World news – Caleb Followill: « I never allowed myself to get close to people because I grew up that way. »

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The lead singer of Kings of Leon tells us about the fear he would go to Hell and why he never let anyone come near him – until he met his wife

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Caleb Followill leads a quiet life. It wasn’t always him. The lead singer of Kings of Leon – the band he formed with brothers Nathan and Jared and cousin Matthew in 1999 – had a well-deserved reputation for excess in the past. « Roaming hotel corridors in naked cocaine stupors, » New described Musical Express once its five-star arbitrariness. And there was talk that the rest of the band wanted him to go to rehab in 2011 because of his alcohol problems.

These days, however, Caleb’s existence is quieter. As a family man, he lives with his wife, former Victoria’s Secret model, Lily Aldridge, and their two children, Dixie Pearl and Winston, ages eight and two, respectively, in a Tudor Revival mansion on 100 acres outside of Nashville.

He says the two young children made him « go bald and the remaining strands of hair are gray ».

It’s the kind of fatherly comment you could never have imagined when he was in its superskinny pomp and romance with the likes of Kate Moss and Paris Hilton. Caleb’s late grandfather Leon, from whom the band got its name, once told him: « Y’awl can keep fame. It’s not for me. »

« And it’s not for me either, » Caleb said of Sunday Independent, when we talked on the phone about the band’s new album « When You See Yourself ». « It’s something I’ve always struggled with.

 » You want to be successful and that comes with fame. We have always tried to avoid that as much as possible. That’s why we don’t live in a big flashy city. We have a very quiet life. And when it’s time to put on my boots and go on stage, you want people to scream and have a good time. But after the lights go out, I’m more of a quiet guy.  »

Before the fame, he says, « It was fun traveling the world and playing shows with small crowds. But when you get a little bigger and people start taking your picture, it’s not fun. »

Perhaps the moment when one of the Kings of Leon lost his charm for Caleb can be traced back to his 2008 song “Cold Desert”.

« Nobody has ever carried my load / I am too young to feel so old, « went the text. How does 39-year-old Caleb feel about the young man who wrote and sang this song?

« That was a time when I could feel the pressure and tension – of the things to come and the things that were already happened, « he says. “It was hard to be a young man and feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. You have people counting on you. You don’t really have a chance to be fragile. « 

The song was also about the conflict between his extremely strict Christian upbringing and the decadent life of a rock star who could quote lines from the Bible while doing lines of cocaine in his own private plane. It was the gospel of heaven and earth Hell.

The Followill brothers’ life is the stuff of Gothic novels, the sons of a Tennessee minister who married a Memphis beauty in 1977. When Ivan Followill first met Betty Ann, she was with one Another man engaged. But Ivan just caught her. « God told me we were meant to be together, » he informed her.

Nathan was born on June 26, 1979, followed by Caleb on January 14, 1982. When Jared arrived in 1986, the Followills moved to a small town in Tennessee called Millington. Ivan became pastor of Munford United Pentecostal Church. Five years after his position, pressure to lead the flock began to affect Ivan. He began to drink heavily.

One day Caleb returned from school and found his father handcuffed in front of the house and the police standing over him. His mother shouted, « He’s a preacher! He didn’t do it! »

During an unspecified breakdown, Ivan appeared to have arrested a police officer who he believed was exceeding the speed limit. Not long after that, the Followills left town.

Over the next four and a half years, the three young brothers, whose band would become one of the greatest rock bands in the world, traveled with their evangelistic father and mother, who taught at home an Oldsmobile through the Bible belt.

On Road 325 365 days a year, they slept in relatives’ homes, in the car, or in the basement of the churches where their father preached. Meanwhile, Betty Ann played the piano, Nathan drums, and Caleb and his father joined traditional gospel standards such as « Jesus on the Mainline. »

The boys’ upbringing was solid: no music but church music; no TV; secular films only (Ivan once preached a sermon about a boy going to hell in a burning cinema); and no girlfriends. Even so, Nathan once said that « the children of preachers are the equivalent of rock stars in the religious world ».

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« No, I don’t think we acted like rock stars, » laughs Caleb. “But we had a lot of girls. We just couldn’t do anything with them. It was fun. We’d roll into town. We were the new people in town and it’s a long way … “

The story had an unfortunate ending. In 1997, Ivan left the Ministry and his marriage to Betty Ann was broken off due to his drinking problems. Was Caleb broken that his father left the Ministry?

