Interview by Paul Salfen
For Richardson native Taylor Burns, dreams do come true. From an early age, Burns was subjected to music and festivals by his father, and played in local bands – including one called Southern Affair – and hit the local Deep Ellum circuit until he moved to Austin and eventually made his way to Nashville, where he joined The Wild Feathers as one of three principal singer-songwriters. After touring incessantly for their self-titled debut album and a long delay, the band finally released their second album, Lonely Is A Lifetime in March, which was produced by superstar GRAMMY-winning producer Jay Joyce, which has had the critics raving and has seen the guys make appearances on the biggest late night talk shows and on tour with the likes of legends Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.
Now on tour with Band of Horses and playing ACL, Burns reflects on the band’s success so far in advance of his hometown return and big festival appearance this week.
AMFM Magazine: Since you’re a local, let’s talk about the first time you knew you wanted to play music for a living, since it happened right here?
Taylor Burns: My dad was a guitar player and I would go to the Hill Country when I was 6 or 7 and he would play these music festivals. I remember there was one festival in Marble Falls, Texas and he let me come sing on a Jimmie Vaughn song and he would let me do backups and hang and I think I was immediately bit by the bug. I don’t know it then but it gave me a rush and I thought it was cool. Then I got into Black Crowes really young and I think I saw them right after 9/11 and I was already playing music but when I saw them on stage and thought, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” That’s when I was really hooked.
AMFM: And now this is what you’re doing for a living. You must be very proud.
TB: Totally, man. We remind each other of that all the time. We’re super grateful to do this. We have so many friends that are super talented and they have to have other jobs and have to do other things for money. It’s not like the old days where people are getting million-dollar record contracts or anything but we’re making enough to sustain ourselves and have a comfortable life at the moment and we’re super grateful for it.
AMFM: And your dad must be the proudest of all.
TB: My dad levitates at the show. Even though he’s a better guitar player than I ever will be. He’s really happy for me. As is my mother and the rest of my family. I probably have 60 family members going to the show. If someone says they’re my cousin or something, they’re probably telling the truth.
AMFM: Did having a musical family help catapult you?
TB: I was always around it so I didn’t think anything of it. With Dallas, there were no limitations, so I was always grateful of the big city. Getting to see a bunch of shows was really important. It wasn’t like I lived in a small town and had to drive a few hours to see a show. Texas in general has such a rich musical history and so many great artists have come out of the state and I don’t know if it’s so big by sheer volume…maybe it’s something in the water, too.
AMFM: But you knew you had to get out of town.
TB: I had to get out of my comfort zone to see if my writing and playing was up to snuff. Moving to Austin helped me grow as a songwriter and musician. Playing with people I didn’t grow up with and stuff like that. Then moving to Nashville. The musicianship is just off the charts there. All the best people from their towns there are there and you get the cream of the crop. I could be walking by a dive bar in Nashville on a Tuesday night and just be blown away by someone I’ve never heard of.
AMFM: You’ve mentioned before that you didn’t even get to meet Bob Dylan while touring with him but had a great time with Willie and learned a lot from his crew. What have you learned from Band of Horses?
TB: I’ve learned that they have a bunch of badass songs. After every show, I come out singing a new song that I’ve known before that just gets stuck in my head. We learned from Willie’s crew how to treat people because they were all just so nice and they didn’t have to because we were nobodies at the time – and still are compared to Willie, but Band of Horses is the same way. Everyone treats us really good. We always try to emulate that and it’s good to have those things reinforced.
AMFM: So what can we expect to hear from you at the show?
TB: I don’t know. We’ve been changing it up quite a bit. It’s a pretty good mix of the old record and new record. We made a pact because for a while, we got caught in a rut. So we decided to change it up the last couple of months. Sometimes when you open with a song you haven’t opened with before, it’s exciting again and keeps you on your toes.
AMFM: There’s often a lot of pressure on the sophomore album but you guys have done so well with it. Do you feel a lot of pressure for the next one?
TB: No, not a lot of pressure but we’re already writing for the next one. We toured on the first one for so long and the second one didn’t take long to record but it took a while to come out. So we want to get cracking on the third one fairly soon. We just want to put it out so there’s no downtime. We’re coming out with a live record. We recorded a sold out show at The Ryman and we’re going to release it on Black Friday and do a couple of really cool small, intimate shows around that. Then we’ll probably take it easy and hit it hard in 2017.
AMFM: Last thing: I’m sure a lot of locals will see this and look up to you for getting out of town and making it. What advice would you give them – because it’s not an easy business?
TB: I would just say write as much as you can and know [you want it] to the core of your soul. They’ll be times you’re going to be tested to snap and break and if you don’t have an iron constitution, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a tough business and even with all of the opportunities, it still gets hard. Make sure you love it with everything that you’ve got because it’ll test ya.
The Wild Feathers performs with Band of Horses on Tuesday at House of Blues in Dallas. Sold out.