From Dripping Springs, Texas, Midland is made up up of brotherhood between Mark Wystrach [lead singer], Jess Carson [lead guitar], and Cameron Duddy [bass]. Signed to Big Machine Records,the first listen to any of Midland’s songs will have you basking in old-twang-country of yesteryear. Before performing at Boots and Hearts 2017, we had a chance to sit down one-on-three to get the lowdown on their formation, influence and unique sound.
1. How did you all meet?
MARK: We all met playing music in the LA scene over a decade ago. Cam and Jess had a band together and Cam and I had a band together. The three of us had never played together until about 3.5 years ago up in Jackson Hole when Jess and I were groomsmen in Cameron’s wedding. That lead to the three of us heading out to West Texas 6 months later to record “The Sonic Ranch Sessions” which marked the birth of Midland.
2. Let’s talk about your first recording session in Sonic Ranch. Did you know then that you had something special leaving the studio?
MARK: That 10 days at The Sonic Ranch will go down as one of the best experiences of our lives. It was the first time the three of us had written, recorded and produced together. We were recording in the Adobe Studio and staying at the ranch house which is removed and isolated from the rest of the compound so it felt like we had fallen into this mythical wild west fantasy. We were working all hours of the day and there was a lot of drinking, laughing, fighting, problem solving, crying, hugging and sheer joy that was expressed over that magical 10 day run. It ended up being a trial by fire that expedited the growth of and the solidified the brotherhood that is Midland.
3. Which artist/band is your biggest influence?
MARK: Man that’s tough to say because there are so many influences between the three of us, but some of major influences is our love for artists like Gary Stewart, George Strait, The Eagles, The Band, The Stones, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard…And Bruce Springsteen is who we look up to the most when it comes to the live show.
CAM: The influences are far ranging. Right now I’m flat out flabbergasted and utterly inspired by Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty” album. The way he actually recorded those songs (on the tour bus, on stage, in the hotel rooms) is so cool. He was able to capture a spirit. How do you capture a spirit while recording? That’s always the challenge. Midland has such a unique thing, it’s a brotherhood, and we’re constantly chasing the sound that makes. The Eagles did it as good as anyone with the blend of their voices. That’s a deep well of inspiration we are always drawing from.
4. Can you take us through your writing process, particularly your single “Drinking Problem”, and how that came together?
MARK: Well they say you should write about what you know and about what you’re feeling at that particular time and place and that’s always where we start. If we’re co-writing which was the case with “Drinkin Problem” it started as a conversation of our influences and where we were all at over some beers…someone came up with a chord progression and the spirit of the collective room took over and we wrote a beautiful song about a dark place that we have all known well in our lifetime.
5. What songs are on your playlist right now?
MARK: Man, I’m back in a major Merle Haggard kick right now. I’m just blown away by the sonic breadth of his body of work. Songs like “Misery And Gin”, “Things Aren’t Funny Anymore” & “Looking For A Place To Fall Apart” are perfect country songs that seamlessly blend blues and rock and roll elements with an effortless, honest and heartbreaking delivery that truly makes these songs only Merle could pull off.
CAM: Im very deep into the JJ Cale catalogue. From there I hoping two feet first into Dire Straits, which I find a sonic link between the two. Is there anyone more interesting than Mark Nopfler? Side note, Pick Withers is my new favourite drummer. He has the busiest left foot I’ve ever heard.
JESS: I’ve been driving around listening to the Garth Brooks channel on Sirius lately. He just cut so many great records and his other artist picks are top notch. I’ve been on a ’80s and ’90s country kick on Spotify too. Randy Travis, Keith Whitley, Alan Jackson.
6. We notice your style reflects the authentic 70’s-80’s honky-tonk country – did you intentionally channel these eras to influence your songs, or did this come naturally when writing and producing?
CAM: It’s naturally intentional! We always wanted to make music that was influenced by that era of music but not derivative.
7. What’s your favourite thing about performing live?
CAM: We’re out there trying to blow your mind. Nothing less will do. We’re a band that earned our stripes in the bars and honky tonks of America – my favourite thing about performing live is getting to do that night after night, no matter how big the stage. If we’ve pulled it off, you leave the show feeling like you were on stage with us just like the old days at Poodies Roadhouse.
8. Why are you excited to play Boots & Hearts?
JESS: We’ve never been to Ontario so we’re super excited to go up there. We’re looking for a good tour guide to show us some cool places there. We like to mix it up, go to the bars, vintage clothing stores, etc.
9. Who are other artists performing a Boots & Hearts that you’re excited to share a stage with?
JESS: We’re excited to see our buddy Drake White. Luke Bryan will put on a hell of show, Keith Urban too. Kelly Prescott has a really cool Lucinda Williams thing going on, looking forward to catching her set.
Check out their widely-known hit song, “Drinkin Problem” below:
Love ‘em? Catch Midland at Boots and Hearts 2017!