Backwoods Company with the Wild Feathers

The Epiphone Interview: Taylor Burns

Warner Brothers recording artists Wild Feathers make their home in Nashville but since their 2013 debut produced by sound wizard Jay Joyce (Wallflowers, Emmylou Harris, Cage the Elephant), the quintet has mostly been on the road and building up a devoted following for their stellar songwriting and three part harmonies. Taylor Burns, who plays a vintage '65 Epiphone Riviera, has been playing with fellow Wild Feathers guitarist Preston Wimberly since high school in Texas. The band had scattered roots between Texas and Nashville but have now permanently set up camp in Music City. Epiphone.com caught up with Taylor during a rare break for the band while they look forward to work on a new album and a fall tour.

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The band lives in Nashville now but you're not from Music City originally.

Right. We all live in Nashville, now. When we formed, half of the group was in Texas and half of us were in Nashville when we met originally. So we were doing the back and forth thing for a long time. Finally, the Texas hold-outs moved a couple of years ago.

What kind of venues were you playing around town before you go signed?

We played the Basement a couple of times, the Mercy Lounge--stuff like that. But it came together quickly. Things were kind of coming together before we moved there. But it was so much easier finally--rehearsals and stuff--to be all together in the same city.

You've been touring with your favorite guitar, 1965 Epiphone Riviera. What I've seen of it looks similar to what Paul Simon took on tour.

We toured with Paul Simon in fact and he has one but I think his Riviera is a 1967. It looks brand new.

What's the story behind your '65 Riviera?

We were working with a producer out in LA about four years ago doing some demo work. He had a later one and I just fell in love with it. I played it a lot on the demos and I told him: 'If you ever want to sell it, I love this guitar.' He said he wanted to keep it. But literally two days later, he got a call from a friend who lived in D.C., I believe. And he had four or five guitars and was selling this 1965 Riviera. He wanted to $2,000 for it so I told him over the phone 'I'll buy it' without ever even looking at it. The Riviera showed up at my house a week later and I've been playing it ever since. It stays in tune... you know 12-strings can be a nightmare sometimes--but mine just plays great. I love my Epiphone. And Ricky Young has a Casino and a Sheraton that he plays every once in awhile. He mostly plays acoustic on stage.

The 12-string has such a unique tonal quality. Does your Riviera get incorporated into how you write your harmonies?

It just depends on the song. I think since we have three guitar players, it's more of a texture thing for me. If I'm not doing anything groundbreaking, I'd rather play the 12-string as a rhythm element and use it to give a little extra texture to the song. And I love The Byrds and Tom Petty and stuff so that's kind of like--that's part of their signature sound--so we gotta have a 12-string in the band.

You've been on tour a lot of the summer. How is it going for you?

It's been going really good. We did play lot of festivals as part of this last run for a month and it was really cool to get back at it again. It had been awhile since we had been on a solid tour so it was nice to just fire back up again. And we'll be hanging out in Nashville soon and just writing for this next record until our big fall tour.

Have you been performing new songs on the road?

We've been trying out one new song on this tour that's been going over really well and I think we might start putting another two or three into rotation. And we've been jamming during sound checks but we haven't got it totally formatted yet to pull them off at a show. I think now that we have some downtime, we're going to get some rehearsals in and nail it down.

Your last producer Jay Joyce is known for providing bands a unique sense of texture and style in their recordings. Do you plan on working with Joyce again?

Yes! We love Jay. We're actually going to do a live recording in a couple of weeks at his new studio in East Nashville, the Church. We made our record with him and didn't release it for a whole year so I feel like we haven't seen him in forever. But I love working with him. He's like a mad scientist. He kind of makes you a little nervous in the studio but in a good way. He gets the best out of you, I think. He's an odd duck though (laughs). And I heard that he quit smoking cigarettes, too. He used to chain smoke--3 packs a day in the studio. I've never been so smoked out in my life.

The Epiphone Interview: Taylor Burns

Do you sense a new direction emerging for this next record?

It hasn't really worked itself out yet but I know that we want to get more experimental and try to write different kinds of songs and find different sounds. We're trying to play with that right now but we haven't really nailed it down yet honestly because we've been so busy on the road. We haven't had a ton of time to get busy on the new songs.

Do you find touring difficult in that sense--not enough time to work on material? The more you tour, the more new material you want to find.

It's tough for me. I think it's tough for all of us. We all write. It's good when you get home... it takes about a week to decompress and then you start picking up your guitar and all these ideas start coming up. When you're on the road, you're traveling and then you have sound check and then you finally get back to your hotel. The last thing you want to do is pick up your guitar and say; 'let's try to write this song I've been working on.' Now that we have some time off, I think we are all getting back into gear. We have songs--there are three songwriters--so there's never a shortage of new songs. We're just trying to find the time to all write together because that's what made the first record so strong--all of us harmonizing and that kind of thing. So we need to find the time to make that happen again.

You've probably seen Nashville change a lot since you moved there.

Yeah, I know...

What do you think? It's becoming hipster city. Everyone is moving here looking for a record deal.

It's crazy to see how fast it's growing. It kind of reminds me of Austin--and how it just kept growing and growing. I can kind of sense the groundswell in Nashville--as far as all the development. It's a little too much. There's a heavy influx of people. But I think, though, for our band, it doesn't affect us. It's kind of good for us. With all these bands coming in, it makes you more competitive. It makes you want to be even better. There's so much talent everywhere you look. It makes you step up your game a little.

Who have you been listening to for guitar inspiration?

I've been heavy into Dawes and Blake Mills, who used to be in Dawes. Someone turned me on to his record--incredible guitar player. He was not on my radar for a long time. And of course I always circle back to the Rolling Stones, the Black Crowes--just straight ahead rock and roll. That's kind of my tried and true.

Do you compose on guitar?

I do. Every once in a while, I'll hop on piano but I'm a horrible piano player (laughs). But it's good to step away from guitar sometimes.

You're headlining your next tour, right?

Yeah we're headlining and we're taking another Nashville band with us, Apache Relay a really good band. We're also taking Desert Noises who we saw do an awesome set at Bonnaroo. It will be pretty awesome.

Now that you're headlining, does that put more pressure on the band and the songwriters in particular?

Definitely, but I think we're all like minded even though there are three songwriters. We all share the same vision for the band. Everyone always asks about the egos in the band and having three lead singers: is it hard...?' It's really not. We're so tight and so close. And like any family would, we fight with each other because we're around each other all damn day. But at the end of the day, we love each other and we're all in this thing together. We all have that vision of what we want to sound like and what we want to be. It hasn't been an issue yet. I don't think it will.

Are there any songwriters who you're listening to lately now that you're thinking about a new album?

Dawes again... Jackson Browne. And sometimes, for me, the best thing I can do is not listen to music when I get in a songwriting mode. I just want to clear my head. I'm around music all the time playing it every night of the week. So sometimes the best thing for me to do is to decompress and then the ideas start coming to me. Even on a long drive by myself--I get some of the best ideas I've ever had when I'm not really conscious and all these ideas come rushing in--melodies or lyric ideas.

Well when you're all back in town, come visit our showroom.

Thanks, we'd love to. I'll definitely take you up on that offer. We all love Epiphone.