by: Thomas D. Mooney
It’s a fine line to walk when you’re a singer-songwriter, a band, or just musician in general. How do you showcase your influences, yet sound original as well? It’s something that Los Angeles-based duo, The Driftwood Singers are learning to do.
They’ve undoubtedly have a sound that feels like something you’d find at an expensive antique shop. It’s something that almost all of us are familiar with living in Southern America. But, concurrently foreign for the majority as well. Whether you throw out The Carter Family, The Louvin Brothers, Hank Williams, and/or Jimmie Rodgers comparisons, you’re close to where The Driftwood Singers lay.
Listening to their music–especially their debut EP, “Look!”–they sound as though they’re from the early part of last century. Fast forward to “I Don’t Live Here Anymore,” roughly a year after the “Look!,” you see and hear a growing band. One which has roots in 1930s Appalachian folk and Americana, but who is building on that foundation rather than just saying content.
We recently caught up with one half of the duo, Kris Hutson, to discuss their sound, their new album, and finding that balance. Like The Driftwood Singers on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here.
New Slang: I guess first off, how’s this tour been going for you guys?
Kris Hutson: It’s been going really good. We had a really great show in–two really great shows in Nashville. We did a really cool show with The Lusitania in Dallas. That was a lot of fun.
NS: I guess you have gone out on a few lengthy tours in your time. When you go out on one of these long tours, what kind of mindset do you get into knowing you’re going to be away from home for a long time?
KH: It’s funny because–well, at least what I do, Pearl has started doing this as well–we hardly think about it and that first night of the tour, it turns into a party and basically stay up all night. And for some reason, after that you just keep going and going. You know, it’s not as bad as waking up for work everyday or something like that. Once we get that adrenaline going, we can go for as long as we need to. Eventually, we’ll burn out–like in the summer time. Last summer, we had toured for two months straight and that kind of took a lot out of me.
NS: Currently, you guys have the five song EP out. What’s in the works as the next release?
KH: We have a couple of things coming up in the next few months here. May 8, we’re releasing a limited 7 inch. The A-side is the song we did the music video for a few months ago called “I Don’t Live Here Anymore.” And the B-side is a single for our record that comes out in June. It’ll be our first full-length. I think that comes out June 12 and that’s just self-titled. We’re excited about it. We’ve been touring on this EP for the last two years it feels like and just getting stale now. Excited to have some new stuff, some new songs, and new music to get out to people.
NS: Where did you guys record the album and everything?
KH: We have a good friend in Nashville, David Mayfield, who is in a great amazing band based in Nashville. They tour quite a bit too. They’re called the David Mayfield Parade. We got hooked up with him through our manager. We share the same manager and said he’d be interested in producing our album. So, we flew out to Nashville in September of 2011 and just recorded. We did 11 songs in three days. It’s been done since September. We’ve been pretty slow at getting it out.
NS: Is that more you guys just taking your time with the process of getting it out or has there been any hiccups with getting it out?
KH: Well, we’ve had a few little ones. Like trying to get artwork together that we actually like for a while now. Kind of using that as an excuse. We really didn’t have enough time before this tour to get it out and have copies of it to sell. So we just thought we’d release it before the next time we go out in June and that way we can go out and support it for a while. I think we’re going to go out and do another two months in June and July supporting the 7 inch and full-length.
NS: As a songwriter, how do you think you’ve grown–even just since the EP?
KH: I feel like getting to travel a lot and getting to meet different songwriters. When we did the EP, I was playing a lot of music by myself and almost kind of like writing against all those bands I had been against. I was in an art school when I wrote that. It was kind of in protest to everything that I was being taught there in a way. And everything that everyone was playing there. It was California and there was just kind of an all-around “no one likes country music.” It tends to get made fun of. And it just started to piss me off. So, a lot of that angry, protesting that. And then once we started getting out on the road and meeting bands, like Thrift Store Cowboys, who we met last year. They’ve become really good friends of ours. Meeting other bands like that has really influenced where the new songs have gone. You know, they’re not so much old-timey or like stuck in their way of sounding like they’re from the 1930s or a Carter Family song any more. It’s opened it up to where we can write a really catchy song and don’t have to live within those constraints of 30s music any more.
NS: You feel like that was a natural progression you were eventually going to go anyways? Branch out of that sound?
KH: Yeah, I think we probably would have anyway. The EP, I was basically trying to go as far back as we could in music we like. I mean, we like all kinds of music. There’s a song that we recorded that we’re going to have to find a way to release it because it’s one of my favorite tunes. It’s like a soul song. It sounds out of character for us, but it really works. So we have a variety of things happening now.
NS: You said you went back as far as you could with the EP. It definitely sounds like it. It does sound like it’s an old radio recording or a long-lost record. When you guys started playing shows, was there any fear in possibly getting pigeonholed into a certain sound?
KH: Yeah, we did. I feel like that may be another reason that the songs have kind of progressed into something different. Because, it is really easy to be just that one thing and for people to think of you as just that. We’ve tried to get away from that with the new record. We did it all in a studio this time and not on that handheld cassette recorder.
NS: you said something earlier that got me thinking. I guess the majority of the time, we someone asked who you are influenced by, people automatically think you’re going to name off a few well-known, famous bands. But, it feels like you’re more influenced by bands who are relatively unknown by the general public. It feels like they’re more your peers rather than your heroes. Is that a good assumption?
KH: Yeah, I’d say so. Like Thrift Store Cowboys. We both fell in love with that when we got to play with them Midland, I believe January 2011, when we met them. We’re constantly running into new bands and–I would actually go as far as to say that we’re influenced by bands that we don’t like as well. It’s funny how much you can draw from something that you’re kind of repulsed by [laughs].
NS: Yeah, kind of in a learning what not to do kind of way [laughs].
KH: Yeah [laughs]. I’m sure you can write a damn good song just doing the opposite of something that you just absolutely hate.