Americana Highways’ Key to the Highway series
Fans always clamor to learn more about their favorite, most beloved musicians and those who travel with them. There’s such an allure to the road, with its serendipity, inevitable surprises, and sometimes unexpected discomforts. This interview series is a set of questions we are asking some of our favorite roots rock Americana artists to get to know more about them and what they’ve learned and experienced on the road. We are sure they have key insights to share and stories to tell. Here’s one from River Whyless.
Americana Highways: How do you like your coffee or other morning wake-up beverage?
Ryan O’Keefe of River Whyless: Road coffee is slightly different from coffee at home. It takes more work to make a good cup of coffee while on tour. I always bring a French press with me, as do all the band members of River Whyless. Other brewing methods are tried out but the French press has become the workhorse. I also bring a hand grinder and a bag of beans. Hot water is the only item that’s needed and generally it’s not hard to come by. At home I take my coffee with a bit of half and half, but on the road it’s black. There is nowhere to refrigerate dairy in the van so it’s got to go.
AH: What’s the most interesting or strangest motel/hotel or place you have stayed (while on the road for music?)
RO: Ten years ago we slept in the van regularly. All four of us, and sometimes even five of us. We had a little bed in the back that doubled as a storage loft while driving. Two people on the bench seats and usually one person on the floor in the 18 inch gap between the metal bolts holding the seats in place. It wasn’t bad but I’m sure it smelled awful after a few days.
AH: If one CD is stuck in the player in the van for the entire tour, what do you hope it is? And why?
RO: I just checked and my most played album on Spotify is Jonsi and Alex, Rice Boy Sleeps. I think it’s been my most played for like 10 years. I suppose It’s just a nice landscape to live in. But, I’d also throw Van Morrison’s Moondance in the mix. It’s a packed record.
AH: What’s one personal item you must have with you on your road trip?
RO: I’m going to be lame here, but honest. My phone. Just like everyone else it’s become the single most essential piece of hardware when traveling. In some ways I hate it, but in reality it’s an amazing tool. You can take one look at the River Whyless social media accounts to realize we don’t spend tons of time there. But music, podcasts and books on tape are all essential parts of driving across the country. And now, more than ever, I need that phone because I’me leaving behind a 19 month old baby girl and I desperately need to see her face, and she needs to see mine.
AH: What is your relationship with food? How do you handle this on the road, and what’s your favorite dish on the road, (or restaurant, and what do you order there)?
RO: Food is kind of an odd challenge on the road. You take what you can get, when you can get it. We’re guilty of stopping at a few of the fast food joints, but generally we try to eat healthy. Touring is already pretty unhealthy so keeping an eye out for a good meal when time allows is critical. We’re going back to a venue in LA called the Moroccan Lounge. There is a sushi place just around the corner and I’ve been thinking about that spot since the last time we played there in 2018.
AH: If you could pause your life for a few weeks and spend some time living in a place you only have passed through, which would you choose, and why?
RO: We camp fairly often on tour and I regularly think of this one experience in Montana. We’d driven late into the night and arrived at the campsite in the earliest hours of the morning. Using the headlights from the van we set up our tents, tucked our noses into our sleeping bags and fell deep asleep. We’d driven through South Dakota the day before and, before that, it was the Midwest. Those states are beautiful in their own way. Especially when you get off the highway. We woke up in Montana to snow capped mountains, golden fields and a braided river so clear that you could see fish 40 feet away. I remember going for a walk through the forest and wondering how and when I could end up back there.
AH: What quote or piece of advice have you gotten from someone on the road that has really stuck with you?
RO: “At best you’re going to make a high school teachers salary” Justin Ringle – Horse Feathers
Find all things River Whyless, here: https://www.riverwhyless.com
Find their tour dates here: https://www.riverwhyless.com/tour
See other Key to the Highway interviews here: https://americanahighways.org/category/interviews/key-to-the-highway-series/ (click here for: Jimmy Smith Ben Nichols Bruce Cockburn Charlie Musselwhite Nicki Bluhm Jim White Danny Barnes Patterson Hood Jerry Joseph BJ Barham Rodney Crowell Todd Snider Elizabeth Cook Tommy Womack Eric Ambel, Dan Baird, Robbie Fulks, Malcolm Holcombe Jon Langford Steve Poltz, Lilly Hiatt Sarah Shook & the Disarmers Sadler Vaden )
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