Voted Kentucky’s Favorite Musical Group in 2016, Jericho Woods are poised to bring that winning sound to the other forty-nine with their new single, “Better Now.” Blending their love of varied genres, Jericho Woods merge Country, Rock, Roots, Bluegrass, and more into a sound that is both familiar and unique on memorable tunes that are as catchy as they are relatable. Josh Mitcham (guitar & vocals) and Paul Priest (bass & vocals) graciously took the time for a chat about their roots, “Better Now,” and more.
The two of you are cousins, but can you elaborate on how Jericho Woods came together?
Josh: Jericho Woods has been together for a little over three years now. I had been in a band for fifteen years and Paul was playing Bluegrass. We always wanted to play together, but we were kind of like ships in the night and it never worked out. I did a solo record and was teaching high school while Paul retired from Bluegrass. We then started playing together and it just felt good, so we asked other guys to join us - and it kind of ruined our lives (laughing), but in the best way possible. I was living what seemed like parallel lives: I was this married guy with kids, teaching high school who was playing living this rock and roll lifestyle on the weekends, but all while I knew I wanted to do music and finally this opportunity came along and we realized we had the possibility of this being something great.
Paul: Coming from a Bluegrass background, I never had the opportunity to play electric music, I always listened to it and thought about being an electric bass player in a big loud country rock band because I love John Mellencamp as much as I do Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs, but I never thought I was capable of playing that kind of music. I thought I would be playing Bluegrass the rest of my life, but what we’re doing now feels really natural and I’m really happy – who knew that later in life I would learn that I am a rocker! (laughing)
The current single is “Better Now.” Is there any particular story behind that song?
Josh: I took a sabbatical, which is the safe way of saying I quit without saying I quit, from work about a year and a half ago. It was so liberating to wake up, get the kids ready, and then get after whatever it was I was going to be doing for the band whether it was emailing, making phone calls, writing or rehearsing. For the first time in my life, I was dedicating all my energy to music and it felt great – and the song came from there. We call it our Zoloft song (laughing). It’s under the guise of a guy and a girl, but there’s really no hidden meaning - it was more like, ‘Man, life is good, my blood pressure is down and I wake up every day feeling great.’
Paul: We like a lot of deep introspective stuff but we aren’t too cool to like feel good records. Josh and I drive to the coast of North Carolina and we listen to the Steve Miller Band and smile – forty years later those songs are still killer and fun. I think regular people have a wide range of emotions, feelings, and interests and although it’s cool to have a certain style, it’s great to have those fun songs too. For example, we have a song on the EP about going to the Gulf Coast, because that’s what people from Kentucky do. We either vacation in Panama City, Destin or Gatlinburg, so the song is just about getting away to the beach, which might not be the coolest alt-country theme, but it’s real, it’s what our people do. We also have a song on the EP about the Sunday blues called “Monday Morning Cigarette.” Many people in our area, all over really, spend a lot of time driving to and from work every day and they need a voice and a champion and this song is for them.
I think it’s good to have a balance in every aspect of our lives, songwriting too. Our first record was fairly dark and Josh and I are not dark guys; we’re fun guys who are in a good place in our lives and I think this EP is a reflection of that.
Absolutely, balance is so important. You’ve mentioned some of the songs on the album, when can fans get their hands on a copy and what can you tell us about it?
Paul: We’re pushing for a release on Oaks Day, which is the day before the Kentucky Derby. We’re super proud Kentuckians and we feel releasing it then is a good way to honor where we’re from.
We recorded the EP with Skidd Mills at Omni Sound in Nashville. Skidd comes from a rock place and knows that sound we were after. We love roots music, but we’re big fans of power pop like Big Star as well as the Foo Fighters and Tom Petty. We love big meaty records with big drums and bass and we wanted to merge all of those sounds into a record where you rolled the windows down and turned the volume up.
Recently, you did a radio tour for the single. Being that your sound has a country rock, yet roots lean, are you focusing on Top 40 or Americana radio?
Josh: You know, we love all kinds of music including modern country music, but we feel like country radio doesn’t take advantage of the wide musical palette that rural and country folks have. If you’re a country music fan you probably like Hank, Merle, and Little Feat as well as the Allman Brothers and Wilco. That said, we look at it like this - we know we have mainstream appeal and sound, but we don’t know we’re necessarily topically close enough to what people hear there. We want to be on whatever station our style of music fits so we can find our tribe. So, our promoter had us focus on Triple A radio because the people who listen to those stations trust their DJs … and those are our people. We’re rural country guys, but big fans of the arts and public radio, so for us to be played on those stations is special to us. It’s a great time to be a listener and search for artists, but it’s the hardest time right now for an artist to cut through. It’s hard to stand out when we all have the same platforms and having a lot of followers, or a few followers, doesn’t necessarily determine stardom or success.
Paul: We have an independent label, manager, and radio promoter, and to me, it’s a super exciting time because I feel like if we get up and work hard, it’s out there for the taking because big money isn’t necessary to win anymore. It’s exciting to see guys like Turnpike Troubadours and Lucero go out and pack good size halls - word spreads if you’re good and that’s refreshing to see. To me, they’ve made it.
I think they have too. What is success in the industry anymore? I would think being able to do music full-time and make a living may qualify for success these days.
Josh: That’s the correct answer. We did the regular job thing while longing for music and hey, I know I make less than I did as a teacher, but my blood pressure is lower and I feel five years younger. I turned my family’s life upside down in a lot of ways, but everyone is happier for it. Even if my wife couldn’t say it to me, I think she’s proud of me and admires what we’re doing.
Paul: We truly have the coolest jobs in the world. We appreciate all that we get to do and we don’t take any of it for granted.
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