We’ve been raving over the rock and roll sound from The Wild Feathers since they released their stellar self-titled debut back in 2013. After almost three straight years on the road, the group returned to their hometown of Nashville to record their follow-up, Lonely is a Lifetime. We sat down with band members Taylor Burns (guitar/vocals), Ricky Young (guitar/vocals), Joel King (bass/vocals), Ben Dumas (drums), during a rare day off to discuss how much their sound has evolved, what they want to achieve next and the craziness of headlining the Ryman Auditorium for the first time on June 25. Their Ryman debut is impressively sold out, but get to Grimeys early for your chance to see them perform a special in-store on June 23 at 6pm.
No Country: During the three-year gap between albums, were you guys constantly writing or did you intentionally sit down and write specifically for the album?
Ricky Young: A little bit of both. We always tend to be writing or have some sort of idea we’re working on during soundcheck or while backstage. What we usually do is gather all those ideas and fragments and sit down for a week, kind of in a secluded area with no distractions, and put all of those into actual songs. It’s an ever-moving process.
NC: When you headed into the studio, did you have a specific concept or idea for what you wanted to create?
Taylor Burns: We knew we wanted to progress and change [our sound]. I think we got accused of being country with our first record. Rock bands would call us country and country bands would call us rock and roll. I think it was a natural evolution, but we also wanted to make a conscious effort to really use the studio as an instrument and not make the same record over again. It also evolved from us playing 600 different shows together – we knew what we liked and what people were reacting to live.
RY: All of our favorite artists and bands, in our opinion, have never made the same album twice. Beck is a good example. You might not ever hear the same Beck album twice, but if you do, it’s like twelve years in between. Another thing is not having expectations, because if we do, we limit ourselves and the song or whatever we’re working on doesn’t move in the direction that it should.
NC: How long were you guys in the studio during recording for Lonely is a Lifetime?
TB: Not long. I think the first run was about a week and a half or two weeks in the studio, and then we took about a month off because of scheduling issues and the snowstorm.
NC: Oh yeah! That was the worst.
TB: Yeah, we got snowed out one day, and then we came back in and did another week. That’s how we’ve made both records, we work really fast, and we like it like that. We don’t get bogged down, and our producer, Jay Joyce, prefers to work that way too. It’s really quick, so it’s like these mini-battles each day. You have a sense of accomplishment because you’re like, “Shit, we just knocked out a whole song.”
NC: Going back to what you mentioned about being classified as an “alt-country” or “Americana” band, how does it feel to have your music labeled like that, and was that something you directly wanted to change with this record?
RY: I think we tend to react in a negative way when someone tells you that something is black, and you’re like, “No, fuck you, that’s white.” It didn’t really hurt our feelings, because there’s worse things to be called, but I think it just had everything to do with what we were listening to. We happened to be listening to a lot of The Band, and a lot of Byrds, and Gram Parsons. We spent a ton of time in southern California writing that record, spending time in Joshua Tree and on the beach. This record came from us listening to a lot more rock and roll and not only traveling coast to coast in this country, but around the world. We wanted to prove that we weren’t just some swing-beat, cool country band.
NC: Over the past couple of years, you’ve earned slots opening for huge artists like Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. What were those experiences like and how did they change the way you perform?
TB: It was incredible and surreal. The Bob Dylan and Paul Simon stuff happened so fast. I know I have a poster in my house somewhere that says I did it, but I barely remember it. It feels like a dream. I never ever thought in my wildest dreams that would ever happen to me. I think we all can get down on ourselves and are always hungry to do better, but sometimes it’s good to stop and realize what we have accomplished and the amazing opportunities we’ve been given.
RY: You can never really prepare or actually imagine that happening to you. I’ll never forget the first night with Paul Simon, because we were as green as green could be. We had barely played any shows. We were walking out during our first show on the tour when we realized we didn’t even have our setlist. It was Spinal Tap as shit.
NC: You’ve called Nashville your home base for most of your time as a band. How has it been to be a part of the city’s creative community, and how has it changed over the last few years?
RY: East Nashville has obviously changed 100%. You can look out the window tomorrow and see something different than how it looks right now. As far as the music, community and culture here, there’s no other place in the world like it. I couldn’t love it here any more. My wife and I bought a house five years ago, and we’re going to have a family here. As far as the music goes, I love L.A. and New York, but there’s nothing quite like Nashville. Everything is kind of mom and pop for the moment, so you can go see a band anywhere and you can get good food and cheap beer.
TB: This town is so musically rich that you can’t help but be inspired. I’ll go out and see someone I’ve never heard of and they’ll floor me with a song or the way they’re playing. You just don’t get that anywhere else. You don’t realize how lucky you are, but it also makes me hungry. We can’t just sit idly by or be complacent, we have to keep pushing ourselves and try to get better, because mother fuckers are out here to take your spot.
Ben Dumas: The talent level is completely above the rest. You can go see any band or artist in Nashville, and they might not be your thing, but you’ll leave thinking, “Wow, they were fucking good.” That’s what is awesome and scary about it here.
TB: It’s a competitive town, but in the best way. There’s a camaraderie here that I’ve never experienced anywhere else.
NC: Speaking of Nashville, you’ll be headlining the Ryman for the first time ever on June 25. How are you feeling about it?
RY: I know we are all beyond excited. Being a resident for so long and seeing so many amazing shows there, it’s a huge deal. I was talking to my dad on the phone, and he was like, “It’s next week, right?” I’m like, “Yes, it is,” and my chest kind of went thud. It still doesn’t seem like it’s actually happening.
BD: I still feel like I won’t believe it until we get there and actually start setting up.
TB: It’s one of those historic, legendary venues that’s cool for even someone whose played every venue in the world. It’s like, when the Foo Fighters play there, they’re even excited about it. People like that realize the magic and importance of the place, which is why there are so many good shows there. People try to go all out and make it a special thing because they realize they are in the presence of greatness, and are getting to following in the footsteps of those who paved the way for artists like us. It’s a magical place.
NC: Looking ahead to the future, what else do you want to accomplish as a band?
RY: I would like to see our fan base grow, and for that group of fans to grow with us for a long, long time so that we can keep doing this. The small, core group of fans we have right now are the main reason why we can still do it. I look at bands like Pearl Jam and Neil Young, and how no matter what happens, they put out a record and people go out and buy it and come to the shows. I’m not talking about fame and celebrity; I’m talking about a career where we can be artists and create the stuff that we like to do, that people still like to listen to and stick with us.
Joel King: As far as “living the dream,” we said our goal was to be able to be able to write songs, record them and play them live. On a certain level, we’ve achieved that goal already, but the reality is that we could do whatever we want to if we had a little more money. [laughs] I’m not afraid to say I’d love to have enough money to not worry about shit anymore.
TB: I think we all want the touring to get a little easier. We’ve put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears these last five years, and it’s gotten easier, but the easier it is, the better it is on our bodies and our families. We also want to continue having the freedom to make whatever kind of music we want to make at any given time and not have to worry about answering to anyone for it.