The Americana band talk touring with Willie Nelson, songwriting, and recording their debut album.
Ricky Young and Joel King, members of the Nashville-based Wild Feathers, are debating whether they most enjoyed touring with Bob Dylan or Willie Nelson. Although they can’t remember most of the tour, they settle on Nelson. “Willie was great,” says King before the band's set last Tuesday at the House of Blues. “We got to go up and sing with him every night.”
When King says “we,” he means all four of the band’s lead singers. “Having four lead singers, it can get complicated in a good way,” says King. “We keep each other in check. We could have each done our own thing, but once we started writing together, the songs took on a life of their own.” The Wild Feathers formed in early 2010. Young and King had known each other for a while and shared the idea of forming an outlaw, rock n’ roll style band with multiple singers. They soon recruited Taylor Burns and Preston Wimberly from their former group in Austin, as well as drummer/vocalist Ben Dumas.
Although they all have to share the spotlight now, Young claims that having four lead singers and songwriters has plenty of advantages. “We have an extensive catalogue having four main songwriters and we write really well together too,” says Young. “Usually Joel brings a song to the table, takes the reigns and leads the way, and we’ll have some input or not. It’s a kind of puzzle, but it works, so we don’t mess with it too much.”
The Wild Feathers grew up in Texas listening to classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin, The Band, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, as well as country western singers. “We are also influenced by some newer bands,” says Young, “like My Morning Jacket and Wilco.” King wore a Dawes T-shirt for the House of Blues show. “These bands are trying to do the same things we are,” adds Young, “so we naturally gravitate to them.”
The Wild Feathers are as hesitant as most bands are to be categorized by any one genre, but they don’t mind the label “Americana.” When asked why he thinks the genre has become so popular among artists and music fans, Young responds, "I think that these are actual songs with substance. I think people have gotten sick and tired of whatever it is that comes on the radio and means absolutely nothing, about how much fun the singer is having at a club. Who gives a shit?”
The band's performance Tuesday night had plenty of "pure rock n' roll" moments that The Wild Feathers aim to embrace. Piercing southern-rock solos, boot stomping, and a healthy amount of mid-performance beer drinking had even Needtobreathe fans feeling like outlaws. The group's commitment to classic rock n’ roll carries over into their recording process. Their self-titled, debut album, produced by Jay Joyce (The Wallflowers, Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin) was recorded in a traditional style: live, on tape, with vintage instruments, concentrating on one song a day. Recording only one song per studio session might seem grueling, but the band claims that they wouldn’t do it any other way. Young says, “We got there each morning around 9 or 10, plugged in, mic’d up and went. We worked all day, which I loved. When everyone is working, everyone feels like they are contributing something. At the end of the day, everyone’s been drinking a little bit and feeling good, and we have a new song to listen to. It’s a little celebratory.” King adds, “All of our favorite records are made that way, so we’re just trying to fit in and be cool like everyone else. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to do it that way.”