The Mother Truckers More than a Good Name
The Mother Truckers have that rare band name — something instantly memorable and timeless. In fact, it’s just timeless and memorable enough that when I learned the band was coming to Huntington May 10 I got excited because I thought they were a band I knew (it’s not every day a band I’m familiar with comes to Huntington). Turns out, I wasn’t. Familiar with The Mother Truckers that is. But all that’s soon to change with the band’s latest release already receiving positive reviews (see our review on page 27) and a lineup of tour dates in cities the Truckers have yet to play in.
On a road in Texas, lead singer Teal Collins talked to us — rather enthusiastically and full of zest, we might add — about the tour, the new album and how the band formed after a “musical explosion.”
Graffiti: Your press release says the two of you met at an open mic years ago and the meeting was musically explosive. Can you elaborate? What does that mean?
Collins: We actually met at an open mic in California and it was more like, he jammed with the house band and then I jammed and we both kind of said, “Hey I like that person’s style and energy.” Then we stated a musical relationship and we would play together in these put together bands here and there. He called me to do a session on [his former band, Protein’s] first record and we just hit it off really well. When that wrapped up with Protein we put together the Mother Truckers. Our writing styles, it’s rare that two writers songs complement each other so well.
Graffiti: Tell us a little about the new record.
Collins: June 3 is the release date and it’s really exciting for us for a couple different reasons. First of all, it’s our third record we’ve put out but it’s the first one we’ve been able to capture what we do live; it’s not a live record but the essence of what we do live is there. Part of that is playing for years and finding what works with a live audience. A little bit of the rock influence seeped in a little more on this record. We also were lucky enough to get Paul Kolderie, who has mixed Hole and Radiohead albums, so we had him mix it. So it has that real record sound; it’s very exciting. The record’s not even out and we have it on a couple movie soundtracks and we’re shooting a video May 29 in Austin with some porn stars in it, let’s just say that. So there’s lots of exciting things happening [laughs].
Graffiti: Coming out with new records, do you have any hopes or expectations? If so, what are your hopes for the new record?
Collins: We always have expectations like it’s going to be Van Halen, “I” or it’s always going to be “Sgt. Pepper’s.” If you have lower expectations than that, it’s like why bother?
Graffiti: So you’re at the start of a new tour right? How’s it going so far?
Collins: At the beginning of May we’re going out for two weeks and we’re hitting a bunch of places that I don’t think we’ve been and then in June we’re out for all of June and then this best festival in Chicago in July and the House of Blues in Chicago. We’re getting out to some really great venues so I’m really excited about all that stuff.
When we first moved to Austin we were playing for some pretty small attended crowds and the Continental Club, the most kickass club in Austin, gave us a chance. I said to them, “our crowd is a hard drinking crowd,” and I said, “if you let us in the door we’ll prove it you” and we really didn’t have a crowd to be honest with you, but it just grew from there. We have everything we need to take it to the next level now, I hope we do that this year. I’m really fired up.
Graffiti: You’ve recorded with Shanice and Third Eye Blind, while Josh worked with Protein. Together you’ve shared the stage with Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Dwight Yoakam. What experience has meant the most to you?
Collins: Well, George Jones is the man. He just delivers a song like no one else.
And Merle Haggard, to be able to say that is really touching. And Willie Nelson, of course. We’ve gotten the chance to play for a lot of great of country music. It’s been wonderful. I think we’ve been very lucky and wonderful and I’m grateful. We have to stalk people to get pictures because we’re just the opening bands, though.
Graffiti: Name me some bands. Tell me some stories.
Collins: Well, Merle Haggard. He did the soundcheck, those guys go from soundcheck to tour bus and then do the show and they’re back to the tour bus and then they’re out of there. So we just waited right before he got to the tour bus. It’s just one of those things you better have a camera that doesn’t take blurry pictures. I would really like to see Robert Plant some day; it would be great to meet him.
Graffiti: The new album has elements of country, blues, rock, soul. Who did you listen to most as a teenager? What records could you not take off?
Collins: I like a lot of different stuff. Pretty much everything that was classic rock –Steely Dan, Steve Miller, I love Joni Mitchell, I love the Grateful Dead. I love all that stuff. Josh is all about AC/DC, Judas Priest and things of that nature. He likes really hard rocking stuff so we both had a lot of the rock basically.
Graffiti: Where do the country elements and influences come in?
Collins: Well, Josh’s dad plays banjo and he played in some folky country things growing up. My dad even, though he was a jazz DJ, was really fond of country music and he’d have some truck driving, six days on the road stuff he’d listen to. When [Josh and I] got together, we knew just enough to not be intimidated writing country songs. We were just ignorant enough.
Graffiti: You’ve been recognized the last few years in Austin, the “Live Music Capital of the World,” with some awards and acclaim, and most of your publicity stuff tries to capitalize on that. How much do you think your success in Austin will translate to the rest of the country?
Collins: I think that our move to Austin was really great for a few different reasons. It’s a great place to be based out of for touring because you’re smack dab in the middle of the country. When you have something on your credits like, “Voted best roots rock band,” people at least give you a chance to listen to, [but] you have to come through on the goods. But at the same time it seems like every book is the bestseller and are they all the best? So I don’t know how much weight the words hold with people.
Graffiti: You and Josh are the primary songwriters. Can you talk to me a little about how you write songs together, or separately, as the case may be?
Collins: We typically write where if I’m writing I will nearly complete it or what I think is nearly complete and then I’ll bring it to Josh and he’ll have some ideas, like a clincher lyric or a riff. He’s such a good musician that he’ll come up with something that really finishes it. We’ve tried to write a song from beginning to end and it’s so hard because we have such strong feelings of where it should good. Typically songs I sing I wrote and songs he sings he wrote. There have been a few times where I’ve written a song for him or he’s written a song for me.
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