The Wild Feathers:
Doing the Family Proud

At its best, a local music scene serves as an incubator for talent, a place for players to hone their sound away from the national spotlight. Ideally, the artists in the scene support each other and cheer on each others’ successes, free of “why didn’t I get that break?” jealousies. The East Nashville music community, for the past decade or so, has been just this type of musical laboratory, indulging and encouraging adventurous experimentation. When a hometown artist is performing on a late-night television show, clubs like The 5 Spot stop the proceedings on stage for a few minutes so that their patrons can gather ‘round the old flatscreen and celebrate their friends. It is, as the cliché goes, like a family. Recently, East Nashville’s musical offspring The Wild Feathers have been making the family mighty proud.

Coming together in 2010, The Wild Feathers played around town and built a repertoire that eventually piqued the interest of Warner Brothers Records, which added the band to their family in 2013. They toured the country in support of their debut album, The Wild Feathers, and over the course of those performances their sound naturally evolved.

The songs for their sophomore album, Lonely is a Lifetime, were mostly written on the road and they belie a leaner, tougher sound born of soundchecks and big electric guitars. Before leaving for Australia to play the Splendour in the Grass festival and on the eve of their highly-anticipated show at the historic Ryman Auditorium, Ricky Young, Taylor Burns, Joel King, and Ben Dumas appeared as guests on Acme Radio’s The Vinyl Lunch with Tim Hibbs to talk music and spin some of their favorite records.

“It’s a bucket list moment, for sure,” Ricky said when describing their forthcoming Ryman show on June 25th. Just days prior to the interview, their label mates and former tour mates The Shelters had played there, opening for Mudcrutch. The following evening, The Shelters made the most of a tour night off by playing their own show at The Basement.

An intimate, brick-walled clubhouse of a venue, The Basement is a favorite haunt of many local and touring bands, including The Wild Feathers who were out in full force to support their friends. The Shelters called them up for the encore, a raucous rendition of The Rolling Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash.” The eight-man combined band made a mighty, joyful noise, ending the evening on an emotional peak.

Each member of the band toted an interesting array of albums to play during radio show. Ben went for the simple approach, bringing a boxed set of Neil Young classic albums recently reissued on vinyl. Ricky brought LPs by The Everly Brothers and Van Morrison. Joel got back to his Tulsa, Oklahoma roots by selecting an Ernest Tubb live album recorded at Cain’s Ballroom, a favorite venue of his grandparents (he suspects they may have even been there on the night this concert was recorded).

Taylor, who was celebrating his birthday, brought The Band’s self-titled release and George Harrison’s epic, three-disc All Things Must Pass. In between the songs, we talked about what they meant to each of the band members and exchanged stories that we knew about the recordings. You can listen to the full show here.

After I jokingly announced that their new album was available “on Warner Brothers Records and Tapes,” the band chimed in with genuine love for cassettes. “We ONLY had a cassette player in our first van,” Joel explained. “We had three cassettes and they were Leon Russell’s Carny, Merle Haggard’s Greatest Hits, and The Eagles’ Hotel California. We wore out those tapes!,” Joel explained as the others laughed and nodded in approval. Like records, cassettes also have a Side A and Side B, giving natural breaks in the listening experience. There is something to be said for having space to appreciate what you’ve just heard, rather than being inundated with a never-ending stream of sound.

Reflecting on the band’s new album, Ricky explained how important St. Charles, the studio where they tracked Lonely is a Lifetime with producer Jay Joyce, was to the recording’s sound. “You can actually hear the room in there,” Ricky noted. St. Charles, owned by Joyce, is located in a nearly one-hundred-year-old former Baptist church in East Nashville. “A couple of songs are just us around one mic with one acoustic guitar that wasn’t plugged in or mic-ed (separately). The intro to “Help Me Out” is like that and the majority of the title track was recorded that way. The overall vibe of the room is really important.”

Prior to their Ryman show, The Wild Feathers will visit Grimey’s on June 23rd for a live in-store performance. Expect that gig to be packed with music lovers and the band’s contemporaries, who know that a rising tide lifts all boats. And lately, Nashville’s enjoying a virtual flood of excellent music.

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