Alternative rock band The Wild Feathers are blowing up the charts ahead of the release of their latest album, Greetings From The Neon Frontier. Comprised of Taylor Burns (Guitar/Vocals), Ricky Young (Guitar/Vocals), Joel King (Bass/Vocals) and Ben Dumas (Drums), the band embraces a multi-singer approach, blending the voices of Burns, Young and King to create stunning vocal harmonies. With their single “Big Sky” featured on SiriusXM’s The Highway as a Highway Find, the band has experienced a boost in exposure and listeners. The band has received critical acclaim from several news outlets, including The New York Times and Rolling Stone, and have made late night appearances on Late Night with Seth Myers and Jimmy Kimmel Live. The band released their debut self-titled album in 2013 followed by a second album in 2016. Although the band has embraced their more countrified influences for their upcoming album, the band’s sound over the years has also reflected their Southern rock, soul and pop influences, making it hard to tie the band to any one genre. They have kept a busy schedule this year, with an appearance at a Bonnaroo SuperJam honoring Tom Petty, their first appearance at the CMA Festival and a “Meat and Greet”, at which they cooked barbeque for the fans who attended, at Grimey’s Record Store. Having toured with the likes of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Willie Nelson, it will be exciting to see what the future holds for the band, who have a series of festival dates across the US this summer. Their new album will be released on June 29th. Our staff writer Emily May spoke recently by phone with Joel King and discussed the new album and what’s coming up for the band. You can stay up-to-date with the band and all upcoming tour and festival dates on their website (on which you can find a link to pre-order the new album), Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can check out their videos on YouTube and stream their music on Spotify and SoundCloud. You can purchase their music on Amazon Music and iTunes. Check out the video for Big Sky below!
EM: Your forthcoming album will be released on June 29th. What can you tell me about the writing and recording of the album? What led you guys to embrace your more countrified influences for this album?
Joel: Oh man, ok…where do I begin (laughs)? Well, I guess, it’s the third studio album…well, the third album we put out was Live At The Ryman. This one is a little bit of a growing up record. A couple of us, me and Ricky, had kids. I think everything we do is a response from the last record. After we had been on the road, the second record was way more, I guess, electric and a lot more noise and sound. We wrote that one on the road, like sound checks and different things like that. With this one we had a little time off and kind-of got back to where we started, sitting around on each others back porches and everything with acoustic guitars. It’s more autobiographical, which just suits the more country side of the band. If anybody strips it away, they call it country and everything, which is…anybody can call it anything they want as far as we’re concerned (laughs). We were just saying “who the hell are we and what are we doing?”. I guess, really, we just felt really natural with everything and weren’t trying to do anything really. We were trying to take away more then we were trying to add, which I think is what we did with the last record. This album came out really easy. It wasn’t totally the easiest to record, but all of the songwriting and everything was really easy. We wrote, like, 30 songs at least and these songs just fit together really nicely, like a cohesive unit…more cohesive then the the other albums we’ve put out. It just so happens we’re living a more country lifestyle then we have been and so it just comes out that way.
EM: Along the lines of what you mentioned before, I read that with your previous album the songs were all soundcheck ideas that turned into songs, but with this album, you guys went back to your original method of just sitting around a coffee table and writing songs with a guitar. What do you think changed your approach to songwriting with this album?
Joel: I think it’s 100% environment. I think if we had been like “no guys, we gotta go this way or we gotta try this or that”, I think it would have been a little bit more fake and we wouldn’t have had our hearts all in it. We kind-of just got back to basics and to what was important to us just from growing up a little bit. It’s funny-you have to get a little older, I guess, to get a little simpler (laughs).
EM: You guys worked with producer Jay Joyce on this album, who produced your previous two albums before. What was it like to work with him again? Was working with him again for the new album a decision you guys made as a band?
