Micky and The Motorcars have been rockin' the Texas music scene and beyond for over a decade. Brothers Micky and Gary Braun, along with fresh recruits Dustin Schaefer (lead guitar), Joe Fladger (bass), and Bobby Paugh (drums) released their seventh record, the stellar Hearts From Above, this past July. Their current single, and title track, continues to makes it's way up the Texas charts while the guys are out on the road on the Livers of Steel Tour. Front man Micky Braun graciously took some time from the tour to talk about the album, writing and his favorite event of the year.
This year is turning out to be an incredibly busy one for you guys. Right after releasing the album and prior to starting the tour, you were in Idaho for the annual the Braun Brothers Reunion Festival. Is that one of your favorite events of the year?
Oh absolutely, it’s my favorite weekend of the year. I look forward to it and as soon as it’s over I’m bummed out and I can't wait until the next one.
Do you get to return to Idaho often?
I do actually. I’m in the works of building a cabin there and I go up as much as I can, maybe four to five times a year on my short little stints when I have three or four days off.
Knowing that you and Gary became involved with music at such a young age, was there ever another path either of you considered other than music?
We’ve done some different things. I built houses for a few years while playing music and Gary did a lot of horse guiding and guiding people in the mountains for awhile, but for the most part I kinda always knew this is where we would end up. It’s where my heart has always been anyway.
Micky and The Motorcars have been together for over a decade. Seeing how bands come and go what does it take to keep going?
Well, a lot of hard work and dedication basically. There are a lot of good times and bad, a lot of ups and downs, but for the most part we just keep focused on our goals which have always been to just keep climbing, play bigger places, gain more fans and make better records.
The Motorcars latest album, Hearts From Above, was Kickstarter funded. Since it was the first time you went that route, how was the experience of doing it that way?
It was really cool. I didn’t know much about Kickstarter before we did it, but after learning about it, I liked the whole concept. It was fun to be able to involve the fans a lot more than we ever have before and get everyone excited and on board way before the record came out. All in all, it was a fantastic way to do it. It helped us out a lot because we couldn’t have done it otherwise.
The initial goal of the project was surpassed, which speaks a lot to your fans.
It does. I set the goal a little lower than what we really needed, because I just didn't want to ask for too much. I wanted to get it recorded and was going to figure out how to do the rest from there. [The extra] helped out with radio promotion, and filming the music video for "Long Road to Nowhere," which we will hopefully get out on CMT in a few weeks. It was really an extra bonus for us and allowed us to push the record the way we wanted to.
Have you found the response from fans to be that they really enjoyed being part of the process?
Absolutely. People often come up to me every day saying they were a Kickstarter and what package they bought. They’ll thank us for letting them be a part of it and putting their name on the record. It’s really cool.
The record had really nice debuts on Billboard and iTunes, which must have been really exciting! Were you at all surprised?
When I heard that it charted at #2 [on the New Artist Chart], #17 on the Country Chart and #150 in the Top 200, I was quite shocked to be honest with ya. For a bunch of kids from Idaho, it was really great.
You have said that there is a renewed energy with this record. What makes that so?
The whole process in general was a lot of fun and a lot more relaxing than normal. We had set aside enough time to focus on the record and really get it done right. It was great for me to be able to work with the new band [since 2011's Raise My Glass, MMC added three new members] because even though we have been on the road together for a couple years, I had never done a record with them. It was fun to get in the studio with them and see what we were all capable of doing together. Working with Willy as producer and Cody playing and singing was awesome too. The record just really ended up the way I wanted.
You often write with Willy, but this was his first time producing one of your records. It seems you guys are genuinely supportive of one another. How was the working relationship in the studio?
Willy and I get along really well. I get along with all of my brothers, probably more so than most families do, but Willy and I have always kinda had the same brain. I don’t know what that is all about, I guess mom and dad's genes (laughing), but we have always listened to the same music, had the same styles of writing and the same ideas of what we liked in our records and how we wanted them to come out when were doing our separate projects. Working with him was one of those deals where it was a real easy match.
Even though there are some serious songs on this record, the overall feel is a bit lighter than previous Motorcars' albums.
