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The Wild Feathers Checking One Legend After Another Off Their Bucket List

Wild Feathers
Frank Maddocks, Courtesy of Warner Brothers

On the Wild Feathers singer Ricky Young’s Instagram page, you’ll find a picture of him with Trigger, Willie Nelson‘s legendary guitar. No, the Texas-raised (mostly) Nashville-based rock band didn’t hijack Honeysuckle Rose to get the photo. They were invited aboard by Nelson’s tour manager when they toured with him in August.

One would hardly call the Red-Headed Stranger a representative of today’s Nashville — he is and has always been an outlaw — but the moment represents the glacial blurring of genre lines. What was once rock, may now be country.

“I was so jealous of that picture,” Taylor Burns tells Taste of Country. “There’s holes in it, there’s a bunch of signatures on there. It’s gonna be in the Smithsonian one day. It’s a treasure.”

Traditionally, Nashville’s lesser-known rock scene hangs out on the east side of town, while the mainstream country guys play on the more touristy west side. Rarely does a Shark become a Jet (or a a Hatfield become a McCoy, if you’d rather). At least that’s how it used to be. Over the last few years, Nashville’s rockers have started to gain national attention, and country stars have begun to cross the tracks. Jay Joyce produced the Wild Feathers’ debut album. He is one of country music’s hottest producers, having worked with Eric Church and Little Big Town in recent years.

“People think it’s huge, but once you get in it, you start seeing the same people around everywhere,” Burns tells us on a day off in Charleston, S.C. “There is the Nashville country side, the pop-country side that I don’t think really mingles too much with the other guys. But the cool country — Johnny Fritz, those kind of guys — they’re in the scene. They’re kind of all over the place.”

It’s a slow migration.

The Wild Feathers aren’t going to give up rock and roll anytime soon. ‘Kitchen Breeze’ and ‘Wine & Vinegar’ are the two undeniably country songs on their self-titled debut, but these bonus tracks are the exception. Still, most of the album will appeal to country fans who like their guitars raw, served with heavy blues harp.

The Wild Feathers are road-tested. After forming in Nashville in 2010, they hit the pavement. Burns will tell you the worst place in America to get lost (Wyoming) and the best way to decide who gets control of the car stereo (whoever is driving decides). They caught Paul Simon and Bob Dylan during 2013 summer festival stops, but missed their other bucket list artist by one day on two separate occasions. Paul McCartney will have to wait until 2014 for his chance to play with them.

“Paul Simon was our first experience with anything like that, of that magnitude,” the guitarist says. “Everyone was just so nice and so gracious. It was really just a lesson for us for how we wanna run our team. Everything we have.” The famous songwriter was paying attention during soundcheck, but it was Nelson who generously shared the stage with the Wild Feathers.

Neil Young is another legend they’re trying to track down. In the meantime, the fivesome (including Joel King, Preston Wimberly and Ben Jarvis) are focused on their own headlining dates, and of course the music. On the day he talked to Taste of Country, Burns said the band was returning to the studio to cut a few more songs. All five members offer unique individual voices, but the end result doesn’t come in bits and pieces. Songs like ‘The Ceiling’ and ‘Hard Wind’ (their most commercially successful tracks to date) epitomize how five can become one. The album flows like a whitewater river.

“We’re really close knit,” Burns reveals. “Friends back home, they all kind of fade away sadly, so we’re all we got out here. And we’re really tight.”

The group will finish out the year with shows in Denver (11/30), Portland, Ore. (12/06), San Francisco (with Dwight Yoakam on 12/07) and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (12/08). Check out their official website to hear some of the songs on ‘The Wild Feathers’ and to learn more about this band.

Next: More Artists Who Are Hot on the Horizon

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