With a brand new album waiting in the wings and a steady stream of singles being churned out, Americana rockers Highway Natives haven’t been holding back in 2022.
The Nashville quintet has their upcoming album, West of the Blindside, set for a June release, and the band was fortunate enough to have a community-backed Kickstarter help get it off the ground. And this past Friday, April 22nd, the band dropped their latest single, “Cold Feet,” along with a badass animated music video.
The Highway Natives are made of members Brandon Moore (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Jordan Miller (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Matt Drummey, (lead guitar) Artie Scarazzo (bass), and Arthur Stove (drums). The band has a fun and approachable vintage rock style, and the five of them together each bring something special to the musical table.
We got the chance to chat with the guys to learn more about the single, upcoming album, and much more.
So how did the Highway Natives form, and when did you decide to start making music together?
Jordan- The band forming was one of those situations where everything just happens naturally, but it still had to go through many different stages to get to the end result. Back in 2017, Brandon was working on a solo project and looking for co-writers to collaborate with for material. We exchanged some tunes and ended up meeting at a local studio to write one evening. We spent the entire evening discussing the idea of a band and not longer after, we began working towards making that idea a reality.
When the time came to find a bass player, Brandon mentioned a coworker by the name of Matt who played bass, and next thing I knew, he was at the next rehearsal. Fast-forward some months later, we had a show down in FL, but Matt couldn’t make it due to a matter out West. During this time, I was doing some photo journaling on the side, and befriended who is now our photographer/videographer/honorary band member Josh Rish. I mentioned we were needing a bass player for an upcoming show, and he said he knew the perfect dude. This is where Artie enters the picture.
After playing our show in FL, Artie just felt like part of the band. Matt had expressed interest in playing lead guitar, so we felt it was the perfect opportunity to ask Artie if he’d be interested in joining the band full time. You would think in Nashville, it would be easy to just call your neighbor over to form a band, but there’s so much more to it in this town. It’s a commitment.
We had a couple drummers fill in here and there, but still didn’t have a solid member. That’s when Brandon mentioned Arthur. They were working at a local studio together. Arthur ended up sitting in with us for a show and almost immediately it felt right. Anyone who plays music knows what I mean when I say that. From that moment on, we began working on what is the sound of Highway Natives.
So I see you’ve got your new single, “Cold Feet,” that just dropped last Friday. What’s the story behind it?
Brandon- “Cold Feet” came to me back in mid-2020 after a pretty hefty dry spell. I had recorded the main riff, the one you hear in the intro, in a voice memo on my phone months before, and was sifting through my memos to gain a little inspiration for something new. After a few hours of building a rough track to write to in Logic, the lyrics started flowing in a stream of consciousness.
There was a lot of anger in the world at that specific point in time, lots of loud opinions and pointed fingers. The first line that came to me was, “If you’re gonna shout, you better shout loud, there’s a lotta noise you gotta drown out,” and worked off of that up until the second verse. I believe I came up with the title “Cold Feet” by searching “idiom with the world cold in it,” and just thought “Cold Feet” sounded cool, haha.
The song is essentially about pushing forward, standing by what you believe in without being timid over what someone else may think; you can’t please everyone kinda thing. After bringing the first half of the tune to the guys, we wrote and revised the rest of the song over time. I believe Jordan and I were camping when we came up with the idea of bringing in the rolling toms breakdown after the second chorus. We pitched that to Arthur and it brought a whole new dynamic to the tune.
Drummey came up with the weird guitar harmony solo after the breakdown, and Artie wrote the outro. The demo was originally a little more funky, but after writing as a group, we ended with a more psychedelic-y vibe that I’d have never imagined on my own.
And what made you choose this song as a single?
Artie– It was an obvious single choice from everyone in the band. We’re all really proud of how it came out. It’s just a really fun song to play, and hopefully listen to for everyone out there. We packed a wide array of sonic jollies into a concise and singable tune. To me, it’s like Santana playing into a 50’s style rock n’ roll chorus, with the Allman Brothers coming in as guests on the bridge. It has a little bit of a psychedelic vibe to it, and a badass percussion performance from Arthur. Recording it was a joy, and it came together seamlessly.
“Cold Feet” is also an animated music video. What was it like making a video like that, and what was the vision behind it?
Artie- Brandon and I had discussed how fun it would be to do an animated video a while back, and after hearing the preliminary mixes for “Cold Feet,” we knew that would be the one. We drank some brainstorm and bourboned some ideas. Ha! Wanting to tie-in the album name thematically, we decided on an outlaw character who initially has “cold feet” about an endeavor he must begin.
