Austin duo the Wind and the Wave charmed critics and fans alike with their 2014 debut “From the Wreckage.” Vocalist Patty Lynn Drew and producer-guitarist Dwight A. Baker are best friends who just enjoy making really, really good music, and it’s utterly refreshing.
For their second album, Baker handed over the production reigns to Butch Walker, a new experience for both he and Drew, who had never recorded with someone else before. The result being “Happiness is Not a Place,” their sophomore LP under a new label (they hopped from RCA to Island last year) and a poppy first single, “Grand Canyon,” a rapturous toe-tapping departure from their indie folk roots. Baker calls in from a break from the studio to discuss the new single, working with Walker and his personal "Grand Canyon."
Tell me about the first single, “Grand Canyon.” What’s the moral of the story?
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That one in particular is about [Patty] on a personal level, and her brother being in a horrible car accident, and a coma on the eve of our first record coming out. I feel on a deeper way, it’s about not taking for granted the moments that you’re given. Go see the amazing things, go do the amazing things.
Is that a self-serving mantra, too?
That’s mainly where the song comes from. Patty is a 28-year-old hermit who has a soul of a 60-year-old, and I’ve had the soul of a 60-year-old since I was six. We just want to eat macaroni and cheese and chill, but you’ve got to force yourself to go out. See the sights.
What’s on your bucket list? What’s your personal “Grand Canyon”?
Well I’m fascinated by history, and I’d love to see some of the things that are impossible now. Things in Iraq and Egypt, where I don’t think things would go very well for me and my giant Nordic ass. I love cities like London and Madrid and Paris and Vancouver, where it’s more about finding the footsteps of how a country was founded. I’d like to walk those steps myself.
You said earlier that Patty wrote 95 percent of the song lyrics on the first album, but how does that work with you guys when putting together a song? Where do you find synergy? Did she end up writing about that much on this album as well?
It may be even more on this one. I think “Let’s Forget That I Was Ever Even Here” may have come from something I mumbled and she worked it into one of her personal stories. She’ll do that sometimes. There was a song [on the first album] called “Every Other Sunday Morning,” and she swears I mumbled the lyrics, “I’m running out of that old sweet forgiveness for you,” when I was doing chords.
[During that stage of songwriting] I don’t want to sing melodies that are like “lalalalala”; I want to sing something that sounds like words. And she’ll hear song lyrics within those words. It’s hard to know what she pulled from those sessions and what she didn’t, but when it comes to those deepest, darkest secrets and desires, she’s fearless. And if you’re in her life, you better believe someday you’ll end up in a song.
What was it like working with Butch Walker?
Butch is rad. He’s similar to me. We chose him because I went in after making two records back-to-back, and I was burned out. It was time to make a new album for a new label, and I had zero desire to go into the studio, which is a bad place to start a record. I tried and failed miserably. It’s easy to make a record when you think no one’s going to hear it, and that was the first album. We weren’t even planning on being a band. But when you’re writing and you have fans who all of sudden expect you to deliver something, you don’t know what the lines are — can I go off and deliver something else? Or do I need to deliver what they expect?
Butch turned out to be a good choice because he had just done [his own] album with Ryan Adams, and it was the first he [didn’t produce himself] in 20 years. Butch was someone who knew what it was like being “the guy,” but then have to deal with someone new. He knew when to be brutal and when to be understanding.
What was different about the process?
As far as Patty’s concerned, she hadn’t had another person in the room while she was singing before. It was really strange for her, but Butch wanted that record to be the first time we played the songs and some of them live takes. On “Grand Canyon,” you can hear those live drums and live vocals. You can hear the urgency in it. It made us terrified the whole time.