Americana Highways presents this premiere of Oakwalker’s self titled EP, due to be available on Friday. Oakwalker was recorded at Sun Studio by Crockett Hall; mixed by Crockett Hall and Dane Giordano with assistant engineer Zoe Duran. It was mastered by Matt Qualls.
Musicians on the EP are Victoria Dowdy on vocals and guitar; Ethan Baker on violin; Tyler Marberry on bass; Graham Winchester on drums, piano on “Ghost Town,” organ on “Days Move”; Mick Parrish on piano on “Out of Sync.”
“Out of Sync” is a violin led crooner with suggestions of a darkened barroom and intrigue, and the message is off beat and out of sync. “Future Lover” is an optimistic ode to the soulmate still to arrive. “Ghost Town” weaves the heavy-stringed violin sound with delicate piano and the effect is heady. “Days/ Move” is the funky EP closer, an enjoyable happy song even as it lyrically addresses the lowdown blues. Oakwalker’s trademark is Dowdy’s dreamy, gritty vocals, and a certain irresistible nonchalance to the songs, and clear production where you can hear every string and plucked note.
Enjoy our brief chat with Oakwalker about the project. The premiere appears just beneath the interview.
Americana Highways: The opening track, “Out of Sync” seems to possess a real Mexican intonation about it, what inspired this?
Victoria Dowdy: I wrote the progression that gives the song that feel, but Ethan’s violin definitely makes it even more of a Latin style. However, while we have always thought it sounded Latin, people have also told us that they hear some Irish influences as well! Definitely surprised us. As for the inspiration, it was one of those songs that just kind of happened! There was no intention behind it other than to see where the melody led me.
Ethan Baker: For my part, the motifs and choices that contribute most to the flavor you’re describing probably come from my love of the famous Spanish violinist Pablo de Sarasate. His work is older, but it remains a clear north star to me for how to inscribe a sense of this style using the violin.
AH: What do you want this EP to say and represent about Oakwalker?
VD: We hope that it shows our range! This EP really shows our early stages of writing as a band and how we were exploring different influences and styles. No 2 songs on this EP sound alike. We have a vintage song, a Latin song, a rock song, and a song that has been described as a prog-folk-rock song.
EB: Americana kind of has a whole emotional world that it explores, and for this I think we wanted to try situating that in the real world and letting it bounce off other “worlds”
AH: You seem to go back to your roots in “Future Lover,” what influenced this song?
VB: I have always loved oldies. Elvis, The Beatles, the Temptations, etc. Those sorts of melodies really informed my musical taste. This song is an homage to them while also using modern themes. The style would have been a Boomer era when the economy was great and jobs were plentiful. There was obviously poverty, racial and gender inequity, etc. at the time, but the mainstream of music was pretending everything was hunky-dory so to speak. This song has the optimistic sound with a sort of optimistic and dreamy strat that quickly devolves in despair about socio-economic situations facing millennials as compared to their parents and grandparents.
AH: “Ghost Town” is beautifully presented and feels like the showpiece track on the EP. What was the recording and writing process like for this one?
EB: The writing of “Ghost Town” was a very cathartic process that I used to explore the aftermath of a collapsed relationship and the act of consciously choosing how to engage with the future. It’s funny to me that this act tends to become necessary just as your soul feels the most barren, when it feels like there are no obvious futures left. Recording was a tremendously fun process because the song’s flavor pivoted dramatically with each additional instrument
VD: This one was written by Ethan, so learning this one was a little more difficult but totally worth it. By difficult I mean I usually write my chords, lyrics, and melodies, so learning all of that is more work for sure, especially because Ethan writes really cool guitar parts! It is a beautiful song I’m honored to be able to play on.
AH: What is YOUR favourite track on the EP currently?
VD: It would be a toss up between “Future Lover” and “Days \ Move” for me, although it is hard to choose! Both are a lot of fun to play.
EB: “Out of Sync” has a theatricality to it that I find refreshing each time it comes around.
AH: The use of strings in your songs is so prevalent, has this always been an aim of yours to implement?
VD: Yes! Ethan and I are partners, so it is important to us that his violin be front as center as the lead instrument.
EB: I tend to think with a violinist’s mindset, so if I’m nimble enough to fit it comfortably in a song I find it to be usually worth exploring.
AH: The final track “Days \ Move” feels like the perfect blend of your sound; Americana with a grittier edge. What do you think your sound is?
VD: That is a flattering description! Our sound can definitely be difficult to describe. When we play as a duo we describe it as Americana, but with our full-band we definitely add a bit more rock influence.
AH: And finally, congratulations on your debut EP “S.T”! Are there plans to take these songs to a live audience?
VD: Yes! We play frequently in Memphis but plan on doing a tour further into other parts of the south and also the Midwest. We are also doing an EP release show we’re really excited about! Thanks for listening and your kind words. We appreciate you and your time!
EB: Absolutely, our fans and friends and peers are a huge motive force behind what makes this music fun to do, and the live setting really crystallizes the feeling. I hope we can bring it to more and more people and spread that energy around.
Order the music with this link: https://show.co/Crk9Xfk