Nashville and rock ’n’ roll are no strangers. Through the decades an impressive list of genre icons, from Bob Dylan to R.E.M., have made the pilgrimage to Music City U.S.A. to tap its deep pool of amazing studios, top-flight session musicians and downhome twang.
In the last decade, though, such dalliances have turned into a full-blown love affair. Times have indeed changed in Nashville. These days, the undisputed capital of country music and home to the legendary Grand Ole Opry is also one of the world’s leading centers for all things rawk-related.
It’s in Nashville’s uniquely local environment that the emergence of an act like The Wild Feathers feels inevitable
The number of rock artists passing through town to record has multiplied tenfold, at least. From the mainstream (Bon Jovi, Kid Rock) to the fringes (Ray LaMontagne, Alabama Shakes), rockers of every stripe enjoy spending time on Music Row. What’s more, a handful of the genre’s hottest artists either have relocated to Nashville or actually have emerged from the city’s metropolitan sprawl. These include The Black Keys, Jack White, Kings of Leon and pop-punk A-listers Paramore. And if all that weren’t enough, there is Nashville’s homegrown garage punk scene to contend with, easily one of the hippest and most fertile in the nation, anchored by the awesome JEFF the Brotherhood.
It’s in this uniquely local environment, where the longstanding divisions between country and rock, mainstream and indie, have all been wonderfully uprooted, that the emergence of an act like The Wild Feathers feels inevitable. With the release of their second full-length on Warner Bros., Lonely Is a Lifetime, the quartet further hone a striking sound that is a direct reflection of current day Nashville.Comprised of four transplants who have been kicking around town since 2010, the group shrewdly fold rock into country and folk while at the same time striking a middle ground between vintage, old school hooks and a raw, modern cool.
At times, their catchy music comes dipped in Southern-fried twang that would sound right at home on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart; other times, it wanders into highly melodic power pop terrain with an alternative/indie bite. This has enabled The Wild Feathers (who are about to hit the road for most of early spring) to tour with a diverse assortment of artists and secure coveted slots at some of the country’s hottest festivals. Not only have they already opened for the likes of Willie Nelson, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, but they’ve also played Bonnaroo, South by Southwest and San Francisco’s Outside Lands.
Boasting no less than three singer/songwriters, the band’s richly layered harmonies recall some of rock’s all-time great vocal groups
In an interview with The Vinyl District, singer and guitarist Taylor Burns touched on Nashville’s influence on them, yet was also mindful to point out their deep debt to classic rock.
“Everyone is a product of their environment to some extent,” he said. “Whether it’s conscious or subconscious, I think it could influence your songwriting — whether you’re in a cabin or a beach or wherever you are. But I think what mainly influenced us was just what we grew up listening to with our parents… Like Neil Young, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, just really good songwriting and American rock ’n’ roll.”
The Wild Feathers’ love for classic rock has played a key role in shaping what may be the band’s single greatest asset: their gloriously ebullient vocals.
Boasting no less than three singer/songwriters, each with the range and skill required to take lead (in addition to Burns, there’s Ricky Young and Joel King), their richly layered harmonies recall some of rock’s all-time great vocal groups, including The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and the Eagles. (All three bands, it should be noted, played critical roles in fusing rock and country back in the 1960s and ’70s.)
This aspect to their sound has made them darlings with those critics and tastemakers who remain doggedly loyal to vintage rock ‘n’ roll. Val Heller wrote on The New York Times’ Booming blog that The Wild Feathers “respects their elders” while Rolling Stone’s Dave DiMartino wrote they “bring to mind rock ’n’ roll bands from another era entirely.”
There can be no doubt that Lonely Is a Lifetime echoes some of the great rock music of yesterday, but the album is no mere nostalgia trip — not by a longshot. It’s brimming with sounds and ideas that are as passionate and stirring as they are fresh and current. The Wild Feathers are young, ambitious and looking forward. Their future is bright.