Joel: Yeah. We were open to do something different, but he totally got it. He was kind-of like a fifth member, especially on the other ones. On this album we were like “hey, these are the songs and this is how they go” and he totally got it. He totally got being experimental and everything last time, but with this one we went through the stage where we wrote it and had a little voice memo and then came down to my studio here and pretended like we were going to do the record here. We pretty much had it mapped out, like “ok, what are we going to do with this, or what can we take away”. Jay would just make it solid and, you know, just do what a producer does and just cleaned it up and knocked off the edges. He was totally on board and understood what we wanted, just like any producer should if they’re going to do a record. He was honest, too, like “yeah, this is not for me”. He knew exactly what it was, saying it was kind-of like the first record a little bit but a little more grown up. And we were like “alright man, fuckin’ A, let’s do it!”.
EM: You guys recently performed at the Bonnaroo Super Jam and were able to honor one of your musical influences, Tom Petty. What was that experience like for you and how did that opportunity arise?
Joel: We’ve had this conversation a lot these last few months, that every time you see something online about Tom Petty it just doesn’t seem like he’s gone. It still makes me choke up a little bit, like “what the hell?”. We always thought that sooner or later we would meet him or tour with him or just be around him. We’ve done a few Petty fests and different things like that and always jump at the chance to do that. The Super Jam included a lot of people we really respected and liked too, like the guys from My Morning Jacket and Wilco and The Watson Twins. There were a lot of people in the band who were just killer. The SuperJam is another thing that’s a great tradition at Bonnaroo, so we were like “hey, this is something we could do”. I mean, we’re not, like, the jammers, like The Grateful Dead or anything, but a with SuperJam honoring Tom Petty, we were like “this is great…two birds with one stone”. We got to play a SuperJam, play with some of the people we love and we got to honor Tom Petty. It was a no-brainer. I’m not sure who made this happen, but I should probably send them a thank you letter or flowers or something (laughs).
EM: You guys made your CMA Fest debut that same day as well. What were some highlights of that festival for you?
Joel: Well, I kind-of felt it was like boot camp, because it was so hot and grueling with lots of moving around (laughs). Even though I’ve been here in Nashville 10 years, and Ricky’ been here a few years longer than I have, I’ve never been down to CMA Fest because the roads are always blocked off and you can’t get anywhere and it’s usually hotter then the devil! Playing was the highlight, of course, because that’s always the highlight and the fun part. The way they had the festival organized for the fans was also a highlight. There were a lot of signings and meet and greets and taking of photos, which is pretty cool. It’s actually a good thing that it’s organized like that so you’re not just running up and down the street, like saying hello to people or something. I guess the fan interaction, besides playing, was a highlight.
EM: Was there anyone who was playing that you were looking forward to seeing that you were able to see?
Joel: We didn’t get to see anybody (laughs)! I don’t wanna say that but we had to load up and head to Bonnaroo. We didn’t really get to see anybody play. Well, we got to see a little bit when we were doing the SiriusXM thing. Midland played after us. It was an acoustic thing but it was cool to see them a little bit. Ashley McBryde played on our stage, but it was earlier, or maybe the day before, so we missed her on that. So those are two.
EM: Going back to the topic of SiriusXM, your single “Big Sky” was selected by SiriusXM’s The Highway as a Highway Find. How has the response been to that?
Joel: It’s been great! When we were down at the CMA Fest, we were taking pictures and signing autographs and stuff and they were like “oh my gosh, you guys are like a brand new band” and all of this other stuff. It’s been awesome. We were like “well, we’ve been around a little while” and they were like “how does it feel to have your song on the radio and for people to come out to the show”. Well, it’s just a different format for us. It’s just pretty awesome because I don’t think a whole lot of bands get a chance like that, to just totally embrace a whole different crowd. It’s definitely changed our demographics, but that’s kind-of like the way the band has always been. I remember when we were on tour with Willie Nelson, when our first record came out. We played in either Tuscon or Phoenix and had never played there before. The next time we came through, there were a bunch of Willie Fans. We were headlining a show and the band that was on tour with us was like “this crowd is totally different then the one that was in, like, LA or Texas”. We were like “man! If we can get our music to anybody, that’s great”. We don’t pick and choose fans. We’ll take anybody who wants to listen to our music. But, yeah, that’s really cool.
