Sophomore jitters do not apply to country-rock and blues phenomenon A Thousand Horses.
Members Zach Brown, Graham DeLoach, Michael Hobby and Bill Satcher release their second album Bridges today (June 2), a deluxe EP if you will, with six brand new songs, six live versions recorded in London and a killer version of their No. 1 smash “Smoke” tracked in Nashville’s famed Printer’s Alley.
Their debut Southernality was a stellar introduction — so good that it could have very well created a pressure-cooker situation for the guys as they went in to record their second album.
But front man Hobby told CMT.com a little bit of pressure never hurt anybody — it can sometimes be a good thing.
“I think it’s a healthy kind of pressure, when you’re writing new music and recording it, and we kind of we put that on ourselves,” Hobby said. “You want to put out great stuff that you’re proud of that’s real. You’re telling your stories when you write it.”
The group began their first record in the fall of 2013, with Dave Cobb at the helm. Their sound was building and working, but for the second record, they understandably wanted to keep growing and evolving that sound.
Lead guitarist Satcher explained, “When you’re writing your first record, you’re creating and inventing the sound and trying to piece it all together. But with the second record, you’re able to look back at what you’ve done, take what you love, learn from it and expand upon the things that were uniquely ’us.'”
So they carefully chose the parts they didn’t want to leave behind.
“Rhythmically with this one, we experimented a lot with different grooves and fills,” Satcher said. “With Southernality, that first record had a bit of a strange Run DMC, 80s hip-hop thing to it if you listen. We loved that — the gang vocal, the party and the vibe — we wanted to bring that in and focus it a little more. Songs like ’Burn Like Willie’ or ’Bridges’ have a real R&B groove.”
But when you read those lyrics from top to bottom, there’s no denying those are country songs.
It’s evidence of the growth and evolution in country music, and Nashville’s blossoming music scene across all genres. The artists and writers making waves in town and pushing boundaries are perhaps the biggest source of inspiration, at least for Satcher.
“I love the songwriters in town,” he revealed. “I love to hear the songs they’re writing, guys like Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne, Ross Copperman. When I hear a new song on the radio that they’ve written, I always look up the writers. It’s super inspiring, the brilliance and talent coming out of this town.”
So many of those brilliant writers have their fingerprints all over these new songs. Heather Morgan, the Warren Brothers, Morgan Wallen, Corey Crowder, Jon Nite, Aaron Eshuis, Patrick Davis, Ryan Hurd and the Cadillac Three’s Neil Mason and Jaren Johnston join Osborne and Copperman as co-writers with the guys on the tracks.
And then you have the guys’ musical roots — the roots of a generation brought up with all types of music that’s more accessible than ever before. Hobby remembers being exposed to a great mix of genres from his childhood.
“I had older brothers and I listened to everything,” he said. “From Bone Thugs-n-Harmony to the Black Crowes — and my first concert was Alan Jackson. In town, I feel like our generation of writers and artists did the same thing. That’s why I feel like there’s a melting pot and all this unique music. They did love Nirvana, but also Boyz II Men.”
“But we were also listening to the ’Watermelon Crawl’ by Tracy Byrd at the skating rink,” Satcher added.
And thus you have their unique sound that’s partly inspired by R&B, some hip-hop, the Black Crowes, the Allman Brothers and country music from the last few decades.
It makes for one heck of a party in a live show, too.
And these road dogs can’t wait to get back out there and give the new music to the fans.
“It’s always fun to see which songs people gravitate towards, because we’ve been playing a few of these songs live and it’s cool, but no one’s heard them before so they’re hearing it for the first time,” guitarist Brown said of the band’s upcoming tour dates. “Now that people will actually be able to have the record and hear it, it’s gonna be good.”
And their wives also get to join them on the road whenever they want, which always makes the road feel a little more like home.
“They love it,” Brown said. “We’re all like one big family.”
Satcher says the wives and fiancée (bassist Graham DeLoach is engaged) are completely understanding and supportive.
“We’ve all been in bands since we were kids, pretty much,” he said. “Ever since we’ve known and met our wives, this has been our lives.”
Satcher actually met his wife at one of their shows at Nashville’s 12th and Porter. DeLoach met his fiancée on the Lynyrd Skynyrd cruise.
“That’s Southern rock love story right there, man,” Satcher said.
No kidding. They’ve had so many incredible life moments born from music and the road, including getting to tour with one of their biggest influencers, the late Gregg Allman.
Allman’s passing last week shook the music world and brought back a lot of wonderful memories for those who had the chance to tour with him and get to know him personally, including the guys, who had their own life-changing experience with the icon early on in their career.
“We did a handful of shows with him, maybe ten or twelve,” Hobby recalled. “It was just the four of us, acoustic, back in the day, riding in a van. We would look side stage and he would just be standing there watching us play.”
“Nothing will make you more excited and nervous all at the same time,” DeLoach said.
“He was very nice to us,” Hobby added. “He’d give us his hotel rooms every night because we didn’t have any money for hotels. His bus would leave and he’d be like, ’Y’all have the hotels.’ They would throw in money for food for us. They did everything they could to help us out. That’s our memory of Gregg Allman: how generous he was, and getting to watch him play every night.”
The quartet is learning from the best, making records they believe in, being true to themselves, their artistry and making it happen. That’s a recipe for continued success.
Bridges features the lead single “Preachin’ To The Choir,” which has officially hit country radio.