Whiskey Myers Once Again Raises Their Game on New Album

Photo by Khris Poage

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

The Texas-based group Whiskey Myers has been doing excellent work in a Southern rock vein since they were formed by buddies Cody Cannon (lead vocalist and chief songwriter) and John Jeffers (lead guitarist who also contributes to songwriting) and recorded their debut album Road Of Life in 2008. Also including guitarist Cody Tate, bassist Jamey Gleaves, drummer Jeff Hogg, and percussionist Tony Kent, the band saw their popularity skyrocket over the past few years when their music was included in the popular Western series Yellowstone. 

The band rose to the occasion of newfound fame with their standout self-titled album in 2019. But if you think their burgeoning notoriety might have affected how they handled their follow-up, Tornillo, which arrives this summer, Cannon is here to rid you of that notion. “I’ve always been good about keeping my blinders on,” he tells American Songwriter. “I don’t pay attention to any of that shit. We’re thankful and it’s life-changing. But as far as all the noise, I kind of keep that out. We’ve always done our thing where we dance to the beat of our drum. We’ve always been good about that. That’s kind of the core of the band.” 

Jeffers claims that the band has been on the spot before, so stepping up again was old hat. “The pressure was on again,” he laughs. “The pressure was on with the ‘White Album’ (‘Whiskey Myers’) because we’d come off of two (producer) Dave Cobb records. And all of a sudden, we flipped gears and said, ‘Screw it, we’ll produce it ourselves.’ There was pressure there and it worked out. For us to turn around and do it again, it was on us, so we had to bring it to the table.” 

Yet Whiskey Myers wasn’t about to repeat themselves. From a musical standpoint, the band decided to incorporate a brass section to accentuate their already potent sound, a process that took a bit of adjustment. “There was a learning curve there,” Jeffers says. “We’ve been a band for so long that we speak our own language. But we brought in a new group of guys that actually write and they can read sheet music and everything else. We can’t really do that. So it kind of threw us for a loop. We had to figure each other out and speak each other’s language. Once we did, it was off to the races.” 

The horns add a colorful counterpoint to powerhouse rockers like “John Wayne” and “Antioch.” Cannon steered his songwriting towards that lightness. “I think it’s a lot happier, dancier, and groovier,” he says of the album. “I wanted the record to not be as dark as some of the other stuff. There’s a lot about the horns that makes it fun and dancey. I’m kind of a dark writer, so I tried to stray away from that as much as I could on this album and just try to make it fun.” 

Cannon had started the writing process for the album when he did an about-face. “I sat down to write this record. I was writing some songs, and they kind of sounded the same. I was like, ‘Well, this is kind of boring me.’ It’s that simple. I wanted to write something different. And it still does sound the same because you’re still you, and the band, we’re still us. So the albums kind of do sound like us. But there were subtle differences from a writing perspective and a sound thing.” 

Throughout Tornillo, a lyrical theme emerges of men struggling to shake free from the foolishness and wildness of youth to take on familial responsibilities. While Jeffers says there was no forethought, he sees it in hindsight as an outcrop of what was going on in their lives. “Cody and I both had babies and kids,” he says. “If you listen to the record, it comes out naturally. You can’t help it. It’s not like you sit down and purposely write one. It just kind of comes out of you before you can reflect on it. Those were things that were going on in my life. Like ‘Whole World Gone Crazy,’ that was written during the pandemic and everybody was going bat-shit at that moment.” 

Having expanded their musical territory on Tornillo, don’t look for Whiskey Myers to stop there next time around. “We’re just pushing ourselves more as artists,” Jeffers says. “We brought in the horns because we always wanted to do it and we never had the opportunity and enough time to get it done. I think we’re pushing our own bar. As a fan, you’re always scared of your favorite band or musician changing. To me, it’s not really about us changing, but we have to continue to push ourselves. Otherwise, we’d get stale. We can’t be stagnant. We’re still the same band. We’re just adding on layers now.” 

Photo by Khris Poage

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