Hot Apple Pie Biography
“Hot Apple Pie is the perfect name for a band, isn’t it?” comments Trey Landry. “This is 100% natural, no artificial ingredients,” says Sparky Matejka with a laugh. “From the very first day we played together, we knew this was a great mix,” recalls Brady Seals. “And, yes, that’s really us playing on the record,” adds Keith Horne.
What a concept. In an era when teen-heartthrob pop vocal quartets are called “boy bands” and when country “groups” hire session musicians to play on their records, the sound of Hot Apple Pie is indeed refreshing. You can hear it in every groove of its DreamWorks Records debut – this is an honest-to-goodness band.
These four musicians have an astonishingly full and diverse sound. Tracks like “Easy Does It” and “Everybody Wants to Dance with My Baby” have sensuous, R&B flavored grooves. “The Good Life” is a stuttering-guitar rocker. Hot Apple Pie takes The Band’s oldie “The Shape I’m In” for a bluegrass ride. “Slowin’ Down the Fall” is a hardcore country barroom weeper with a guest appearance by the legendary Willie Nelson.
“Redneck Revolution” is a bluesy, swampy Southern rocker. Yet “Why Can’t I Get to You” is a hushed ballad of desire. The group’s triple harmonies leap out of the speakers on tracks like the upbeat “We’re Makin’ Up.” The ballad “California King” is a marked contrast to the wild ride of the rocking “Should’ve Seen Her Leavin’ Comin.’” “Annabelle” and “All Together Now” seethe with backwoods Southern atmosphere. But “Hillbillies” has a distinctly urban, hip-hop vibe.
“I wanted my next musical project to have integrity,” says Brady Seals. “I wanted something that’s fresh and new, a little edgy and yet mainstream. Hot Apple Pie is that something.”
The band’s story begins with Brady. A member of a highly musical clan that also includes country stars Dan Seals (“Bop”), pop star Jimmy Seals of Seals & Crofts (“Summer Breeze”) and celebrated country songwriters Troy Seals (“Seven Spanish Angels “) and Chuck Seals (“Crazy Arms”), Brady was on the road as a country musician by age 16. He sent his early songwriting efforts to Uncle Troy in Nashville to have them critiqued. Then he moved to Music City.
During his 1991-95 tenure in Little Texas, Brady Seals blossomed as a writer. He co-wrote the band’s hits “My Love” and “What Might Have Been,” as well as the Grammy Award nominated “Amy’s Back in Austin” and “God Blessed Texas.” But country stardom carried a heavy price.
“We did 322 days on the road the year before I left,” he recalls. “To this day, I have not found a band that has toured that much in one year. It was just unbelievable.”
After leaving Little Texas to pursue a solo career, Seals released CDs in 1997 and 1999. He had six charting singles as a solo artist. However, Seals says “in every interview people would ask me about Little Texas. I really had a hard time trying to move on and have people embrace my new music.”
He spent a lot of time in Los Angeles writing and he made a critically acclaimed 2001 pop/rock album called Thompson Street. But the country boy never “fit in” with the West Coast crowd. He returned to Nashville to resume cowriting with greats such as Rodney Crowell (“Annabelle”), Mike Reid (Why Can’t I Get to You”), Dennis Robbins (“All Together Now”), Uncle Troy and his son T.J., Brady’s cousin. T.J. had also attempted an L.A. pop career, billed as Kizzy Plush. He and Brady have documented their shared experiences in the Hot Apple Pie song “California King.”
In 2002, Brady Seals had a brainstorm.
“I had the name and the whole vision from the beginning. I started to call the band The Apples. Then it turned into Apple Pie. Then, thanks to my wife, it turned into Hot Apple Pie. The guys all liked it. We chose the name because it means so many different things. It means home. It means comfort. It means country. It means rock ‘n’ roll. And it’s so American.”
“Sparky Matejka and Trey Landry had been in my band when I was a solo artist. I loved how both of them played, and I always thought they should have more than a sideman role. They were really talented good guys. So I called them up and said, ‘Let’s put a band together.’”
“I grew up in Houston and Dallas, and as far back as I can remember I was holding toy plastic guitars,” Sparky recalls. “I always wanted to play one, and I officially got one for Christmas when I was 15. Went to North Texas State and got my degree in jazz. But I always knew that eventually I was going to be in Nashville.”
Sparky Matejka moved to Music City in 1995. Since then, he has played for Charlie Daniels, The Kinleys, Sons of the Desert, as well as Brady Seals.
“Actually, Brady was my first job when I moved to town,” reports Trey Landry. “It’s kind of an interesting story. The last gig I did living in Louisiana was with Wayne Toups, a Southern Louisiana accordion great. We went on Delbert McClinton’s Blues Cruise in the Caribbean, and I was literally moving to Nashville two weeks later. Rodney Crowell and his wife Claudia Church were vacationing on that cruise. He saw me play with Wayne. He came up and introduced himself. We exchanged numbers, and he told me to call him when I got to town. But Rodney wasn’t up and running yet, so when I called him, he introduced me to Brady.”
With three of the four members on board, Brady Seals got busy. His wife, Lisa Stewart, introduced him to her former record producer, Richard Landis. A dinner together and some conversation led to Brady’s trip to Landis’s studio to play some of his new songwriting efforts.
“He understood immediately where I was going,” the songwriter relates. “I told him, ‘It’s like a cross between The Band and The Eagles.’ Richard commented, ‘Wow, that’s really interesting. What are you going to do?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m putting this band together.’”
Virginia native Keith Horne was a guitarist from the age of 6. After winning a number of guitar-picking contests in his home state, he formed a jazz band that backed Ramsey Lewis on the BET cable channel. He’d grown up with The Wooten Brothers, famed for their work in Bela Fleck and The Flecktones. They talked him into relocating to Nashville and let him room with them during his first six months in town.
“When I moved to town, you could see me play a bluegrass gig on a Tuesday, a jazz gig with the Wootens on Thursday and in a honky-tonk band on Lower Broadway on the weekend. It was all the same guy.”
A multi-instrumentalist like the others, Keith toured with Tanya Tucker, Waylon Jennings, Peter Frampton, Ricky Van Shelton, Chaka Kahn, Trisha Yearwood, Sons of the Desert and Lonestar. He dreamed of breaking into recording session work, but by 2003, another dream began to take that one’s place.
“I was talking to my best friend online,” he recalls. “I said, ‘I’d sure like to get in a band and get a recording contract. That’s something I think I’d be more into than sessions.’ He said, ‘I got an email yesterday morning from a guy who says Brady Seals has this new band, but they haven’t found a bass player yet.’ I got Brady’s number and called him up. He said, ‘What are you doing tomorrow?’”
In February 2003 Keith Horne joined the other three at Richard Landis’s studio. The chemistry was instantaneous. By the end of the day, Hot Apple Pie had recorded four tunes. All four wound up on their CD – “We’re Makin’ Up,” “Easy Does It,” “The Good Life” and “Annabelle.”
“That was a good day for all of us,” says Keith with a grin.
Keith had to finish up his commitments to Lonestar. Sparky was still with Charlie Daniels. Trey was on the road with Rodney Crowell. Brady was busy writing songs for what was soon to become, Hot Apple Pie.
When everyone’s life settled down, Landis took Hot Apple Pie under his wing. He funded its recording sessions and rehearsals. Then he took its extraordinary music to James Stroud, who signed the band to DreamWorks.
“This all took place within six months,” says Brady. “It was that quick. We all just knew it was going to work. This is a big sound for just four guys. There’s a bunch of stuff going on.” Brady laughs, “We play so many instruments that we’re like the male version of the Mandrells!”