Hey, folks! I’m gonna make this short and sweet. I’ve got two things for ya:
First off, as many of you have heard by now (I hope), Nine Bullets is sponsoring a Spring Showcase in a couple weeks. It’s on May 30th, to be exact, at Al’s Bar here in my new hometown of Lexington, KY. The lineup is gonna be incredible. I’ve chosen acts who I think represent some of the best in the region (with a few touring acts sprinkled in), and that I hope you will love as much as I do. Some you’ve heard of, some maybe you haven’t – all of them are great.
There will be five acts on the main stage along with five (mostly) acoustic acts in the adjacent Beer Garden, all for just eight bucks:
For a taste of what’s in store for you, here’s a video of Tyler Childers (on the bill again this year) performing his yet unreleased song, “Feathered Indians,” at last year’s event, and here’s what Autopsy IV said about one of his live EPs. Childers actually inspired and encouraged me to make this an annual event, so, hey, thanks, buddy!
That’s about all I have for you on that front. I didn’t wanna bombard you with tons of links to the artists, because I’m pretty sure most of you have heard of them already, and, if you haven’t, I’m pretty sure you know how to use the internet to find out more about them for yourselves.
As for the second thing, well, if you haven’t guessed it from the title, this is going to be my last post at Nine Bullets as a Contributor. Maybe I will guest post every now and then, but I will no longer be part of the staff. Nine Bullets has been very good to me over the past three years, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. (Thanks, you guys.) For those of you who follow Dear Ben Nichols, you may recall that I had to hand over the reigns, because I’ve got a lot going on and will for the foreseeable future. Well, that’s the case even more so now. Doc Feldman of Shaker Steps (and a mighty fine musician in his own right) and I are teaming up for some really exciting music-related ventures that we’re working hard on to make happen. If you want to keep up with us, then keep an eye on the Shaker Steps Facebook Page for updates and announcements.
Anyway, I hope to see you at the Spring Showcase! We can drink all the whiskey drinks!
Get tons of info on the acts, venue, tickets, area hotels, and all that good stuff at the official event invitation. Don’t have Facebook? No problem. Take a look-see and watch more videos on Tadoo.com, or check out Al’s Bar for info and to buy tickets.
I figure some people might not know the history of all things Doc Feldman, so I thought I’d start there. When were The LD 50 and The Infernal Method formed?
First of all, I just want to say thanks for asking me to do this, and, yes, I’m definitely busy. It can be pretty stressful at times, but I’m having a blast, honestly. I also don’t miss the irony in playing total sad bastard bummer music and actually acknowledging I’m having fun doing it. Anyway, when I play solo performances, I just bill myself as “Doc Feldman.” I released an album via This is American Music last year called Sundowning at the Station as “Doc Feldman & the LD50.” The LD50 was my way of acknowledging the work of David Chapman (drums), Jeremiah Floyd (guitar), and, of course, James Toth (co-writer, guitar, backup vocals, friend, and general guru) who performs under his own moniker Wooden Wand. David and James were both members of my previous band, Good Saints, from which much (but not all) of the material on Sundowning sprung. It was a very natural process to include them in the studio when I was ready to record. James’ work and friendship and encouragement being essential to all of my songwriting, honestly. Now the Infernal Method is my collaboration with an already formed local band called Everyone Lives, Everyone Wins. They are a drone metal band who do all sorts of other collaborations as well. I have wanted to expand into a heavier and more electric sound for a while, so I reached out to these guys and asked if they’d be interested. They were interested, and we’ve been working on honing our sound and direction ever since. We’ve only done this for a few months now, but it’s been an inspiring process. It’s Doc Feldman stuff but on Performance Enhancing Drugs. Luckily, we don’t have to take a piss test before performances.
Haha, right on. Well, do you have any new projects coming up or records coming out with either or both of them? Or solo?
Well, the Infernal Method is my current direction. Eventually, we’ll create enough material and be ready to record it. Then, we’ll release a full album or something like that. I do actually have something I’m hoping will be released soon, though. I went to St. Louis a month or so ago and recorded with my old friends Brothers Lazaroff. We recorded a cover of Jason Molina’s “Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go” for a project that April Wolfe was doing through Common Folk Music, but while we were recording that, we also recorded an original song of mine. It doesn’t really fit with my current heavier direction, but it seemed right up their alley with a bit more of a country infused jazz sort of feel. Things are in the works to maybe release that as one side of a 7″ vinyl split with another artist. So keep an eye out for that in the near future.
Oh, wow, for sure. I can’t wait! Well, hey, tell us about Shaker Steps.
