The Wans Fan the Spells of Love on “Magical Touch,” Off Their Forthcoming Album

There’s something magical in the way The Wans latest album came together. Call it full circle, but after a halt to recording during the pandemic and combing through new songs, the Nashville rockers are releasing their second full-length album, Magical Touch, on July 26, 2023, 11 years to the day they released their eponymous EP debut.

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A follow-up to their 2014 album, He Said She Said, produced by Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Rival Sons), and follow-up EP Run Baby Run in 2016, on Magical Touch, Kerr tells American Songwriter that the band was ready to release something new sooner and were halted by the pandemic, which gave him the space to craft new songs, many of them written over four years. 

“All the songs were written over a four-year period with some of them being written a few days before the studio session, which only took a week to record,” says Kerr. “It feels like I’ve been writing a novel over this period of time—maybe more like my novella than a novel.”

Over the past few years, Kerr and bassist Thomas Bragg also added two new band members, including their former bassist Noah Denney, now on drums, along with guitarist and keyboardist Akshay Narang, The addition, Kerr says, has “completely changed the sound and feel” of The Wans.

On the title track, Narang crafted a synth piece that Kerr knew was something special, and along with the bass and drums, the song quickly fell together. “Those damn geniuses,” says Kerr in awe of his bandmates. 

Co-producing the album with Michael Fahey was the other end of getting the sonic spectrum just right. “He is a sonic wizard,” says Kerr of Fahey. “I wanted the record to sound like a band in a room, and Mike made that happen. We cut everything live in his studio. Then we added whatever sparkles needed to be added—lots of vintage recording gear and amps.”

For Kerr, the title track evolved into something completely different over time. “In its infancy, the riff sounded like a T. Rex song, but it quickly morphed into something more special,” he says. “When I brought the song to the band it was an immediate vibe. Everything just fell into place without saying a word to each other. That feels really good when that happens.”

The heaviest track on the album, “Magical Touch” also highlights an evolution, lyrically and musically of The Wans, says Kerr.

“I believe it really showcases the fact the band’s sound has morphed into something special,” he says. “There are a few ballads on there. Yes, I said ballads. They’re rocking ballads—not corny Journey kind of ballads —cool ballads. Lyrically, most of the songs are love songs along with being self-aware and having belief in yourself. There’s a certain flair throughout the record about togetherness as a society, which is much needed after the past few years.”

Focused on a love that is hard to handle, in “Magical Touch,” Kerr sings Bell, book, and a candle / Your love is what I’m under… Running out of place to hide / You hold the secret inside, a nod to the 1958 film Bell, Book and Candle, starring James Stewart and Kim Novak, which he was watching the night before he wrote the song. 

“It’s about a woman, who casts a love spell over a man, and he comes to find out about the spell,” says Kerr of the classic movie and its link to the song. “Sorry. I spoiled it, didn’t I?”

The track is accompanied by a more humorous video, inspired by Terry Gilliam’s 1998 film, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, based on the 1971 Hunter S. Thompson book of the same name with the band on a debauched road trip with cuts to them playing in a dive bar. 

Working with his father, Nashville songwriter and musician Tony Kerr, Magical Touch was another musical bond for father and son. 

“We write everything together,” shares Kerr. “Some fathers and songs bond over fishing, but we bond over songs, that’s pretty damn cool.” 

In the late 1990s, when his father was opening shows for John Prine, the legendary singer, and songwriter suggested he move with his family from Ireland to Nashville, and it’s where they’ve called home since then. 

“We have songwriting sessions every Sunday, and this particular day I had nothing,” says Kerr on how “Magical Touch” came together. “Before the session started, I was panicking trying to come up with an idea, then I landed on the riff and melody. Lyrically, the chorus came out of me exactly like you hear it on the record. I didn’t know what was coming out of my mouth as it happened. I like to thank the songwriting gods for that one.”

Songwriting is something that has also transformed for Kerr since the band’s 2012 debut and when he first started writing in his teens. “Sometimes you have to have your antenna up to catch whatever songs are floating around you,” shares Kerr. “That’s why I think songwriting is magic. One minute you have nothing, and the next you have something that wasn’t there before.”

The songs still come in different ways for Kerr and always have. “I have to work a little harder now to get them the way that I want them,” he reveals. “Writing songs is hard, but always satisfying when it’s over. John Prine said it best, ‘I’d rather eat a hot dog or a doughnut than write a song.’”

Photo: Jason Lee Denton / Nothing Shocking Media

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