New Slanged: The Wild Feathers
By: Thomas D. Mooney
For too long, there’s been this notion and belief that American folk bands have taken a backseat to their English counterparts. The rise of the “West London Folk Scene” lead by the likes of Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn, and most notably, Mumford & Sons (who, are undeniably the single most overrated band of the millennium. Not saying they aren’t ‘good’ or even ‘great,’ but there is no way they deserve this much hype) have captured hearts and souls, successfully become everyone’s little indie darlings (Yet, everyone seems to forget Fleet Foxes are better, just not as commercial).
Everyone longs for the “good ol’ days.” The days of Dylan, Townes, Gram, and The Band. You want to live in Woody Guthrie’s America.
It’s my thoughts that you just have to dig deeper; get closer to the bone.
Meet The Wild Feathers; a collection of folk singer-songwriter throwbacks raised on crackling 60s and 70s classic LPs.
Now, I’m not saying The Wild Feathers are the “saviors” of a genre. But rather, they are part of a something we under-appreciate as a whole (I’ll get off my soap-box now).
The five-piece consists of Taylor Burns (vocals, electric guitar), Ricky Young (vocals, acoustic guitar), Joel King (vocals bass guitar), Preston Wimberley (vocals, lead guitar, pedal steel), and Aaron Spraggs (drums).
There’s a bit of mysterious lore with the band as well. And, I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not, but regardless, it’s there. Simply put, there’s just not a lot of information on the band other than a bare Facebook page and a handful of live video shots on YouTube from a couple of shows, The Nashville Toyota Antics Block Party and The Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles. That’s pretty much it.
At any rate, The Wild Feathers show their weight in these videos leaving you with the all-too-familiar question, “Why aren’t these guys bigger?,” especially for a band who was signed to an Interscope Records contract.
Of course though, with this lack of attention, it creates a feeling inside where you feel like you’re going to see something special, intimate, and personal.
They kick off a 15-date fall tour Friday here in Lubbock, with the latter half of dates opening for the legendary Paul Simon.
New Slang caught up with Burns, Young and King earlier this week to discuss opening for Simon, songwriting, and Gram Parsons’ ghost.
The Wild Feathers play this Friday at Wreckers.
New Slang: How did The Wild Feathers start up? What’s the “origin story” for the band?
Taylor Burns: Ricky and Joel were in Nashville and already had the idea for the band but they were looking for another singer-songwriter to join up. They came to Austin to play with some guys and we happened to have a mutual friend who gave them my number. We met up, hung out, played some tunes, and then a few weeks later we were off to LA to record some demos. And we’ve been together ever since.
NS:On the latter part of this tour, you’re opening for the great Paul Simon. How did that get arranged? What are the thoughts running through your mind, knowing you’re opening for one of the best songwriters of all-time?
TB: My first thought when I found out was, “oh shit, we better go practice.” I feel great about what we’re doing, but Paul Simon is on another planet when it comes to songwriting and singing harmonies. We all feel extremely lucky to get the opportunity to play with such an icon like Paul Simon.
Ricky Young: We have an incredible team at CAA. They made it happen. My first thoughts were man we better get to work. Pure excitement and anxiety also set in.
Joel King: We have a great team behind us. They called one sunny day and told us we are going on tour with Paul Simon. That’s how it happened and now we just hope he likes us. It is an honor to share the stage with him.
NS: Now, I’ve only heard a few live YouTube videos. And I don’t really have any prior knowledge on you guys as individuals or anything, but it seems like you guys are kind of like a group of singer-songwriters, in a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young kind of way. Lots of great harmonies, multiple guitars, melodies, etc. In saying that, what is the songwriting process for you guys? How have your songs been crafted so far?
TB: Yeah you’re right on in your assumption. Our process is different for every song I think. We all sing and play so most of the time, whoever has the idea will kinda steer the vibe of the song. But most of the time, we all chip in on each others songs. But, there are a few songs that we’ve written individually that we play in the set.
JK: Every song has it own unique life. They are all different. Some songs we have worked on countless hours with fine tuning to make it just right. Then, there are songs that you just wake up with. Between all of us singer-songwriters, we have plenty of a material. We get a little bit of that Lennon/McCartney competitiveness going on, which we hope will bring out the best tunes.
NS: Where are you guys as far album projects go?
TB: We recorded half our record with Rob Schnapf (produced Elliott Smith, Dr. Dog, Beck). We were scheduled to finish the record in September, but we had a problem with our label and parted ways in the middle of everything. So currently, we’re half way through our first record.
JK: We are constantly recording and we hope they see the light of day.
NS: So you guys are located in Nashville, correct? How’s that music scene treated you guys?
TB: Me and the lead guitar/pedal steel player, Preston [Wimberley], live in Austin, TX. The rest of the band lives in Nashville, so technically we consider ourselves based in Nashville. I like to say that we’re from Texas and Tennessee.
RY: Nashville is great. There is all kinds of great things going on here that no one really knows about. Great music, great songwriters, and just good people. So far they have been good to us.
JK: The music scene in Nashville is amazing. They have welcomed us with open arms. Our style of music travels well between the different genres.
NS: What are some of your individual music influences?
TB: Personally, I love The Band, Black Crowes, Beatles, Byrds,Townes, Dylan and lots more.
RY: I love Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Hank Williams, Whiskeytown, Neil Young, and The Byrds. I can listen to jazz all day. Good jazz.
JK: Beatles, Dylan, Stones.
NS: So far, what’s been one of the more memorable experiences you guys have had as a band so far?
TB: Me and the guys had a weekend off in LA, and we decided to head up to Joshua Tree. We stayed at The Joshua Tree Inn in the same room Gram Parsons stayed in. It was just a really cool moment and we got some good songs out of the whole thing.
RY: For me, it’s been writing some of the songs we have written. We wrote a great song in the room that Gram Parsons died in at The Joshua Tree Inn. It was Gram’s birthday, so we had plenty of whiskey. We are pretty sure Gram wrote that song with us.
JK: Being dropped by Interscope Records.
NS: What are you guys currently listening to, reading, watching?
TB: I’ve been listening to the new Dawes record lately. Also, I’ve kinda been on a big Band kick. I usually get into them every few months. The only book I’ve read recently is the Keith Richards bio, “Life.”
RY: I’ve been enjoying some Chet Baker and Iron & Wine. Just finishing up the Keith Richards book, “Life.”
JK: The Bible. Merle Haggard.
NS: Finish the following sentence: “At the end of this fall tour, The Wild Feathers will be____.”
TB: Broke… Although I hope not. So buy a lot of shirts.
RY: Better, closer, and ready for the next thing that comes our way.
JK: Even wilder.