Celebrating twenty years as a band, Reckless Kelly - Cody and Willy Braun, David Abeyta, Jay Nazz and Joe Miller - released their ninth studio album, Sunset Motel, on September 23rd. Released on their own label, No Big Deal, and distributed by Thirty Tigers, the album is flush with roots rockers and ballads that showcase the musicianship and songcraft that have made the quintet staples in the Texas scene and beyond for the past two decades. Cody, Jay, and Willy graciously took some time during AmericanaFest to sit down and talk in-depth about the album, breaking through the noise and more.
So let's start off with the album's title, why did you choose to call the record Sunset Motel?
Willy Braun (WB): I pretty much knew “Sunset Motel” the song was going to make the record and to me, that title sounded like a classic record - in the way that a lot of great bands had their own motel or hotel album. I think it’s a strong song that lent itself to some pretty good artwork and then the whole thing kind of fell into place.
In the age when digital is king, Reckless Kelly still takes great pride in making complete albums that are accompanied by exceptionally done packaging. For Sunset Motel, they once again worked with the Grammy Award winning Dodds sisters of Backstage Design Studio. The packaging comes with a map insert and a room key that, as you hover over the map/drawings, reveals many unique surprises.
Speaking of the artwork, it’s so creatively done with lots of avenues to explore, like your previous album, Long Night Moon. Once again you collaborated with the Dodds, how much input did you have or did you let them run with it?
WB: The girls [Shauna and Sara Dodds] did most of it, but Cody and I drew some of the doodles and sketches on the backside of the map, which is a good size with the cd, but is even fuller size if you get the vinyl. [There are a limited number - 1000 - of the vinyl available.]
Cody Braun (CB): Willy came up with the idea to use the red and blue colors from the old Cracker Jack boxes, where you would get that thing so you could see the messages, and then the Dodds took it and ran with it. There are some really neat things with the album; for example, if you take the key and look at the road map from afar it’s a snake coiled up…and if you put the key over Mt. Rushmore, the faces change…to ours (laughing). And like Willy said, the vinyl is incredible. It comes with postcards and stationary from the hotel, and if you place the stationary on certain spots on the map it ties in with different lyrics and all this other stuff. It’s beyond cool.
"William Clark Green and Gruene Hall….it sounds pretty good," says Green about his new album, Live at Gruene Hall, which was released on September 23rd. "Gruene Hall doesn’t let just anyone record there. They’ve only had Jerry Jeff Walker, Pat Green, Jack Ingram and Charlie and Bruce Robison. So when they gave us permission, we couldn’t pass it up. Honestly, it’s a dream come true and something we knew would be really special."
Recorded over two nights in January at the historic Gruene Hall, Green's first live album contains eighteen of his original tunes pulled from his four full-length albums, delivering the live show experience while also conveying just how special it was for Green to be there.
When we last spoke in May, you said you were still working on the record and that you didn't want it released until it was perfect.
For us, a perfect live record is impossible, but we wanted it to be as good as it could possibly be…and it is that. We spent a lot of time with Mills Logan, who mixed the record. He also mixed Ringling Road, so he was familiar with our sound; he knew that we didn't want to throw too many tricks out there - we wanted everything to sound as full as it could be while remaining close to what we do live. When we were finished, there ended up only being two overdubs on the entire record: Dani [Flowers] had to re-cut her vocals [on "Final This Time"] because there was too much guitar amp bleed on her mic, and then we had an additional guitar amp go out. So other than those two things, and Jack [Ingram] playing Saturday night [the completed record represents Friday night's show], nothing is doctored up in any way at all.
Singer-songwriter-guitarist Doug Lawler moved to Nashville from New York with his wife and son in 1996. He released his first single "Why Would I Do That" which charted on New Music Weekly, in 2000. His second single, "She Hit The Road," which also charted, was recorded with Lyle Lovett's Band.
