EXCLUSIVE PHOTO SHOOT IN DUBLIN…
Texas band Wild Child spread their infectious and unique blend of Americana indie-pop across the international music scene, charting viral hits to the tune of more than 1.3 million monthly Spotify listeners and in excess of 100 million streams to date. Currently in the UK wowing sold out live gig audiences.
Promoting their fifth album “End Of The World”, out now via Reba’s Ranch Records (Wild Child’s new self-run label distributed by Secretly Distribution), the Austin band kicked off their first European dates for five years in Dublin on Wednesday this week (17th Jan 2024) with a cracking sold out show at The Grand Social.
Tonight (18th Jan) they are in Belfast before shows in Glasgow, Manchester and London, and then on to Berlin, Amsterdam and Groningen.
Their last trip across the pond half a decade ago was as an eight-piece band; this time they are stripped down to a three-piece, with John Calvin Abney having joined the band’s core writing duo Kelsey Wilson and Alexander Beggins to co-write the latest long player. John is the first songwriter to collaborate with the duo on an album.
“It’s been over five years since we’re travelled across the pond to play Wild Child shows. We first fell in love with all of the countries’ beautiful landscapes, the vivacious cities and vibrant people in 2015 and so much has changed for us since our last visit.
“We’ve only ever toured the UK and Europe as a full band outfit, so we’re eager to showcase the more raw and intimate show….playing songs from our new record, End Of The World, as well as many others from the vault of our entire catalogue”, say the band.
“End Of The World” is their first album since 2018’s “Expectations”, with Wild Child delving deeper into the contemplative edge which has long coloured their songs, while expanding intimate, folky songs into lush, full band arrangements, as heard on singles ‘”Cheap Champagne”, “End of the World”, “Wearing Blue”, “Photographs” and “Dear John”‘.
The dozen songs on the latest album were born out of a distance between the band’s core songwriters as they headed in different sonic directions. Kelsey Wilson joined the singer-songwriter super group, Glorietta, and debuted her genre-bending, Motown/Neo-Soul-influenced solo project, Sir Woman. While Alexander Beggins unveiled his musical alter-ego, CoCo Zandi.
By then, the two didn’t know if they would ever make another Wild Child record. However, once pandemic lockdowns closed stages and drained bank accounts, the two knew they had to act. Lockdown brought about virtual shows and songwriting sessions while adding new vitality to the group.
“It felt like our very first record, when the two of us wrote a bunch of songs while on tour for someone else. There wasn’t any aim to do anything with those songs at the beginning. For the first time since then, that’s how we started writing these songs. We didn’t know if we would make another record. It just came together,” Alexander explains.
The band formed in 2010 when the group’s core duo of Wilson and Beggins wrote and released their first album, “Pillow Talk” (2011). Since then they’ve released four additional albums, “The Runaround” (2013), “Fools” (2015), “Expectations” (2018) and 2023’s “End Of The World.”
Did the dynamic change much bringing in a third writer for the first time, for this album, after four records penned by just Kelsey and Alexander? Did you need time to adjust? Kelsey responds: “Wild Child has always been me and Alexander, and for this new one we brought in John as third writer. It opened up a whole other world of sounds we could make.”
Sat in their dressing room in Dublin before soundcheck for the first gig of the tour, John chips in: “It felt good and they let me in pretty quickly and with open arms. A comfortable and kind transition. It has to happen naturally or it may not happen at all.”
Kelsey: “For us having done four records just the two of us, that’s a lot; just two people and the sound is not gonna grow or change that much, but we took some time off, made our own records, met John, all came back together and it was a whole new bigger and better thing.”
How did you guys meet John: “I am a musician who works for different acts, but I met Kelsey via her roommate as her pen pal. I’d just moved to town and happened to be in the house when Kelsey and her roommate were recording a song.”
Nailing this band’s genre is about as easy as knitting fog or juggling soot! The press back in Austin, Texas named Wild Child as “Best indie band” and SXSW festival named them as “Best folk band”. So, what are you, Kelsey:
“We don’t know. The instrumentation has always been so random; like ukulele, violin, banjo, cello, trombone…., it’s just been so weird over the years that I don’t think anybody knows where we fit.”
With previous live line-ups assembling up to 10 people on stage on tours, but this time a trio, why such a stripped down unit, apart from touring costs?”
“We did it a few times in the States and realised it is special being able to play the songs as they were written, to take requests from the audience, and to talk about where the songs came from; to make it story telling night,” Kelsey reveals. “The last time we toured Europe it was eight people and very hard…”
Alexander adds: “For this stripped down set, the audience tells us what every night is gonna be like, because it is so intimate. We are always prepared for anything. We play what people want to hear from our albums, and we never know in advance what they want to hear from five albums.”
Wild Child’s songs are often used as part of the soundtrack to various TV shows and films, and that adds $$$ to their bank account, sometimes in an amusing way. “We have been very lucky….Like when a scene comes on and our song is on the radio in a car, and they turn it off! But we still get paid!” laughs Kelsey.
Live and on record, Kelsey’s voice is chameleon-like, as in she changes from sassy soulful diva to on-trend indie queen, and to more-like singer-songwriter folk style at the drop of hat.
This band and this singer are a real find if you have missed the first four albums, and starting off your prospective love affair with Kelsey and company via their latest glorious long player “End Of The Road”, or catching them on this current UK and European tour.
The album is a solid gold winner from the off; opening with the superb blurred genre of “Bottom Line”, and then track two delivering the stunningly fragile, strings-soaked “Cheap Champagne”, with a shivers-down-the-spine Kelsey vocal; so damn soulful amid ’60s diva vibes.
Title track veers into Sheryl Crow/Alanis Morissette territory. Quirky track “Photographs” precedes the funky jazz-tinged groove of “Ride With Me”. “Sleeping In” is a beautiful slice of Americana complete with brush strokes of swooning pedal steel guitar.
Kelsey’s voice has that old soul flavour and unashamedly retro, like say Amy Winehouse – such as penultimate cut here “Underwhelmed” – but Kelsey can flick a switch in an instant and sound as on-trend and modern-day radio friendly as you like. The album closes with the graceful lullaby-ish “Wearing Blue”.
Wild Child are very special. With less than three weeks into the new year, we can say they are already hot contenders for best band, best live act and best album in our annual end of year “Best Of” round-up.
A brave statement with the rest of the year to go, but for Austin’s pride with this new triple-threat of gifted songwriters creating magic, the future looks very rosy indeed. It is most certainly not the end of the road, no Sir…
Exclusive photos by Ian Shipley
Words: Steve Best [Interview by Ian Shipley].