To many music fans in the UK and Europe, the name Kelly Jones is very familiar. As the frontman of legendary Welsh rock band, Stereophonics, he’s been a mainstay of the British rock scene for many years. However, that could be about to change slightly.
Having teamed up with Patty Lynn and Dwight Baker from Austin, Texas-based The Wind + The Wave, they’ve formed a new country and Americana group, Far From Saints.
With their debut album due to drop on June 16th, following the two releases Let’s Turn This Back Around and Take it Through the Night, Mark Wiggins caught up with the trio to chat about their formation, the upcoming record and their summer run of shows.
The debut album drops next week, it was recorded a few years ago now, how excited are you to finally get it out there? Why does now feel like the time?
Kelly: Circumstance, more than anything else. Obviously, we had the pandemic, I’ve done some stuff with Stereophonics, there’s been a lot going on. So now feels like the first real opportunity to get the album released into the world at a time that’ll hopefully really do it justice.
You guys first met a decade ago, since then The Wind + The Wave have supported Kelly’s solo tour and you first started jamming together. Did you ever think you’d get to this point where you’d have an album out there?
Dwight: Definitely not, it just wasn’t something we considered, we were just enjoying playing songs together.
Kelly: I don’t think so really. We never really had any idea where it was going or any expectations for this, it’s just kind of happened. Even during recording we didn’t think we’d get a full album recorded at times.
Dwight: Yeah, I don’t think we ever really set out thinking we’d get to this stage. It was just fun to see what came of it really.
Kelly, coming from a British rock background, had you ever considered a project like this and how much of it was just happenstance?
Kelly: I’ve never really thought about it before, obviously I’ve had a lot of musical influences in my life and this type of thing definitely fitted under that, but it was really by chance that this whole thing came about. When we started playing songs together, it was just a fun thing to do and it’s kind of led to this. I don’t want to say it wasn’t something I took seriously, but it was definitely something that was initially just a bit of fun.
I’ve listened to the album a few times from start to finish, and something that struck me was that it’s not a collection of songs but it feels like it has a flow and a story, how much of that is intentional?
Kelly: Yeah, we never wanted it to feel like just a collection of songs thrown together. In fact, when I sent this out to try and get a label, I purposely sent it as one long 45-minute recording for that reason. We wanted people to listen to it as a whole and not just a few songs. I’ve recorded those kind of ‘mixtape’ albums before and I like doing it, but it just didn’t feel like the right direction for this one. We had a couple of tracks that we actually took out for that reason, they were a bit more commercial and, probably like pop tunes, that just wouldn’t have fitted with the album.
Did the seeds of any of these songs exist before the writing and recording sessions?
Dwight: Kelly came in with a few ideas and bits that he’d already figured out, but for us it was all brand new. The majority of the album was just written there and then.
Kelly: Yeah, with any recording process, you know, you always have those voice notes and stuff that you recall from. I think there was a guitar riff that I’d had from a while back and hadn’t really fitted anywhere.
Patty: A lot of the time we’d be singing songs that had just literally been written that afternoon.
Dwight: That’s how we do it with The Wind + The Wave, literally everything we’ve ever recorded went from being a voice note recording with an acoustic guitar and a voice, then we take it straight into the studio.
I was going to ask if the recording process, being crammed into 9 days between legs of Kelly’s tour, affected the approach to things?
Dwight: It was so last minute, we just got really lucky! We asked Al Clay and he’s usually booked up, but he had those evenings free, Jamie just happened to be free to come in and play drums. I mean, Clay is never free, he’s so busy, so we really got lucky that it worked out!
Kelly: I asked him to do some mixing for me the other day and he did it straight away!
Maybe he’s been avoiding you Dwight…
Dwight: Seems like it!
Kelly: It was really great working on these songs though, I mean I’m used to singing and trying to blow the back wall off a stadium with Stereophonics, whereas here it’s a totally different way of singing. I’m singing down here and Patty’s above me, it’s about trying to make those two voices work together and intertwine in the songs.
It feels like the aching feeling of ‘Let’s Turn This Back Around’ really achieved that feeling of two voices in crisis perfectly intertwining…
Kelly: Yeah, I think Dwight said if you want a song that sums the band up then that’s it. I think you get a taste of everything that the band is about in that one song, from Dwight’s fingerpicked acoustic guitar right to that build up at the end.
Back on that songwriting process, did the quickfire recording process give the songs a certain rawness? I know for creatives, having too much time can lead to a feedback cycle that might be to its detriment…
Kelly: That’s a really good point, I think doing it that way definitely brought a certain honesty to the songs. There wasn’t time to rewrite this bit, or change that, we just went in and recorded those tracks as they first sort of came out. It was strange for me because I’d never written with someone before, I’d jammed with other musicians making records, but I’d never co-written these types of songs where it was like “ok, your bit goes there, my line goes here”. I’ve never been a fan of those kind of production line songwriter processes, where you have sixteen people in a room writing a song, this was more of a collaborative effort.
I read that a cover of a Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks song was the foundation of the band. What other influences are in the mix?
Patty: I feel like Kelly and Dwight really brought the influences to me for this. I mean, I hate to say it, but I am younger than them so have had a lot less time to discover! But yeah, obviously we’re fans of Kelly’s previous work and there was a good mix of influences between everyone, both Dwight and Kelly brought a lot to the table that way.
You’ve got a few shows lined up now, from small clubs to stadiums, how excited are you to play live? You’ll be in my hometown of Leeds, although I know you’re a Leeds United fan Kelly and I don’t dare tell you who I support…
Kelly: Well, I don’t like to admit that I’m a Leeds fan these days! But yeah, we did a small warm up gig in London then the Teenage Cancer Trust show at the Royal Albert Hall which was great. I’m really looking forward to doing everything from playing little clubs to playing in a stadium, so it’s a real mix.
Dwight: What was weird about those first shows was that we literally just met the live band and were playing live with them. So, it’ll be good to get to know the band a bit better.
Is it strange for you Kelly, having been the headliner for a couple of decades, to be supporting other bands and playing the smaller places?
Kelly: Yeah, it’s funny really, it doesn’t feel like starting again but it is a lot like going into the unknown with some of it. It’s nice to be playing to smaller crowds and going outside of my usual comfort zone. You know, we’re playing a tent at Glastonbury and supporting Kings of Leon in Wales. it’s really nice actually because the Glastonbury gig falls on the 20th anniversary of Stereophonics headlining the pyramid stage, so it’s nice to be going back for that.
You’re playing Black Deer Festival as well, which has become one of the jewels in the UK country and Americana scene…
Kelly: Yeah, that’s another one that’s miles away from anything I’ve ever done before. We’re just looking forward to showing up to these shows and trying to steal everybody else’s fans. That’s the plan, just steal everyone else’s fans (laughs).
So this is probably a tough question, but what does the future look like for Far From Saints? More music? Touring in the US?
Patty: What’s the line you used, Dwight?
Dwight: Yeah, it’s like going on a first date and talking about getting married or having babies. You don’t do that or they’re just going to run away. So, we’ve not talked about the future yet, so Kelly doesn’t run away!
Kelly: We’re just excited to get this album out there and see what happens with it, then play some shows with people.