« Yeah, probably at the time, » he says. « It wasn’t really that he left; it was more that he was asked to leave. It was kind of a heartbreaker for us because so many people looked up to him. The moment he showed his human error, Many people turned away from him. This is the opposite of what we grew up on: help each other – as opposed to messing someone up when they’re down. « 

Caleb dropped out of school. He and his big brother Nathan, who both lived in Oklahoma City with Betty Ann, moved to Nashville and started playing a few reserved gigs in bars as The Followill Brothers.

In 1999 they brought younger brother Jared on bass and cousin Matthew on guitar and formed the band with Nathan on drums and Caleb on vocals and guitar. But the past was never far from Caleb’s mind. When Kings of Leon signed with RCA Records in 2002 – their debut album Youth and Young Manhood came out the following year – he remembers thinking, “Once I knew we had a record deal, I never got the whole night slept – because I knew I was going to hell and I wouldn’t be a preacher. That was a feeling for sure, « he says.

In 2011, Caleb dismissed his own fall from grace. Speaking to 30,000 people at a show in Dallas on July 29th, he said, « I’m going to go backstage for a second and throw up. I’m going to have a beer and play three more songs. » He never returned. The rest of the tour was canceled.

Caleb walked away from the effort of being the leader of the band – just as his father left Munford Church in 1991 because he couldn’t stand being the leader of the flock ?

« I understand what you’re saying. That was definitely a time when the pressure was on me the most. I felt like I needed to get away from it for a second. So, yes, I was very burdened, « he says.

 » And my father was just as good with pressure. But I think it made us both stronger. We made better people than we admitted there are times when you just have to walk away. “

After the collapse of Dallas, the band took » a little break « . They had released an album in 2010, but it would be late 2013 before the next one came out.

« But I never took a break, » he says. « I went home and immediately the songs poured out of me. »

One of those songs, « Fairytale », is on the new album. “I wrote it over 10 years ago. It’s probably the most honest and autobiographical song ever. It was a different time. It was when my wife and I had a lot of fighting between our schedules. We didn’t see each other as often as we wanted.

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« It felt a lot like what I hated as an adult, » he says, « that I used to say goodbye. I never allowed myself to get close to people because I grew up that way. because I knew the relationship would be over shortly. « 

Did this nomadic life make it difficult for him to develop romantic relationships later?

 » Yes. My wife is one of the few true relationships I’ve ever had because I always felt that it was I’d be disappointed in the end. So I put up a big guard. A big shield. « 

He was building other things to keep the world out as well. When Kings of Leon became very successful, Caleb came to an age Ego called « The Rooster » who would come out if he wasn’t fit. He would sleep naked through hotel lobbies and be carried out of restaurants. Your wife seems to be a brave woman who has a lot to do with you, I say.

« Yes of course. My goodness. She is still with me. I was still scratching my head. She’s a good woman, ”he says. He met Lily at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California in 2007.

« He was performing and as soon as I saw him I couldn’t stop thinking about him, » she told UK Tatler magazine. They got married on May 12, 2011 at the San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito. Not long after that, he set off on the Kings of Leon world tour. On May 28th, the band played in front of 80,000 people at Slane Castle. And two months later came the aforementioned show in Dallas that almost broke the band apart …

Caleb admits that he has « grown a lot over the past decade. » We have a family now. Children are a much bigger responsibility ”than in a famous rock band.

“ I thought the weight was so heavy when I made my career, but the weight is much heavier when you have kids. Everything changes. You are the most important thing to me now. “

Of course, almost as important is the music that he, his brothers and his cousin make. The band’s new album When You See Yourself – their first album since 2016 – is a flawed but great record. Something we haven’t been able to say about their music for a while. I ask him if he should write « Fairytale » for his wife.

« I don’t really tell her when a song is about her, » he says. “In fact, I had written several songs that I believed were obviously about her. Then one day she said, « I wish you would write a song about me. »

« I thought, » Damn it, who the hell was I writing about? « With this album, Caleb » wanted to tell more stories. Using my imagination to write characters frees me and makes me a little less confident, ”he says,“ so I actually put more of my truth into the song. « Does he conjure up characters and stories like his father did with his sermons?

 » That could come into play, « he says. “My father was a great storyteller. Is still. But on our travels as children, I have come across many people from different walks of life. I can draw from that. When I choose to write about a cowboy, I’ve met a lot of cowboys. « 

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« I don’t think we realized we were nomads. We just thought we were out there doing the job my father had planned for us. We soaked everything. The window was our television We need to watch the world go by.

« I wish more people had the opportunity to put their computer and phone down and just travel and experience life and see what it does to them. » He concludes one Returning to this life for Kings of Leon doesn’t stop there.

« You never know. You grow as a person, you change as a person … I still have aspirations, maybe one day to go and just become a little church band in the middle of nowhere. And ride out like that … « 

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