Midland is paving a path all their own.
In a new POLLSTAR interview published on Monday, the country trio — comprised of lead vocalist Mark Wystrach, guitarist Jess Carson and bass guitarist Cameron Duddy — opened up about building a career on the road (despite earning two Grammy nominations for their debut single “Drinkin' Problem“) and separating themselves from the pack.
“We wanted to create a business out of touring,” Duddy said. “We like to play for people, and we felt we have more than No. 1s to offer. So many people spend their time chasing radio as the end, but that paradigm didn’t feel anything like us from the jump. It’s why we didn’t move to Nashville; why we’re doing the things that feel right. It felt really scary locking into a business plan that doesn’t feel anything like us.”
Carson shared a similar sentiment and said, “We’re happy to be up there doing the old school way. We don’t play to tracks, we want it to be fresh and change it up every night.”
Midland is currently on tour in the United States through December, when they’ll head abroad for a number concert dates. While they’re unique, Duddy said they, as a band, are still “aware of everything else in entertainment.”
“You go see Anderson .Paak or Father John Misty, and it’s vibe,” Duddy said. “No spotlights, no strobes, just sidelights. And you see all the old musical footage, you realize that was all they had to work with, and it worked. Stripping it back, stressing the band playing, the songs and the attitude. It’s what we do, and have always done.”
“Watch the Eagles destroy ‘Hotel California’ live, without backing tracks; tell me you don’t want to start a band?” he added later. “Watch Springsteen at ‘No Nukes,’ and tell me you would rather do choreographed dances? It’s nice to feel ‘special,’ but lonely and frustrating … like other artists are more inspired by the Backstreet Boys than they are Waylon.”
Duddy also said it “never gets old” seeing people in the crowd of their concerts singing their songs back to them.
“We built in an acoustic part of our set where we parse it down and jam in the dark, which is really f—ing exciting for me because it’s what I grew up dreaming of doing,” he said, later adding that they’re “all big dreamers.”
“Being a band is relentless,” he said. “You have to have focus 10, 12 years down the road to understand how to get there. There’s something to be said for the sea time we’ve all invested over the years. It led us to here and lets us get up there and play, to be in the moment without being locked in. That’s what it’s all about.”
“We’ve been through the gears, and it’s an aspect of what we do,” Carson said. “There’s an aspect of bad boyness, especially in the Midland character, that defines us. We’re definitely adults. ‘Mr. Lonely’ is a honky tonk, Brooks & Dunn-type story that’s Midland — threatening lame-ass boyfriends everywhere.”
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And they’re not afraid to cross the boundaries in a largely PG-rated genre.
“Look, there are clever ways of talking about sex, and there are … some of these hypermale testosterone-powered jalopies,” Duddy said. “There’s the easy, cheap, boring way, and the hard way. Pun intended. We don’t let ourselves off the hook when we’re writing.”
Before joining Midland, Duddy worked as an MTV Video Music Award-winning director for artists like Bruno Mars, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears and Brandi Carlile. Carson, who owned a vintage store pre-Midland, said, “No stylist. We wear what we wear.”
In April, Midland will make a sunset appearance on the main stage at Stagecoach — the country music festival they first played in 2016. Goldenvoice’s Stacy Vee remembered first booking the band after seeing them play at the Roxy in West Hollywood, Los Angeles in 2015.
“It was so new, yet musically familiar, so I grabbed them for the Palomino stage,” Vee said. “It shows their ability to fit, whether it’s that stage or a George Strait show.”
This year, Vee not only tapped Midland for another Stagecoach performance, but she also enlisted them to announce the 2020 lineup — which also includes headliners Thomas Rhett, Carrie Underwood and Eric Church — on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
“Midland is carving their own path, with similarities to artists of the past, those ’70s artists who worked the road, which is super-organic and real,” Vee said. “People can sense that. We [at Goldenvoice], on purpose, color outside the lines. If we didn’t, we’re not Stagecoach.”