You mean besides lose sleep? Shaker Steps is a photography and videography production company I created with my friend Mark Rush (former bassist for Good Saints, by the way). We’re best known probably for our Shaker Steps live music sessions, where we film artists performing in interesting or unexpected locations primarily in and around the Lexington, KY area. Our sessions release on YouTube and our website, but eventually, they get compiled into 30 minute episodes and air on our show on KET (Kentucky Public Television) called Music Anywhere. That’s led us to other opportunities working with local businesses, organizations, and just people in our community to do photography and other video work. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s definitely fun, too. We’re available for weddings, by the way!
Oooo! haha I’m curious: What were your favorite videos to work on? Who were your favorite musicians to work with?
I love all my kids exactly the same of course. But if I had to choose… there are a few that stick out in my mind. Doing an early session with Tyler Childers was really fantastic. I think it was the first time I really had a light bulb moment like “oh, okay, we can really help give some exposure to artists that deserve to be famous.” His talent is undeniable. Tyler’s already pretty well known amongst people in the know I suppose, but I think all us in the know, know that sooner or later the dude’s going to be big. At least I think he deserves to be.
He’s a helluva talent, especially considering his youth. He definitely deserves it in my book, too. Anyone else come to mind?
Doing an early session with St. Paul and the Broken Bones was another one of those really cool experiences. Watching them blow up in front of our eyes and seeing people from all over the world comment on their session. Some of my personal favorites are the really “rare” sessions. We were extremely lucky to get to do sessions with a few artists that rarely do these types of things. Paul K, for example, is a living legend of sorts around here, and meeting him and filming him was a real treat. We got to do a session with Peter Walker, a master guitar player and legend as well, really. We also got to do an incredible session with Mark Olson (of The Jayhawks), which we actually haven’t released yet. There’s another session where we filmed Arthur Hancock performing a song he wrote called “Run That By Me One More Time,” which was actually covered by Willie Nelson and Ray Price. It was so cool to film Arthur and his son perform that song in its original form by the songwriter himself. But, yeah, those sorts of special rare opportunities are the ones I live for. I can honestly say, though, that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every session we’ve filmed. Getting to interact and document these amazing artists just being themselves and performing their craft is a pretty awesome experience. I’m definitely grateful for it.
Before you go, tell us all about Well Crafted Festival: How’d it come about? How long have you been involved? What is your role there? How did you score such an amazing lineup andBen Nichols?
Well, we filmed a session with Egon Danielson in The Meeting House (the Shakers’ place of worship) at Shaker Village, which also happens to be one of the most amazing acoustical spaces I’ve ever been in. After that session, we were asked if we would be interested in curating a lineup for a craft beer and music festival, and, of course, we jumped at the chance. I guess it’s been nearly a year since we first discussed it. My job was to focus on getting the best lineup we could by filling it with local, regional, and nationally touring artists. This is an inaugural festival put on by a non-profit organization and national historic landmark, so we had a limited budget to work with and really needed to be smart and creative. I know some of the artists personally, and I wasn’t above asking people for “friendly favors.” My very good friend and sometimes collaborator James Toth (Wooden Wand) helped reach out to a few artists for me. I also enlisted the help of Delight Hanover (Alias Records and Pistolier) to reach out to a few artists she’s promoted shows for in the past as well as reach out to a few possible headliners. There were a few possibilities that we were in talks with, but when Ben Nichols became an actual real possibility, we focused our attention on that and pursued hard until we got the “yes” we wanted. It was one of those fist pump moments. I’m lucky enough to have met so many amazing artists through Shaker Steps and through being an artist myself, that there’s just a huge pool of talent for me to pick from. I’m also an avid music blog reader, and I’m always looking for new artists that interest me. There were plenty of spectacular artists out there that I would love to have included in our lineup but due to budget constraints and time availability, we couldn’t get everyone, of course, but I am definitely really proud of the lineup we actually did solidify for our first year of Well Crafted. And if it’s successful, we’ll do it again!
Both Bryan Minks and the band he fronts, Those Crosstown Rivals, are very active in the Lexington, KY music scene and super-busy in general. They tour regularly, put together a local singer-songwriter night every month at Buster’s, and organize an annual festival called Squallfest. (Part of this year’s proceeds go to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund.) They are also performing in the Shaker Steps Well Crafted Festival this year, along with the coordinating ticket and merch giveaway for it at the Dear Ben Nichols Facebook Page. Since I’m still pretty new to Lexington, I asked Minks to take some time out of his genuinely crazy schedule to enlighten me and elaborate on what they’ve got goin’ on these days. I not only learned a lot about that, but also about the band’s background and founding.
Tell us about your “baby,” Squallfest.