Working by day installing cabinets, while writing and recording by night, Lawler never let his dream take a backseat and now he is gearing up for his turn in the spotlight. Recently, Lawler released his new single, "Still Got Most Of It Left" and is preparing to release a new album, Uncompromised, on October 15th. In advance of the release, Lawler kindly took the time to talk about the song, working with Troy Luccketta, and more.
Many people might be new to your music, but you have been writing, playing and performing for quite a few years now.
I have been picking and playing since I was twelve; that’s thirty-eight years now. I did a lot of music in upstate New York, where I’m originally from, and moved to Nashville in 1996. I had my first single, “Why Would I Do That,” chart in 2000 and will be releasing my third album, Uncompromised, which I'm really excited about, next month.
You worked with Troy Luccketta from Tesla, and Jake Clayton, on the album. How did the three of you connect?
Troy and I were introduced by a friend at one of his shows. I didn’t tell him I played, but I introduced myself as the local cabinet maker. Turns out he was remodeling and a few weeks later I was meeting with him to give him an estimate for his cabinets. I asked him what he thought about recording a few songs for me in his studio and in return, I would make his cabinets for cost. He agreed, and as time went by he got to know me and my music and things kept growing from there. I met Jake through Troy who brought him in to play on the record and help produce it.
Founded by brothers Mike and David Connell in the 1980's, North Carolina's The Connells were known for their guitar driven, melodic tunes that blended jangly pop and rock with thoughtful, introspective lyrics. Regulars on college and alternative radio, The Connells achieved international success with "'74-'75," which became a Top 20 hit in the UK and was certified Gold in Germany, Norway, and Sweden.
After some years without their music being available commercially, Bicycle Music acquired the band's catalog and on September 9th released Stone Cold Yesterday: The Best of The Connells delighting fans everywhere. Recently, vocalist Doug MacMillan kindly took the time to talk about the collection, share fond memories and more.
It has been quite some time since you guys released any music, but you’re still together after 30+ years.
We’re still together, although members Peele [Wimberley, the band’s original drummer] and George [Huntley] left to do other things. We still have the same manager and booking agent, and play shows whenever the possibility arises, but we all have families and jobs which keep us busy.
Last week, Bicycle Music released a best of collection, Sone Cold Yesterday. How did that come about?
Man, those guys are great, they sort of came to the rescue for us. For many years, we were in limbo because our record company, TVT, had some financial issues. They ended up defaulting on a loan they took out and their catalog of music - which included us - was used as collateral. That whole period of time was a pretty miserable one because we would play shows and people would tell us, “We can’t find your music anywhere.” It was very frustrating and there didn’t seem to be a resolution in sight, so when we found out that Bicycle bought the entire catalog – well that was the best news we heard in a long time because fans could now get the music, and we couldn’t have been happier with that.
Q&A: Halley Phillips and Rodney Hall Discuss Their Musical Collaboration on "Who Will The Next Fool Be"
Sam Phillips Recording Service and FAME Studios are two of the most iconic recording studios in the history of music. Made famous by the late Sam Phillips and Rick Hall, the two men helped shape the sound of Rock and Roll, Rockabilly, Blues, Soul and Country throughout the 1950s and 60s, leaving a legacy that still thrives today. For the first time, the two studios have come together to collaborate on a project that will be included on a tribute album honoring Charlie Rich later this year.
Originally performed by Charlie Rich, this new version of "Who Will The Next Fool Be" was produced by Sam’s granddaughter, Halley Phillips, and Rodney Hall, Rick Hall’s son, at Sam Phillips Recording Services in Memphis and mixed at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. In advance of its release, Hall and Phillips graciously took the time to answer some questions via email about their collaboration on the song and more.
How did the two of you, Halley and Rodney, connect and come to collaborate on the project?