Absolutely. That was kind of a big part of this record. I was basically writing in a better place and the record is a lot more on the happier side. I had gone through some pretty heavy stuff a few years ago, lost some friends, some girlfriend stuff and this time I’m in a good spot and the band is too. I think it shows in the record and in our live performances.
Hearts From Above is a solid listen start to finish, but "Hurt Again" seems to be a fan favorite. What is the back story to that song?
I actually started writing that song in Montana about three years ago. I was tinkering around, wanting to do something edgier. I kept going back to it, but couldn’t figure out how to finish it up and never really could. I had called up Jason [Eady] to come down and write, not really even realizing what we were gonna work on, and I was like ‘hey I got this one song I started 3 years ago…’ and he loved it. We worked out the quirks and finished it up. Then I brought it to Willy, who wanted it to be even more rock and roll than I was even thinking, but that turned out to be the right direction for the song. It was a lot of fun.
You also collaborated with Brian Keane on three songs. Did you set out to write a lot with him or did those songs just click for the record?
He and I are good buddies who both live in Austin. We just get together, drink some beers and usually that turns into us writing a song. You know with him, we don’t set up songwriting times; we just get together without any pressure, which is probably why those songs end up making the record as some of my favorites.
Do you prefer co-writing, writing solo or does it just depend and has your writing changed over the years?
It really depends on the writer. If I’m writing with a good buddy of mine I love it, but if it is a forced thing, I hate it. I tried co-writing in Nashville and they wanted a cut for a particular artist and I wanted a Motorcars cut; it just didn't work.
My writing changes every year really, because it goes with what we're going through and what happens in life. Some years I'm in a rock and roll mood and some years I’m in a ballad mood. I never really know what’s gonna come out and I think that’s good for the fans and the band. We want to keep our sound, but at the same time not put the same record out over and over.
"Tonight We Ride" has been getting a huge response from the fans when you perform it live, but now that you have been playing other songs from the record is there one that is going over really well or better than you expected?
"Hurt Again," definitely. That song is probably gonna be our big one for the live show, it's just a just a rock and roll song and the response to it has been great. "Long Road to Nowhere" is going over really, really well too. That will probably be one of our more popular ones that we’ll have to play and if we don’t, we'll get the ‘why didn’t you do that one?’ from the fans.
For this particular tour, I am keeping the same setlist because of the large distances between venues and my brothers and Cody [Canada of The Departed] are all coming up and jamming, so it’s easier to keep it the same. With a Motorcars show though, I write a different set list every single night, which keeps it fresh for the crowd and for us.
The lighter feel of the album is also seen in the cover art. Who designed the artwork and what is the significance?
A good friend of ours who used to work with us way back, Betsy Baird, who also did the covers for Careless, Naïve and Live at Billy Bobs, designed it. I called her and said that Hearts From Above was going to be the title of the album and we started hashing out some ideas. I had the idea of using the old style plane, but I didn’t want it to be to postcard-y, or too much like a Valentine’s Day card (laughing). She went with that, made it a little bit sweeter and it turned out perfect. She sent over that nice plane on back and the parachutes with the tiny hearts on the front and I just loved it!
You guys are in the midst of a tour with Reckless Kelly and The Departed. Being on the road with your brothers and friends must be more fun than work.
It’s the greatest! It is just so much fun being out on the roads with the boys. I am already feeling like it's not going to be a long enough tour. It’s just a blast.
Being that the tour is titled the Livers of Steel Tour, I have to ask….which Braun has the strongest liver?
I’m gonna go with Cody on that one (laughing), but we’ll just see.
For tour dates and lots more information visit Micky and The Motorcars official website
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Andy Wrigglesworth and Laura Coates are a couple of old souls, who as The Weeping Willows, play music that is steeped in bluegrass tradition. In 2013 they released their debut album Till The North Wind Blows which continues the musical tradition of those they admire. We caught up with the duo via email as they took some time to answer a few questions about their history, their sound and their plans for the remainder of the year.
How did the two of you come together as a duo musically? As you are also a couple did that happen later or before the musical partnership?
Sadly enough, I was a groupie for another Alt-Country band that Andrew sometimes plays in called ‘The Wildes’. We struck up a conversation at a couple of gigs and, before long, started dating. I wasn’t actually pursuing music at the time but one weekend Andrew convinced me to sing some Johnny Cash and June Carter covers with him, just for fun. We shared our renditions with the band and I ended up singing backing vocals for them. The Weeping Willows began as a side-project; a chance for us to write our own songs, but soon became our main musical focus. You could say the romantic relationship came first but music was always a big part of it from the beginning.
