Article By: Amanda Leonard // Photos By: Melanie Leonard
Greensboro, NC – A relatively new band coming out of Nashville, The Steel Woods released their debut album in 2017. Their second album Old News, released last year, was recorded in Asheville within an old church turned studio and was completed within a six-day break in the middle of a busy tour. Not slowing down any, The Steel Woods is bringing their lyrical tales to fans across the country to promote their theme-driven album. Along with them on a huge portion of their stops is Tennessee Jet. The Steel Woods will be jumping on board with Whiskey Myers for the month of March, with several of the dates already sold out.
Whiskey Foxtrot. The Triad’s obvious local favorite to book as an opener for any southern rock or Americana visitor, takes the stage with their acoustic set. Seth Willams and Sam Foster are both handling the vocals and guitars while my favorite steampunk musician, Terry VunCannon, who shows off his lap steel guitar skills. I’ve reviewed Whiskey Foxtrot in its entirety before and their slimmed-down version of the group does not disappoint either. Recently returning from Florida’s Southern Rock BBQ Festival, I saw no signs of exhaustion from the guys as they belted out their bluesy marriage of country rock and Americana. One of my favorite things about Whiskey Foxtrot is their ability to take back the classic sound of old school country without it being a superficial attempt at recreating a much-loved genre. The guys manage to drag out the roots of what country used to be: life, love, heartache, cars and beer…all without being cliché. Throwing in some modern grime to the grit of nostalgic sounds makes Whiskey Foxtrot stand out from the crowd. I love keeping track of where this group is headed, because it’s never going to be anywhere but up.
I’ve got to be a little honest at the risk of embarrassment. I had never heard of Tennessee Jet and had not done any research prior to the show. I had gone over to my equipment stash to change out lenses and cards while the stage changed over. I was still fumbling around with my camera bag by the time Tennessee Jet started up. I was already finding myself getting wrapped up in the energy and sound of the music. Easy percussion, clean guitar, bursts of harmonica, and smooth southern vocals. Ready to get back to my spot in front of the stage, I turned around and stopped in my tracks. Shocked. TJ McFarland was the only person on the entire stage. I stood frozen for a few seconds, completely in shock that I was witnessing a true One-Man Honkytonk Band. The rest of the crowd was in obvious awe of the flawless and powerful performance being entirely handled by a single person. Though I absolutely loved the entire evening, I honestly can’t stop talking about the amazing talent of this guy! I’ve already saturated my Spotify with every available Tennessee Jet track and even went on to learn that this dude has already landed his music in the most epic country commercial ever: Miller Lite. Listen to a few of his tracks before going over to YouTube to find a live performance. You will not believe this guy’s skills.
It’s hard to believe that The Steel Woods have only been around for a few years, because their presence filled the stage with confidence and ease, as if the guys were twenty-year veterans of the Southern Rock world. Powerful vocals cut through your soul when Wes Bayliss begins to pull you into the vivid musical tales the group is known for. With a simple shift in tones, you find yourself closing your eyes to take in the pain and angst that’s being pried from the song’s soul to getting goosebumps with the haunting mellowness of a southern rock ballad. When we asked Wes what a fan’s biggest compliment can be, he responded “That we have a sound all our own.” That is, without a doubt, a truth for these guys. There’s no faking the sincerity of their roots, as the lyrics expose the darkness that can exist in life, as well as the simplicity of loving life and living it fully. The Steel Woods isn’t made up of yacht club preps that decided it would be fun and exciting to be “country”. These guys have wild hair, aged boots, tattered jeans and callused hands. There weren’t mansions and guaranteed CEO positions. There was hard work and country morals. When I asked them what they would be doing if it hadn’t of been for the music, Jason “Rowdy” Cope laughed about possibly “…doing 20 to life, or pushing up Daisy’s…ha!”. Wes Bayliss imagines he would be all over the map with “farming, heavy machinery, car restoration, anything not to wear a suit.” The Steel Woods are the epitome of what real southern rock entails and it translates flawlessly in their unique sound and deep music. Below is a chat we had with Wes and Rowdy:
MonkeyGoose: Bands typically throw around a few options before deciding on their name. If you guys would have chosen a different name, what would it have been?
Rowdy: “The Still Would’s….? Ha!”
Wes: “We wanted to be called Boys to Men, but apparently that’s a band already.”
MG: As musicians….. what is the biggest compliment fans can give you?
Rowdy: “For me personally as an Artist I think the greatest compliment is someone telling me my art inspired them. Be it to feel something or do something positive.”
Wes: “That we have a sound all our own.”
MG: Talk about #growthewoods…
Rowdy: “The #growthewoods started about as organic as possible, by the fans. They get the credit for that. In more than one way.”
MG: If you guys weren’t musicians, what would you be doing?
Rowdy: “I’d probably be doing 20 to life, or pushing up Daisy’s…. ha! I honestly don’t know what I’d be doing, but I’d be getting thru the day thinking about the “upcoming show!””
Wes: “For me it would probably be all over the map. Farming, heavy machinery, car restoration, anything not to wear a suit.”
MG: What do you guys do to stay sane while on tour?
Rowdy: “Try to stay fed and showered. And just personally, about 15 to 20 cc’s of Insulin every night.”
MG: Who’s your favorite band/musician that you currently listen to?
Rowdy: Currently, I’m really proud of and inspired by what some of our friends have been up to. Cody Jinks, Brent Cobb, Whiskey Myers..
Wes: “I’m glad the question didn’t say ‘of all time’ because that’s a tough one to answer for me but currently I’m gonna have to say Darrell Scott. His writing is like no other and his musicianship makes the rest of us want to lock ourselves in a room and play till our fingers, eyes and ears bleed.”
MG: How did the band members meet and decide to form The Steel Woods?
Wes: “Rowdy and I met at a gig just outside of Nashville that we both happened to be on and got to talking about what we were doing and what we one day wanted to do and both of our ideas for the future were lined up well enough that we thought we should start a band. Then came Derek, our manager, and within months we were in the studio cutting our EP which would later become our debut LP Straw In The Wind.”
MG: Anything you would like to shout of to your fans?
Rowdy: “Y’all are the best! Thank You, Everyone of You!”
Wes: “Fans, you are why we do this, you are how we do this, and you are who we do this for. Thank you for keeping the dream alive!”