This all started with my passion to do two things: Do something good to help those in need, and do my part in the growth and development of music and arts in Kentucky. Not to go into too much detail, but my family has been affected by medical tragedy by incurable disease, and I know the feeling of hopelessness all too well. This is my effort to help other people who share these same tragedies. Many people in the world are dealing with the same misfortunes, and if we can all combine our efforts and make what contribution we can, then perhaps a difference can be made, disease can be cured, and, more importantly, life quality can be restored. What better avenue to convey these ideas than through music? Music is the one thing that provides hope and happiness to everyone, no matter how bad the hand we’ve been dealt may feel.
Not to mention, the lineup this year is going to be fantastic! It really is going to be a great representation of what is going on here. Eyes are beginning to focus on the music coming out of this area, and if people want to get a feel of the community we are building here as musicians, I urge you to come to this event. You won’t be disappointed.
And how about the singer-songwriter night at Buster’s?
The singer-Songwriter night at Buster’s is something I’ve felt needed to be done in Lexington for a long time. There is a wealth of talented musicians throughout the commonwealth, and we need an avenue to come together, build a community, and show everyone the talent and soul that is flourishing here. My dream for this event is for everyone to leave their reservations at home, break down the genre walls/social cliques that surround them, and come together as a thriving music scene that loves and supports each other. I want this event to be something that we all go to once a month to talk about music, upcoming shows, good spots on the road, and, most importantly, listen to and support great artists! Just from booking and promoting this event, I’ve already uncovered multiple artists in our own city I wasn’t aware of. If everyone gets on board, it becomes easy to support each other and find new artists and bands to book with. Combine your efforts with others, build a family in music, and watch our scene grow and flourish!
Tell us about Well Crafted Festival.
We’re really excited to be part of Well Crafted this year. The lineup that those guys have put together is incredible, and the venue is amazing. It truly is a wonderful place and is a great representation of the natural beauty the commonwealth has to offer. Derek (Doc) Feldman is who we’ve worked with for the festival, and he is a fantastic artist who shares the same beliefs as myself. He believes in music, and, more importantly, he believes in our music scene here in Kentucky.
I’d like to switch gears a little bit and get more into the background and formation of Those Crosstown Rivals. On that note, what did you do before Those Crosstown Rivals? Had you made music before, solo or with bands?
Well, I’ve been playing music since I was 12 years old. Started out on a Sears acoustic given to me from my Papaw. I played the shit out of that thing but always had a burning desire to play loud rock and roll, so I took my Nintendo, all the games, a broken-ass TV, and whatever else I could scrounge from my bedroom (I was still 12) to the pawn shop and traded it in for a beautiful, cheap-ass Les Paul knockoff and a peavey bandit 112. That was it. My path was set, whether I knew it or not. In my teen years, I went through a mish-mash of shitty bands, just playing music I enjoyed with friends. After that, I took a break for a few years to get some things taken care of, and then came TCR. I feel like maybe I lost hope in music for a bit there, but luckily I have a wonderful wife at home who pushed my ass back in the right direction. Fuck what society tells you that you should aspire for. Aspire for what’s in your soul. The feeling playing music gives me is almost indescribable, so I always knew I’d find a path back to it. It still makes me feel like a kid, uncontrollable happiness and fun. Even though a lot of the songs I’m singing are dark or about bad times, it just feels good. I use music and emotion as self-therapy do deal with all the shit going on in my head driving me crazy. I believe most people fall into the mold, get old, get a job, get a bunch of shit you don’t need, and then forget how to have fun. They forget what it felt like to be a kid and just let go. Not me, though. This is the core of my existence. Writing, playing music and feeling what we all use to feel as kids: genuine happiness.
Shit, man, that’s awesome. Well, tell me, how did you meet your band mates, Cory Hanks and J Tyler? What made y’all decide to form a band?
Cory and I met through work, and we’ve been like brothers since the beginning. J Tyler was a friend of a friend. There’s a pretty good story with that, but I’m not sure I’m at liberty to tell it. Either way, I’m glad whatever happened, happened. I’m really happy to have J Tyler in TCR.
TCR started with Nick Walters, Cory, and myself. Nick’s no longer with us, but he’ll always be part of TCR’s core. It was really loose, just musicians who had been absent from playing for a bit with the desire to get back into the mix. We started out just jamming and drinking beer to see where/how things would go. Within a few months we were tracking a demo and booking everywhere we could. And well – here we are now, nearly five years, four records, and hundreds of shows later, and I feel like we’re still just getting started.
What are your loves outside of music?
Fishing and Cars. Well, Volkswagens and baseball. I grew up in southeastern Kentucky with a dad who was an avid hunter/fisher, as well as one hell of a baseball player, and a papaw who was a VW mechanic. Those things have always been in my blood.
