The Wilder Blue with special guest Jason Scott & The High Heat
The Wilder Blue
Sharp storytelling. Gripping and gorgeous five-part harmonies. Arrangements that can swing between fun, engaging, and lively one moment and stirring, booming, and chill-inducing the next. These are the essential elements that make up the sound of The Wilder Blue, the Texas five-piece who put their own spin on rock-influenced country with their eponymous sophomore album. Recorded at Echo Lab Studios in Denton, Texas, the band self-produced The Wilder Blue with experienced engineer Matt Pence (Paul Cauthen, Shakey Graves). A true collaborative effort, The Wilder Blue is a genuine democracy where ideas, constructive criticism, and value is demanded by all parties. Built around the keen storytelling voice of primary frontman Zane Williams, Paul Eason’s salient lead guitar, the imaginative tandem of drummer Lyndon Hughes and bassist Sean Rodriguez, and the striking, compelling mind of multi instrumentalist Andy Rogers, The Wilder Blue are only beginning to scratch the surface of their potential.
Williams and Eason began toying with the idea of a new band in 2019 by seeking out a nimble set of collaborators. Knowing that they wanted to emphasize a rich vocal blend that could be replicated live, they soon enlisted Hughes and Rogers. When Rodriguez joined, it solidified the outfit as a cohesive unit. “Having studio time paid for by our fan subscribers gave us the chance to relax and spread out a little,” explains Williams about the recording process for The Wilder Blue. Recording over the course of a few three-day sessions every few months allowed the band to experiment in the studio while avoiding harsh deadlines or the demand of cramming an album’s worth of material into a week’s worth of time. Often recorded to tape, vibrant tapestry of sonic swirls emerged. “What’s fun about tape is that it forces you to commit to a take,” adds Williams. “You don’t just record five million parts and go comb through them later.” “The five of us were able to sit together this time around,” adds Rogers. “Since I was playing bass and other things last time around, I was having to think about a million different things. But for this, we all kind of felt like we were in our zone.” In addition to implementing a lone studio for a cohesive sound, the months between studio sessions was an added luxury. This allowed songs and ideas to marinate and work themselves out over the course of band practices, sound checks, and shows.
Standout single, “Feelin’ the Miles” is a prime example of a song shifting from one idea to another. What started out as a James Taylor-esque acoustic guitar stroll slowly but surely began to rise from the ashes of its former self. “My original concept for that song was much more in the vein of ‘Okie Soldier’ or ’Birds of Youth,’” says Williams. “We all liked the song, but we didn’t need another like it so basically one day, I just came up with a totally different groove for it.” What emerged was a loping bassline and savvy banjo that evoke the pastel glow of the 1980s where Miami Vice and Smoky & The Bandit intertwine for a heart worn highway midnight drive where all the miles, exit signs, and gas station coffee meld into one daunting long haul down a phantom road. “‘Feelin’ the Miles’ was one of the first songs that felt like we were all able to filter everyone’s collectiveness into the final version,” says Rogers. Much like in “Feelin’ the Miles”, a looming arc of redemption, growth, and inner harmony can be glimpsed throughout the album with the likes of the poignant “Wave Dancer,” the contemplative “The Kingsnake & The Rattler,” and the compelling “Shadows & Moonlight.” “Part of life is figuring out and finding your way,” says Eason, who wrote and sings lead vocals on “Build Your Wings,” a cornerstone song of the album. “A few years ago, I got divorced and I had been speaking with my uncle about it. He actually said that line to me–’Sometimes you build your wings on the way down’--and I thought it was just perfect.” Even while “Build Your Wings” finds Eason and company seeking out inner peace on the contemplative anthem, a kaleidoscope and cascade of spirited sonic punches and vibrant and vivid harmonies takes charge on this freefalling standout. “Life has its ups and downs,” adds Williams. “I don’t want to write a song just about the ups. It’s hard for me to write just about the ups. And if you just write about the downs without some sort of redemption, it’s easy to get pretty dark and depressing.”
Throughout, Williams and company are able to add a sense of courage even when surrounded by turmoil and strife. Songs like the rollicking “The Conversation” find the Wilder Blue leaning in on the soaring country twang of the Eagles and incorporating a vocal run interlude that calls back to ‘60s The Beatles and timeless bluegrass. On songs like “Wave Dancer” and album opener “Picket Fences”, all five musicians breathe life into tried and true five-part harmonies that are as mesmerizing as they come. In addition to the powerful harmonies and sprawling sonic palette, Williams’ knack for five-minute vignettes is yet another pillar on which Wilder Blue can count. The Wilder Blue as an album wouldn’t be complete without taking advantage of the strong and able storytelling arcs of Williams. “With all the tools that we have in our toolkit, I think there’s still a lot of ground to be covered,” says Williams. “We haven’t even delved into all of our tools just yet, but we definitely got to go further down the road with digging into the box for this record.”
