The Powell Brothers, a Houston-based country/Americana band, had quite the year in 2017. They survived making and losing an EP, re-recording it as a full album, and a tour schedule that included stops at several major sporting events and the Texas State Fair. The band is kicking off another busy year with a stop at Hurricane Harry’s on January 26, so you’ve got a chance to see the results of all their hard work!
We caught up with The Powell Brothers lead singer Taylor Powell on the road to a show in Austin in this exclusive interview.
MW: So y’all are coming off of a really busy year. Tell me about some of the highlights of 2017 for you?
TP: I have to say it’s been a blur. It was an incredible year! We were working on our new record, so that was done later in the year, in November I believe. We were in Nashville recording that, so that was very, very exciting. And you know we got to do some big firsts that we’ve been looking forward to for years. We go to do the Texas State Fair. Some big, massive shows with Pat Green, and that was amazing. We were able to basically be a part of a lot of different sporting events, a lot of baseball games. We got to sing the national anthem for the Astros, who are our home team, the Rangers, the San Diego Padres out in California. We are so thankful we got invited out to Las Vegas to be a part of the Las Vegas Bowl. Not to mention several other bowls, including the Alamo Bowl. There were so many amazing highlights that it’s hard to pinpoint one. My personal favorite is that we got to start really playing consistently at Gruene Hall. Gruene Hall has taken us in and been so kind to us. So we’re probably there once every other month. We were there at the end of the year with Roger Kreager which was fantastic.
MW: I love that venue!
TP: Yeah! They’re wonderful people.
MW: How long have y’all been playing together and working for this? I’d love to hear about how you got started.
TP: The Powell Brothers are about three or four years old. We started the band in 2013 or 2014. Before that, Blake and I were both musicians in several other bands. We’d been touring around Texas and America for the last probably 10 or 12 years. We were always songwriters, so we were playing these other bands. And we kind of decided, after doing it for so long, we think we can give this a run ourselves. So we recorded an acoustic EP, just kind of seeing where it would lead, and we’ve been going ever since. I believe that was 2014, and we just started and never stopped. We pushed forward and opportunity has opened itself up to us. We’re just so thankful that we’ve been busy!
MW: So you were both separately doing music? What was the catalyst for you guys coming back together? Also, I’m assuming you are actually brothers?
TP: Yes, we are brothers. We played in several bands, kind of criss-crossed throughout the years with different opportunities. Blake had an opportunity to go up to Nashville and get some work up there, and I was getting some different offers from around Texas. So we decided if we were going to officially part ways and move to different states, let’s at least get together, and record and see what happens. So after we recorded that, he turned down his offers, I turned down mine, and we’ve just been going ever since
MW: Awesome! So what does 2018 look like for you guys? Got a similarly busy tour schedule lined up?
TP: The big thing on our personal radars is finishing the record. We’re gonna be going back to Tennessee here in a couple weeks to just finish off some loose ends. The record we hope will be out in the summer. So that’s where we’re focused! But yeah we’re going from here probably until June. It’s pretty outrageous. The schedule is amazing. We’ll be continuing to play shows at Gruene. We’ve built up some amazing relationships with different sports teams and some amazing folks over at ESPN events, who are the people who brought us up to the Vegas Bowl. Just so many amazing opportunities are on the horizon, so we’re just trying to capitalize on that and do what we can to chase those opportunities. We’re just trying to keep up with everything that’s happening and the best thing is the relationships with these people. They’re really, really wonderful people!
MW: Those relationships are a pretty cool element of the music industry that you don’t hear about all that often from the outside, I feel like!
TP: It’s incredible. We’ve known about Gruene forever, and we’ve been trying to play there since we were in high school. And finally, I think it was two years ago, we were able to get our foot in the door and meet the people. And we just got along so well, and we’ve been playing there ever since! And we look forward to seeing those people every time. They’re so wonderful! And the same thing can be said for ESPN. You know, ESPN is such a big organization, and it seems so far away from a couple of kids from Houston. But the more people we meet, the more we realize it’s not just an organization. It’s made up of wonderful people! So we are just getting to befriend some amazing people, in a lot of places that we never thought we were going to be able to. It’s just very cool.
MW: I can tell how excited y’all are for this year. That’s so fun!
TP: And it’s just beginning
MW: Tell me some more about this album that’s coming out! What can we be expecting from you guys?