EM: You guys are doing a “Meat and Greet” at Grimey’s Record Store in Nashville on June 15th to celebrate the release of your album. What are you looking forward to most with that and what prompted you guys to cook barbeque for your fans? I read that you guys like to cook in your spare time. Was that part of it?
Joel: Yeah, just the double use of Meet/Meat, which we thought was another dad joke or something (laughs). Ricky had bought a big smoker, like the kind that you pull behind a trailer and smoke meat in for a football game. It’s become a thing that we like to do, but we can’t really do it at our shows, so we thought this was a good way to marry the two just for shits and giggles. It takes a long time to smoke meat-the shoulders would be like 7-8 hours, so we’ll probably be smoking it the day before. Also, rock and roll and barbeque kind-of go together, I think…or just music and barbeque. We just thought it would be something fun. It’s also just something where we can bring ourselves a little bit into the mix, you know, like here’s something we like. And it’s not just a normal show, like “here we are playing our songs again”. With this, we’re going to play the new record in it’s entirety and smoke some meat and have a little fun.
EM: You guys have toured with some great musicians such as Paul Simon, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan. Are there any artists going forward that you are dying to perform with or hoping to tour with someday?
Joel: Oh man! Neil Young would probably be number one! We all have pretty much the same musical tastes. Tom Petty was number one, I think, but Neil Young has probably taken the reigns now. I can’t think of anybody else of quite that stature. He’s kind-of like…I mean, I don’t want to compare ourselves to Neil Young. That would sound sacrilegious (laughs). But he can go from “Rockin’ In The Free World” or “Heart Of Gold”, which is kind-of the basis for our band. We love getting sad and acoustic and we also like rockin’ it out a little bit.
EM: Kind-of bridging that transition between the two sounds?
Joel: Yeah! It’s pretty much guitars, bass, drums and singing! That’s it (laughs).
EM: What led you guys to resurrect The Truck stop Series?
Joel: Demand, really. People talk about it and I was like, “man, that was years ago and people are still talking about that!”. So we were like ok, here’s a few that like… I guess we’re still trying to figure out exactly what we’re going to do. We’ve recorded a couple of them and I think we might release another one today but I’m not sure. I guess it was really just because people liked it and talked about it. It was kind-of a random deal and we stopped doing it because…I mean before we were in the van and trailer and were always stopping. Once we got real busy and had a bus and different things like that we just kind-of stopped doing them as much. And also, you’re worried about writing and all of the other things. We are about to put out a record so it’s the perfect time to do it because, obviously, it’s going to be a while before we put out some new songs. We decided to sit around and take a little time, learn some songs and record them and put them out. It’s pretty simple and people dig it so why not?
EM: You guys have a series of festival dates this summer. Are there any that you are especially looking forward to?
Joel: Ummm…Willie Nelson’s Picnic on the 4th of July! I know it’s going to be hot (laughs) and and we’ll probably be playing…I don’t know what time we’re playing but I bet it’s probably going to be the heat of the day. This one’s really special because they’ve done that since, like, ’73 or something like that. I can’t remember what year they started it. That one has such a cool and long standing tradition. Also, the Eddie Veddar Festival in California called Ohana. That’s going to be a cool one just because it’s Edie Veddar’s (laughs).
EM: Do you have any wish list festivals that you haven’t played before but would like to?
Joel: Ummm, I’m trying to think. I don’t know. Lollapallooza…do they still do Lollapalloza? We’ve done a lot of festivals already. We hit a whole bunch of them when the first record came out. Stagecoach was fun. I’d really love to be one of the bands that does Coachella and Stagecoach and keep our feet in both camps there. I think that would be a really cool thing to do, doing both in the same year. If not, we’d love to do Stagecoach again.
EM: What’s next for you guys? A lot of touring?
Joel: Yeah, I think we’re doing a lot of opening stuff because I think the last few tours we’ve done have been headlining. I think it would be nice to be able to go and just kind-of rake in some new fans and play for people who’ve never seen us before or heard of us. That’s also what we love about playing these country shows, too. That’ll be a blast.