We’ve been friends for years. I would say the Phillips are definitely family friends! I’ve known Halley, her Dad Jerry, and the whole family for years. Sam gave my Dad much advice in the early years. He was definitely a mentor of my Dad’s. I was fortunate enough to get to spend some time with Sam as well. There has always been a lot of respect between the two families. ~ Rodney
I completely agree with Rodney- Our families have been close for a very long time. Really the idea to collaborate happened when I was sharing with Holli how I had always wanted to record “Who Will The Next Fool Be” on a female. We were really just hanging out that night as we have become really good friends over the years. About a week passed and she called me and said “I have been thinking about that Charlie Rich song you told me about and I really love it. Would you want to record it on me?”. It all came together from there. Holli has been working with Rodney/FAME for years… I have been lately working very hard trying to build the bridge back between Muscle Shoals and Memphis again —there is just something different about these two cities… So this was the perfect opportunity for us to work together- and it happened very naturally! ~Halley
In the past three years, California-based singer-songwriter M. Lockwood Porter has released two critically-acclaimed albums and performed all over the US, sharing the stage with acts like American Aquarium, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, and Aaron Lee Tasjan, among others. His latest album, How To Dream Again is a collection filled with honest, reflective songs dealing with relationships and social justice. In advance of the album’s release on September 16th, Lockwood Porter graciously took the time to answer some questions via email about the record, including the story behind the songs, and more.
Before we dive into the record, I wanted to ask how you came to music as you have degrees in English and History and were a teacher at a middle school. Was music something that was always there or came later?
Music has always been my first passion. I started playing piano in fourth grade. I was in the school band. I spent most of high school playing in punk bands. In my late teens and early twenties, though, I think I had kind of given up on the idea of becoming a professional musician. I think it was only after spending a few years in the real world that I realized, “I won’t be able to live with myself unless I really try to do music full-time.”
Your last record, 27, was critically embraced. Is this record different from it and if so, how?
This record is different from 27 because I was in a different place, both emotionally and intellectually, when I was writing it. 27 was about heartbreak and disappointment, and about trying to pick yourself up after failure. When I was writing the songs for this new album, I was in a very different place. I was starting a new relationship and it felt really great – very stable, but still exciting – and I was asking myself all sorts of questions about how to live in accordance with my values.
Were all of the songs written specifically for this album or did you have some in the pocket that fit as you put the record together?
I seem to have developed a pattern as to how I write the songs for an album. I start with nothing, and just try to write from the heart. Once I have a handful of songs I think are strong, I start to think about the themes that are emerging in the songs, and I start thinking about ways that I can write songs that approach the same themes from different angles, or that help create a sense of narrative flow. To me, a great album has no filler and a diverse set of songs, but also has some sort of thematic and sonic unity. That’s what I’m always striving for – not just great songs, but a great album.
Singer-songwriter Shari Rowe is gearing up to release her new single, “Take That Shot,” a blissful story song about following your heart and taking chances. In advance of the single’s release to radio on September 19th, Rowe kindly called to catch up, talk about the song and more.
We last spoke about a year ago after the release of your Moonshine EP. What’s been going on with you professionally since then?
This last year has been pretty exciting! I’ve been co-writing with songwriters in Nashville which has helped me improve as a writer, build my community, and open up some great opportunities. We’ve gotten more radio play, played bigger shows, did another tour of Poland, and had a busy CMA Fest. Everything has been moving along as it should with some great surprises in between.
Also, in the spring, I became a celebrity ambassador for the Red Note Foundation which is an organization based out of Arizona that supports art and music for students who maybe don’t have programs in schools or don’t have access to lessons. They supply the instruments, lessons, and give the students opportunities to perform.
Sounds like you are incredibly busy in the best way possible! With all of the traveling to Nashville did you make the move there from Arizona?
We are still in Arizona, but are traveling more to Nashville so the whole question of whether or not to relocate is on the table. We have strong fan-base and show schedule in and around Arizona, so right now we’re managing to continue to travel back and forth making some cool stops at places in between, like Louisiana to play with Uncle Si.
I couldn’t be this busy and spend so much time away from home if it weren’t for my husband. His being in the band [he plays bass], allows us to get to enjoy this hectic schedule together. We make a good team.