Interview: Americana Rocker Douglas Wayne Discusses Timely New Single ‘HEY YA’LL’, Upcoming Album, & More

Sometimes you have to live a little before realizing your calling in life. It takes an understanding that it’s not so much the destination, but the journey that molds and inspires us, and we must embrace the muse when it beckons.

For singer-songwriter Douglas Wayne, who’s traversed the hills, valleys, and plains of America, that “moment” crystallized while surpassing triple digits on the speedometer of his ’71 Mustang convertible down a desolate Delaware beach road. While reckless behavior is thrilling, it can often be a sign that something is amiss- that it’s not enough to simply exist, and that the spiritual quest must go on.

It was time to “do the music.”

Like many are called to do, Wayne followed his humbucker heart to Music City to pursue his love of music, soul, country, blues and a Fender amp or two. Flash-forward a handful of years later through a few natural disasters and some increasing Music City traffic jams, the result is the freewheelin’ prowl of Coyote, Wayne’s 10-song debut album produced by Daniel Dennis (Beth Crowley, Chris Michael, Callie Prince). 

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Arriving April 22 via local label, ‘One Horse Nashville,’ the album was introduced last fall with the release of his first single, “I’m a-Gonna,” a twangy barroom ditty about pulling on the reins and taking yourself home before you muck up.

And today, January 28th, Wayne dropped his second single, “HEY YA’LL,” which rumbles along in fine Americana fashion asking the eternal question, “whatcha done done?” He claims he didn’t set out to write a “message song,” and that it just happened. The pandemic, the January 6th insurrection, constant bad news about climate change…all these things came to a head for him.

We got the chance to fire some questions Wayne’s way to learn more about the new single, the upcoming album, & much more.

So what’s the story of Douglas Wayne the songwriter in a nutshell?

A story about a guy who’s been writing for years trying to pitch to Music Row and finally decided to write in his own voice for himself.

And how long have you been in Nashville?

17 years.

So you’ve got your new single, “HEY YA’LL,” dropping today, January 28th. Can you touch on the backstory and creation of it a bit more for us?

The influence is the social consciousness of some early 70s rock. Thinking ‘Ohio’ by Neil Young (CSNY): strong guitar hook, poignant, not preachy lyrics. The inspiration for the song is current events. We’ve just passed the anniversary of the Jan 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. There’s a ton of misinformation about climate science. I think this era is every bit as significant to the history of this country as the early 70s if not more so. For me, the time is right for a song like HY. That said, I didn’t set out to write a social consciousness song when I started writing HY. It just came together and I love how it turned out.

What made you choose to release this song as a single compared to others on your forthcoming album, Coyote?

I haven’t canvassed the airwaves, so to speak, but I don’t think there’s a lot of Americana or Alt Country music being done right now that asks hard questions about what’s going down in the U.S. in the early ‘20s. For me, that’s a real driving factor. I know there’s some school of thought that people don’t want to get too political or whatever for fear of alienating their audience but, going back to Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and up through the 70s, Americana, folk, and rock music had a real and passionate voice. So, I’m hopefully tapping into that tradition. But also, listening to the tracks in order, “HEY YA’LL” is the showstopper, to use a Broadway term. It really jumps out as the single.

How did you get hooked up with producer Daniel Dennis, and what made him the perfect match for the sound you wanted to achieve?

I’ve been working with Daniel a long while now. I was introduced to him at the old Hall of Fame bar (torn down, replaced by condos—the story of Nashville) near Music Row after playing a writer’s round one night. I started doing demos with him at his small studio space on White Bridge Pike in W. Nashville. Over the years we developed a real rapport and he understands what I’m trying to do intrinsically. I value his input. On top of that, he has a great network of session guys so we’ve got Lee J. Turner, who plays with Darius Rucker, playing keys, and Mike Daly, who’s been Hank Jr’s band leader for 20+ years, laying down cool pedal steel on the record. Daniel co-produced ‘Coyote’ and had an impact on every track.

And what can fans expect from this upcoming album? Are there overarching themes or motifs throughout?

First and foremost, I’m hoping listeners will just like the songs on a real basic level. That the music and lyrics take them to a place where they can get lost in a song for 3 minutes—that they want to hear it again. The overarching themes are there too. I’m really just trying to capture my experiences as universal truths—things we all experience. To the extent there’s a song cycle, Coyote is arranged along the timeline of my experience since 2004. “A Buck Ten” is the back story. “High Wire”, “Lettin’ Go of Hangin’ On”, “LA,” are about learning to live with relationships ending and moving on—moving to Nashville. Coyote is the Nashville experience: My Ode to Music Row (apologies to Bobbie Gentry). Then things start to turn: “HEY YA’LL” is about current events. “Bourbon & Water”, “I’m a-Gonna” are about ongoing evolution. “Ain’t Young Ain’t Pretty” is three chords and the truth about where I’m at as a singer/songwriter. We then ride off into the sunset with “Primrose Mile.”

Where do you typically draw inspiration from for your songs?

The old cliché, write what you know, applies. The songs are drawn from real life. The people referred to are mostly composites but there are few literal references as well. “A Buck Ten” actually happened. “High Wire” is about that angsty reality of being unsure of a relationship. Coyote is my experience pitching to Music Row. 

I see all the songs on the album are written solely by you. Do you prefer writing solo, and do you ever get involved in co-writes?

I’ve co-written for years—ever since arriving in Nashville. That’s the proscribed process in building up a network and getting pub deals and songs pitched. Co-writing has certainly helped me become a better writer. But I’ve always made time to sit and chase the muse as a solo writer. The songs on Coyote are, in part, a product of the pandemic. I had a real creative streak in late 2020 and continuing into ’21. I was writing songs that weren’t going to be typical pitches to Music Row and at some point I realized I had an album.

What might you have planned post-album release, or is it more of a wait and see the state of things?

Good question! Coyote is coming out on the one horse nashville label which is an indie label that I’ve started with an old friend of mine, Duncan Boyer, who runs his own business in Atlanta. Coyote comes out April 22 and we’ll be doing a release show in early May (probably at The 5 Spot). After that, we anticipate releasing a second single to Americana radio and I have already started putting together a follow up EP. We don’t have anything planned beyond that just yet. Duncan and I are taking a label approach to the project and there is some connectivity to how the music is received and how we move forward.

Lastly, where are three places in Nashville that Douglas Wayne might be found frequenting?

Man, one of my fav places, Walden, just closed. Not sure why. Three isn’t enough. I’m an East Nashville guy and sometimes go a week without crossing the river (!). I dig hangin’ at East Nashville Beer Works and hit Roze Café regularly. Let me shout out Village Pub. On the music side there’s 5 Spot, Basement East. The new Eastside Bowl looks cool. I try to get to a couple Sounds games each summer.

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