Prior to banding together, the members of Nashville-based roots-rock outfit The Wild Feathers were all involved in separate little-known local acts. When the five-piece united in 2011, things immediately clicked, and before too long they were supporting the likes of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Paul Simon.
The Wild Feathers’ self-titled debut record came out in August last year and since then the group has comfortably assumed headliner status. Such bright career beginnings signify a band that’s clearly not interested in messing about.
“The word ‘timeless’ was thrown around a lot,” says vocalist and guitarist Ricky Young of their initial game plan. “[We were] trying to make songs and records that stuck around for a long time, like the records that we grew up on. As time went on and the more and more we played together, the more that different things took life and different visions came up.”
Young is joined in The Wild Feathers by guitarist/vocalist Taylor Burns, bassist/vocalist Joel King, lead guitarist Preston Wimberly and drummer Ben Dumas. As well as offering plenty of three-part vocal harmonies, Young, Burns and King are all participants in the songwriting. Juggling input from multiple parties can pose certain challenges to bands, but not The Wild Feathers.
“We haven’t really run into any problems as of yet,” Young says. “There’s not one decided leader and we all have plenty of input. We go over things with a fine-toothed comb and make sure it’s how we like it, with hopes that if we love it this much then hopefully everyone else will.”
That tag, ‘timeless’, is often broached in reference to art, but it’s impossible to apply objectively. A song like The Beatles’ ‘A Day In The Life’ might appear transcendent to one listener, yet sound vapid to another. Nevertheless, this didn’t hamper The Wild Feathers’ attempt to craft music that won’t weary with age.
“There was no way of us knowing if it was going to work or not, [but] we’d never give anything less than 100 per cent,” Young says. “It was kind of an experiment, but with every intention of taking it as far as we possibly could go. As far as the writing and all that [goes] – so far, so good.”
Aiming for timelessness mightn’t be as hard as it sounds, after all. “Really, the song just has to be good,” Young says. “It has to have flesh and blood in it and it has to have that melody that you can’t get out of your head. And it has to mean something. We slave over that; we work really hard to make it real. I think a lot of people might not take so much pride in what they’re doing artistically.
“A lot of the modern day bands that we love – like My Morning Jacket is a perfect example – really care about the records they’re making. They’re not selling as much as Miley Cyrus, but will Miley Cyrus be listenable in ten years? Whereas my kids will probably listen to My Morning Jacket for the rest of their lives.”
The Wild Feathers draw much of their inspiration from their hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. It remains a city that revolves around music, houses a prosperous publishing industry and is generally loaded with talented musicians. Thus, it’s inevitably quite a demanding environment.
“If [musicians] say they’re not competitive, they’re lying, because that’s just the nature of the game,” Young says. “A little bit of a competitive attitude is OK in my book. You want to challenge yourselves and do the best you can. Nashville’s got both a competitive spirit and also really, really supportive people.”
Rather than getting carried away by their rapid ascent into the pop consciousness, The Wild Feathers’ Nashville roots encourage the band members to uphold a solid commitment to their craft.
“We pride ourselves on being ambitious and hard-working. We don’t want to be one of those bands [where] it’s handed over to us and people resent you because you’re an overnight success. We definitely want to pay our dues and work hard and see the fruits of our labour. We’ve already gotten to see that. This first record’s been really good to us.
“As long as we’re all comfortable and happy artistically, it’s great to make a living doing this. It’s a huge blessing.”
Thankfully, working damn hard on songwriting isn’t limiting the band’s touring itinerary. Australia will get its first taste of The Wild Feathers’ pulsating roots-rock when they head down for this year’s Splendour In The Grass, as well as a couple of sideshows. They might’ve performed alongside some of music’s most iconic figures already, but there’s no lack of enthusiasm for coming Down Under.
“We cannot wait to come over there. We’re freaking out – so excited,” Young says. “We love recording and we love writing, but playing live you get a sense of fulfilment and achievement – and a release. Plus you get to drink some beer, hang out and see the country and the world. It’s a dream come true.”