Any band with three singer/songwriters could easily get bogged down by disagreements about who’s going to handle lead and secondary vocal duties — but not The Wild Feathers.
“Most of the time it’s pretty straightforward,” said bassist Joel King.
“You get in where you can fit in. A lot of times, I’ll be singing the higher part just because I can hit it. I like how The Band and The Stones [did] their harmonies. Sometimes you can sing in unison or an octave above in falsetto. I think we try to use our ears and not so much, our ego. That’s what makes us who we are. We’re not The Beach Boys and not that great at singing harmonies. We just find that magic spot when we’re singing and figure out how to do it.”
King is being slightly modest. This Nashville-based Americana group — which also includes guitarists Taylor Burns and Ricky Young and drummer Ben Dumas – has a seamless harmonic blend. It’s evident throughout The Wild Feathers’ sumptuous third studio effort Greetings from the Neon Frontier, especially the breezy early Eagles-styled “Wildfire” and “Big Sky.”
The former track describes life on tour and the idea came to fruition after “our manager thought we should do an honest, ‘Who the hell are you guys’-type song.’
“We sat around my kitchen table and wrote it,” recalled King. Unlike in the past, where they “would’ve totally tried to mask” lyrics that might be considered cliché, this time, good ‘ol truth won out.
While 2016’s Lonely is a Lifetime was crafted on the road, had songs that evolved from “jamming out” and an expansive sound that sometimes recalled My Morning Jacket, the new album often has a more laid-back vibe because much of the material was penned at home. Instead of adding weird noises, King said they tried to make it “like a Tom Petty record or something and serve the song.
“This record is just sitting down with acoustic guitars and getting down to the core of it.”
The Wild Feathers reteamed with Jay Joyce, the award-winning producer whose credits range from the top names in country music to Cage the Elephant and Mikky Ekko. King said one of the things he likes about Joyce is that he’s tuned into the guys’ musicologist side.
“He knows exactly what we’re doing. If he wouldn’t have got it, we would’ve went with somebody else. It probably would’ve been a different album. We kind of look for that George Martin-type dude with us playing. Maybe he can get behind the keys or shake the maracas while we play, and it feels like home.”
There’s still some rocking out in strategic places. The spacey dramatic sweep of “Hold onto Love” is akin to U2. Organ-drenched opener “Quittin’ Time” could be a Black Crowes outtake. “No Man’s Land” has a Tom Petty feel and chunky guitars drive “Stand by You,” co-written by country veteran Jeffrey Steele (Keith Urban, Tim McGraw).
“That was really great,” King said about the rare experience. “We’d been burnt before, trying to co-write. Except for Gary Louris of The Jayhawks – because we loved the dude and thought he was awesome. We wrote a couple songs together.”
(“American” appeared on The Wild Feathers’ 2013 self-titled debut disc and “Backwards Women” will finally make it on The Jayhawks’ Back Roads and Abandoned Motels, due out this month.)
“With Jeffrey, I didn’t know what to expect. We went over to his place and he’s telling stories, just yukking it up and having a great time.
“He’s such a craftsman and a pro, like smoothing things out with sandpaper,” King continued. “We had a bunch of verses. He reigned it in and made it a cohesive thing.”
Lately, the band has been getting prominent airplay on Sirius XM’s The Highway channel. Satellite radio has been a major supporter for years.
“Before, The Spectrum would play us and people really responded to it. The Highway is huge. When they said they’d play us, it was amazing. We take any fans we can get. We didn’t realize we could fit in.”
Judging from comments online, fans have been excited about the fact that The Wild Feathers restarted its popular Truck Stop cover video series.
“People asked about it all the time,” said King. “We needed something else to do. We stopped it because we were so busy and didn’t have time. This record had been done for a little bit and we needed to be seen on the internet, so we resurrected the Truck Stop thing. We came up with a million ideas. We’re still talking about it. Maybe getting some of our buddies in to do it and trying to make it fun. It gives people something else to do besides listening to the record over and over again. We should do a song by Ryan Bingham, who’s one of our best buds, and have him play accordion on it.”
In the time since The Wild Feathers’ 2010 inception, they have shared stages with Paul Simon, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan. Did the young musicians glean anything from those legends?
King said, “Simon talked to us for a while and gave us some words of wisdom.” As for the Red-Headed Stranger, “His whole career and the way he runs his whole organization is fucking awesome. He makes it like a family. We learned how to be on the road and treat people.”
The Wild Feathers will primarily be performing at festivals this summer and fall. One that King is really looking forward to Ohana Fest in Orange County, Calif.
“That’s going to be a blast. I don’t care if we play. I just want to meet [lineup curator and headliner] Eddie Vedder!”
Visit the band’s official site for more and to check out their tour schedule!