Exile: Gettin' Back To It!

Tag: Country

In the 80's and 90's, Exile was a well-known country band. The group started out in the early 60's as a rock and roll group known as the Exiles. They had one major hit called "Kiss You All Over." In 1973, they shortened their name just to "Exile."

Early in the 80's, the group returned to the clubs of Kentucky and completely changed their sound. When Les Taylor joined the group, they became a country band with a strong Southern Rock flavor. Over the years, band members came and went (35 all together), and the group had a large streak of chart-topping hits. The group disbanded in 1993, playing a farewell concert in Lexington with numerous past members rejoining.

In 2008, Sonny LeMaire asked the band members to get together for one show as a fundraiser for their tour manager who had been injured in an accident. Something clicked at this fundraising event, and the group then decided that they wanted to do more shows together. The current members of the group are J.P. Pennington, Les Taylor, Sonny LeMaire, Marlon Hargis, and Steve Goetzman.

In a recent interview with Marlon Hargis, I asked him how he got started in the business. He replied, "My parents made me take piano lessons at age five, which I hated for years. At age 14, I discovered the Beatles. And actually some friends invited me to join in a band, and I was hooked. Throughout high school, I played in bands. I was a music major in college. I actually changed to another major because I didn’t want to be a band director or study classical music. I was actually making a living playing rock and roll on weekends, so I changed my major to journalism. That was kind of useless to me because I’ve been playing music ever since basically."

He continued by saying, "My major influences were Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. I was also influenced by the British invasion, primarily by the Beatles. Some of my other influences included early R&B, the Temptations and the Four Tops. I think you’ll find that a lot in our music. And actually, even, gospel music."

In reply to why he decided to leave Exile originally, he stated, "I think basically we were tired of each other, and I was burned out. We all worked so hard for so many years. In retrospect, if I thought about it, things might have worked out differently. It was pretty much a mutual thing; I don’t think anyone begged me to stay. In looking back 27 years later, things that were a problem then, you wouldn’t even look at now. There was a lot of little stuff."

Since leaving Exile, he worked for Jerry Reed for a couple of years, out touring with him. He got married, had a daughter, and decided he didn't want to tour. He then moved to Nashville about a year after he left the band. He worked around Nashville for about ten years or so, played in Nashville with several local club groups, did session work, ran a music store, was a property manager for some condos, and worked in music management with Steve Goetzman. During this time, he actually played music for all those years. He said, "There was virtually no contact between me and any of the other Exile band members. I ran into some of the members here and there, but until Sonny contacted us in 2008 about, what I thought was to be, a one-time reunion, we really didn’t stay in touch."

Currently, Exile is on the road most weekends, staying in town for two-three days during the week. They are doing a lot of touring, 40 some dates this year so far, and may do up to 50-60. They have a website, and are selling merchandise on the website, including their new EP, which contains five new songs never previously released.

The types of venues where they have been touring range from casinos, smaller theaters, festivals, and a few outdoor shows, including an upcoming concert with Kenny Loggins. Most of the venues are generally between 400-500 seats. He enjoys the smaller venues more, because it is more intimate and they have a chance to interact with their fans. It amazes him how many fans remember the group and have remained loyal over the years.

I asked Marlon what types of activities he and the other band members enjoy doing when they are not on the road. He replied, "I enjoy working in the yard and doing landscaping, which is what I did today. I do some session work. My wife is a dog groomer and has her own business. She is very into dog rescue, and I enjoy helping her with that. We have some rescue dogs at home, two Siberian Huskies and a Chihuahua. Sonny does some writing. Steve does some work as our business manager. Les and J.P. still live in Lexington, Kentucky. They have their own projects, but I really don’t know what they do. We keep in touch mostly by email to discuss band business." Since they do not all live in the same town (Steve, Marlon and Sonny in Nashville, and J.P. and Les in Lexington), it makes it difficult to rehearse when they are not on the road. They get together at the beginning of the year for a couple of days to discuss what they will be doing during the year. Marlon said they basically have two hours worth of material to do at their various concerts, and they adjust it depending on how long a concert they will be doing.

When asked how Exile's music has evolved since the band was originally together, Marlon replied, "The recording technology has improved so much. I don't think there is a huge difference in the sound, just a little more updated. Our new stuff is a little more R&B oriented."

As far as the biggest challenge Exile has faced as a band, Marlon stated, "There have not been huge challenges. Logistics is certainly a challenge since we live in different areas, but overall we realize that we want to do this. The first year, we were not sure if there was enough interest by the public to get back into this, but we found there was. It is something we love to do, and Exile is the band's main focus. Our getting back together has been surprisingly smooth." When asked about Exile's plans for the future, he replied, "At this time, we are just taking a year or two at a time. Interestingly enough, 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the band. We will probably do something to celebrate that. We want to keep touring, and we would like to get some radio play for our material. We would love to have a major label contract at some point, but that probably won’t happen. Right now we are recording on our own label. We want to record more new material, which we will probably do this winter or the later part of this year. We want to keep our name out there and keep spreading the word. Everything changes so quickly, so we can’t really have a five year plan."

When replying to the question of whether he had any advice for people who want to form their own bands, he laughed and said, "Forget it! No, really, they should do it because they want to do it, not for any monetary gain. In all honesty, the odds are against you. Only about 5% of the bands have some success. It is important for them to find band members who play not only good music, but who get along with each other. You have to put the band ahead of your personal goals. You have to do what you love; you should be happy with that. You have to have a lot of patience. You have to be willing to sacrifice. You need to come up with a five year plan with your own goals. And above all, don't get discouraged."

When asked about Exile's plans for the future, for his ending comments, he said, "I am looking forward to coming back to Florida. We look forward to seeing the fans. We have a lot of new fans among the kids. Even my 27 year old daughter and her friends are fans. It's good to be appreciated and still around."

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