What is the significance of your name, The Weeping Willows?
Several of our favourite Country songs make mention of weeping willows; from Patsy Cline/Willie Nelson’s ‘Crazy’ to Johnny Cash’s ‘Big River’ and, perhaps most significantly, ‘Bury Me Beneath The Weeping Willow’ by The Carter Family. Our name pays tribute to these great songs and artists.
What instruments do you both play and what made you gravitate to them specifically?
Andrew plays guitar, resonator and harmonica and I play accordion and occasionally, the lap steel. Andrew was drawn to the guitar from a young age, mainly to appeal to the ladies but soon found he had a real affinity for the instrument. I learned accordion and lap steel specifically for The Weeping Willows. I felt the accordion would bring a melancholy texture to our songs, while the lap steel is just one of the most expressive and haunting instruments I’ve ever heard.
You have a very classic sound, as well as appearance, that mixes country/folk and Americana. Who has influenced you?
Thank you. From a young age Andrew was listening to the Country stylings of Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, Doc Watson and our very own Australian guitar god, Tommy Emmanuel. My love of story songs developed more out of the 1950s movie musicals. It was Andrew that steered me towards Country and folk music. When we started on down the road of writing together it began with Johnny and June (Cash) before straying off to the wonders of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings and more recently Jason Isbell, John Fullbright, Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison. Our image is just a natural extension of the music we perform. I don’t think I could feel authentic singing our style of music in anything other than a purdy dress. Likewise, Andy prefers traditional suits, vests and cowboy boots!
What drew you to this type of music?
We both really enjoy the storytelling aspect of Country/Folk music. Our songs generally tell tales of other people, places and times. It’s musical escapism.
Your first record, Till the North Wind Blows, came out in 2013. Did the two of you write all of the songs for it and do you enjoy writing?
Yes, we wrote all of the songs for ‘Till the North Wind Blows’ together. Andrew is the main songwriter while I step in later in the undertaking. He is the ‘ideas man’ who usually has a concept but says he generally struggles to finish songs. As an ex-English teacher, I like to come to the rescue with red pen in hand! It’s a process we enjoy but it’s not always easy. Some songs come together quickly; others can take months so it’s satisfying when you decide one is ready to show the world.
You will be in Nashville in September for the Americana Music Festival. Talk about that.
We are once again heading over to Nashville for the Americana Music Festival and Conference in September. We are part of the Sounds Australia crew who will be performing a few shows around town at venues such as The Bluebird Café and The 5 Spot. We plan to see as many showcase artists as possible as well as attend the Americana Music Awards night. From there we will be embarking on a mini-tour of the South taking in Knoxville, TN, Asheville, NC, Atlanta, GA and Birmingham, AL.
Have you been to the US before and how has the reception been to your music?
We ventured over to the US last year, performing shows in Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. We were pleasantly surprised with our positive reception. There is an innate understanding of our style in the South. It was like ‘coming home’.
What are your plans for the remainder of 2014?
Once we get back from the Americana Festival it’s straight back on to the folk festival circuit for us. However, we do also plan to schedule some ‘down time’ later in the year so we can focus on writing, workshopping and demoing new material for our next album which we hope to record in 2015.
What are you currently listening to?
We are still enamoured with Jason Isbell’s Southeastern album of 2013. That’s destined to be a life-long love affair. Most recently we have been getting into Sturgill Simpson, Holly Williams and Mandolin Orange.
For more information visit their official website
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Leah Turner's debut single "Take The Keys" grabbed radio listeners and introduced her as one of country's most compelling new female artists. Her distinctive voice can be heard on her latest single, and third release from her debut EP, "My Finger." Currently on tour with Brad Paisley, Leah took some time to chat with us about the single, being a fresh female voice and her essential travel items.
Your newest single, the sassy and strong “My Finger,” seems poised to be a hit. What is the backstory to that song?
That song is a true story. It really is my anthem to not cheat. Guys and girls, we all have rings we can give back. I gave mine back and wrote “My Finger.”
