Ward Hayden and the Outliers (WHATO) announce they will release Free Country on August 20th. The 10-song album from the band formerly named Girls Guns and Glory, produced by Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, offers up the gifts of a year of reflection and an examination of the socio-cultural divide in this country, with the desire to understand it, survive it, then move past it.
Written in the middle of a global pandemic after years of watching our country becoming ever more divided, the 10 songs on Free Country get to the heart of it all by exploring on an individual level, the lives we choose to live, the hard truths of where we are at as a society, the inevitability of change, living with the results of the choices we make, and the benefits of slowing down and examining our world.
Ward Hayden, guitar and vocals; Josh Kiggans, drums; Greg Hall, bass; and Cody Nilsen, lead guitar and pedal steel, returned home from the road in mid-March with a few new songs and April studio dates on the book. As the weeks went by, they started writing and rehearsing outside on Ward’s porch on Boston’s South Shore. Ward began to write feverishly and news songs were introduced at each weekly rehearsal. In the past the majority of the songwriting and flushing out of a new album was done on the road. This album is the first time the band wrote without immediate feedback from a live audience.
As fall arrived, the band relocated their rehearsals to a massive warehouse space in Fall River, MA. The cavernous sound of the warehouse quickly began to inform their approach to writing. There was so much natural reverb in the room that they were forced to focus on only the most important parts of each song. Continuously trimming fat and carving out parts to highlight the lyrics.
They sent iphone recordings to their producer, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, and as they headed into the studio, picked 15 of the best songs to choose from. They went into Boston’s Mad Oak Studios with Ambel and engineer Benny Grotto. The bulk of the recording was completed in 5 days and the additional background vocals, additional guitars, and percussion needed were added by bouncing tracks back and forth between the home studios of Ambel in Brooklyn, Cody in Boston, and Josh in Connecticut. Ambel completed the final mixes in his studio Cowboy Technical Services in Brooklyn. Using the program Audio Movers the band was able to listen in real time to the mix sessions from our homes giving questions, tweaks, and approvals via group text.
Free Country is an excellent example of the resilience, innovation and creativity that has come out of this pandemic but the depth of the individual and socio-cultural ruminations on this album will ensure that it will remain relevant once we as a country have moved on.
Today Glide is excited to premiere the music video for “When The Hammer Falls.” Hitting with a vicious wave of feedback, the song drops into a surf rock boogie woogie groove with haunting vocals and a dark swagger. The band lays down a heavy beat and swings with rock and roll bravado as they convey a sense of raw aggression. For fans of alt-country, this is definitely a tried and true romp, but the band also takes risks and has a little more fun with a truly swinging sound.
The band describes the video:
“The video was directed by Leah Hughes, when she heard the song she let us know she had a vision for creating a video to accompany it and we gave her free reign to make her vision happen. She’s a Massachusetts based artist and we’re all fans of her work, so it was cool to have her be a part of turning this song into something beyond words and music.
And beyond the idea of the hammer literally coming down and breaking things up, she did a really nice job of creating visuals that I think the viewer can really get lost in and think about. The coyote and the rabbit running scared in the video, mixed in with shots of vacant surroundings and honest glimpses of the band. She made something that connects the viewer to the idea of things getting away from you and accepting inevitabilities, and creating a connection to the people sharing those ideas. I hope people enjoy watching the video over and over again and getting more from it each time. This song, like a lot of the songs on this album, I think will grow on people the more they dig into it. Kind of like Hank Williams song “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive”, not that I’m comparing myself to Hank Williams. But, that song is really catchy and clever on the surface, but once you spend more time with it, it’s also one of the most brutal truths. That’s one of my favorite aspects of music, and country music in particular, it can be depthful and heavy subjects, but also really enjoyable and uplifting to listen to.”
They add their own take on the inspiration behind the song:
“When we were recording this song I kept saying to Roscoe, I want to create the sound of twisting metal. Unrest, distortion and aggression are what I wanted to set the stage for the sentiment of this song.
Sticking with the overarching theme of this album, this song involved a lot of reflection and the concept of how things change. There was a time when my world was small and it was all I ever knew, but that evolved and developed. Things always fall, they always come down. And I think if you take the time and take on the task of reflecting on the past, including the things that are tough to look back on, then you can move forward. Sometimes the hardest things to deal with teach some of the most valuable lessons. There are inevitabilities in life, and on the surface that would seem easy to accept, but it isn’t.”
Photo credit: Elizabeth Ellenwood