“I’ve never had a song induced by pandemic,” says Howard Bellamy, one half, along with his brother David, of country duo The Bellamy Brothers. For nearly 50 years the brothers have seen it all, but they’ve never seen anything like COVID-19.
Just months off the 2019 release of Over the Moon, the brothers decided to record and release a new EP right in the middle of the pandemic. On Bucket List, The Bellamy Brothers manage to touch on lockdown delirium and everyday survival on “Rednecks (Lookin’ for Paychecks).”
Written by David, the tongue-in-cheek track addresses the unemployment and the political distress around the pandemic. Initially, the duo released an acoustic version of “Paychecks” online and decided to record it after getting a big reception from fans.
Rarely politically-driven, The Bellamy Brothers say there’s no left or right in what is happening in the country, but they admit they do tend to lean on the side of sane.
“We’re for sanity, so we don’t have a party yet,” jokes David. “We’re just waiting for someone to come along with some.” Howard adds, “The bottom line is we try not to discuss politics, but until we can all talk sanely and level-headed, it’s going to be bad until happens.”
Moving through the six tracks on Bucket List, The Bellamy Brothers manage to touch on a little of everything—rousing emotions during isolation, breakups, hope for better times ahead, and even some nostalgia for the old days.
Slower crooned “No Country Music for Old Men,” featuring John Anderson, moves through the nostalgia for the bygone era of country music. “I’ve actually been criticized before for writing stuff that’s too nostalgic,” says David. “I guess ‘No Country’ will get more criticism, but I started writing that song when Kenny Rogers died, and it was right after everything got grounded.”
The lovelorn, acoustic-led “Okeechobee” was written around Christmastime 2019 after David just picked up an Old Fender Rhodes guitar, while the title track, which David calls an old-fashioned redneck break up song, is a humorous romp through leaving bad love behind in lyrics Girl you stomped all over my heart, and that ain’t right you’re coming off of my bucket list / You’re going on my fuck it list… I’m tired of playing the fool for you.
There’s nothing too heavy on Bucket List. There’s no gut-wrenching, country heartbreak. Sunnier calypso beats fill “Sunshine State of Mind,” a track the brothers say will hopefully shine a better light on their home state after the pandemic. “Florida has been battered now during this whole thing,” says Howard. “The idea actually came up before we were the epicenter of the pandemic, but we were also looking for something light to promote Florida after all of this is over.”
On Bucket List, it’s clear The Bellamy Brothers want to bask in more levity during turbulent times, all the way through closer “Lay Low, Stay High” singing How do I handle the fact, that this whole world’s about to blow.
In many ways, Bucket List wouldn’t have existed if the brothers were not in lockdown. “If this the pandemic didn’t happen, this probably wouldn’t exist,” says David. “We wouldn’t have finished it.”
Recorded while socially distanced from the world, right in their backyard, the Brothers’ guitarist, who is Canadian, found himself stuck in Florida when COVID hit, which gave them an unexpected musical advantage on Bucket List.
“We just tried to make use of the time, you know,” says Howard. “Some of the songs were inspired by the current situation, but some are nostalgic. There’s a little bit of everything.”
When writing, it’s always a mixed bag for the brothers, and Bucket List was no different for the dozens of albums the duo have released since their 1976 debut Let Your Love Flow. “Our writing process is really a broad spectrum of things,” says David. “On ‘Sunshine State of Mind,’ Howard started it, and I added a verse and wrapped the chorus around, so we co-wrote that even though it was his song. Writing is a combination of things for us. Sometimes it comes fast, sometimes it don’t.”
Now, back home at their family ranch in Central Florida, the brothers are waiting to see if their fall shows are still on, but like everyone they’re just trying to wait everything out.
“I don’t think any of us can really figure this all out,” says David. “And then you throw the politics on top of a pandemic, and it’s a big mess.”
Howard adds, “Honestly, we’re just trying to live through this damn thing.”