Kate chatted to Wes Bayliss from The Steel Woods to chat about the new album ‘Old News’, touring with Cody Jinks and their plans to come to the Uk in the Autumn.
January 21st 2019
Wes: How are you?
Kate: Good thank you. How are you?
Wes: Doing well.
Kate:Thank you for taking the time to chat to me.
Kate: You’ve just released your sophomore album ‘Old News’ – how difficult was it to write the second album?
Wes: How difficult was it to write the album? Well, it wasn’t difficult to write. These songs came over time. I guess it maybe became difficult when it was crunch time, to tighten everything up but it comes together pretty organically so it is not very difficult.
Kate: It feels like it carries on from Straw in the Wind but it doesn’t feel as heavy as the first album, was that a conscious effort or just the way the songs came out?
Wes: I guess I would say that the biggest difference is really life and that’s what we really wanted to capture on this. We did the first record right away, we weren’t new, we had all been playing for a long time. After some touring we really honed down on our sound and we knew what we wanted to do when we got in the studio. What was important to us was capturing the live sound in the studio.
Kate: Did you have a bunch of songs ready to go? Did you write them whilst touring?
Wes: Yes, most of them were written over time, I would say within a year before we went in the studio. We didn’t sit down and say ‘we have to write a record, let’s write two songs today and two songs tomorrow’. It is not any good if we force it.
Kate: What was different this time to the writing for ‘Straw in the Wind”?
Wes: The first record we did a lot of stuff that wasn’t ours too, but not what I would call covers or tributes like on this one. The first seven songs, not as they are laid out on the record but about half the record was recorded a year before we released the first record. Rowdy and I had just met and we had only written a couple of songs. We put ‘Axe’ on there as that was the only one we had written, just us. We cut some of our buddy’s songs. This album is a lot more original that the first one.
Kate: ‘Axe’ is one of my favourite songs, ‘Axe’ and ‘Della Jane’s Heart’.
Wes: Thank you so much.
Kate: What are your favourite tracks on both albums?
Wes: It is so hard to say, you said that yours is ‘Della Jane’s Heart’. One of the really cool things, I think, that doesn’t happen very often…….I don’t know how much time you spent with the new record but ‘Anna Lee’ from the new record is a prequel to ‘Della Jane’s Heart’. It has all the same characters and tells the same story. A different song on a different record. I think that’s a cool thing. That’s something I am proud of and hope that we continue.
Kate: ‘Anna Lee’ is my favourite from ‘Old News’, at the moment, I’m sure it will change over time as I play the album more. How does the writing work does one write the lyrics and one the music or a mixture or is it organic?
Wes: I answer every song writing question, the same ‘ It’s never the same’. Sometimes I will have an idea and bring it to the table, sometimes Rowdy has an idea, sometimes Rowdy will bring me a song; first chorus, first chorus ,bridge and it is done. But, I will sit down and spend some time with it and maybe write another verse or something like that, so it is really never the same. Sometime it is lyrics, sometimes it’s a guitar lick or whatever. There is no set formula. You can write that way (to a formula) but it doesn’t turn out so good.
Kate: It’s quite brave to put covers (you call them tributes) on a second album, what were the thoughts behind this? It’s quite unusual.
Wes: Well, we did ‘Hole in the Sky’ and ‘Changes’ – Ozzy wrote that, it’s a Sabbath tune, it is a really, really different Sabbath tune and Charles Bradley did his thing to it as well. That and the ‘Catfish’ song are the ones that I consider to be covers. The last four on the record are tributes. We were originally going to call them ‘The Obituaries’ as they are in the back of ‘Old News’. It’s a thing that I think is really cool. If somebody wants to make a record of other peoples songs and do their own thing with them, that’s cool. But what we really wanted to do was just pick some folks that we wanted to pay tribute to, not necessarily change it a whole lot . We went nuts on ‘Whipping Post’ and that’s just because we have played that for a long time and all that stuff kinda happens. We just wanted to simply lay it out and do these songs justice and really make them tributes as opposed to covers.
Kate: When I was listening to ‘Changes’ and thought I’m sure that’s a Ozzy Osborne song? It wasn’t until I got home and looked it up and realised it was the same song. He also sang the song with his daughter Kelly in 2003. They slightly revised the lyrics to suit.
Wes: I’ve not heard that version.
Kate: I saw you in Nashville with Cody Jinks and Kendell Marvel. It was my last night in Nashville and a fitting end to the week. What was it like being on tour with him?
Wes: Cody is the man, in every way! We have been out with a ton of folks whether its been for one night or one weekend or six or eight weeks but we did almost three months with Cody and it was incredible. The fans are great, the band and the crew…. everybody is just top notch. They are all really great people. They made is super easy.
Kate: Have you any plans to come to the UK?
Wes: We do…. I think it will be in September of this year. I do not know all the details yet.
Kate: You are going to make a lot of people very happy!
Kate: Who are your biggest influences?
Wes: I could go on and name artists, but my family are the most influential musicians to me if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be playing music. I grew up in a gospel band as a kid. I was eight years old I was playing and singing with them. My family, my Grandpa and everyone.
Kate: If you could play in any venue in the world, which one would you choose?
Wes: Wow! That’s sort of hard to answer. We played out in Colorado and we went to see Red Rocks, but we played in Avon. We saw Red Rocks that morning and I said ‘Yeah, we have got to play here because it is incredible’. Then we went to Nottingham Park, Avon and nobody had heard of Avon Colorado, but this place was incredible. So, it is hard to answer something like that. I would have said Red Rocks, but we had a great time right down the road. We have played The Ryman but we haven’t headlined there. I think that is probably a bucket list for most everyone.
Kate: Most bands say Red Rocks, The Ryman or The Opry and a couple have said Wembly but I didn’t buy that and I think they just said it because I’m English.
Kate: When did you start performing, earning a reasonable wage?
Wes: Aside from having to get a few odd jobs here and there, although, maybe most wouldn’t think I was making a full time wage, but since I was about 18 years old I haven’t held a real day job.
Kate: ‘Wherever You Are is such a good song’. I thought it was about a lost love e.g. a widower but then thought it was about a love in the future. It’s a clever song as it can be what you want it to be I guess.
Wes: Yes, that’s the kind of turn of it. I do not know if you want to quote this, but I will tell you. That song was originally called ‘Whoever You Are’ and I thought that it would be better or at least a little more universal, if it was called ‘Wherever You Are’ and somebody can sing it that way. It is definitely about the soul mate that everyone has and hasn’t met yet or doesn’t know if that person is out there. So, that’s what that one is about.
Kate: So it is about hope rather than being the other way around that that person is not there anymore?
Kate: ‘Wherever You Are’ sounds more romatic that ‘Whoever You Are’.
Kate: Can I share the news that you are coming over to the UK in September?
Wes: Please do.
Our review of ‘OLD NEWS’ by Roger will be posted soon.