Texan six-piece Whiskey Myers have mastered the art of not second-guessing themselves. For the first time in their career, the group decided to self-produce on their upcoming fifth studio album, but frontman Cody Cannon tells Country Now that there was never a particularly complicated reason behind that shift.
“We wanted to do it just because we wanted to do it. You know what I mean? That’s really all it was,” Cannon says frankly. “It was like, ‘Hey, let’s do this ourselves.’ Maybe just to prove we could.”
As producers, Whiskey Myers had big shoes to fill. Their previous two records were produced by Nashville mainstay Dave Cobb, the man who has made — and continues to make — albums for a veritable who’s who list of country and Americana. Cannon says that the group soaked up some skills during their time working with Cobb, just by osmosis, and that he remains a big influence on the band. “It was great working with him,” Cannon offers.
On a literal level, one big difference between working with Cobb and self-producing was that beforehand, there was one producer. Now there were six. Still, Cannon says, the group found a way to peaceably navigate all the bandmates’ various input. “If people had different ideas about certain things, we would just play it, or listen to it,” he recounts. “Once you do that, you sit down and you’re like, ‘Well, this is better.’ It usually pops out.”
In other words, the music showed them the right way. They didn’t need to overthink or over-explain themselves — they simply needed to listen for what was working. That’s a strategy that Whiskey Myers has perfected over the twelve years since they first began playing as a band, and continues to guide their musical choices, such as the decision to release “Die Rockin’” as the first glimpse into Whiskey Myers.
“It was just an up-tempo, fun song. You never wanna lead with a deep cut or anything or anything too heavy,” Cannon shrugs. He co-wrote the track with Ray Wylie Hubbard, the legendary if oft-overlooked singer-songwriter who helped pioneer a searing strain of ‘70s outlaw country with anthems like “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother.” Hubbard has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance recently: He co-wrote “Desperate Man” with Eric Church, and — finally! — made his Grand Ole Opry debut in July of 2019, at the age of 72. Still, those accolades aren’t what Cannon brings up first (or, really, ever) when he talks about Hubbard.
“I don’t have social media or anything, so I don’t know about any of that, but he’s amazing,” the singer drawls. Instead of listing accomplishments, he wants to talk about Hubbard’s kindness and musical acumen. “Such a cool guy. He’s great to work with. [“Die Rockin’”] was just an up-tempo, fun song.”
Looking back at Whiskey Myers’ career so far, it’s clear that the band doesn’t care much for labels, categories or genre. They fly under the mainstream country radar, but find plenty of other ways to reach their fans, whether that be through a rigorous touring calendar or slightly more unorthodox methods, such as their upcoming three-song feature (and onscreen appearance) in Paramount drama Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner.
“I think it was huge attracting new fans. Especially somebody like us, who’s independent. You’re not gonna hear us on mainstream radio,” Cannon offers. “So when you get a platform like that, with millions of people [in the audience] — you can’t really do that, unless you do something like Yellowstone.”
Through the show, people of all kinds — not necessarily just country fans, or Southern rock fans, or even music fans at all — get to lay ears on Whiskey Myers. That kind of diverse listenership suits the band just fine; in fact, it matches their rag-tag, come-all approach to their craft. “We never think too much about genres too much. We just go out there and play music,” says Cannon. “People make genres so they can sell it. That’s literally it. It’s just packaging. But, you know, to us it’s music.”
The success that Whiskey Myers has picked up along the way gets invested right back into their sound. Aside from the decision to self-produce, another major change between the group’s newest album from their early discography was budget.
“Uh, yeah, we couldn’t have afforded to make this record at the beginning of our career,” Cannon laughs. “We went out to a place called Sonic Ranch, out toward…the border with Mexico. And it’s just an awesome place, awesome studio, awesome equipment.”
From the amps to instruments to the recording console, everything about the studio worked perfectly to further the band’s sound. “We can really hear something kinda authentic, in those really good old expensive guitars. Because they actually do sound better,” he goes on to say. “Especially in the studio setting. So having this great, amazing, completely unaffordable equipment, stuff like that makes a difference in tones.”
Some of those instruments were “unaffordable” in part because of their specific histories — an Esquire guitar that once belonged to Stevie Ray Vaughan, another instrument that was owned by Billy Gibbons — and of course, those one-of-a-kind guitars couldn’t leave the studio. “But our road guitars and stuff have a certain sentimental value,” Cannon adds. Though less expensive, those touring guitars are better traveled and have a host of stories to tell. After all, arguably the biggest part of a career in music, for a band like Whiskey Myers, is the live show. Without the support of mainstream radio or the classification of genre, the band’s bread and butter comes from touring.
The group knows that the songs they put on their records will change and evolve as they continue to perform them live, and that’s okay. “We make ‘em longer, a lot of times — that’s kind of our go-to. Everybody’s go-to, live,” Cannon explains. Like their road guitars, the songs on Whiskey Myers will continue to grow and change as they become part of the band’s live set. That process is inevitable, and Cannon says the group doesn’t feel particularly compelled to tailor the albums they make to their live show.
“We just kinda go in and pick the songs we wanna do for the album…a lot of times they can sound a bit different live. That’s fine,” Cannon relates.
Whiskey Myers have always focused on making high-quality music, ignoring many of the trappings of the music business. The pay-off? The group knows how to trust their instincts.
“We just care about making a good album in our minds, and a well-rounded one,” Cannon adds. “I think it’s good for an album to have a flow, and be a complete body of work. But that’s really as far as we go into that.”
Fans who pre-order Whiskey Myers’ new album, out September 27, will receive four instant-grat tracks, including “Bury My Bones,” “Die Rockin,” “Rolling Stone” and “Gasoline.”