Jason Scott & The High Heat
Caught halfway between amplified Americana and heartland roots-rock, Jason Scott & the High Heat create a sweeping, dynamic sound that reaches far beyond the traditions of their Oklahoma City home. Too loud for folk music and too textured for Red Dirt, this is the sound of a genuine band rooted in groove, grit, and its own singular spirit, led by a songwriter whose unique past — a Pentecostal upbringing, years logged as a preacher-in-training, and an eventual crisis of faith — has instilled both a storyteller's delivery and an unique perspective about life, love, and listlessness in the modern world.
While his bandmates — Gabriel Mor (guitar), Taylor Johnson (guitar, keys), Alberto Roubert (drums), Ryan Magnani (bass), and Garrison Brown (keys) — grew up listening to popular music, Jason's childhood was shaped by the sounds of Sunday morning church service. He sang in the choir and eventually learned to lead his own congregations, often turning to music to get his messages across. Whenever the opportunity arose, he'd sneak off to his uncle's 1979 Ford Bronco, where he'd listen to the Conway Twitty tapes that offered a glimpse into a world so dissimilar from his own. Although Jason would eventually leave the church altogether for a career as a songwriter, his time as a pastor — forging connections with others, using songs and stories to strengthen the bond — helped prepare him for life on a different kind of life onstage.
Their first full length album Castle Rock, independently released in Feb 2022, spent two months in the top 50 reaching all the way to #36 with the help of Angela Backstrom and Rek Room Media. With articles in the following publications NPR, The Boot, Holler, BBC Radio Scotland, BMI, Bluegrass Situation, Out Of The Woods, Wide Open Country, Sound and Soul, Farce The Music, Ditty TV, Outsider, Oklahoma Free Press, Americana Music Show, Gimme Country, KOSU.
Scott earned critical acclaim as a songwriter in 2018 when the second track of his DIY EP LIVING ROOMS (2017) -- a breezy tribute to his wife called "She Good To Me" -- landed on NPR World Cafe’s Heavy Rotation: 10 Songs Public Radio Can’t Stop Playing alongside songs by MGMT, Moby, and Jade Bird.
JS+THH recently played Stagecoach, Born and Raised Fest, Mile 0 Fest, Norman Music Festival, Woody Fest, and supported a variety of bands at venues in TX, KS, CO, OK including Band of Heathens, Eli Young Band, Gin Blossoms, Josh Abbott,
Vandoliers, The Damn Quails, MIPSO, Parker Millsap, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Kaitlin Butts
A multi-instrumentalist, producer, engineer, and session musician, Scott launched his solo career with 2017's Living Rooms. The 5-song debut EP introduced him as a folksinger with a knack for "fun little earworms" (NPR), and he spent the following year balancing his time between the road and the studio, where he produced albums for Americana artists like Carter Sampson, Ken Pomeroy, and Nellie Clay. Things began to expand as he assembled the High Heat, a band of multi-faceted musicians and roots-rock Renaissance men who, like their frontman, juggled multiple artistic pursuits. Together, Jason Scott & the High Heat have since become a self-contained creative collective whose talents include songwriting, music production, photography, video direction, and more.
Castle Rock marks Jason Scott & the High Heat's full-length debut. Like the band itself, the album represents a melting pot of influences: the heartland sweep of Tom Petty, the story-driven Americana of Jason Isbell, the nostalgic hooks of '90s country music, the sharp songwriting of James Taylor, and John Prine's lyrical mix of cutting insight and laugh-out-loud humor. Co-produced by Jason Scott and Taylor Johnson, the album mixes classic song structures with left-field arrangements, creating a sound that soothes one minute and subverts the next. "Quttin Time" makes room for a dual-guitar attack, a barroom piano solo, and a storyline about a hardworking man's fruitless attempts to escape his limited horizons, while "Cleveland County Line" flips the script, delivering a narrative about a prodigal son bound for home after a dark spiral of Kerouac-worthy travels. "The Stone" highlights the swaggering grooves that run beneath much of the High Heat's work, while lyrically the song tackles a soldier’s PTSD after returning from war. Lead single "Suffering Eyes" — with its twinkling keyboards, chugging power chords, and cascading guitar arpeggios — is heartland rock at its modern-day peak, as panoramic as the Oklahoma plains themselves.
"We love our community in Oklahoma City, but we didn't want to make a Red Dirt record," Jason explains. "Instead, we included grooves and textures that move beyond that. We added little vignettes to songs like 'Sleeping Easy,' which begins with old reel-to-reel footage of a tent revival. We took country songs like 'A Little Good Music' and included guitar solos that Nels Cline might have played on a Wilco album. We let ourselves get heavy on 'In the Offing,' which sounds far louder than anything I was originally making. For us, it was all about creating a mood, and serving the song with interesting sounds."
From gigs at Mile 0 Fest and the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival to recognition from the Jimmy LaFave Songwriting Contest, Jason Scott is beginning to leave his mark on the roots-music world. Castle Rock — named after the town in which the frontman temporarily resided after leaving the church — reaches past those accolades, celebrating the seismic shifts that arrive with new experiences, new bandmates, and new songs. It's an album about change, delivered by a band of musicians who are willing to chase down their own horizons