Behind the Band Name: Turnpike Troubadours

Turnpike Troubadours are a product of their Oklahoma origins. Like the state that’s too singular to be labeled as Southern or Midwestern or anything else, the band, too, is something all its own.

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The country-folk-bluegrass-cajun-Red Dirt rock outfit has crafted an unmatched style, one that echoes with remnants of home, keepsakes from the road, and lessons learned along the way. Their name is much the same.

Behind the Name

The six-piece Turnpike Troubadours—currently made up of Evan Felker, RC Edwards, Kyle Nix, Ryan Engleman, Gabriel Pearson, and Hank Early—don’t have a crazy story behind their name. There was no a-ha moment, just a clear direction forward.

A band that has always been staunchly and unapologetically themselves, it’s only natural that their moniker would come … well, naturally. Their name was in part inspired by the many Oklahoma toll roads, from the Cherokee to the Kickapoo Turnpikes, and in part a nod to the folk heroes of days gone by, like fellow Oklahoman Woody Guthrie.

[RELATED: Q&A: Turnpike Troubadours]

Their roots run through everything they do and everything they are as a band. Their past has greatly impacted their style and inspired much of the music they write.

“I was born in Okemah but was raised in Wright City, a town in southeastern Oklahoma,” frontman Felker said in a statement. “Now I live in Okemah again. The characters I write about are living in that world I grew up in––a bucolic, dirt-underneath-your-fingernails sort of world. People, where I grew up are tough. It’s nice to be able to represent them in art.

“I love what we as a band have turned into and how we treat songs,” he added. “That’s something we’ve grown into––adding some sort of oddly theatrical element to the musicianship to help the story along, to sum up where or who the character is to give him a little bit of landscape. It’s not just an acoustic guitar and a guy telling you what somebody’s doing.”

Turnpike Troubadours Today

Turnpike Troubadours announced an indefinite hiatus back in 2019, but reunited not long after in 2021.

In that brief, but significant time apart, Felker got sober, some members devoted their time to side projects, and one went back to college, but they’re back on the road together again, something that they seem to agree they wouldn’t trade for anything.

“I won’t ever take another moment on stage for granted with those guys,” Nix told Rolling Stone in an interview in late 2021. “On stage in general, it’s such a blessing to be able to do something you love so much. To do it with guys that have been through everything together, I’ll leave it all out there, for sure.”

“We’re the same guys. We’re not even that much older. In fact, in some ways we might be younger,” Felker added. “We’ve also always had pretty neat chemistry with the crowd for the vast majority of our shows. And I do miss that because that’s not something you can really replicate in life. There’s nothing else that gives you that.”

Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images

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