Videos by American Songwriter
These tracks were recorded live and mixed by Kyle Byrd. Interview by Matthew Shearon and Davis Inman.
Have you been playing a lot of the new songs on tour?
We had been. Ah, the record; I was this close to finishing it before we left town. So, it’s not quite done. I have to get back and do a few things to the mixes. I don’t think we’re going to play a lot of them on this tour because what I have realized is that what happens now is if you play a song and someone is taping it all of a sudden there is a version on the internet that is not at all the right one, and the record isn’t coming out for like six months or something like that. The people will already know that song. All though we really want to play them, I guess we’re going to try to hold onto them.
Have you written songs since the To Willie album and are they in that same theme or inspiration?
One, specifically, was written during the recording of the Willie Nelson record, and I think that a lot of Willie rubbed off on that one, for sure.
So when you aren’t playing these new songs on the road, are you just living these Willie Nelson songs and songs from Pride and do you find it has an effect on the writing process of this new album?
Well, it’s not as simple as that, I guess. We did a lot of touring for Pride. I can’t get any writing done when we are on the road. But, when we came home from Pride and just before starting on the Willie Nelson record, I wrote, basically, all the new songs from the new record. I had been kind of playing around with them, and we started recording the Willie record, so, I kind of put them down. I just wasn’t, sort of, ready to record a new record after all that time on the road. I had wanted to do that Willie Nelson record for a long time and all of a sudden it seemed possible. The label was behind it. It seemed like a good time to do it. Plus, all those songs were ringing really true, all those Willie Nelson songs, at that time.
So, have you been hanging out with Willie a little bit now?
Yeah, yeah, a little bit. Of course, all that was so busy and so crazy. It was just a mad house backstage with all these bands. With this, sort of, city size group of people everywhere, we didn’t actually get a chance to say much of anything to one another. Though, he came up and sang with us, which, was, uh, we hadn’t talked about that. He sang “Reasons to Quit” with us. It was really something. On the stage, kind of chatting between verses really quickly; we still didn’t get to say much. [Chuckles]
After you did the album, he contacted you to come see him play. Was that just an amazing dream come true for you?
Yeah, it was really something to get that voicemail. It was a minute or two of just, ‘yeah.’ I didn’t know if he’d even heard the record at that point, or how he got my number or anything like that. I missed a call and then there is Willie on the voicemail saying hey.
How did you pick the songs for the To Willie album?
I didn’t pick them anytime recently. They’ve all songs that I have just always loved. Up until about a year ago, I just thought I might record some of them, someday. I did one Willie Nelson song years ago on an EP we put out, and thought maybe I’d like to do something more like that. Once I realized that I could do a full-length record, the To Lefty from Willie record came to mind and I thought, ‘I can do that.’ Then once I knew it was ten songs, and it was those 10 songs I have always loved.
Where did you do the recording for the upcoming songs?
The same place we did the To Willie album. This studio in Brooklyn which is our practice and recording space, its our space. It’s just kind of a big warehouse. It’s pretty stripped down right now. Over the past year, we have been acquiring more and more gear, so.
That album just has such a spacey, old vintage vibe to it.
Thank you, I worked really hard on the production of that record. With that record, I learned a lot about production more so than on previous records. The new record, I think, has a lot of that good thick sound we have going right now.
How about the band? Is that the same band from the Pride tour?
Well, I made the Pride record all by myself, without any other musicians. In order to tour with Pride, we put this band together. It’s just a bunch of friends.
So the engineer, who was that?
Has that process been a sort of learning curve over the past couple records?
In an embarrassingly nerdy kind of way, I can at least talk about it now [Laughing]. All those ’70s records, they all sound so good to me. It’s a weird magic to me. So, playing around with things and trying to get as close to some of those sounds as possible has been a big part of these last two records.
What do you think are the top couple of records you went to for this sound?
Well, it changes constantly. Right now, I’m basically kind of going crazy over those mid-’70s Rolling Stones and Ron Wood, those solo albums. They’re amazing. These are obvious things, but, for whatever reason, the Rolling Stones were never a big part of my early music. Those records are amazing sounding. So, it’s been a lot of that.
So, when you head back, how many dates do you have left?
Only about 12 or something; a week and half or two weeks.
Then, is it straight back to mixing?
Yeah, I really want to finish this record because it takes so long for them to put it out.
Is mixing, as a process, more trial by error or are you just there?
As a process, it depends. Some songs, it is immediately clear what to do. Other songs its more trial by error and then it clicks. If it doesn’t, you just have to drop it, I guess.
How did you come to mixing yourself, just to avoid producers and engineers?
Yes, pretty much. It’s technology, obviously, why I have the luxury to do that. Mainly, the tiny degrees to which you can change things, like, spending 10 hours to figure out how the base sounds at a hundred dollars an hour led me to mixing myself. The previous record had a bit of additional mixing done, but it’s been this way for the past few records.
Has your move from Athens to Brooklyn affected your music?
Yeah, you know, it has to creep in there. I don’t know about the songs, but more of the general vibe of what you’ve got going on.
On tour, do you find yourself stepping back and thinking about these songs?
It seems just damn near impossible to get any real work done when you are on tour. We have listened to the rough mixes a couple of times in the van.
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