Dolly Shine's latest release, Walkabout, is a wanderer’s diary of nine well-crafted, unique tales dealing with relationships, desolation, and lonesomeness. It also showcases the band's - Zack McGinn, Wesley Hall, Johnny Goodson, Jerrod Flusche, and Ben Hussey - own journey, both professionally and personally, over the past six years. A few days prior to its release, McGinn kindly took the time to talk about the record, the stories behind songs and more.
Congratulations on the release of Walkabout. The album was successfully funded via a Pledge campaign which really speaks to the fan base. Had you done anything like that previously?
This was actually the first time we did something like that and we were pleasantly surprised with the outcome. The fans have always been the reason we have a career and allow us to keep going; without them, this record would not have been possible.
Ben [Hussey] and Josh [Serrato] once again produced the record. Did you do anything differently this time around?
I think sonically some of what we did with the guitars in certain songs was different, but the biggest change was that we were able to spend more time on this record to achieve the sound we were really going for.
Walkabout is a concept album of a drifter’s diary. What made you approach it that way?
Not a lot of people do concept records in country music anymore, so we thought it would be a really cool idea to take storylines from several different folks and put them into a record. We wanted each song to take the listener to a different place and I feel like we achieved that.
In terms of the songs coming together for the album, did you have them written and they fit the theme or did the theme come first and then you wrote/chose the songs?
There was a sort of theme, but I really didn’t mentally go at it like that. I had an idea of what I wanted to do with this record, but essentially the songs shaped themselves. We probably had fourteen songs and it just so happened these nine worked their way to the front.
You wrote or co-wrote five of the nine songs, with other band members and songwriters finishing out the remaining four. Do you bring them to the group finished, does everyone assist in tweaking them or does it vary?
We don’t have a specific formula. We have different processes for different songs. Like with “Anywhere Close To Fine," Ben had the lyrics and he sent them to me in an email; we started playing around with them and wrote the music right before we tracked it. Others were already written and needing tweaking, and some we just got lucky on the first shot.
“Hitchhikin’” and “Closing Time” are both outside cuts. How did you come to include them on the album?
You know, we haven’t really taken in outside songs on our records very much, but “Hitchhikin’” was a song that really started to grow on us. It was written by our friend Isaac Hoskins. We heard him doing it a few times and then we started bringing it into our live set and we enjoyed playing it so much that we asked Isaac if we could include it on the record.
“Closing Time” was written by a really good friend of mine since high school, Taylor Davis, who I have written with for years. He had the opportunity to play music when he was younger, but he chose not to and I just always thought that he was such a great songwriter that I wanted to shed some light on his songs that people otherwise would not get to hear. So he and I have a deal that I would cut a song of his on every one of my records I ever made and “Closing Time” was that song.
Along with "Closing Time," "Old Flame" is a favorite of mine. Is there a story behind that song?
“Old Flame” is my personal favorite song on the record. In a sense, it is a follow-up to “Should've Known.” It deals with an old situation that was finally put to bed; the end of a chapter so to speak, so I felt it was only fitting to be the last song on the record.
It's crazy how that song came together. I fought with that song lyrically for months and one day got on the phone with Randy [Radicke, who co-wrote the song]. I was headed to a gig and Randy was at home listening and playing around with ideas for the song. We ended up writing the song over the phone in about two hours...and I have to say that’s the first and only time I’ve ever done that.
Songs are written in all different manners!
So, Walkabout. Why did you choose that as the title?
That was an idea I’ve had for a while. It’s a term that means to travel and to find yourself and that’s kind of what we’ve been doing over the past six years. We’ve experienced a lot as a band, including various line-up changes, to get where we’re at now. We’ve had ups and downs, and good times and bad. I think the travel we’ve done individually, as musicians, and as a band really shaped us into who we are now, so I thought it was a pretty fitting title for the record.
And the album artwork, the feather?
The feather represents a single traveler. I actually learned that from reading Drew Kennedy’s book [Fresh water In The Salton Sea]. It’s an extremely cool book that I strongly suggest you check out.
You’ve already had a cd release show. Have the crowds been receptive to the new songs?
We did one unofficial show pre the release and one actual release party this week. The songs have been received really well, which is pretty cool to see. We like to play music, so our shows are straight to the point and pretty high energy. We don’t really take a lot of talking breaks, but we do interact with the crowd. My hope is that everybody enjoys the record as much as we enjoyed making it and that people make it out to a show...we’re going to make it one hell of a party.
Finally, I always like to know – who are you listening to?
I’ve always been a lyrical guy and songwriters kind of jump out to me, so I think for the last ten years, almost daily, it’s been Guy Clark. One of my other favorites is Chris LeDoux and I really like a lot of Jason Isbell’s stuff. I have been listening to a lot of Bingham too lately, but it always seems to be the same group of guys. I don’t’ go outside the box too much.
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Purchase Walkabout here
This week find Dolly Shine at:
June 23rd Walkabout Release Party at Cheatham Street
June 24th Walkabout Release Party at Bonos Saloon
June 25th Walkabout Release Party at Love and War