Members of breakout country band Midland talk about their hit song “Drinkin’ Problem,” their recent tour with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and the upcoming release of their first album, On the Rocks.
Basking in the success of their Top 10 song “Drinkin’ Problem” off their debut self-titled EP, Midland clearly harbors the talent to be the next triumph in country music. With a tone that could rival Alan Jackson’s or George Strait’s, the trio’s sound fills the cracks in between bro-country and pop country, evoking the traditional ’90s style that’s been lacking in today’s music. It all adds up to a breath of fresh air for country fans.
Midland’s debut album, On the Rocks, out September 22, promises to be as big as their instantly successful first single. We can hardly wait to hear it. In the meantime, we chatted with the band about the upcoming album, how they became a trio, and what it’s like dealing with fast fame.
Cowboys & Indians: You are from Dripping Springs, Texas. How did that small-town Central Texas/Austin-orbit environment influence your style and sound?
Jess Carson: Actually, I was born in a little farm town in Oregon. My father is a Christmas tree farmer, and I worked with him off and on from the time I was about eight up until about seven years ago. I met my wife in Oregon and we decided to move to Austin together. She trains and shows cutting horses, and Dripping Springs, Texas, has a large community of people involved in cutting. Austin, of course, has the “Live Music Capital” title, so it was a great place for us to be.
Before I ever came to Austin, I was well aware of its musical legacy and a fan of many artists who were either from here or cut their teeth here — folks like Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Doug Sahm. Austin has this left-of-the-dial vibe. Hippie and country sort of come together here. Even out in Dripping Springs, where we live, it just has a great communal vibe. Cam lives a couple miles away from me, and that’s where our rehearsal space is. Cam and his wife came out to visit and ended up moving here less than a month later. Mark moved here shortly after that. I absolutely love it here. I’m never gonna leave.
C&I: You all were on very different paths before you met. Mark, you were an actor and model, and Cameron, you won an MTV Video Music Award for directing Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven” music video before meeting Jess. What inspired you all to pursue a career in music together?
Cameron Duddy: Music has been my passion since childhood. I picked up my first guitar when I was in elementary school. Film was also a big part of my upbringing, so for me, it was only natural to pursue both at the same time. I love telling stories — you can do that with a song or a feature film or a music video or a documentary. The inspiration to create and pursue Midland was this irresistible urge to create stories together. Mark, Jess, and I — being in this band is the most rewarding collaborative processes I’ve ever been a part of.
C&I: Your self-titled debut EP just recently came out. What has it been like for you now that it’s getting so much attention? Especially your song “Drinkin’ Problem”?
Mark Wystrach: Jess, Cam, and I put so much of ourselves into the EP and believed in it so deeply that we were just anxious and relieved to finally share it with the world back in November 2016. We believed in these records and all had a good feeling that they would be well received, but the reaction and the excitement surrounding the band and these songs, especially our lead-off single, “Drinkin’ Problem,” have been nothing short of magical.
We have been touring nonstop all across North America, and with every week it seems that the shows just keep getting bigger and bigger and more and more people are singing along with every word that we’re singing. There’s nothing better than that, and the three of us are having the time of our lives and just hanging on as things are moving faster and faster. We are constantly taking perspective on how special and unique this ride we’re on is and are taking it all in a grateful stride.
C&I: You guys are currently on tour and just got off the Soul2Soul tour with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. What kinds of things have you learned from touring together? What kind of advice have other artists shared?
Wystrach: Touring with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill was completely surreal and a pure pleasure. They are two of the most genuine, kind, and hardest-working people I’ve ever met. I was inspired by how they treated every single person in their camp with respect, dignity, and joy. These are two massive stars that know how to “turn it off” when the show’s done and just be real. I definitely learned from them to live in the moment and to constantly find new ways to be grateful and, of course, to always be humble and kind — see what I did right there? Love you, Tim and Faith! Tim pulled us aside and told us to keep our eyes open and to truly enjoy every moment of this, because you never know when it’s gonna end.
C&I: What are some things you have to have with you on the road?
Carson: Compartments. Being in a road band is about late nights and early mornings. It’s not uncommon for us to get up at 3 a.m. to catch a flight. When we do, I’m getting up about five minutes before we have to be on the road. In order to check out of a hotel room in five minutes, it helps to have little packable compartments for everything. Everything in my suitcase has its own dedicated little spot.
C&I: Are there any iconic venues that you want to perform in or are looking forward to playing in?
Duddy: The Ryman Auditorium [in Nashville]. Hands down the most iconic venue any musician can play in. It’s the mother church of country music! We get to play a show there later this year opening for our friends Little Big Town.
C&I: What songs on the EP are you most proud of? Any good back stories to share?
Duddy: They’re all our babies. We wrote and played on every track on the album. I have to say I’m very pleased with the way “Lonely for You Only” came out. That was the last song we wrote for the album and it came about in a very haphazard way. We had just finished writing “Somewhere on the Wind” with Josh Osborn and Rhett Atkins. We were packing up our guitars and Rhett just started singing old George Strait songs. “Man I’d love to write a song like that with y’all one day,” he said. “Uh, hell yeah, we should. Let’s do one now!” we said. I had the title “Lonely for You Only” lying around and threw it out into the room. Immediately Rhett sang the words like George would in a slow drawl. Our ears perked right up. Everyone grabbed their guitars back out, and we set to writing. We finished the song in 30 minutes!
C&I: When can we expect a full album?
Carson: September 22. We finished cutting all the tracks, and now we’re just finalizing mixes. We did the album cover shoot the other day, too. We’re pretty much locked and loaded.
To find out more about Midland, their upcoming tour, and to purchase their new album, visit their website.