When I get downtime at home, I usually try to get out to the creek for some fishing. Just wading in the water with the summer canopy over my head is healing. It always sets me back to where I need to be. Or me and my wife Erica will hop in the bug with Hank (my bulldog) in the backseat and just go for a ride. And who the hell doesn’t enjoy a cold beer and a baseball game? It’s the simple things in life that really bring me the most joy.
TCR’s been pretty busy this year touring behind your latest release, Hell and Back. What’s in store for y’all the rest of this year into 2015?
We’re going to finish the year strong, hit as many spots as we can on the road, and try to keep spreading the music. I know we’ve got shows in Colorado, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Michigan, Ohio already on the books, and we’re still adding more.
Beyond that, my main goal is to get this next record written and recorded. We’ve picked up a lot of traction with Hell and Back, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg, and I want everyone to hear that! Everyone should come to a live show, then they’ll know what I mean.
Caleb Caudle just released his new album, Paint Another Layer On My Heart, this Tuesday, and I caught up with him briefly over email – we’re both busy folks, so I’ll take it! – to chat about that, the influence Nola has on his music, and the all-around fantastic crew of musicians in which he surrounds himself. On top of a new record and a new video premier for his track “Trade All the Lights,” he’s participating in a giveaway over at the Lucero fan-run site, Dear Ben Nichols, where you can win a copy of his new album, along with some Lucero merch.
You’re originally from Winston, NC, and now you’re based out of New Orleans. What prompted that move?
I gave up my job and started touring full time and started dating someone who lived in Nola. It just seemed like a good point in my life to make a change.
How has the move to New Orleans influenced your music, if at all?
New Orleans has brought some new imagery to my lyrics. It’s nice having a lot of music around, even if it isn’t quite what I do.
How did North Carolina influence your music?
North Carolina will always have my soul. So much great Country and Americana music that is goin’ on there. I love it.
New Orleans seems to be quite the hub for musicians right now, though. I’ve known of some other musicians who have relocated there. Tell me further about the appeal.
I think there is just a lot of culture here. I don’t think I will end up here, but it’s nice for the time being.
You tour pretty hard, most recently with John Moreland, and I’ve seen you perform shows with Matt Woods and Chris Porter. You’ve got a run with Pete Stein coming up too. What’s it like being a part of such a talented musical family? What do you believe you bring to it? What do you get out of touring with such fellow talents?
It’s a great scene with a lot of good writers who challenge me to keep pushing myself. It’s nice to just have friends who tour as much as I do. At least if it all starts to feel crazy it just means we all are. Strength in numbers! I love how much recognition some of my friends are getting because it is so deserved. We work so hard and it’s good to see it pay off.
Last but not least, tell me about your new album, specifically the details as to how it came about.
I wrote all the songs last year while I was touring, so a lot of it deals with love and distance. I really wanted the production to feel like Strangers Almanac by Whiskeytown. That’s one of my favorite records, and it touches on a lot of musical styles that I love. It came out just like I wanted it to. We recorded at ECHO Mountain in Asheville, NC. I had the guys from Roseland back me up, and Whit Wright [of American Aquarium] played steel. Lydia Loveless sang the harmonies. I’m really proud of everyone. They really treated the songs perfectly.
It’s likely no surprise to anyone who knows me, whether in real life or via the internet, that I fucking love Matt Woods. There hasn’t been a musician whose body of work has gotten me this excited since I discovered Lucero in the mid-2000s, and that, my friends, is just about the highest praise I am capable of giving. So when his new album, With Love From Brushy Mountain (released today), was up for review here at Ninebullets, well, I threw aside my “no record reviews/interviews only” rule, sharpened my claws, and prepared myself for the inevitable fight that would ensue over who got to write it. Blood was drawn, first borns were promised, and knees were scraped (I won’t tell you how I acquired those), but, as you can see, I fucking got the review.
With Love From Brushy Mountain is, hands down, the best album Woods has put out thus far. I think it speaks to the quality of his writing and his art that there are several songs I can’t listen to unless I’m in a strong state of heart and mind, and I believe it’s because this is the most personal and vulnerable he has ever allowed himself to be on record. Sheldon Harnick, most notable for helping write Fiddler on the Roof, once said that “any successful lyricist has to be part playwright and has to be able to put himself into the minds and the hearts and the souls of the characters.” On With Love… Woods has not only done just that, but he’s done it the best he ever has, as can be both seen and heard in “Deadman’s Blues,” or, for that matter, at any one of his live performances.