He decides to embark, only to be absolutely blindsided by this unseen and unknown force, represented in the form of a sloppy alien casually going about his day-to-day job of destroying planets. Of course the outlaw prevails though, don’t worry! A lot of the influence for the video concept came from a pretty gnarly motorcycle wreck I was in shortly before we began recording the album… including a large dose of medical-grade ketamine. It was a really fun process from front to back. I wrote a “screenplay” and we sent it off to Duncan Hatch, who animated it. His interpretation was spot on. He really did a phenomenal job. Very rewarding to see it done!
So the new record, West of the Blindside, is set to drop in June. How long did it take to write and record, and what was the process like?
Brandon- WOTB is a collection of newer and older tunes that we’ve had in our arsenal for a while. One of the tunes we recorded is one of the first songs I wrote after moving to Nashville 6 years ago, all the way to our first single, “Doghouse,” being sculpted while in the final recording sessions. However, all of the songs had came to their final form within the last year or so, after testing them live and honing in as a group, bringing our individual perspectives on the songs.
The album was recorded at Welcome to 1979 in West Nashville, with the main elements of the songs tracked while all playing together live, then later overdubbing elements like vocals, a couple of solos, keys, and other ear candies. We tracked the full record in about a week and a half, with the last day being like, “Well, is there anything else we can do? Nope? Shit, alright then.”
The folks at ‘79, and Todd Tidwell, our engineer, made the entire process so smooth and comfortable. Ryan Lipman did an incredible job with mixing the record, and Adam Chamberlain put the cherry on top with mastering.
I see the album was funded by a Kickstarter campaign made by your fans. How did that motivate you to make an album you know they’d like?
Arthur- The Kickstarter motivated us immensely in a lot of ways. Having that support was something that made us so grateful for the opportunity to make the record the way that we did. It motivated us to make a record that not only expressed our personalities and experiences, but also expressed the personalities and experiences of the communities where we come from. A lot of this record was influenced by our interactions and connections with many of the people that supported us in the Kickstarter. That sense of community and family was deeply ingrained in every step of the process.
Can fans expect some touring or regional gigs before/after the release?
Arthur- Most definitely. We’ll be traveling and playing regional shows fairly steadily for the last half of the year. We have some exciting local shows in the works. Next week, April 28th, we’ll be at the OG Basement opening up for Lovely World and would love to see some Nashville folks out. We can’t let out too much right now, but you can keep up with all of our scheduled dates on our website.
We’re excited about what’s on the horizon. With us all being from such different areas, it’s always fun for us to hit our respective hometowns on tour. Along the way, we’re always finding new areas to play and make friends. With the dates coming up, we’re really looking forward to playing some new towns that we haven’t been able to reach yet. More details on all of that will come the closer we get to the album release.
What does a dream gig look like for the band?
Matt- This is such a tough question! There’s so many dream gigs out there to be played. I’ve taken an official poll of the band members and a few places keep coming up. The Ryman is the obvious choice. All of the guys have had life changing experiences there as concert goers. For me, it’s one of the world’s greatest venues. It’s our home town and it would be an honor to be on that stage.
Brandon mentioned that any venue that “doesn’t require Matt to turn down” would be a dream. I seem to get that a lot. I swear I don’t play that loud. Another spot that we seem to agree on is Red Rocks Amphitheater. The natural beauty and vibe is unmatched. Either way, a dream gig would be to be surrounded by friends, family, and maybe one of them 1962 Fender Strats. Any chance to get on stage and suspend reality for a time is a dream.
Playing live is what we’re all about. Two sets and a special guest. Take your pick. Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Maggie Rose, Gary Clark Jr, Sturgill… Joe Walsh! So many options. Some honorable mentions: Austin City Limits, Hollywood Bowl, MSG, and The Gorge.
Aside from the music scene, what else makes Nashville such a special place to live?
Matt- It’s almost impossible to separate Nashville from the music scene. It might actually be impossible. Nashville is a great place to call home. We’ve made so many great friends in the time we have all been here. We met almost all of them through music. We got this band started. It’s a place where you never have trouble trying to get friends and family to visit. Living here no one looks at you funny if you say you’re a musician and that’s your job. Also there’s sandwiches from Duke’s. Weird late night encounters at Dino’s. Playing pool at Underdog. I also don’t miss shoveling two feet of snow in April like back home in Boston.
What might the Highway Natives have in store for the latter half of 2022?
Jordan- With the record coming out at the end of June, our priority is to hit the road as much as possible to promote it. For anyone looking to catch us live, be sure to check out our website, or give us a follow on social media. We keep all that stuff updated. We’re also working on some new live-stream ideas, and other ways for those who may not be able to make it out to a show can still interact with us online and be a part of what we’re doing.