TP: Well I’ll kind of tell you the story of how the record came about. Obviously, we’re from Houston. We were going to record a five song EP on our own. We kind of decided that we’d played on enough records, we’ve worked with studios, we kind of knew what we’re doing. So we thought we’d record our own record our own way, ourselves. So we were recording it ourselves in our house, and it was coming out great. We were very excited. Then, I think that was September, and Hurricane Harvey came, and we had a little bit of trouble. It kind of wiped out our studio, and we lost our record. We were kind of starting over, and we had some friends who were working very successfully in Nashville, playing for some massive bands. We’ve always wanted to work together, and just on a whim we kind of reached out. We had a four day block of dates that we could go anywhere and record. And all those people we wanted to work with, who were so busy, it turned out they all had those four days. And that does not happen. So we were like “well, I guess we’re gonna go up to them!” So we changed our EP to a full length record, and we went out to Nashville and worked with these people. It was incredible, and we could not be more excited about what’s coming.
MW: That’s crazy!
TP: Yeah. It was one of those things that was a tough situation going into it, but it almost seems like it was totally on purpose. Because I think this record is turning into something I don’t think we totally could have planned.
MW: So did you already have the songs ready? Or how did that work with changing your plans?
TP: We had had maybe four of the songs ready to go, and you know they were road tested songs. We’ve been playing them, and we know that they worked. And we knew it was enough to build a record off of, and so we just kept writing. And we probably went into that session with 20 songs ready to go and demoed. Certain songs that we’d planned on being on the record got cut, and certain songs that I thought were just extra to have as backups ended up getting put on the record. We all just looked at it, and, once everyone on the team was in the same room, we were able to look at it objectively. And I realized, “Okay, there are some songs on here that I wrote, and I liked,” but they were able to take it to a different place that made it even better. So I think one of the songs we wrote when we first started the band, and we’ve always had it. We played it through the years and never recorded it. We showed it to our friends, and they were just like “yeah this has to go on the record, we can make it amazing.” You know there were songs that were months old, songs that are weeks old, songs that are years old and songs that are currently being tweaked right now.
MW: So it sounds like it really comes back to that collaboration and those relationships for this album too.
TP: That is what it’s all about! It is amazing to see these songs that we’ve known and played and loved, and watch them get flipped on their heads. And seeing that they’re even more than we thought they were. And there are certain songs that I was really pumped about that we realized aren’t bad, but there are other songs that are even more and better. So it’s interesting to see how the record is playing out. Because I like to plan things meticulously when it comes to songs, but then, when we were all in the same room, a lot of things got changed. And it is turning out even better than we could have hoped for at the beginning. It is very, very exciting!
MW: Are there any themes to the album? Anything to be listening for? What do you hope that people take away from your album?
TP: Well, we just put out a single that’s going on the radio right now. It’s going to be on the new record, and the song’s called “Coming Home.” A lot of the theme of the record is travel, coming home, having to leave friends behind and looking forward to the day you get to come back. A lot of it is that. There are plenty of love songs, relationship songs, but a lot of it is travel. So obviously, that is our life. That is something we are very familiar with, so that is one of the all encompassing themes of the record.
MW: How would you say that’s shaped you in your music and your journey? I’d love to hear more about how travel is really a defining thing for your music.
TP: A lot of it is lyrically. I went to school for songwriting, and I was told that there’s always room for one more love song. For one more good love song. And I totally agree with that, but, over the last three or four years, we’ve spent our entire lives on the road. And we’ve had less time for other such things. So I believe that you write what you know, and that is what we know, being on the road. Getting to meet amazing people and never getting to know them as well as you wish you could. But learning to embrace that and enjoy it. It is wonderful. I mean it’s an interesting way of living once you can appreciate what it is. There are certain things you just have to give up because you can’t do it. But we are also afforded some amazing opportunities and experiences, and we’re living our dream you know? So learning to appreciate that and accept that it is a beautiful road and way of life. And a lot of that, coming to understand sleeping alone at night, being out on the road away from all your friends and family. Once you can learn to appreciate that it is awesome. A lot of that record is my personal coming to understand that.
MW: A lot of pros and cons there.
TP: As with any way of life!
MW: Have your travels taken you through college station before?
TP: Yes! We played Hurricane Harry’s with Kyle Park in October of last year. We love College Station. We’ve played there with tons of other bands, and we are so excited to be coming back next week! It’s one of my favorite towns in the state!
MW: I mean I’m definitely a little biased, but I’d have to agree with you.
TP: We love it! Every time we go to Hurricane Harry’s they treat us so well, and people are wonderful. I just can’t wait.
MW: Well we can’t wait to have you back in town!