“Deadman’s Blues” isn’t the only masterpiece on this album, though. “Lying on the Floor,” a song I’ve not seen anyone else mention yet, is one of my personal favorites, telling the story of a couple bonding “at the crossroads of their loneliness” to the bittersweet whine of a fiddle. “Drinking to Forget” was written by Woods’ drummer, Larry Fulford, while he was watching CMT’s countdown of “100 Greatest Drinking Songs” and thought to himself, “I want to write a drinking song good enough to maybe make a list like that one day.” That song is that attempt, and he wrote it with his buddy Rob Weddle back when they were in a band called Holidaysburg. The Waylon is strong in that tune, for sure, especially with Woods’ vocal delivery starting at the 2:16 mark. ”Tiny Anchors,” a heartbreakingly romantic song, tells the tale of a couple on the rocks: one holding on, the other being held down, and I believe it’s one of Woods more lyrically complex songs from a storytelling standpoint.
I can’t write a review of this album without mentioning its title track, “With Love From Brushy Mountain,” another fine murder ballad from Woods. (See “Johnny Ray Dupree” from Manifesto for the other.) In all honesty, it’s a song that grew on me after seeing Woods perform it multiple times over the last year or so. I don’t love murder ballads as a rule (gasp!), but even I can’t help but be moved by a line like “It’s love that put her in the ground; it’s love that put me here.”
All this being said, With Love From Brushy Mountain is, without a doubt, Essential Listening for anyone nostalgic for a time when country music was authentic and the songwriting within it was still regarded as the craft that it is… for anyone who misses the likes of Jennings and Kristofferson… and for anyone who wants to say they lived to see the day it made its comeback.
Big Shoals is an Americana band based out of Gainesville, FL, combining elements of straight up rock ‘n’ roll, 60s/70s folk, and country – a little bit of everything, really. Personally, I hear a lot of Tom Petty in them, though lead singer and songwriter, Lance Howell, doesn’t cite him as one of his major influences. Their debut album, Still Go On, is on sale now at their Bandcamp, digitally, and physical copies will be sold at their CD release shows on April 25th at Loosey’s in Gainesville with Snakehealers and Pseudo Kids, and on May 16th at their hometown CD release show at Ashley Street Station in Valdosta, GA with Jen Anders. You can also try to win it (along with some Lucero merch) over at the Dear Ben Nichols Facebook giveaway going on till 5 p.m. tonight, EST.
I’ve been a super-busy gal lately and had to succumb to the ol’ email interview – y’all know how I prefer to talk – but these dudes are too good not to get to know. Forgive the format this time ’round, and read on for an introduction to a band I seriously can’t stop listening to.
What was the writing process like for Still Go On?
Haha. It took a long time. These songs were written over a span of about three years. Half of it was written while I lived in Tulsa, OK, and the other half after I moved back home to Valdosta for a bit. Then I came down to Gainesville. I had been in Tulsa for about 3 and a half years, in a band with a cousin of mine out there as her lead guitarist. I was writing my own stuff the whole time but really only singing them to the walls in my room and occasionally playing one for my roommate and a couple friends. Eventually I just really missed home, and my family, girlfriend and friends. I was flat broke too, because the guy I was working construction for at the time basically just stopped paying me. I got home to Georgia from Tulsa on a $500 check he gave me that later bounced. He still owes me $2400. I can’t get a hold of him. haha. I had a lot of fun in Tulsa, and learned a lot, but it also drained me. “Skipping Stones” is probably the best example of that, and I think it was the last one I wrote while I was there. It’s probably the most personal song on the album. After I got home, I had all these songs that I was really proud of, all I needed was a band. Luckily me and Jake drunkenly stumbled into one another one night at Loosey’s, and started playing together a few months later. Now we’ve been playing together for about 2 years. I got my younger brother on board for a bit as our drummer. We started playing shows, then started recording the album last May.
You have a FL/GA/southeast tour happening now. Can you tell us more about that?
Yeah. We’re excited to be playing out of town more. We’ve played here and there occasionally since we started, but we’re getting to the point that booking is getting a little easier. We’ve got shows being thrown at us now which is nice. We’re playing some shows with our pals the Snakehealers, Pseudo Kids, Six Time Losers. We’re playing a show with the David Mayfield Parade again. We played a show with them a little while back. He’s a cool guy, and they put on a hell of a show. Also, doing a show with American Aquarium here in Gainesville, I believe, in June. We’re looking forward to that one. We saw those guys play in JAX at Jack Rabbits last year. They’re such a tight band. I’m interested to see what the new added guitar player is going to bring to the mix. I’m sure it’ll be great.
What shows do you have coming up?
Well, the CD Release this Friday the 25th at Loosey’s. We love that place. It’s home. May 1st we’re playing Rock The Park in Tampa. That David Mayfield show is May 9th here in Gainesville at High Dive. We’re doing another CD release show May 16th in Valdosta, GA. It’s my hometown, and even though I don’t necessarily want to live there, there’s a part of it I still love. Plus my friends and family have been waiting on me to get an album out for years. They heard all my shitty songs growing up and loved them. Hopefully they’ll like these too. haha. We’ve got a lot more booked and some still in the works.
