In a world of auto-tuned vocals and Top 40 radio hits, it’s hard to get lost in the dance beats and simple lyrics. One band that is leading the charge in saving rock and roll music is Nashville’s own The Wild Feathers. With their electric guitar twang, four-part vocal harmonies and some sweet-arse riffs, they might quite easily become your new favourite band.
Having supported the likes of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Paul Simon, the feats the band has achieved within only the few years that they have been together is quite astounding. For the first time ever, the band is headed to our shores to play at Splendour in the Grass, with sideshows in both Melbourne and Sydney.
Speaking from the greenroom of the Bowery Ballroom in New York, just one of their many sold-out dates on their US tour, Taylor Burns, lead vocalist and guitarist for the group, still can’t quite comprehend how big the band has got in such a small space of time. “Man, it’s incredible, we have been working real hard for the past couple of years and it’s great to finally see some of the rewards of that right now. Crowds are getting bigger and the shows are getting more fun – and we get to come to Australia which is pretty bad-ass, too!”
The opportunity to play at SITG came about after the band’s debut tour of Europe throughout March this year, and Burns still recalls the day that they heard the news that they had just got an offer to play in Oz. “We were all super excited and kind of freaking out. We’d just got back from Europe and we were just sitting at home having some downtime and our manager called. It’s amazing to travel as much as we have and is truly a dream come true.
“Our name will surely grow as we write and record more albums and play more shows; although, we are just really happy with where we are at as a band at the moment.”
Working in other bands and writing songs individually, it was one jam session that sealed the deal on who we now know as The Wild Feathers. Call it fate, call it a match made in heaven, Taylor Burns wouldn’t have it any other way. “Ricky [Young], Joel [King] and I all had our own bands going on and Preston [Wimberly] and I grew up playing music together. Joel and Ricky were passing through Austin and so we hung out and got some beers together and showed each other some songs. We started writing some songs together and things seemed to snowball from there.
“We never knew of the success that would follow us after the release of the album [2013’s self-titled effort]. I’m not even sure those support slots really happened. It feels like a dream, and even in my dreams those guys are still untouchable. Sometimes you’ve just gotta step back and see how far you’ve come and celebrate how big the band has become.”
For the recording of their debut album, The Wild Feathers got in renowned producer Jay Joyce, who has worked with the likes of Cage the Elephant, The Wallflowers and Emmylou Harris to name but just a few. In an attempt to invigorate the sessions to what they had done previously, the band primarily recorded all the tracks live. “We had everybody in the same room and the only thing that was isolated was the drums. We tried to sing as much live vocals as we could and play the guitar solos and everything we could so there was really very little overdubbing.
“The bands we listened to as kids, that’s the way they did it, and there is just a certain kind of energy you can achieve. Jay’s an amazing producer and had all these amazing ideas for arrangements. We are really proud with how it turned out. There was a lot of waterskiing and beer drinking throughout the process, but there is always beer whenever we play.”
One of the highlights of the album is the opener ‘Backwoods Company’, a song that came about after a writing session in the smoky mountains of Tennessee. In frustrating weather conditions, the song was written quite naturally and recounts the wondrous scenery of the time. “The roads were really icy so we couldn’t go anywhere and we were holed up in this cabin. We were playing guitar and Joel stumbled across this riff. From there it all just seemed to write itself.”
Undoubtedly, two of the best shows that the band has played are the Willie Nelson and Paul Simon support slots. Invited up on stage by Willie for seven shows of the band’s run on the tour, Burns is filled with nothing but praise for the man. “You look over on stage and you’re listening to an American icon and a legend doing his thing. He looks so happy and nice and genuine and most of his crew and band have been with him for the best part of forty years. It’s an incredible life achievement to be able to share the same air with those guys – and be on the same stage – who up until those shows were simply untouchable in our eyes.”
Looking forward to the future of the band, the second album release is slated for early 2015. Having played a ton of shows since recording their debut, the process is set to be a lot more natural this time around. “We’d love to get Jay back in to produce the record if we could get our schedules to align. One of my all-time dream collaborations would be to work with Rich or Chris Robinson from The Black Crowes, so if they’re available, who knows, we might just try and snavel them to produce.
“We’ve played around 500 shows as a band now and there are always more shows to play and songs to write. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for us.”
When&Where: Northcote Social Club, Melbourne – July 25 and Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay – July 27
Written by Tex Miller