Reckless Kelly Talk ‘Good Luck and True Love,’ Texas Country vs. Mainstream Country
Texas country's Reckless Kelly are becoming a household name, though in the Lone Star State, they've been a 'best kept secret' for as long as anyone can remember. In their 15 years together, the band -- led by Willy and Cody Braun -- have released a full deck of successful albums, which, in turn, have produced even more prosperous singles, like their latest hit, 'Good Luck and True Love.'
The song acts as the title track of the group's latest feat, which dropped on Sept. 13, marking the first time ever that Reckless Kelly have unleashed an album wholly on their own. It's the third release since the band began producing their own work a few years back.
Taste of Country recently caught up with lead vocalist Willy Braun to chat about the latest compilation of tunes, as well as what fuels Reckless Kelly as a whole and how they keep things "fresh." If we had to guess, we'd bet the Braun brothers' unlimited supply of humbleness helps keep the band charged up on their continual road run, which shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
During the chat, Braun also made a gutsy statement explaining what exactly sets Texas country music apart from Nashville's mainstream scene -- and why it's a good thing for the band. Reckless Kelly are only here to make music that they're proud of, and they won't change their path simply to be the next big thing on TV. In Braun's words: "We're pretty happy where we're headed."
You released your album 'Good Luck and True Love' two months ago. What has the feedback been like so far?
It's been good so far! Fans seem to like it. We've had a few reviews that have been favorable, and it's selling pretty well. I think it's going good.
And this is the third album you've released independently?
Well, it's the third album we've produced on our own, but the first time putting a record out on our own.
What does it feel like to have that kind of freedom?
It's great! We've always had a little bit of freedom because we've been on independent labels for years, but this time around we had complete control and were able to do exactly what we wanted to do, and [you] kind of just learn as you go and figure it out, but so far it's been a lot of fun.
You wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on this one. What inspires your songwriting?
Oh, a lot of road stuff. We're on the road a lot so I end up writing a lot of songs about that. You know, I read quite a bit, so I'm always kind of taking ideas from books and just lines … Really just a lot of things people say, just a little piece from a conversation. I'm always thinking, "Oh, that'd be a good line or a good hook." I've been just kind of writing stuff down over the years, and when it's time to start writing for the record I take all of the ideas and pile 'em up, then go somewhere and try to write songs out of them.
How would you say things have changed since the last album? Why is this new one different?
Well, the last record was a tribute album and this one is all original stuff. The last album was way more honky-tonk than this one, and we're kind of back to doing our standard Reckless Kelly stuff on this one. So, that one was a bit more on the country side and obviously it was different because I didn't write any of the songs on it. But this one, I had a lot of time to write -- I had almost four years to write this record, so I was able to kind of take my time and work on the songs. Even after I thought they were finished I'd still sit down and pick over them for a while, so I had a lot of extra time with this one.
With nine records on the shelf, how do you keep things fresh and come up with new ideas?
Well, we just try to keep making good records and try to top the last one! This time we really wanted to make a record where it was just us on it, and it's basically just the five guys in Reckless Kelly. We had one harmony vocal, [and] that's the only guest appearance on the album. We just wanted to make it sound like five guys sitting around in a room playing music. You know, I take a little bit of a different approach with each record without trying to stray too far from what the original idea was. Reinventing ourselves a little bit, but not too much to where we lose what we started doing in the first place.
Do you have a favorite record out of all that you guys have put out?
Usually the latest one [laughs]. Because it's fresh. This one, I think, is my favorite right now.
How do you think Texas country, in general, is different from mainstream country?
Well, it seems like it's a little more honest. Mainstream country comes mostly out of Nashville; that's a real industry-driven town, whereas the Texas music scene is a lot more about live music. It's about … The people that sing the songs are most likely the ones that wrote them. I don't know, it's just a more honest music scene. The songs people are singing are more likely to relate directly to the people singing them, whereas Nashville seems like, if there's a song that's about fried chicken that's a hit, then everybody writes a song about fried chicken. If there's a sailboat song, then everybody writes a sailboat song. It seems like they're more of a bandwagon type of scene.
What sets you guys apart from other bands in Texas?
I don't know! I mean, we've been doing this quite awhile. It's our 15th year as Reckless Kelly. And none of us are from Texas, so you know, we've never really done that Texas, Texas, Texas thing where we write songs about Texas -- not that there's anything wrong with that. I think it's just that we have a little bit more emphasis on our live show. It's kind of what we've always prided ourselves on. We tour a lot, and our live show has always been our bread and butter. It's hard to say what's really different, maybe we just have more of a rock 'n' roll edge, too, than some of the other Texas country bands. But I don't know, there's a lot of good bands out there and everyone has got a little something different to bring to the table.
Speaking of your live shows, is there anything that still surprises you or make you nervous about playing for a live crowd?
Well, not really. I really don't get nervous much anymore. One of the only times that we ever get nervous anymore is when we do the National Anthem at, like, baseball games. You just know that if you screw up then you're going to be on Sports Center for the rest of your life [laughs]. We've been doing it for so long that we don't really get nervous anymore -- at least not me personally.
You guys have been a band for 15 years. This far into your career, what goals do you try to strive for?
We really just want to keep making a living doing this and keep making records that we're proud of, and continue to tour. That's what we've always wanted to do. Anything that comes on top of that will just kind of be icing on the cake to us. We've always just wanted to make good records, and if the industry ever kind of comes our way and decides that that's the next big thing then that would be great, but we're just happy to make music that we're proud of. If that ends up being something that's popular, you know, we'd love that. We really don't want to change what we're doing to try to make it more commercially acceptable. We're pretty happy where we're headed.