Tell me about the style of your music. It certainly falls under the umbrella of Americana, but I think some songs are grittier than others – heavier on the guitar than others – while others are sweeter and softer.
It’s definitely not what you hear on the radio. haha. It’s rock and roll. It’s a little bit of country. Blues, bluegrass. Maybe some folk in the mix I guess. Americana I guess is what most people call it, if they even know what that is. My goal is just “good”. To me there’s 2 kinds of music. Good and Bad. I’ve got a lot of influences, so what you said makes sense. Basically, the three main writers that are/have been in the Drive-By Truckers: Patterson Hood, Cooley, Isbell. I love all those guys. They’re the band that I listened to that made me say, “That’s what I want to do, and I think I can do it.” That’s the direction I want to go, and they’re all such great songwriters. Also, Neil Young, Dylan of course, Leonard Cohen influenced one song on the album, “Tumbleweed Towns”. That’s my “Leonard Song.” As close as I could get anyways. haha. There’s a lot more, but we’d be here for days.
Did you start playing music at an early age? Because you’re only 26 now.
Yeah. I started playing bass when I was 11-ish. Maybe 12 I think. My older brother played guitar, but he wouldn’t tell me what chords he was playing sometimes, so I could follow him. After a while of watching him and figuring out what was what so I could follow and play with him, I just picked up my grandad’s guitar one day and started playing. I already knew all the chords. I was playing songs within a few weeks. I mostly played around the house. In church a lot when I was younger. I was a bass player in a southern gospel band for a bit. Haha I started playing bars when I was 15 and I had a regular gig on Wednesdays and Sunday nights all through school. I got $75 plus tips, and that was my high school job. But my whole family played. A lot of country and gospel, maybe a little CCR occasionally.
Finally, what’s in your record collection? I always like knowing that, and a lot of 9b readers are avid record collectors. I think they’ll appreciate knowing, too.
The ones I tend to listen to the most are probably my Springsteen records. I’ve got “Born To Run” and “Darkness On The Edge Of Town”. The Truckers or Isbell’s solo albums. I recently got Drag The Rivers latest album. That’s great. John Moreland’s “In The Throes” has probably been under my needle the most this year. That album is just perfect.
I’m gonna come right out and say it: I hate music festivals. I hate that they’re always in the middle of the fucking summer. I hate the bugs. I hate the sweat. I hate the direct sun and lack of ample shade. I hate the shitty food and beverage choices. I hate the set times and the oft-lacking-in-quality lineups, and, last but not least, I hate the wannabe everybodies that inevitably populate every single inch of the festival grounds to the point WHERE I JUST CAN’T FUCKING GET AWAY.
That being said, I really enjoyed last weekend’s Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa. Other than the nasty sunburn I acquired on my neck (gingers, man) and the lack of hard cider options (Celiacs, man), GMF shone in almost every aspect. I was impressed by the lineup, in that there were actually more than two bands I wanted to see, AND that I discovered new music I ended up liking (Atlantic Oceans, Swimm, and Good Graeff). I especially love that it’s held in March, pre-intense Florida sun and humidity (the sunburn was completely my fault – forgot the SPF, sigh), and that the food options were aplenty, varied, often fancy, and reasonably priced. It also didn’t hurt, from a whiskey lover’s point of view, that George Dickel Tennessee Whisky was there.
Have Gun, Will Travel is an Americana band based out of Bradenton, FL that combines folk, pop, rock, and classic country influences. They’re new album, Fiction, Fact or Folktale?, is out now, and they’re performing at Crowbar in Tampa TONIGHT, Thursday, February 27th. I talked to Matt Burke about their current tour, their Daytrotter session, and his writing process.
Can you tell me abut the making of the album cover?
Yeah. My sister, Alex, is a local artist. She makes handmade, original art from salvaged materials. She made the piece and photographed it for the album cover. And her partner, Riley, helped us with the layout and design. We’re all stoked with how it turned out. And now I have the actual piece displayed proudly in my living room.
What was the writing process like for Fiction, Fact or Folktale?
The writing process for this record really wasn’t any different from our other records. I usually bring songs to the band one at a time. Then, we hash them out together and work on the arrangements, and when we have a batch of songs piled up, we start recording. Most of the writing happens at home. I don’t do a lot of writing on the road. There are too many distractions. I need to be in a quiet, comfortable environment, where I can focus and concentrate on what I’m doing.
What was your motivation as you were writing the songs?
