SchubasFri Mar 06 2015


 at Schubas/Lincoln Hall

$10.00 [$12 Doors] 21+
10:00 PM

Pickup Name


Michael Ford Jr. was a music business major when he met The Apache Relay in a Belmont University dorm. They were already deep into “a very Americana, very rootsy” sound, and before long the band was backing up Ford around campus, and soon everywhere else. Ford Jr. dropped out of college, and the group, which at the time included Mike Harris (guitar, vocals), Brett Moore (keys, guitar, mandolin), Kellen Wenrich (fiddle, keys) gigged relentlessly behind their 2009 debut 1988 and 2011’s breakthrough American Nomad. Midway through their touring in support of American Nomad Ford, Jr’s brother joined the band rounding out the group’s line up and sound. While touring in support of the album The Apache Relay found themselves opening for Mumford & Sons and hitting such festivals as Bonnaroo, Newport Folk Festival, Firefly Music Festival, Voodoo Music Experience, among others. The writing sessions for their new album, The Apache Relay, were the first time the Nashville-based group stopped to catch their breath in years. Inspired by Shelby Lynne and Richard Swift, and working with producer Kevin Augunas at Fairfax Recordings, formerly known as the famous California studio Sound City, The Apache Relay shows a band eager to push past their boundaries, and commitment to always evolving their sound.

Going into this record, what were you aiming for?

We went into the studio pretty open-minded knowing only that we wanted to come out of it with quality pop songs and not try to repeat anything stylistically that we had done in the past. We had about 30 or 40 songs written but it wasn’t until we tracked “Katie Queen of Tennessee” that we knew what aesthetic we we’re going for.

The album is, at times, very ornate, very orchestral. Like “Valley of the Fevers” has violins and cello arrangements, and so do several other songs, like “Terrible Feeling.” What made you go for the bigger, more lush sound?

Doing the bigger, more lush sound was a Kevin idea. We started tracking these songs, and Kevin wanted to bring in Jimmie Haskell to do string arrangements. The guy is a legend for a reason….getting to hear the songs for the first time with his arrangements over them was mind blowing. We all feel very fortunate to have gotten to work with him.

Did it feel like a risk, stepping out of your usual boundaries?

In every way possible. We were in a new town, new studio, writing songs outside of the band with new people…everything felt foreign. But that’s exactly what we wanted. For whatever reason we felt we needed that for this record. We had countless numbers of firsts for the band and learned a ton. It felt like going off to band boot camp or something.

In addition to producer Kevin Augunas, you also worked a lot with songwriter Johnathan Rice on this album. How did that come about?

That was my brother’s idea, we were in the studio working on songs and we were thinking about people that lived in LA that we were fans of and we could explore working with, and Ben brought up Johnathan Rice’s name and Johnathan was down to do it, and we started collaborating…

What was working with him like?

It was great. I learned a ton about songwriting from Johnny. Every song was approached differently based on what was needed. Sometimes he would write lyrics to my melody or I would send him lyrics that he’d help me edit or we’d write together at our place in Bel Air. He’d turn me on to songwriters I hadn’t heard of. My perspective on lyrics has changed radically and for the best and I think his involvement brought a lot of stability and enlightenment to the whole process.

So what was it like recording at the former Sound City?

Uhhhh…insane. Some of our favorite records of all time had been made there. It was almost overwhelming to try to take it in. Once the red light came on I had to kind of block it out. You could easily start thinking “Tom Petty recorded here, Kurt Cobain recorded here” mid-take and freak yourself out.

So “Good as Gold” seems like a very cinematic song for you guys, you’re telling a story there. Tell me about how that one came about.

That one has a really interesting story— so originally it was a song called “Stay Naive.” That’s how it was brought to the studio. In pre-production we changed up its structure a great deal and went through literally eight or nine full lyrical rewrites before settling on what is now, “Good as Gold”. We almost gave up on it but as a last effort Johnny had the idea of putting all the lyrical versions we came up with out on a table. We then went through them and selected lines we liked from each rewrite in hopes of making a cohesive song. That’s how we came up the final version.

So you just kind of cut and pasted from a bunch of different other ones.

Yeah, and where there weren’t lyrics we’d just write them on the spot. That was definitely the most strenuous song to write for the record. They don’t always come easy but that one was a beast…

On “Dose,” there are themes of being afraid and feeling like you’re not bold enough. Is that something you relate to? Feeling like you’re not bold enough?

It is to a certain degree, although that song is more — I feel like I’m singing about characters rather than about myself. Telling someone else’s story through my perspective…

Does that feel like a new approach for you?

It was a new approach; I hadn’t done that before, until that song. It was a different way to write and something that was interesting for me to do. That was a writing technique Johnny had turned me on to earlier in the recording process.

Come to think about it, you guys are a fairly bold group of people. You dropped out of school to make this band work, right?

Yeah…took the leap of faith I guess…

How did your family take it?

They were really cool about it, actually. They were nervous, but, you know, my parents’ main goal for me was for me to get a degree and just graduate and I promised them that I would. I ended up finishing between tours overtime. They’ve always been really supportive about me pursuing a career in music.

When did you know that this band was more important to you than a traditional education degree or route?

Honestly, it was the feeling I had after we played our first show in Nashville. My gut instinct kept telling me to continue to pursue this project, so I did, and things continued to gain momentum from there.


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