2020 is a time of transition for RED. Their seventh studio album, Declaration, is set to arrive this Friday (April 3), marking their first effort via their own RED Entertainment.

Taking more control over their music resulted in a more personal record and has provided the band with some more opportunities, including seeing a desire for their music to arrive sooner, which led the band to push the album up a week and tie in a global YouTube Live and Facebook Live event this Friday (April 3) at 12N ET/9AM PT in which they'll be playing acoustic versions of their new material while also chatting and fielding questions from fans.

In advance of the new record, we spoke with guitarist and co-producer Anthony Armstrong about the Declaration album, how the freedom of running their career has yielded the most real version of RED on record yet and how they're dealing with the downtime from the coronavirus pandemic. Armstrong also teases a forthcoming RED project that is starting to take shape during this layoff from touring. Check out the chat below:

Did you have a mindset going into this record?

I think it was more personal this time because we didn’t have a label breathing down our neck. It was just the culmination of everything we’ve learned during the last 15 years of touring. All the things that we’ve done, we just really poured it all into this record. We did it on our own timeline. We had the normal pressures of releasing it to our fans, but we didn’t have a label saying, ‘Hey, we need a song like this.’ We clearly picked exactly what we wanted to do for the first time in our career. That definitely made it more personal for sure.

The songs we’ve heard so far come from a point of more self-examination, whether it be the inner turmoil of “The War We Made” or what we inflict on others with “The Evening Hate” …

I think that every record we’ve done has been about self-reflection. We’ve tried to still write about the things that we were experiencing and make it a snapshot of the time that we were making the record. With every record, time has passed, things have changed and so we’re always evolving.

But I think we were just better at explaining the self-reflection this time because we didn’t have any restraints. We just said everything we wanted to say and there was nobody telling us, ‘You can’t say that.’ So it was really nice.

RED, "The Evening Hate"

And you’re all over this record, co-producing and writing …

I did, but I didn’t want to take credit for producing because I love our producer and it’s kind of an agreement between him and I. We wrote the whole record together, just him and I, and we did a few songs with our old drummer Joe [Rickard], who did the mixing and the mastering of the record, which is really cool.

I’ve been doing production on all of our records since record 4, and it’s something I’m starting to make a transition into. Not that RED is going anywhere, but it’s useful to have a guy in the band that can produce the band. So I think I’ve been more or less molded by Rob [Graves] for many years.

We’ve always worked together because I really like how he does things. His talent and his style as an individual producer has formed us. That being said, it just makes it something that we’re all feeling. We feel the same way he does when we make a record and we’re all on the same wavelength. When he produces, that’s how I’d want to produce it. It’s just been such a journey with him, and we’ve done six of the seven records together. And when we made the decision on the fourth record to walk away from each other and see what might work, it wasn’t our favorite project.

Listening to this, the album does take me on a journey. It flows well together and there are some darker moments, but it ends on a positive note that feels earned.

Every time we do a record, we try to do that, putting the tracks in order to where you do go on a bit of a ride. I think ‘From the Ashes’ was the perfect track to end the record with because there was a lot of turmoil and angst and frustration and ‘Sever’ was a song we wrote about fraying ties with our label. We’ve always gone on a journey, but this one was a lot of angst, and we’ve learned so much that we poured it all into this album.

It’s not a disgust with the record label and it’s not disgust with the industry as a whole, it’s just the bitterness of it and the aggravation where the artists aren’t able to be artists a lot of times. You have to be a producer now and you have to know your gear more than ever before, you have to be an engineer, you have to be a bus driver, you have to be all these different things you never had to before. We poured a lot of that into this.

RED, "From the Ashes"

Being this was truly a band-overseen effort, what was the takeaway from this experience?

We’ve always gone away to make records. Some stuff is here in Nashville, but other times we travel to parts unknown to make a record. This time it felt like this was the place to go, the mountains, and it was more freeing than ever. There was just no leash. We got to do whatever we wanted to do, and it’s our money now. We do what we want to do and I think our fans are seeing the difference already.

