Prior to January of 2009, Jamie Wilson, Liz Foster, Kelley Mickwee and Savannah Welch were mere acquaintances, each pursuing their own musical ventures through various outlets. It wasn’t until the four songstresses gathered in Steamboat, Colorado to perform a tribute to Savannah’s father, singer-songwriter Kevin Welch, that a much stronger connection became evident. Alas, it was a match made in Americana-country heaven – and The Trishas were born.
The ladies are now preparing to release their first full-length album High, Wide and Handsome on August 7. Crafted in Nashville by an assemblage of Music City’s finest musicians and producers, the album unquestionably remains pure, unfiltered Trishas. CMP spoke with Jamie Wilson about the group’s unique start, their dynamic sound, and their experiences together over the last several years.
CMP: How did you know Liz, Kelley and Savannah prior to playing that night in Colorado?
JW: I was in a band called the Gougers and Kelley was in a duo called Jed & Kelley and we used to tour together, so I kind of knew her from that. And Savannah and Kelley knew each other and I had met Savannah…we all were acquaintances, connected to one of the others. But then it was suggested that we get together and sing for that one show, so we hung out and practiced and decided ‘yeah, let’s do this! This is great, we like each other.’
CMP: How did y’all go from there to recording your first EP, They Call Us the Trishas?
JW: We got together in January and kind of flirted with the idea of playing shows for about three or four months. Our first show was in the middle of March, but that didn’t really count – it was a 20 minute set somewhere. But we started really making a commitment that September, that’s when we really started talking about needing to make a record. We were touring and saving money and playing shows and learning who we are and how to sing together and how to play together. Then we went in to record that first little EP in May of 2010 and we put the record out in August.
CMP: How was the process of recording and writing the EP different as opposed to now with the full length album you’re releasing?
JW: Those were all songs we already had – we hadn’t done any writing together, hadn’t really done anything together at all. So we did that little mini-record and from that we got a publishing deal in Nashville. So we started writing…and writing and writing and writing – writing together and writing alone, writing with everyone we could find. In the end we had this whole collection of songs we could choose from for this record. The process of recording was different in that – that first album we did at home in Austin with just a couple of friends. This second one we did full out – if we’re gonna do it, let’s do it right. So we went and hired Mike Poole out of Nashville. He knew all the cool guys that we wanted and he did a great, great job. We got a professional sounding record out of Nashville that’s not really super polished, and it’s not your pop country record. We got some musicians to help us on it that really listened to us and asked us what kind of songs they were and asked us what the songs were about and asked us how we wanted them to play and just really, really cared.
CMP: You can certainly tell listening to the album that y’all had such an influence in its creation. Too many times bands lose their raw spirit when they go for a larger project, so it’s great to see it came across true to who you are as artists.
JW: Yeah! Thank you! We had a really good experience with that, they really did ask us and we got to tell them and they listened and they did it. Every song there was at least one or two of us in the room with them recording so we were in the thick of it as well. We were a big part of it and I think that’s really rare, especially with some of those Nashville players. When they do it, the producers tell them what to do and they do it. A lot of times the musicians just say ‘we’re making a pop country record, let’s do this.’ They know the drill. They know the formula. So they got to experiment on this one and give it a little bit of groove and it turned out really cool.
CMP: I heard the four of you play quite a variety of instruments yourselves?
JW: Well we play on them. [Laughs] We all play guitar and mandolin and I play banjo. We have our main instruments, I’m mainly rhythm guitar – live, I play kick drum and banjo. Kelley is the main mandolin player and she also plays a rack-tom in our live show. But she also plays guitar on three or four songs. Savannah plays guitar but she plays mandolin on a couple songs too. Liz plays mainly harmonica and percussion, but she also plays guitar. We just kind of pass the instruments around.
CMP: Have you been playing any of the new tunes at the live shows?
JW: We probably do about seven or eight of them a night, we’re trying to work them all in by the time the record comes out. But with four part harmonies it takes some practice. In the studio you can go back and sing them over again, but live you have to pull it off. It’s the five of us on stage trying to pull off a seven piece band record – and we’re doing it! It takes time to figure out who can do what to pull off that song, and its really fun to do that.
CMP: What has been your favorite show to play so far?
JW: We’re on the tail end of this Rocky Mountain tour, we’ve been out for two weeks – I’d have to say leaving the Texas heat in the middle of the summer to go to Colorado and Idaho was great. One thing we got to do, though, was sing to Guy Clark on his birthday. They put together a tribute record for his 70th birthday and we got to be on it. After the record came out, they put on a CD release/birthday party for him at the Long Center in Austin with Lyle Lovett, Terri Hendrix, Joe Ely, Rodney Crowell, Gary Allen…it was great. We got up and sang our one song and we got to talk to him – it’s gonna be tough to beat that one for a while.
CMP: That’s quite the honor! Last question: if you could play a set with anyone, who would it be?
JW: Personally, ever since I was nine or ten, I’ve been dreaming about playing with Merle Haggard…or Emmylou. I saw her play one time at the Ryman during the Americana Awards, she walked out with Patty Griffin and sang background with Guy Clark and I cried. It was a surprise and I was like [gasps]…I straight up cried like a baby.