Artist name: Them Coulee Boys
Hometown: Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Latest album: Namesake (available August 6, 2021 on Some Fun Records)
Personal nicknames (or rejected band names): For better or worse, we’ve always been Them Coulee Boys.
(All answers from Soren Staff)
What’s the toughest time you ever had writing a song?
For me, it’s never about how tough it is writing a song, but rather when to move on from one. I generally build songs from a line or two that I’m excited about, whatever makes my stomach burn and rush to write more. Sometimes they come in minutes, but sometimes those lines can ruminate in my head for weeks or months, caught in limbo. When I try to force them out, it often isn’t something I’m proud of. The hardest part of writing for me is realizing when to take a step back and let songs breathe. That line is still going to be there when I come back, and maybe this time there’s more to the story. “Given Up” worked that way, and space let me fill out the story in a way not possible if I forced that out.
Which artist has influenced you the most … and how?
I feel like this is an answer that changes, but one artist that has loomed large in his influence on our work is Bruce Springsteen. It might not be sonically obvious, but I think every small town kid has looked at him and seen some of their story in his. The lesson I always come back to is that the intensely personal details can feel universal. On this next record particularly, I was more comfortable using characters that weren’t me. Just because you haven’t specifically lived it doesn’t mean someone you know and love hasn’t. We model so much of what we do off his example, be it in our powerful live performances, our evolving sound, or intimate style of writing. He’s a master at so many things, and I feel like I’m continually learning.
What’s your favorite memory from being on stage?
Right before COVID hit, we were on the biggest tour of our young careers, opening up for our friends in Trampled By Turtles at The Sylvee in Madison, Wisconsin. Being the closest show on the run to home, so many family and friends were in the audience, but in particular was the family of my dear friend Phil Marks. We lost Phil the year before, and this was the first time that his family could make a show. Every night when we play our song “I Won’t Be Defined” I talk about mental health, and that night I talked about Phil. When you get a crowd of 3,000 to go from joyfully dancing, to a complete silence, and then back to dancing, you feel the power in what you can do through song. I miss making people feel something, be it joy or sorrow. I’m so grateful to have that chance again very soon.
If you had to write a mission statement for your career, what would it be?
We are a band of family and friends that seek to create community through joy, energy, and sincerity in their work and performances. We learned very early how people respond to genuine expression, and we’ve made it our mission to be the absolute most authentic version of ourselves. We love what we do, and we hope you do too. One part bear hug, one part gut punch, and one part steadying hand. That’s what we want our listeners to feel when they listen to us.
Since food and music go so well together, what is your dream pairing of a meal and a musician?
Well, we are dreaming here, so I’m going all out! It’s tempting to think I’d be able to soak up some advice, but I love good food and I think I’d get distracted. First, I’d start with brunch with Joni Mitchell and my mother and let them do the talking. I’ve learned so much from them both and I know they’d hit it off. Then I’m headed over to LC’s, my favorite BBQ joint in Kansas City with Bob Dylan and the rest of Them Coulee Boys, if only to see how he handles the literal gallons of BBQ sauce in front of us. Finally, I’m ending the night drinking Handsome Johnnys with John Prine at my hometown Eau Claire, Wisconsin, dive The Joynt. I feel like he wouldn’t mind me picking his brain a bit with a few glasses of vodka and ginger ale.
Photo credit: Nathaniel Nelson