciate Stone a lot more.

Have you decided to move forward with another full-time bassist or are you just kind of hiring folks as you go right now?

Matt Ross has been working out really well. He and Rob Malone have been playing together since I was in diapers, probably. [Laughs] Not trying to age anybody. And Matt probably looks better than all of us. It’s really comfortable with Matt Ross and he understands the position we’re in. First rehearsal, he showed up and he was off the charts. He knew everything. So right now, we’re going to ride it out with him as long as he’ll stay with us.

I’m sure you’ve known Jay for years, and I guess maybe this recording process brought you together in a new way. Did that lead to this run of in-the-round dates?

I can’t remember whose idea it actually was. It may have been Caleb’s idea. But we didn’t have a lot of shows booked. I asked Jay during the pandemic if he was gonna try to book shows in 2021 and he said, “Nope. 2022.” And I was like, “You know, that’s probably wise. [laughs]

But we had the time and we like hanging out. The three of us get comically competitive over ping pong occasionally. They’re two of the only musicians I hang out with that like to talk about sports. [laughs] So, yeah, I think it was Caleb’s idea to do it, but both of us were like, “Hell yeah. We should have done something like this a long time ago.”

You still had a pretty productive year. You went out and opened for Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit a couple of times. You got this album finished. How has your year been despite being sidelined for a little bit?

The train never really slowed down after Stone died. It couldn’t. The record was done and that’s when the hard part starts. I felt obligated to get everything out. Those Isbell shows were actually scheduled for 2020. I think the Mobile show got rescheduled four times. With Stone’s passing and with us preparing for those shows with Matt and not really having any shows before those shows as a band – it’s been a stressful year, but in retrospect, I think the hype of the situation added to all of that more than the undertaking of it.

What does 2022 look like?

I’m working out the logistics to get the band on the road. I’ll probably be doing some solo stuff just to get my foot in the door in some new rooms. We had kind of agreed before Stone passed that we are gonna make our departure from the four hour bar gigs where we play a bunch of covers. So we’ll be exclusively playing originals.

Will you and Rob [Malone] continue doing duo stuff?

We will. We love doing that. I want to do some more of that in 2022, for sure. That’s where we started. The Proponents was secondary to me and Rob playing together.

Rob Aldridge, Jay Burgess and Caleb Elliott will perform in-the-round at Avondale Brewing on Thursday, November 18.

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