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A short conversation with Douglas Wayne

26 January 2022

Can we start with a bit of background, tell me a little bit about your route that brought you to where you find yourself today, musically speaking, and specifically what brought you to Nashville?

DW: I played a show at dearly departed Iota in Arlington, VA way back in 2004 (!). It went well and I even got a favorable mention in the Washington Post. Hanging out at the bar after the show I got quite a few positive comments on my songwriting. And I thought: go to Nashville. I’d been toying with that idea — trying to be a FT songwriter — for a few years and within a couple of months pulled up stakes and went. Once there, I did the writer’s rounds and co-writes and networking and managed to have songs pitched to major label artists. Ultimately, becoming a full-time Music Row writer proved elusive and I gave up actively writing for pitches going on three years ago. But, by that time, I had turned into a FT songwriter anyway. And, importantly, found my own voice in the songs I was writing. In late 2020 I had a real creative streak starting and churned out several of the songs that are on Coyote. I was just writing to be writing but I was really liking the songs and started recording. The recording sessions went well. Putting out an LP became fait accompli.

There are plenty of hints in your music of the influences of some classic alt-country and Americana icons, Steve Earle, Tom Petty, etc, who else has been influential in forging your sound?

DW: Well, first of all, I love Earle and Petty and twang. I’m glad that comes through.

We’ve got B3 and pedal steel on several tracks — laying down tracks that take me where I want to go. Thing is, I also like pop; a good lyrical hook and, honestly, favor that in my writing than heavy storytelling. As you listen, I hope you pick up on the guitar hooks as well. My favorite songs all have cool guitar hooks. That harkens back to The Stones and even classic country — take the opening lick of “Mama Tried”. Generally, my greatest influence is songcraft, both pop, and country. I can’t discount my experience in Nashville. Whether you love contemporary country or not, the songcraft is strong and you have to apply yourself to the craft to compete.

The single _HEY YA’LL is both about the current state of the world around us and wonderfully vague, are politics and social issues something that you prefer not to put into your songs?_

DW: You’re picking up on an important part of the process of writing HY. Taking on social and political issues is something I want to do but it is an enterprise fraught with potential pitfalls. That is, in my opinion, it’s hard to do socially conscious lyrics without being too preachy. Trying to impart a message a guy can get too ‘on the nose’ real quick to use a scriptwriting term. I think HY asks a hard question in a homespun, colloquial way: “whatcha done done?” People stormed the Capitol on Jan 6, 2020. That’s an outrage. There are vested interests bent on publicizing doubt about climate science which is addressed in the line: you better watch out for what you don’t believe. To me, HY treads challenging ground but does so in a manner that hopefully promotes renewed thinking and a coming to terms: maybe we can sit and swing awhile. I didn’t want to preach at people.

As an advocate against poaching and for animal rights, you obviously care about the things we are doing to the world?

DW: Yes. Totally. I’m appalled by poaching and big game hunting. That there’s money to be made poaching speaks ill of humanity.

We are poor custodians of the planet. I take the term Mother Earth literally. I mean, this planet is our collective origin story and we’ve ruined it. Maybe not completely but close enough. How many oil spills? How long must we be beholden to carbon-based fuels? At the end of the HY video, I put up the hashtag #climatechangeisreal. Because it is.

So we go about our daily routines without challenging our thinking or changing. Every car wash, treating roads for snow and ice…all those detergents and chemicals flow into the creeks and streams of our neighborhoods. They flow into the rivers and oceans. At some point, we must reckon with all this.

How did you manage to get through the various lockdowns and restrictions and stay positive and productive?

DW: I stayed busy songwriting and spent a lot of quality time with my guitars. I bought a new one early on in the pandemic. That ended up being a good call—I didn’t want to put it down. Not real sure about cause and effect but I had a solid creative streak in 2020; got on a real roll. Beyond that, writing keeps me positive. Getting immersed in a riff, an idea, is how I like to spend my time. And I get a real ‘writer’s high’ when something comes together that I’m pleased with and want to record.

Now that your debut, full-length album Coyote is finally seeing the light of day, what does that hold in store for you? A return to live shows and tours presumably?

DW: We’re working on an LP Release show right now. I’m hoping to add a few more shows through the summer in and around Nashville. No plans for any extensive touring at this point. Honestly, I’m very focused on the songs and seeing what we can do on the sync side in the short term.

The album features a fantastic cast of musicians and sees you reunited with Daniel Dennis, how was it working with them and what problems did you face recording an album in the Covid era?

DW: Oh yeah. Mike Daly and Lee J. Turner are such good, talented guys. I’d not met them prior to the sessions and both were great to work with. Tim Lorsch (fiddle) I’ve known and worked with for years so he knows where to go no matter what we hand him. The same is true for Madison Hardy Dennis (Daniel’s wife and one of my favorite voices and maker of killer mac & cheese).

We definitely had to do things differently due to Covid. And the project certainly took a lot longer to complete as a result of the pandemic. Several of the sessions were remote via Zoom. When I was at the studio early on, Daniel and I were masked up and staying six feet apart. The session I’d booked to record Bourbon & Water had to be done remotely due to a Covid exposure scare and as a result, Daniel is doing all the guitar tracks. Fortunately, we were able to have the brass section in and those guys hammered the horn part in short order. Overall, recording was a great experience. There was real camaraderie among the musicians. We’re all in this together.

Finally, where next for Douglas Wayne, musically and personally and what do you hope that the future holds for you?

DW: A big part of this project is coming to terms with reality: that I didn’t become a hit Music Row songwriter. There’s a lot of talk these days about the importance of “the journey” but in my case that’s true: Coyote doesn’t happen without the move to Nashville and the past couple of decades of effort as a writer. I think the time is right for a song like HEY YA’LL so I’m excited to see what happens with it. I’m pleased with the writing on Coyote and I can hardly wait for folks to hear the record: Maybe it opens some doors. That’d be cool. Otherwise, I’m hoping to find a seat at the Americana table, so to speak; to be able to keep writing my songs and sharing my perspective.

Thank you for a great conversation and good luck with everything.


Douglas Wayne · HEY YA'LL