Well, check it out, friends. Thursday – that’s two days from now, according to The Calendar Of Modern Times – we are going to host our next Frederick Playlist Presents … session at Flying Dog. It will be live-streamed on The Facebook. You should definitely check it out. The artist at hand will be Girls Guns and Glory, who, later that night, will kick off the Weinberg Center’s Tivoli Discovery Series. Having been around for about a decade, the quartet is readying the release of their seventh album in November, which, according to band leader Ward Hayden, will feature the group recording wholly in analog for the first time. We caught up with Hayden recently to talk about their upcoming set at the Weinberg, the expectations he has for the new record, and what he believes is the single greatest song ever written. Don’t forget to check back to this tiny corner of the World Wide Internet around 5:30 p.m. Thursday evening, and then don’t forget to head downtown to see the band for yourself at the Weinberg only a couple hours after that. It will be fun. Promise.
Let’s start with some history of the band. How did you get together? How did the band form, and how long have you been at it?
I started the band almost 10 years ago. It began as a solo project, but most of the guys joined up about five or six years ago. We all met either by sharing the stage with various projects or through recommendations of friends. Cody Nilsen is the newest member. He joined up this last year while we were in the studio making our new album. He’s a great player and a great singer, which has really helped us reach a sound we’ve been working towards.
Did you guys have any goals when dreaming up the band — perhaps stylistically or otherwise?
Our new album is the materialization of a long term goal. For the last few years, we’ve discussed recording an album directly to tape. Up until “Love and Protest,” we’d always recorded to Pro-Tools and then mixed to tape. For this album, we went completely analog. There are barely any edits on this album — what you hear is a direct representation of what happened in the studio. It’s a band in a room. It gives the music a feel that can’t be captured any other way. It took years and hundreds of shows for us to feel comfortable enough to make a record this way. Every song was captured in just one or two takes. The sounds are very real and honest.
What are some of your favorite memories as a band? Conversely, can you talk a little about some of the hardships you guys have a experienced through the years and what advice you’d give to someone looking to start a band for the first time?
I honestly don’t know how anyone is starting a band in this day and age. There’s just so little infrastructure in place to help a new band get started. When we were starting, the record industry was fading, but there was still a glimmer of hope that you might get a record deal and some financial backing. These days, you have to be prepared to do everything yourself, especially when you’re starting out, and it’s a big personal and financial sacrifice. That said, if music is your calling, then my advice would be to let nothing stand in your way. Make music your number one priority, make a recording, and get out on the road. Give it everything you’ve got and don’t have a plan B. You have to go for it.
You guys have garnered a lot of praise for your live shows, I’ve read. What’s the key to your performances? Why do you think you’ve been able to receive so much praise for the way you approach your live show?
For me, the live show is where it’s at. I like making records, but the live show is where the magic happens. Nothing can replicate being in the room while music is being made. It’s an energy thing. Live music feels different, it’s just so vibrant and alive.
Who are some of your major influences and why?
Most of my influences are some of the real-lifers from the ‘40s and ‘50s. I really like Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell. They lived the lives they sang about in their songs and they paid a hard price for it. It’s a matter of authenticity. It can’t be fake or synthesized and I feel it’s apparent when you listen to their music. Once you learn their life stories, you never doubt a word they say.
Can you give us names of some artists we need to check out that we maybe haven’t seen yet? Who are you listening to the most these days?
I’m a big fan of Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys — great rockabilly from California. They’ve been around for a while, but they aren’t nearly as well known as they deserve to be. They’re truly masters of their craft, great players and showmen. Fred Eaglesmith is another favorite of mine. I consider him one of the greatest living songwriters. His voice is capable of capturing so much emotion, and he’s an incredible lyricist. His music never gets old to me.
Where are some of your favorite places to play and why?
We cut our teeth playing in bars and beer joints, but in the last couple years, we’ve been playing more theaters and listening rooms and it’s been a nice change of pace. It’s allowed us to stretch out a little more as musicians and tap deeper into our softer and mid-tempo songs as well as continuing to hit our more rockin’ songs. When you have a respectful and attentive audience, it makes a big difference as a songwriter to feel that people are really listening and appreciating the music. We still love the dancers, too, but it’s been nice to play the theaters and get a mix of the two.
What does the rest of 2016 look like for Girls Guns and Glory from here on out? New music? Shows?
The rest of 2016 is looking really exciting. Our new album will be released on CD in November and can be pre-ordered on our website. And we have a lot of shows on the east and west coasts. There will be lots of new music, as well as GGG standards, played at all upcoming shows. I’m really excited for fans to hear the new songs. I think it shows a lot of development in the band, and it’s a more mature record. We even snuck a couple topical, or dare I say, protest songs onto this album.
What do you think is the most perfect song ever written and why?
If I had to choose one song as being perfect, I’d say Hank Williams’ “You Win Again.” He recorded it the day he finalized his divorce from Audrey Williams and legend has it that tears ran down his cheeks as he sang into the microphone. In a last ditch effort to prove his generosity to her, he gave her way too much in the divorce settlement. And the lyrical content of that song captures so well that Hank knew all too well what the next guy in line would be in for with Audrey. I consider that song a masterpiece.
And finally, what can we expect from your set at the Weinberg Center?
It’s gonna be a great show. We’ve heard nothing but great things about the room, and we have a lot of new songs we’re excited to play that night. We always bring a lot of energy on stage, and we’ll be sure to tip our cap to some of our rock ‘n’ roll and honky tonk heroes with a few choice covers. It’s gonna be a good one.