Van Life: Wild Ponies

Whenever I think of life on the road as a touring musician I inevitably think of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and those three goodie-laden coaches named after their occupants. Inside, no doubt, the fridges were full to capacity with beers and wine, the bunks were laden with goose feathered quilts, wafts of pheasant and cranberries escaping from the cooking galley with every conceivable need taken care of.  Sadly, for every ELP there are a million road warriors out there on the highways and byways living an altogether different van life.Cramped and confined in a tin can with just your bandmates for company hour after hour somewhat loses its appeal after a while for some but others relish the lack of privacy and late-night headrest confessionals.  Regardless of which class you travel, there is always one factor that seems to unite both ends of the spectrum – road music.

Nashville’s Doug and Telisha Williams, the charming husband and wife duo Wild Ponies, have spent much of the last few years on the road between shows racking up the miles and living the dream. I catch up with them ahead of their UK tour to hear their experiences and, more importantly, what keeps them fingers drumming on the wheel.

So, guys, let’s have it! Who gets first shout in the Jacuzzi? You do have one, right?
Ah, the Van Life.  Nothing like it.  Everybody should do it once.  We’re right in the middle of about 11 or 12 weeks in the van for our Galax Release tour (new album OUT NOW!).  This is an interesting point, too, because we’re right at the part where have 48 hours at home to wash clothes, catch up on email, mow the yard, and head over to begin the UK/European part.  It’s funny; at about the 4-week mark we all start smelling exactly the same.  So does the van. But we’re ready for the transition!  We’re really looking forward to having Waitrose and M&S at the services. You might not know what a big deal that is, but man, we love it.  You can actually get something with VEGETABLES?  Really?  Wow.  And the salt and vinegar peanuts… it’s really worth the 8-hour flight just for those.  All we have over here is truck stop pizza.  Which is a really bad idea.  Trust me.  Well, that’s not entirely true- we’ve got Starbucks with real drip coffee.  My only complaint about touring over there is how hard it is to get a good drip coffee.  I’m really gonna miss those.  And McDonalds French Fries (the American ones are a little greasier).  But, it’s worth it for the short drives between shows and the cool accents you guys have.

I open the glove box in the Wild Ponies mobile, what am I likely to find? No hiding the ‘suspect’ ones down the back of the seat, you hear!
AC/DC – It’s A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock and Roll
Why is this #1 on my list?  There’s never been a truer song written.  Hell, it’s a long way to the middle.  This one often gets cranked as we’re heading up to a venue we’re not sure about.  Hardens your shell.

Willie Nelson – Stardust
Actually, the whole album, but in a pinch, I can just go for the title track.  Those first few notes and I know it’s all going to be ok.  This is, I think, one of the best sounding albums ever made.

These first two, anyone who’s ever been in the van with me will verify that they get played a lot.  Classics.  The next two are my hidden aces for our ‘Make It Sadder’ game, where we pass around the Spotify and try to make each other cry with our choices.  Why do we never get invited to parties?

George Jones – He Stopped Loving Her Today
This is the archetype.  Put on some fresh ears, like you’ve never heard it before, and wait for the strings to come in.  Waterworks, my friend.  Niagara Falls.

Kanye West – Roses
Again- Just listen.  You’ll maybe understand why everyone loved Kanye before they started hating him.

Guy Clark – Randal Knife
Ok, one more for ‘Make It Sadder’.

Dori Freeman – You Say
She’s got a new record coming out, and what we’ve heard is killer.  This is a beautiful song from her eponymous first record.

Jon Latham – Last In Line
This guy is SO GOOD!  You’re definitely going to be hearing a lot more from him.  He writes those kind of songs that just put you right in a place.  Check out the whole ‘Lifers’ record, just out on a cool little East Nashville label called Cafe Rooster.  Actually, just check out everything on Cafe Rooster.

Rayvon Pettis – Lailly And Abdullah
This is actually another one from the Cafe Rooster label.  Rayvon can write a song.  This one is out on a little protest record I co-produced called Strange Freedom: Songs of Love and Protest.

Katy Perry – Roar
Along with ‘Make it Sadder’, sometimes we play a similar game called ‘Guilty Pleasures’.  Which has nothing to do with this track, ‘cause it’s just damn good, and I don’t care who’s asking.

Gillian Welch – Everything is Free
This song was released in 2001.  Five years before Spotify even existed.

Galax is OUT NOW on Gearbox Records

UK Dates

October
21st Ipswich – The Smokehouse
22nd Lewes – Union at the Con Club
24th Tooting – The Sound Lounge
25th Birmingham – Kitchen Garden
26th Scarborough, Woodend Gallery
27th High Wycombe
28th Bedford – Ents Shed
29th Portsmouth – The Square Tower
30th Sheffield – The Greystones

November
1st House Concert, Essex
2nd Plymouth – B-Bar
4th Cardigan, Small World Theatre
7th Nottingham, Running Horse
8th Beverley, House Concert
9th Garstang Unplugged, Preston
10th St Peter’s Church, Edinburgh
11th Menai Bridge – Victoria Hotel

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