Western Youth came together in the spring of 2011 when Matt Gregg, 32, and Taylor Williams, 30, met via a Craigslist ad in Austin, TX. The two singer-songwriters had fronted their own bands for years, but found a new voice and dynamic when they began writing together. Although they were from opposite sides of the globe, their shared love of americana, rock ‘n roll and country music allowed them to collaborate like old friends right from the start.
Having grown up on his dad’s record collection, Gregg, a native of New Zealand’s southern island, started playing his brother’s knock-off Gibson Hummingbird acoustic guitar at age 9, and was in bands by 13. “My dad’s records blared around the house almost daily. Dylan bootlegs, Led Zeppelin, old blues, country and late Beatles stuff. It was all there for me to absorb and learn from,” Gregg remembers. After many bands, a few broken hearts, and years of bouncing around New Zealand and Europe, Gregg settled in Austin in 2010.
Williams started his first band at age 15 when Fort Worth blues legend, Robert Ealey asked him to play his blues festival. From then on he started playing shows with the likes of Leon Russell, Taj Mahal, Joe Ely, and many others. Then records like Wilco’s ‘Being There’ and Ryan Adams’ ‘Heartbreaker’ came along and changed everything. “I didn’t want to be a blues guitar player anymore. I wanted to be a songwriter.” Williams then scrapped everything and moved to Austin to pursue his new sound.
“Austin might be the best place in the world to form a band.” Williams says. The two songwriters teamed up with drummer Brian Bowe (Macon Greyson and These Mad Dogs of Glory) and bassist James Hart (These Mad Dogs of Glory), to begin working out songs for a record. “Once Brian and James came on board everything just clicked, and the songs became greater than the sum of their parts,” Gregg says. Western Youth was now formed, and ready for the studio.
The band worked with producer/engineer and Monahans guitarist, Britton Beisenherz at his studio, Ramble Creek. “Britton just instinctively knew what every song needed, and basically became a fifth member of the band,” says Bowe. The guys also got some help from Jeff Bryant (Alpha Rev) on keys, Geoff Queen (Bruce and Kelly Robison) on steel and slide, and the Hellfire Horns (Bob Schneider).
Leaving The Station, the band’s self-released debut EP, staggers between beer-drenched rock n’ roll, folk and alt. country to create a sound that’s all their own. Recently, David Ramirez said the record “reminds me of the first time I heard Whiskeytown. That’s a good thing.”
“We’re not sure where this ride will end up,” Williams says. “We just hope that we keep putting out music that we believe in, and play every show like it’s our last.”