Most roads eventually lead to music. For Highway Natives, each member came from different ends of the country—Kentucky, Tennessee, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Florida—and the band’s rock-Americana debut, “Bad News,” is melded by their individual roots, close-knit touring across America, and finding common ground in Nashville.
“The subjective nature within songs is what makes this world of music go around,” says Artie Scarazzo. “With ‘Bad News,’ in particular, there isn’t too much of a gray area.”
“Bad News” is textured in Highway Natives’ own soul-crunching rock and more exposed lyrics—She’s a shotgun waiting to blow and she’s aiming right at you… Before you know, she’s long gone / She’s up and left you far behind. “The song is a warning from those who have been there, before someone arrives, face down, stripped of dignity, on that whipping post The Allman Brothers sang about,” says Scarazzo of the track, which he describes as a timeless tale of a treasonous woman. “That’s no place for anyone to be, and yet it’s so easy for anyone to get caught there.”
Off the band’s upcoming debut EP, “Bad News” also reflects the mostly grim reports in the U.S., and globally, throughout the past year. “It’s almost always bad news,” says Scarazzo. “I think people are tired, confused, and overwhelmed with what to believe anymore. “I’d like to think that overall, ‘Bad News’ is about thinking for yourself first and foremost, and not getting swept up in what others, whether it be the person you’re into, or a bogus ideology, tell you what to think and how to act.”
Since initially forming as a duo in 2018, when Brandon Moore, originally from Kentucky, and Floridian Jordan Miller were searching for the perfect co-writing partner, and later enlisted lead guitarist Matt Drummey from MA, bassist and TN native, Artie Scarazzo, and NC drummer Arthur Stover, the past year has allowed them to refine how they intend to move forward as a band. With more time to practice, they’ve found deeper grooves, preferring to track live in the studio to capture the raw energy of their performance.
Pulling from all genres, Drummey says when the band was on tour, their van was blasting everything from Pantera to Steely Dan to Sturgill Simpson. “These different backgrounds are all on the table when it comes to adding new elements to songs,” says Drummey. “Sometimes it’s just a tweak here or there, and sometimes it’s a complete overhaul. Some songs have a more country feel to them. Some are more nostalgic and airy. It all threads together with the vocal harmonies, melodic guitar solos, and our chemistry as a band.”
When Highway Natives formed, most of the songs were already written by Moore and Miller and brought to the band as demos to learn, but the process has since segued into something more collaborative over time.
“As we continued to grow and truly became a band, we learned each other’s style and really figured out how to feed off of each other when playing live together,” says Moore. “It allowed us to delve deeper into these tunes and arrange them with each individual’s own creative approach resulting in a much more natural and original sound.”
These days, there’s a concerted embellishing of arrangements, and someone will generally draft a groove or melody that kicks everything off. Songs are typically played through several times, then revised, sometimes during recording.
“Having multiple minds with their own sets of influences working collaboratively on music is crucial in my opinion,” says Moore. “When an idea comes up that I would never think of on my own, it can sometimes take a song in a whole new direction and can sometimes be that missing puzzle piece.”
If a song stems from a lyric, it’s usually something more personal, reveals Moore, referencing another track “American Dream,” which pieced together around Moore’s own angst and fatigue of being financially broke and questioning his musical fate, while; “Hayesville,” penned by Miller, was fueled by the anticipation he felt driving to his in-laws cabin in North Carolina, isolated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“We usually like to take inspiration from events going on in our lives that we can personally relate to,” says Moore, “then channel the energy from them to write it out into song.”
This time off the road has been a blessing and a curse, says Miller. Prior to the pandemic, the band played several sold-out performances to kick off the year before having to cancel the next batch of shows, before the focus turned to how they wanted to move forward as a band. Using live streams as an experiment, they’ve watched performances back, noting what works and picking apart anything that needs improvement.
“Being a band in Nashville, and fairly new, our live shows and honing in on our sound was at the top of our list,” says Miller. “We started coming to practice with different set ideas, ways we could be better talking to the audience, tying in unique parts when transitioning songs—anything we felt could be better.”
Dealing with hardships, personally and within the band over the past year, while trying to remain optimistic during very uncertain times, Stover says they had more honest conversations about how to handle things as musicians, business partners, and ultimately as friends and will be heading back to the studio again shortly.
“One of the things that has proved the most beneficial for us is writing and recording new music,” says Stover. “We’ve been collaborating as a band and all pitching in on projects, which is an approach that we’ve come to love. We can’t say too much just yet, but we’re working on something special that we think will relate to a lot of people.”