Imagine pointing some beautiful, vintage Mustang convertible down a Middle American highway for a moment. There's a sea of endless prairies and plains stretching out around you. The road; a streak of concrete into the horizon, where the only evidence of civilization exists clustered around gas stations and dive bars at the interstate off ramp. Curiosity gets the best of you and with a flick of the turn signal you're veering off the road right for that roadhouse a place where bikers, truck drivers, and local meat/metal heads, bad ass farmers' daughters, and working-class factory folk all gather when the sun goes down. It's kind of an ultimate American image, right? Shrouded in Red, White, and Blue, cheap beer, and the stench of strong whiskey. And of course there's a band; a swaggering, semi-drunk cyclone of country, blues, folk, and rock whipping all of those colorful characters into an absolute fury. Requires a vivid imagination, I know. But the band? They're very real. They're The Wild Feathers and they're pretty much here to kick your ass.
Willy Nelson recently tapped the Nashville band for support on a slew of upcoming dates. One look at the concert flick we captured down in Austin during the most recent incarnation of SXSW and it's easy to see/hear why. This is what happens when four lead singers get along, don't step on each other's toes, and focus on creative camaraderie. The band's got a doozy of a full-length they're just sitting on, waiting for the perfect time to pounce on the music world. Until then our video, like that great roadhouse of your imagination, is the best place in town to hear The Feathers electrifying, soul stirring, and utterly reverent rock and roll.
Long before it got broken up into a million sub-genres, rock & roll was just rock & roll. Pure, true, organic. Six strings, booming harmonies and the call of the open road. Its a singularly American tradition that Nashvilles The Wild Feathers are full-force dedicated to not only preserving but also more importantly - evolving. Their sound melds the five unique voices of Ricky Young, Joel King, Taylor Burns and Preston Wimberly, and Ben Dumas, taking inspiration from across the musical spectrum country, blues, folk and rock and spinning it into a roaring web of warm, cosmic melodies with vintage roots and modern tones. The Wild Feathers are a rock band that feels impossibly fresh with the air of having been here all along.
Ricky, Joel, Taylor and Preston were all lead singers before they came together as The Wild Feathers, fronting their own bands and writing songs with their own distinct sounds. All hailing from Texas with the exception of Joel (Oklahoma), each member grew up with a deep sense of southern musical traditions, while at the same time being raised on records like Led Zeppelin, Neil Young and Tom Petty. As kids, their moms played them the Rolling Stones instead of lullabies, literally and figuratively rocking them to sleep.
Eventually Ricky and Joel both migrated to Nashville, where they connected in 2010. Occasionally, theyd get together to write music and play: Stones songs, riffs theyd written, ideas here and there. Ricky and I wanted to do something with a bunch of singers, not just one lead, Joel says. Their vision was of a group where each member is as indispensible as the next; a solid set of four, not just a front man backed by session players. Of course, finding the proper matches for something like this is no easy task. With strong voices can come stronger egos just the thing to rip a fledgling band apart. Somehow, The Wild Feathers found their missing pieces, leading them to become what Joel calls a four-headed monster, not four separate monsters, butting heads.
Mutual friends suggested a man by the name of Taylor Burns with a strong electric-guitar rip and bluesy growl. He seemed the perfect thing to complement Rickys smooth, folk tone and Joels rock & roll bellow. Next came Preston Wimberly, who rounded out the loose, bright harmonies and added an occasional country twang through some masterful pedal steel. The four gathered to play music in Austin, and it clicked nearly instantly. Instead of a battle of wills, it was effortless. The Wild Feathers was born that day. It was a match made in heaven, says Joel. Or hell, he adds with a smirk.
I wanted to do something greater than I could on my own, Ricky says, but every member of the band could easily echo the same sentiment. To create something bigger than any one of us individually, and write great songs that last the test of time. While some of their influences come from deep in the 60s and 70s, theyre still thoroughly modern, fusing and evolving their pedal steel and Laurel Canyon harmonies rather than regurgitating and repackaging whats already in existence. So its no surprise that theyre more likely to simply call themselves American than Americana. We like folk music, but were going to have a distortion pedal on when we do it, laughs Preston.
For their 2013 debut, The Wild Feathers, the band enlisted Jay Joyce (Cage the Elephant, the Wallflowers, Emmylou Harris) as producer, who encouraged the band to tap into their innate sense of harmony and true rock & roll sound. Their days in his Nashville studio were full and tiring (like wed been waterskiing and drinking beer in the sun all day, says Ricky, but so inspiring), recording most tracks live, one at a time. It was kind of like the old days with Elvis at RCA, says Joel, recording one song per day, really living in each one.
The resulting record is a display of four unique talents effortlessly unified: bluesy, hard rock tunes like Backwoods Company live effortlessly next to harmonic stunners like Hard Wind and slow, folky love songs like Tall Boots. When Rick Danko (of The Band) would sing harmonies, it was like he was singing lead, says Ricky. Thats what we try to do. And it shows. Songs like Left My Woman, allow Ricky, Joel and Taylor to sing a few solo bars each in the opening, before joining with Preston on the chorus. Visually, they are united, too playing shows standing in a line straight across the stage, as one.
We make songs that I could never write on my own, says Ricky, even if I worked from now until I die. But with these guys and what they bring, its easy. Adds Taylor, were making something better than we could have ever done by ourselves. What they make is modern rock & roll, laced with nostalgia, built for the new millennium. What they are is The Wild Feathers.