Interview: Believe Them or Not, Midland Are for Real
The first question almost everyone asks when they get a look at Midland -- the on-the-rise country trio made up of Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy and Mark Wystrach -- is "Are they for real?" The three men have shaggy hair, mustaches and style straight of 1970s Texas and California, and they sing like it, too, whether on their debut single "Drinkin' Problem," its follow-up single "Make a Little" or any of the 11 other tracks on their debut full-length album, On the Rocks, released Friday (Sept. 22).
Perhaps unfortunately for Midland, it's a question they've had to answer, and are going to have to answer, quite often. Fortunately, though, Carson, Duddy and Wystrach -- all originally from the western portion of the United States and who officially formed Midland in Dripping Springs, Texas -- are for real. Their look is truly how they like to dress, their sound is for real, and although their songs are co-written with country hitmakers such as Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, there's no mistaking them as anything but Midland material.
"A lot of our musical influences have come out of Texas," Midland say, naming off legends such as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and George Strait, "and a lot of them come out of California" (Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakam). Duddy succinctly explains their sound as "Texas channeled through a West Coast filter."
After meeting in Los Angeles, Carson, Duddy and Wystrach all officially played together for the first time at Duddy's wedding in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Duddy was a music video director (for Bruno Mars, Fifth Harmony and more) and Wystrach was a model, but they decided to move to Texas, where Carson was, and give the music thing a go.
"I think everyone around us said that [we were crazy], repeatedly, for years," Wystrach admits. "But we're all very determined individuals ... and once we decided to up and move to Texas to be where Jess was and give up everything, there was no way any of us was going to see it through halfway."
In the Lone Star State, the three recorded some demos and took those songs, themselves and a manager to Nashville "and knock[ed] on all the doors." In early 2016, they signed with Big Machine Label Group.
"We were very protective along the way to only go to Nashville with people who were going to be collaborators, people who were going to help us realize the full potential of what this band was capable of, and not try to change us," Midland note. "We didn't want to be changed; of course, we wanted to evolve, but really, we wanted to grow as artists."
On both their self-titled EP, released in late 2016, and On the Rocks, Midland worked with McAnally, Osborne and Dann Huff as their producers. McAnally and Osborne, currently two of country music's most well-respected songwriters, are co-writers on much of the trio's material.
"That first meeting could have been this very intimidating experience," Wystrach admits, "but by the nature of Shane and Josh being authentic country music audiophiles -- they know everything about it, that's what they grew up on, and it happens to be that our commonality was our love of all the same music."
Adds Duddy, "That's why they're great writers, though, is they understand people's identities. They somehow understood our identity within moments of meeting them ... It's just a testament to their talent."
Most people don't make it doing this, so you have to be a little bit crazy -- or dumb or genius. I can't tell.
All around, Midland are finding that there's no pressure to be anything but themselves: "All the songs on the album are songs that -- they come from us," Duddy notes. "Our team is pretty on board with what we want to put on there."
Authentic as they may be, however, Carson, Duddy and Wystrach say their timing and their ability to get it all together was pure serendipity: "If we think about it," Wystrach says, "it'll blow our minds a little bit in how it was able to come together."
Midland's existence, the bandmates say, is "a series of somewhat small- and medium-sized miracles" -- and days spent, just the three of them and an acoustic guitar, "meticulously combing over harmonies."
"There was a joy in that," Duddy says, "because we love playing music together."
"And I think that common love and that perspective is what propels you, and it propels you past that scary point," Wystrach quickly adds. "Because, let's face it: Most people don't make it doing this, so you have to be a little bit crazy -- or dumb or genius. I can't tell."
Visit MidlandOfficial.com for more information on Midland, On the Rocks and their upcoming tour plans.
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