Interview: Whiskey Myers Achieve Balance, Maturity on ‘Mud’
Music is about creating something personal, meaningful and beautiful -- but it's also about balance. An artist has to make sure the bass line doesn't drown out the vocals; that an amazing melody has just-as-awesome lyrics attached to it; that he's crafting something important to himself but also something that fans will enjoy. Whiskey Myers think they've done it.
"This record seemed to kind of fall into place a little more than some have in the past," bassist Gary Brown tells The Boot of Mud, the five-piece, Texas-based group's fourth studio album, out Friday (Sept. 9). This time around, Whiskey Myers -- proponents of mixing Southern rock sounds with jam band-style "super-long solos" -- worked hard to trim the fat, so to speak, "but still keep it interesting." Brown cites maturity, both musical and personal, as the cause.
"I think we've all grown as musicians a little bit, and I think the songwriting has gotten better, and I think that just kind of as people we've grown also," he notes, "and I think all those things come together and come out in the music a little bit more, and I think that's a good mark of what music should do, is to grow with the creators of the music."
Indeed, Mud is a solid 10-track project. Make no mistake, listeners will know it's a Southern rock record, influenced by Lyrnyrd Skynyrd and the Black Crowes (see "Deep Down in the South" and "Frogman," the latter of which was co-written by the Crowes' Rich Robinson), but it's also got soul: "Mud" includes a gospel choir, while "Lightning Bugs and Rain" features some killer horns.
"It's kind of a tough thing to tackle sometimes, because you want to present as many musical ideas as you can, but you can't just drag it out to where you have 15 10-minute songs on a record ... you're gonna wear people out," Brown admits. "You have to find a way to take all those musical ideas and all those lyrics spots and all that stuff and put it together and cut out as much fat as you can without making it boring. It's kind of a little balancing, juggling act."
Whiskey Myers -- Cody Cannon (lead vocals, guitar), Cody Tate (guitar), John Jeffers (guitar), Brown and Jeff Hogg (drums) -- got an in-studio creative refresh of sorts with the addition of fiddler and keyboard player Jon Knudson and percussionist Tony Kent, now both official, full-time band members; Brown says the two "both came in with some really good ideas and things to do here and there to kind of round out the sound" using their respective instruments. They also worked once again with Dave Cobb, the producer behind their last album, 2014's Early Morning Shakes; it was "almost like working with an old friend" this time around, Brown says.
"Dave is a musical genius, so he can listen to that kind of basic idea, and then he has this way of hearing something in his head that the whole thing should sound like," Brown explains. "He's able to kind of flex his ideas and bend things around and make it to where it comes out with that full sound, with a lot of cool musical ideas."
In fact, credit goes to Cobb for the unique, unexpected campfire sing-a-long sound of Mud's final track, "Good Ole Days," written by Brent Cobb. Dave Cobb, Brown recalls, had the idea to put everyone in the studio together and record it live, resulting in a "bare-bones kind of feel where it's just a bunch of buddies sitting around playing songs, no cares in the world."
"[It's meant to be] kind of a free, easy, fun song," Brown adds. "I think the way it was recorded kind of helps get that idea across."
Mud is available for order through PledgeMusic.
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