"My Finger" is on your debut EP, which was released earlier this year. You had a hand in writing all five tracks. Was it important for you to write for the record?
Yes, I love songwriting. I write for other artists as well and actually had a publishing deal before I had a record deal. It's very important to me to have my voice come through the lyrics in the songs. I do like to co-write, but if there is an outside cut, I always look at it as if I wrote it, so that when I sing it, it feels like it came from within me.
Sirius XM and their listeners have given you and your music a lot of love. In fact, you were recently included as one of their Fresh Female Voices. What does their support mean to you?
Well, it means everything. Being featured as one of their Fresh Female Voices, along with other talented females, and having them play us with numerous spins over the next few weeks, means a lot. They are taking a step out and putting some gusto behind us. I appreciate both their and mainstream radio’s support. “Take The Keys” was a top 40 single and I am so grateful that people are wrapping their arms around me and my music.
What are your thoughts on the state of female artists in the industry today?
Everything definitely goes through cycles, you know. It can be rough out there, but the support I have had has meant so much to me. There are so many amazing women making music. I think we just need to keep doing what we’re doing, gaining new fans and supporting one another; then we’ll be unstoppable
Currently you are out on tour with Brad Paisley. How has the tour been going and have you been pranked?
It’s a dream come true. I definitely feel very blessed to be on the tour, especially as a female. It’s a lot of fun and Brad and his crew are great; they always take care of us.
I have not been and I have not pranked Brad. I think Brad is very respectful of the female artists and does not prank them. I personally wouldn't mind, but I love and appreciate the fact that he puts that respect out there.
How has crowd reaction been to your performance and which of your songs have been getting the biggest reaction?
I find that you never know what’s going to happen when you are a new artist and you walk out in front of people, especially when they are there to see Brad. It has been wonderful though. His fans have really embraced me! It’s really cool because Brad allows us to put on the best show we can, using the whole stage, the sides and video, which I think has a lot to do with the crowd’s response, because we can really interact with them.
“Take The Keys” is the most familiar song, so it gets a great reaction, but when I sing “My Finger,” by the second chorus everyone is holding their finger in the air and roaring. It’s a song that really hits home with people.
You have said that you build memories around songs. Is there one song for you that you have built memories upon?
When I was a little girl my parents would listen to The Judds and I remember singing “Love Can Build A Bridge.” I wanted to sound like Wynonna and Naomi! The lyrics in that song are still true you know, because kindness and love go a long way.
Also, I remember sitting in the car, in the middle of my mom and dad when we would drive from rodeo to rodeo, singing Garth Brooks "Two of A Kind."
Recently you tweeted a photo of your suitcases and their contents. If you had to narrow it down to just one carry on, what would it contain?
If I had to narrow it down I wouldn’t go on the trip!! I’d quit! (laughing) Just kidding! Well, I would need a bra, cowboy boots, my favorite t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Oh and tinted moisturizer!
You have such a terrific style. Is there one brand in particular that you like to wear?
Oh no there isn't just one, but on this tour Haute Hippie supplied me with amazing clothes and Jet Jeans out of LA, which really are my favorite jeans, supplied me with amazing jeans. I love things that look fancy, but also like you just threw it on. I like a little bit of grit and glamour; to look like you can go and hang with the boys, but having an extra sparkle.
There have been so many big moments for you this year, has there been one specific highlight?
There have been so many highlights this year including signing a record deal, having my first single in the Top 40, being on tour with Brad and getting to know my fans. Being able to rock out and feel the love and know that the words I wrote inspired people makes every day a highlight.
What’s next for you when the tour winds down?
Well, I am writing and will go back in and finish up the full length record, which will be out next year. I will be doing some fun radio shows and looking at tours for next year to continue this fun ride.
You are incredibly active on social media. It seems you really enjoy interacting with your fans and are so appreciative of them.
I think social media is a way that you can touch people without actually touching them. I am so appreciative of the fans for their support, their time and their kind words. There are fans that tell me they drove many hours just to see me perform, it's unreal and I am so thankful.
Finally, what are you listening to in your downtime?
I’ve been listening to Miley Cyrus’s record. Put the tongue and all that to the side and she really is an amazing singer. I love Brandy Clark’s record too; she is just unbelievable! And David Nail, I mean, he is just a heck of a singer!
For more information visit Leah's official website
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