Americana Highways talked with Billy Bright of the bluegrass/country band Wood & Wire. The band is releasing a single today, “Just Don’t Make ‘Em,” remixed by Danny Barnes (and with Barnes contributing musically to the song). The alternate mix of this track appeared on their Grammy nominated album North of Despair (Blue Corn). About the track, the band issued this statement:
About a year before we began tracking for the record, we recorded this slower version of the tune with banjo great Danny Barnes producing (which ended up being a stepping stone to him producing our project, ‘Woodshed Sessions, vol ii.’). He took it back home with him and remixed it using some beats and samples in a style he’s become known for and cleverly calls ‘barnyard electronics’. Danny is fearless in his approach to creativity. We’ve always admired that about him. In working with him, we found an inspirational kindred spirit of sorts that tends to leave us thinking, ‘hey why didn’t we think of that?’. In the spirit of that fearlessness and fun, we wanted to share something different with our fans and show them something totally out of the box. The tune is an ode to Tony’s grandfather and his friends, and a piece of property in Llano, TX that Tony, his father, and his brothers learned to maintain and work on under the guidance of stubborn old men.
Take a listen to the newly released, alternate-mix track here, or buy on itunes, as you continue reading the interview:
AH: Your album North of Despair is nominated for a Grammy this year. Congratulations! Although it’s a nominee in the bluegrass category, would you say it displays a mix of genres?
BB: Yes, for sure. While we play bluegrass, as strictly defined by our instrumentation, our collective musical interests and background influences are vast and so naturally, they find their way back into our sound.
AH: To what extent would you say that some of the most exciting music coming out today is hybridized across genres?
BB: Oh, to a great extent. New hybrids are what is exciting. And after all bluegrass, too, is just an old new hybrid. So new hybrids that are a tip of the hat to the old new hybrid are super exciting!
AH: What is the back story on this single for “Just Don’t Make ‘Em” that you’re releasing today?
BB: We actually recorded this single in 2016, a year before we even began to record North of Despair. And it was on a complete whim of Danny’s. It got shelved for a couple of years while we were working on Woodshed Sessions Vol II and North of Despair. We have dug this track since the day it came back to us. We are excited to finally get the chance to share it!
AH: James McMurtry called Danny Barnes a “rock ‘n roll banjo player” would you agree with this characterization?
BB: I agree! In addition to his rock’n’roll banjo artist status, Danny’s knowledge and experience databank is seemingly infinite. What comes through in his music, and his approach, is all heart and soul.
AH: Some artists will say their work of art is never complete. Do you find this is the same with songs?
BB: It can be the same for a song, they can certainly take on lives of their own!
AH: What was it like recording this song with Barnes?
BB: It was so easy I’m not sure it ever even really happened! It was like he was the only one who had any idea what we were doing. We were at the end of the day of recording some other stuff and he was like ‘hey i think i might like to do a remix thing of that dont make em tune. would you all be into that?’ and so we were, of course, like, ‘yeah’. So he just gave us some direction, had us play it super slow and simple. It took about 20 minutes and he had recorded all the tracks he needed and we all left. A couple of days later this tune showed up in the dropbox.
AH: Who else played on this recording and where did you record it?
BB: The drums were added by Danny. Otherwise, It was just the four of us on any instrument you hear on there. We recorded it at the Zone in Dripping Springs, TX, with house engineer Pat Manske. The same studio and engineer we used on North of Despair
AH: What’s that effect on the vocals that makes it sound so old fashioned?
I’m not sure. That was all Danny. He mixed everything at his house and none of us saw what he did. (laughs)
AH: Well, we’re going to have to listen a few more times and see if we can figure it out. Good luck with the Grammys! Thank you so much for talking to us!
BB: Thanks for having me!