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.
[laughs] That ain’t too bad, though.