Every song has its own story. For example, I wrote the song “Finer Things” as a surprise for my fiance, since I was going to be out of town on Valentine’s Day. So, I recorded a demo version of it at home before I left and left it hidden in the house, then sent her a text on Valentine’s Day telling her where to look for it. Some songs, like “Standing at the End of the World” or “Silver and the Age of Opulence,” are observational. Other songs, like “Trouble” or “High Road,” are born out of feelings of frustration or desperation. Then, some songs are just narrative fiction, like “The Show Must Go On,” “Another Fine Mess,” and “Take Me Home, Alice.” Straight-up storytelling.
Well, it’s working. I think y’all are definitely garnering some more attention with this album, like from Daytrotter, for instance. How did that come together?
I was definitely stoked when we scheduled a Daytrotter session. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a while. We knew we were gonna be touring through that part of the country, and our booking agent submitted us. They were able to fit us in on a day that worked into our tour schedule.
That day was pretty rough, though. The temperature outside was, like, 7 below. Once we got all of our gear loaded into the building and up the three flights of stairs, it took a while for our instruments to warm up. But once we got going, it was awesome. We had a good time.
It turned out well. Sounds like it was worth it. You’re on a Big Ass Tour right now. Is this the biggest one you’ve ever been on?
Yeah, the shows on this tour have been bigger than most of the stuff we’ve done up ’til now. It’s been awesome. Aside from the snow storms that have been chasing us around, it’s been great.
That couldn’t have been fun.
No, but we opened up for Shooter Jennings in Marietta, GA which was a blast. Then we headed out toward the midwest and hooked up with Railroad Earth for a bunch of shows. Those guys are amazing musicians, and they run a pretty tight ship. It’s really impressive to watch. So, we’ve had to step up our game and act like we been there before. Playing the role of professional musicians and shit.
[laughs] What’s it been like to play some of these places and with some of these people?
We’ve been lucky to play some beautiful, historic theaters and ballrooms on this tour. We’ve had the fortune of performing on stages that a lot of our heroes have performed on. That has definitely been a highlight for me.
I would think so.
Yeah, and the shenanigans have been relatively minimal this time out, mostly due to the weather. It’s been too damn cold to really get into trouble. It’s been a lot of sipping hot, green tea and bundling up like little old ladies.
Those Crosstown Rivals are a high-energy, high-emotion, straight-up ballsy band out of one of my favorite towns, Lexington, KY. I was stoked for a chance to talk to Bryan Minks about the making of their new album, Hell and Back (on pre-order now), and what it means to them to share their music with fans and friends. Be sure to check back tomorrow, too, for a Ninebullets review.
What is the story behind Hell and Back?
It was painful. The lyrics were written by my wife, Erica, and I during a year where I feel like we’d literally been drug to hell and managed to crawl back out. Erica was suffering from unbearable pain due to a rare neurological condition. She’d spent weeks in the hospital, been through three brain surgeries, and too many nights in the ER. We really didn’t know what tomorrow held, and it felt like there was no light waiting at the end of the tunnel. So we just started putting those feelings into the songs. The first four tracks of the record really deal with the feelings felt during these dark times (hell) and the idea of uncertainty. Not knowing what tomorrow holds, not knowing if there will be a tomorrow, and learning how to deal with that. The second half of the record focuses more on the idea of acceptance and hope. I developed an understanding that even though some paths within life may be forced on you, it doesn’t dictate your destination. You may just have to take the long way, or you may have to put up a fight, and I’m ok with that. I guess we all have to be. But, those ideas drive the second half of the record. Living the moment, appreciating the uncertainty, and finding hope and content in whatever path you take.
Wow, thank you for sharing that, and thank you for making a record out of it. I’m sorry y’all went through that, and I’m glad you were able to keep hope.
Sure. Well, I’d like to know some background on the band. How and when did y’all form?
Back in 2010, we were just a group friends who’d get together to drink and play music. We all came from musical backgrounds but hadn’t been in bands for years. We’d get together as often as possible, and stay in the basement for hours writing/playing music. We were really raw, and, at the time, there wasn’t really a vision for TCR. It was just a mish-mash of influences. We started playing live in the fall of 2010, and shortly after that, put out our first recording. In 2011, when we started writing Kentucky Gentlemen, we started to fall into our style. Energy and emotion is something we always put a lot of emphasis on with our live shows. But it is difficult to translate to record, and we’ve admittedly failed at this before. I finally believe with Hell and Back, the energy and the emotion has translated through, and we’ve fallen into who we are.
I would say I have to agree with you. It’s definitely an energetic and emotional record, which I personally appreciate. Well, hey, tell us what’s going on right now, and what’s coming up?
We finished out 2013 with a tour through the midwest to Colorado, then came back home and played a show with Lucero and Titus Andronicus. Since then, we’ve been on break for the winter, but get going again here in a few weeks. I’m pretty excited about the show’s coming up. We’re doing most of March with either Ned Van Go (Nashville) or Jeremy Porter and the Tucos (Detroit). Both bands are good friends of ours, and we always have a blast with them. Our record release show is going to be on 3/15 in Lexington, KY with good friends Ned Van Go, Doc Feldman, and the Vibrolas.
