All signs point to The Wild Feathers becoming the next great American rock ‘n’ roll band. It’s not a matter of omens or conjecture either, but rather time and facts. The Nashville-based group— Ricky Young [guitar, vocals], Taylor Burns [guitar, vocals], Joel King [bass, vocals], and Ben Dumas [drums]—spent more than two years on the road supporting their 2013 debut self-titled full-length album. Their diligence slowly but surely started to pay off as the record hit #1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart, and they received invites to appear on Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O Brien, Seth Meyers, Craig Ferguson, ABC’s Nashville, and more.
Along the way, unanimous critical praise arrived courtesy of Rolling Stone, New York Times, Huffington Post, USA Today, and countless others. Simultaneously, the quintet turned casual listeners into staunch believers with incendiary and invigorating performances at festivals and touring with everybody from Bob Dylan to Gary Clark Jr. Throughout this whirlwind, they kept thinking about the next evolution and started writing songs for what would become their 2016 sophomore effort, Lonely Is A Lifetime.
“The story of this album starts with all of the touring we did,” Ricky remarks. “We progressed as a live band. When we wrote our first record, we knew what we liked, but we didn’t really know who we were yet. The more we toured and grew into ourselves, the more we started to naturally move towards what we are today—as individuals and musicians. After playing the same songs every night, you eventually start leaning towards other things. We wrote music that we wanted to play.”
“We’re a rock ‘n’ roll band who can play all different kinds of things,” adds Taylor. “We made a conscious effort to expand our sound. We went into the writing mode on the same page. We wanted to preserve the essence of The Wild Feathers with the multiple harmonies, but we also wanted to take this step forward and experiment.”
As a result, Lonely Is a Lifetime reflects a richer confluence of influences, while maintaining their signature soul and spirit and a nod to all that time on the road together. Following the first album’s marathon of touring, the band retreated to a cabin in Muscle Shoals, AL. It was there they collectively sifted through the myriad ideas accrued on the road. Their three singular voices began to shine within the new material, giving a platform to their respective identities as both singers and writers.
“When I first hooked up with these guys, I was very competitive,” admits Taylor. “I realized they can elevate my songs to a higher place than I can by myself. We all feel the same way. We’re working towards a common goal now—to put out the best album possible. When you’ve got three songwriters, everyone has to earn three seals of approval. That pushes you.”
They then traded Muscle Shoals for Barcelona, welcoming another spirit of inspiration on the other side of the world. Ben adds, “This record definitely has traces of everywhere we’ve been and everything we’ve experienced in the past couple of years, and that’s what makes it special.”
They took the songs back to Nashville and once again tapped the talents of producer Jay Joyce, who has done everything from Cage the Elephant to Wallflowers and Coheed and Cambria, as well as bringing on Dave Sardy (Oasis, Band Of Horses, Death From Above 1979) to shake it up in the mix.
Recorded in a little over a month’s time, the first single “Overnight” most clearly illuminates the aforementioned evolution tempering lush guitars with infectious choruses. Meanwhile, they struck a balance between ethereal ambiance on “Sleepers” and the epic surge of the eight-minute “Goodbye Song”—which Taylor describes as, “his favorite moment in the studio.” Between the rustle of guitars and a heavenly lyrical lead, it’s emblematic of The Wild Feathers’ progression.
About “Goodbye Song,” Ricky says, “I’d been messing around with that melody and hook for a long time. It finally clicked. The story of the song is that of an addict. He could be addicted to drugs or alcohol, but he’s basically saying, ‘I am who I am. Take it or leave it.’ It’s the moment of giving up. We unabashedly embraced the Pink Floyd vibe. We didn’t want to rip it off; we just wanted to apply it.”
“Don’t Ask Me to Change,” culminates on a smoky and soulful refrain that’s instantly unshakable. Meanwhile, they collectively penned the impassioned psychedelic chant of “Into the Sun” where bright harmonies collide with hypnotic instrumentation. The upbeat melodic bliss of “On My Way” marks the first time all five members wrote on the same song, while the album’s conclusion “Hallelujah” finds grace in airy production and emotional delivery from Taylor.
The album’s title encapsulates the group’s reverence for their heroes. On the anniversary of Gram Parsons’ birthday, the boys were working on music in Los Angeles. Given the proximity to Joshua Tree, they made a pilgrimage to The Joshua Tree Hotel where the legend died. They stayed in his final hotel room and wrote “Lonely is a Lifetime.” It’s a nod to their foundation.
“We were on a huge Gram Parsons kick, and we had to book the room,” says Joel. “We went out there just for the experience. It ended up being a magical thing because we wrote this song in 45 minutes. It was inspiring.”
In the end, The Wild Feathers deliver a statement with the eleven songs on Lonely Is A Lifetime. They’ve grown as men and musicians, and they’re ready to claim their spot in the canon of American rock music.
Photos © 2016 by: Roman Sobus