Chattanooga band Strung Like a Horse first developed a rabid local following with high-octane progressive bluegrass delivered with flourishes of DIY punk and melodic folk. After years spent touring and honing their sound, the band makes their debut with Whoa!, a 12-song collection of unclassifiable tunes that were tailor-made for sweaty sets in jam-packed rooms (which cannot, at the time of the album’s release, actually happen). Helmed by acclaimed producer Matt Ross-Spang (Margo Price, John Prine), Whoa! captures the band's infectious live energy, stellar musicianship, and eclectic blend of musical influences. Below, frontman Clay Maselle takes Apple Music behind the scenes of the album's 12 tracks.
F**k What They Think "The idea of the song is about becoming comfortable in your skin, learning to love yourself so that you can create meaningful connection with other people. And a part of that is saying, ‘Fuck what other people think. I'm going to be me.’ You know? So it's about becoming comfortable in your skin and being yourself, in order to make that connection that is really meaningful and not shallow."
Till the Wheels Fall Off "My favourite artist of all time is John Hartford. And at one point, he said, 'Your worry is rotten, your head is on fire, and you'd better untangle your mind.' And so I think this one was more of a carefree feeling, a carefree vibe, and it's about dropping away all the worry that you have and just kind of living life in the moment. I just want to embody John Hartford in everything we do."
Gold in Their Souls "I grew up in Mississippi. Ever since I moved away, I had this realization that I love the culture and the people there. Being the home of blues, it's really just the core of American music. And I feel like Mississippi blues music just changed the world. I think it leaked out into, basically, every modern genre, over time. I think that Mississippi is just a wonderful place and it's full of wonderful people. And I feel like they've got 'gold in their souls.'"
Crazy Like Me "I was writing a song, secretly, about my buddy, who I've written songs with before, and his relationship at the time. He was in a band with me. I was writing it about how hard it is to maintain a relationship at home while you're out touring on the road all the time, especially in a relationship that's already kind of on shaky ground. She wanted him to be somebody different and wanted him to be home more and wanted him to be able to be available more. And he was not going to change. I decided to ask my friend for help writing the song. So he unknowingly helped me finish the song about himself."
Pelahatchie Nights "As far as the sound of it, that had a lot to do with the producer, Matt Ross-Spang. We made this makeshift drum kit out of a road case that I'd built and a bunch of weird, shaky things that we were banging on. So it just has this really cool swampy feel to it. And it's all acoustic instruments, so definitely more string-related. But it's actually the first song that I ever wrote. And this is the first time that I ever recorded it."
Lookin’ for Love "I set out to write a bluegrass song on this one. When we first started, we were basically just a punkish bluegrass band—punkish enough to where bluegrassers would say we're not bluegrass, but bluegrass enough to where punk people would say we're definitely bluegrass. This is another John Hartford thing, but I was thinking about 'Gentle on My Mind.' And it's that line, 'It's knowing that your door is always open and your path is free to walk/That makes me tend to leave my sleeping bag rolled up and stashed behind your couch.' And I just wrote a song, basically, about that line in his song."
Glowin’ "This song is literally about the glow that my wife had when she was pregnant with our daughter Birdie. And I was on the road somewhere and I came home and she was over at the neighbours’ house, just sitting on the back porch with them, which is something we always did. And I walked back there and sat down with them. And I sat down and cracked open a beer and I looked over at her and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, you're pregnant.' And she was like, 'No, I'm not. No, I'm not.' And sure as shit, she was pregnant."
I Was Born Here "When my mom heard this song for the first time, she was like, 'You better tell everybody that I did not do that. I was not cooking meth in the back room.' So now, even when we play it live, I'll let everybody know this is not a true story. I read a book about snake-handling churches called Salvation on Sand Mountain and I was just thinking about how poverty and neglect together has to be the hardest circumstance to thrive or even survive. And something made me think of a kid just growing up on a mountain, a rural mountain, with shitty parents and no chance of getting out...but then always having faith that he's going to be able to make it out and not be like the rest of his family and not be like all the friends and all the people that he's around. 'I was born here. It's not my fault, I was born here.'"
Cold & Lonesome (feat. Nicki Bluhm) "When I went in the studio, I had that 6/8 time and it was more of a sad sort of song, a bluesy kind of thing. And then Matt, our producer, he had the idea of putting it in 4/4 and making it a little bit more upbeat. And as soon as we tried it, we all just fell in love with the grooviness of it. It's like a funky acoustic song, which you just don't hear. It's like funk music on the upright bass."
Smile While We Go "We played this one for probably a year and a half live. And then when we got in the studio, we were just tired of playing it the way we had been playing it because we played it so much. We kind of turned over a new leaf on the song, and that's what the song's about. So I think it fit pretty well."
Without You "'Without You' is a song that's about my grandmother losing my grandfather. I was doing a lot of thinking about how much it would hurt to lose your partner that you've been with for 65 years. It's like the perfect mix of the worst heartbreak that you could possibly fathom. I'm sure I captured some of the heartbreak, but I still can't imagine how she feels and how lonely it is."
Dreamin’ "So this one is a true story. It's about meeting my wife. She invited me to go to a show, because I think somebody bailed on her and she had tickets to go see Iron & Wine at [Chattanooga venue] the Tivoli. It was a way more mellow show than we expected. And we were both excited and happy to be with each other, because it was a new relationship. And I just feel like we probably annoyed some people in the crowd because we were a little too loud or laughing. It's kind of walking the line of 'Is this a dream?' Because it feels so good. If it is, don't wake me up, because I want to maintain this feeling for a long time. And then it's also kind of like, 'Pinch me so that I know it's real.' I don't know which one would be better."
Fuck What They Think
Till the Wheels Fall Off
Gold in Their Souls
Crazy Like Me
Lookin' for Love
I Was Born Here
Cold & Lonesome (feat. Nicki Bluhm)
Smile While We Go
Forget What They Think
13 SONGS, 48 MINUTES
OCTOBER 30, 2020
℗ 2020 TRANSOCEANIC RECORDS AND STRUNG LIKE A HORSE