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A Dirty Dozen with KIRA ANNALISE and WILLIE HEATH NEAL from THE WAYMORES – August 2023

| 29 August 2023 | Reply

Photo Credit: Lindsay Garrett

According to a recent press release: “There are lots of folks in the music industry saying they can help you get a leg up, or they know a guy who knows a guy, so when The Waymores heard about legendary producer Shel Talmy not only enjoying their music but wanting to work with them, they chalked it up to being talk out of school. The group’s sophomore album Stone Sessions had achieved media recognition and word had spread across the country from The Waymores home base in Atlanta to Los Angeles where actor and restaurateur Harry Zinn heard The Waymores and shared the songs with his good friend Shel. The Atlanta-based duo are signed to Austin indie label Chicken Ranch Records and their self booked touring schedule sees them playing 150-200 gigs per year. With this huge opportunity dangling before them, the band very sensibly booked themselves a tour to get themselves from Georgia to California in mid-June, hitting Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona along the way. Not even a small COVID pause could deter these honky tonk Americana rising stars.” We get the duo to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release. What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through? Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

This is the first time we’ve recorded completely live in the studio. There are very few overdubs and the ones that are there were because it was impossible to get them in a live format, like singing our own harmonies. The players on this album are of such a high caliber that we wanted to use every bit of our time with them wisely and we feel like we got a few hidden nuggets because of that. On the title track, “Greener Pastures,” we had steel player, Dave Pearlman, who has played for Merle Haggard before, throw the “Mama Tried” lick at the very end. At the top of “Time to Ramble” we tried to pay homage to “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound,” and on our cover of “You Got Gold” we had Phil Parlapiano on the B3 Organ. Phil played piano for John Prine for a lot of years and actually played on John’s original cut of this song, although he played the accordion on that one. You can completely feel that it’s the same guy, though and that’s very special to us.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Willie: I knew the words to “Hey Good Lookin’” before I knew the words to any nursery rhyme. I grew up with a mother who was obsessed with country music, so I’ve never known a life without it. I was in my first real band when I was in the Navy and I knew then that it was what I wanted to do with my life.

Kira: I saw Willie performing in a dive bar in Georgia one night. I had never heard country music like that before. I fell in love with everything on that stage. I wanted him, the music, all of it. I learned how to play guitar, and wrote a song that I performed live a week later and never looked back.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Kira: Willie took me under his wing and turned me on to a lot of the country greats like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard but I think that Willie Heath will always be my first love in music. He shaped everything about who I am as a musician.

Willie: I’ve always loved the legends, that goes without saying. Folks like Dale Watson and Wayne Hancock really helped mentor me when I got started, though. Steve Earle’s Train A Comin’ and Wayne Hancock’s Thunder Storms and Neon Signs really made me look at what I was doing musically. I was just playing in rockabilly bands singing about sock hops and hot rods and those two albums made me want to start working toward more lyrically driven music.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Willie: I’d like to write a song with Steve Earle. I’d like to have been able to have been produced by Owen Bradley. This is a question I could answer forever because I’ve daydreamed about so many people but this is just a couple of examples.

Kira: I’d like to have been able to write and record with John Prine. If I had to choose someone from today, I’d probably say Nikki Lane. I think she’s a great songwriter and she really has a vision that I haven’t seen in many people in the last decade or so.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour? What do you like to do to unwind?

We love to catch up on sleep but that can only last so long so we try to visit the family farm in GA and spend time with the horses and goats down there. It’s a very blissful spot for us and we don’t get to go nearly often enough.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

We’d describe ourselves as songwriters. We love to tell a story and when we can put music behind that, it comes out as what a lot of folks refer to as Country. We’ve been called everything from Honky Tonk to Outlaw and in between. We’ve had lots of wonderful and complimentary comparisons like George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Johnny and June, Dolly and Porter. There’s only so many male and female country duets out there for them to compare us to! Kira gets Janis Joplin a lot and she can’t stand it but mostly we’ll take anything that makes people feel like they can relate to what or how we’re singing. Music is subjective.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Kira does all of the cooking and tries to make sure everyone is eating healthy. Sometimes it works. Willie is the bigger drinker now but that shifts depending where we are and what section of the tour we’re in. Everyone in the band handles themselves professionally for the most part. Usually, when we’re all together, we’re on the road and by the time we have a moment to relax, no one wants to pull out the guitar! We play a lot of dominoes and talk over each other while other people are trying to sleep. No guitar needed.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

Kira: I was at Ameripolitan and totally fan girl’d over Melissa Carper. It did not end well for me. I had a lot of tequila and just aggressively told her how pretty she was and how much I loved her voice for about an hour. I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m a total weirdo but that’s understandable. Sorry Melissa!!

Willie: The last time I was just in awe of someone was when we saw Dallas Burrow at Ameripolitan. He is unbelievable live and I definitely wanted to quit afterwards.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

Willie: The best part of being a musician is being poor all of the time. Who could ask for anything else? If I couldn’t be a musician, I’d be a carpenter. I love building shit.

Kira: I love getting to travel so much. I also love the musician family that we’ve met and forged all over the world. There’s just a camaraderie amongst other touring musicians that when you get the chance to hang with each other, it’s always super special. I’m always sad when we have to part ways again. If I couldn’t play music, I’d be a dietician. I love learning about the healing properties of certain foods.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

Kira: I love it when interviewers ask about the stories behind songs but in the same breath I don’t always like telling the whole story because I want the listener to relate to the song however, they need to at the time. I don’t hate any question. I love this life and feel honored to be interviewed. I’m glad people care what we have to say. That doesn’t last forever so I’m enjoying it while it’s here.

Willie: I cringe when I’m asked how I got my start in music. I’ve just answered it so many times and the story, although interesting to newcomers, is boring to me now. I always wish I had been asked who I thought I sounded like vocally and my answer would be “If all of my heroes sang at the same time they would sound like me because I’ve taken a little from every one of them.”

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Willie: There’s a list a mile long of times I wish I’d made better choices. They don’t call me “The King of THIS CLOSE” for nothing. Had things turned out differently, I may not be where I am today, singing with Kira, which is my favorite thing to do, so I guess I still wouldn’t change a thing.

Kira: I’d have met him sooner.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Kira: I’d have loved to be in the room with Waylon and BIlly Joe Shaver while Waylon was recording Honky Tonk Heroes. I know the sessions must have been tense but I bet it was magical.

Willie: When I listen to Red Headed Stranger, by Willie Nelson, it makes me wish that I had been in that room while they were recording.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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