Any highlights or anecdotes?
All of tour is really a highlight, even the shitty nights. Most people don’t understand what its like to tour, or they think its just a good time. Tour is tough. You’re crammed in a van with everyone for hours on end, you play more shit shows than you’d like to admit, you have fights, you get robbed, but it’s all worth it, because, at the end of the day, you get to play your music for new fans and old friends. And that’s a damn good feeling, and it’s the only feeling that matters.
I’ve been privileged (or crazy) enough to spend a lot of time going on road trips, and I’ve spent time with musicians on tour on some of those, and you’re right. It’s hard, and I’m only with them, like, a few days at a time. [laughs]
Anyway, I was told I should ask you what “like men do” means?
It’s really just a play on pop culture and the diminishing idea of male masculinity. Or maybe its more about us not giving a shit and just being a bunch of self proclaimed bad asses. Boys used to be taught that its okay to be masculine, tough, and aggressive when appropriate. Now you rarely see that portrayed in our culture. Everyone’s too worried about offending someone or setting the wrong example. We really just don’t give a shit. We’re men, we’re southern, and we do manly things. Whether it be playing so hard you throw-up, drinking too much whiskey, wearing leather, 4:00 a.m. party in a cheap hotel’s hot tub, or just being a miserable hungover mess in the back of a van, we do shit like men do.
Wellllll, being a woman and someone who does all of those things, I can’t say I agree with a single thing you just said, but, since y’all don’t give a shit, we’ll just leave it at that.
Louisa, KY-based musician Tyler Childers has more talent for his 22 years than his fair share. At least, that’s what I’ve heard people say since he was about 19, and I think I’m prone to agree with them. For those who may not know of him – or even for those who do – here’s a little background. We only had a few minutes, so this really is just “a little background.” If nothing else, I hope it whets your appetite and encourages you to check out his latest EP, Live on Red Barn Radio. Tell us what you think in the comments. We love that shit.
You have an EP out right now, Tyler Childers and The Highwall: Live on Red Barn Radio.
Yup. This is my first real attempt at making a go of it. I recorded another one when I was 19, called Bottles and Bibles. There are songs that got left out, and songs I wish I never put on there, so this one [Live on Red Barn Radio] is, I dunno, just a better go of it. I also don’t play a lot of those songs older anymore. This EP is the first in three years, and we recorded it at Red Barn, which is a radio show out of Lexington.
And there are four songs on it, right?
Yeah, four songs. I was gonna do five tracks and put “Harlan Road” on it, but I dunno, during the recording, there was this click – I guess someone shut a door – and I just didn’t feel right selling it like that.
Do you think anyone would really have noticed?
[laughs] No. probably not, but I did, so… [laughs] And anyway, I’m in the process of laying down a whole album. I got together with Bud Carroll, who’s in a band called AC30 out of Huntington, WV – they’re good – he has a studio, and we’re recording it there. I’ve been trying to get a new record recorded two or three times now, and, really, I should’ve gone to Bud first. I’m real excited.
Last time I talked to you, I thought I recall you saying something about looking for a band vs. continuing solo?
I like playing with a band, but I like travelling by myself. It’s a hell of a lot easier. It was a fun experience, and I learned a lot playing with five people, you know, because I’ve been playing the last three years solo. But yeah, I dunno… I like playing by myself.
Gotcha. Well, hey, where are you from?
I’m from Lawrence County which is about 45 minutes away from here [Huntington, WV]. Growing up, if you wanted to do anything, you went to either Ashland [KY] or Huntington, so I spent a good lot of time in this area.
When did you start writing songs?
Well, I always wanted to write. I always knew I wanted to write. I mainly wrote poems and stories and stuff, but I didn’t start playing guitar and writing songs till I was about 13 or 14, and then I started writing stuff I felt comfortable enough showing people when I was about 18 or 19, and I’ve just been doing that ever since.
Were your parents musically inclined or creative?
Mom has always encouraged me to read and write, but she can’t carry a tune in a bucket, bless her heart.
[laughs] I can’t either. I feel her pain.
Dad sings, though. I grew up in a real religious family. I grew up in church, singing in choir and stuff, but dad was a coal miner and in the mining business a good long while.
He’s alright? That’s a very physically hard job.
Yeah, he’s alright. He didn’t do deep mining. He was a strip miner, worked backhoe a good long while, and then he got, like, a desk job for a good long while.
Well, it’s clear your religious background affects what you write about.
Yeah, it does. A lot. It does affect it. I’ve always been partial to characters in life that are led astray.