From this point on, they’re going to get as real a RED as they’ve ever seen and ever heard and we’re just pumped about that. We made this project and they’re going to see behind the scenes stuff and footage and us being real people and not trying to fit some label image. We’re just a group of guys who love music and want to write a soundtrack.

RED Entertainment / The Fuel Music

We’re in an odd time right now, but I love the idea that in a time when some bands are pushing back their albums, you actually have moved up ‘Declaration’ by a week.

I’m not really current on what other acts are doing, but our record was supposed to come out on April 10, so we didn’t do anything too crazy, just a week sooner. But it’s all business. Of course, we want fans to not be pulling their hair out in quarantine, but I think it’s also a smart thing for us to do. It’s rough right now and people are slowing down, and people are putting their headphones on or watching TV, and they’re getting wrapped up in social media.

The contact that we have with our fans now, we’ve seen our social media numbers spike because people are at home. They’re actually slowing down to read some of the stuff we’re doing and looking at the posts we’re putting out and listening to the songs. So it’s like, we’ve got the undivided attention of all of our fans, so let’s just give them the music now. It was pretty much a no brainer for us.

And another cool thing is your pairing the release with the acoustic live stream, as well.

The songs that we’re doing we’ve actually already performed acoustic so we’re looking forward to that. It was just another chance for us to talk to fans and get some real time comments and feedback. We just want to celebrate with them. It’s a celebration when a record comes out. It was a lot of painstaking effort and for it to finally be out, you can take that ‘ahhhhh’ and share that experience with your fans.

But doing these acoustic songs, it’s always fun for us. Mike [Barnes] and Randy [Armstrong] do such a great job vocally, and it’s just a really stripped down version of Red that gives fans a chance to see that we can pull it off. It’s not just a studio record. We’re guys that can play and sing and really nail it. We don’t like to pat ourselves on the back, but we take pride in that we’re as on point as possible. And it comes out in the comments and the feedback that we get.

Editor's Note: Watch the RED 'Declaration' acoustic live stream in the YouTube player below or via Facebook Live on Friday, April 3 at 12N ET / 9AM PT.

Watch RED's 'Declaration' Acoustic Live Stream

During this downtime, are you digging into more things creatively?

Yeah definitely. It’s been a conversation that we’ve had, capitalizing on the downtime. We’re already starting another record (laughs). It’s not a studio album. Well, it is a studio album, but it’s not a traditional brand new songs type of record. It’s a different approach to what we’re used to doing and I think it’s gonna be really cool. I can’t say much about it because I don’t want to give it away, but we just started working on that and I’ll actually be producing that myself.

A lot of people have found ways to entertain themselves during this time …

Oh I have been too. I’ve been wearing Call of Duty out. I’ve always been a first person shooter guy. Call of Duty, and playing with my buds online. The guys I tour with, we’re shooting each other and talking trash.

Once all this clears, do you already have a plan in place?

We do. We were excited and we were supposed to finish the tour that we were on when this hit. Everything was rolling and then this sort of happened. We had to reschedule everything, and we’ve done that. Our team’s great. They’ve already rescheduled our European run and we’re looking to get on another bill in the fall in support of another major band. For the record, we’d really like to tour here [in the U.S.], but that’s not in our control right now, so we’re just doing what we can. But all the plans have been shifted. We’re rolling and we’re gonna be busy guys come hopefully this summer and definitely through the end of the year.

And as far as the new record, what songs are you most excited about in the live experience?

We’ve been playing ‘The Evening Hate’ and ‘From the Ashes,’ and we actually had just started playing ‘The War We Made,’ which will be our single. I’m loving that one. It’s pretty awesome. I think we nailed it and it sounds really good live. I do think my favorite track on the record and the one I can’t wait to play live is ‘Float.’ That would be my favorite one.

RED, "The War We Made"

Our thanks to RED's Anthony Armstrong for the interview. The 'Declaration' album arrives this Friday (April 3) and is available to pre-order here. Stay up to date on the band's touring plans via their website.

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