Artist Discovery: The Wild Feathers

In the spirit of helping you discover the range of talented musicians on the 2013 lineup, we’ve enlisted local writer, Arden Ward to tell the stories behind some of the most buzzworthy musicians coming to Zilker Park. You’ve already met Shakey Graves, Luella and the Sun and Sons of Fathers, now get to know another Nashville favorite – The Wild Feathers.

By Arden Ward

Solid rock sounds infused with Southern roots and ‘70s nostalgia: That’s the name of the game for Nashville’s The Wild Feathers. The band may now call Tennessee home, but Austin is where The Wild Feathers sound first came to life in 2010.

“Ricky [Young] and I wanted to do something with a bunch of singers, not just one lead,” says co-founder Joel King about the band’s naissance. Thanks to suggestions from friends, the two found their musical matches in Texas, forming a band that exists outside of the standard frontman-and-backup-vocals formation. The Wild Feathers sound builds equally on the voices of the entire group; the result — which King calls the “four-headed monster” — is at once powerful and original.

When you dig into The Wild Feathers’ small but impressive catalog, you’ll likely discover something familiar in the band’s sound. But it isn’t mimicry that you’ll hear. The band expertly melds the best elements of classic rock, country and blues for a sound that is nostalgic but not trite. Their goal, Young says, is “to create something bigger than any one of us individually and write great songs that last the test of time.” While lofty, it’s safe to say that the band is on track for such weighty success.

Released in 2013, The Wild Feathers’ self-titled debut impressively balances a mix of sun-kissed, feel-good rock grooves and deeper anthems — the kind that end up defining a generation. Influences on The Wild Feathers are wide: you’ll catch glimpses of Americana Ryan Adams, deep south Allman Brothers and fun-loving Cheap Trick.

Upbeat “American” harkens back to 1970s rock ‘n’ roll where simple hooks and pretty, melodic harmonies were standard fare. “Hard Times” is a soulful standout, fueled with elements of the blues and the anthem-like qualities of Southern classics from the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Give an extra listen to the album’s two bonus tracks, “Kitchen Breeze” and “Wine and Vinegar.” The surprise additions are a perfect marriage of country roots overlaid with beautiful vocals and soulful musical arrangements, showing the true depth of this young band.

Though young, The Wild Feathers’ history is rich in sharing the stage with stalwarts that likely influence their wide-reaching sound. In 2011, they were tapped to open for Paul Simon, and this past summer, they toured with Willie Nelson. Currently on tour with ZZ Ward, The Wild Feathers will play both Sundays of ACL Fest on the BMI Stage.

Ahead of the festival, we asked this rock band on the road to share a playlist of their favorite rock ‘n’ roll classics.

Quintessential Rock Sounds

1. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” — Hank Williams
Maybe one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard. It was my grandfather’s favorite song, so maybe that has something to do with it. Such beautiful imagery. Paints the perfect picture of what it feels like to be lonely.

2. “My Winding Wheel” — Ryan Adams
“A song that ushers in her driving rain”: it does not get much better than that. I loved this song the first time I heard it and love it more and more every time I hear it.

3. “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” — My Morning Jacket
The way he sings this song really gets me. You can just hear this sense of relief in his voice. Like a huge weight has been lifted off his shoulders. You can tell he was really inspired when he wrote it.

4. “I Can Still Make Cheyenne” — George Strait
This song is about a rodeo man being left because he’s never home. Something us musicians can relate to. But at the end of the day he keeps on going because he knows there is something greater ahead.

5. “Via Chicago” — Wilco
This song has always meant a lot to me, but especially at this point in my life in means even more. To me, it’s about getting over a lover who left and experiencing the sad but wonderful redemption of getting through the challenge. Also, I currently do not have a house where I live permanently, so the lines about “searching for a home” really resonate with me.

6. “Stand By Me” — Ben E. King
This is one of my favorite recordings of all time. Melodically, rhythmically, sonically, emotionally. And lyrically you might not be able to get more simpler yet more powerful. And Ben E. King delivers it with a soul-stirring and sorrowful rawness.

7. “Sweet Virginia” — The Rolling Stones
This is one of my favorite Stones’ songs off my favorite record of all time. It’s also one of the first songs me, Joel and Ricky ever played together. The way The Stones play country music is how I wanna play it.

8. “Going Down” — Freddie King
This song reminds me of being young because my dad would always play Freddie King and a lot of other blues cats when I was growing up. This song in particular always stuck out to me for the intensity of Freddie’s vocals and that bad ass guitar riff.

9. “Strawberry Fields” — The Beatles
Probably the coolest track ever laid down. I’ve heard it all my life and it has never gotten old, a perfect song by a perfect band. (*Ed. Note: This track is not available on rdio)

10. “Return of the Grievous Angel” — Gram Parsons
I feel like this song embodies the western cosmic country Americana sound. It defined Gram Parsons to me and is on my list as one of the greatest songs of all time.

See The Wild Feathers at ACL Fest on Sunday, Oct. 6th and Sunday, Oct. 13th @ 2pm (BMI Stage).