Vintage Trouble talks classic soul and country, touring with the Dixie Chicks, political outspokenness and more
On one hand, it’s no surprise Vintage Trouble is opening for the Dixie Chicks. These guys have opened for everyone — the Rolling Stones, the Who, AC/DC — and their hyper-energetic soul-funk revue generally wins the crowd over no matter how large the stage.
On the other ... the Dixie Chicks? Seriously? How does a band tour with both AC/DC and the Dixie Chicks — including a show Friday at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa (click here for details) — in a little more than a year?
“As it turns out, they’re even bigger fans of us than we thought,” said Vintage Trouble singer Ty Taylor. “I really love the idea that bands like the Dixie Chicks, they get to a point where it’s important to them to help lift up people that they like that are lower than them.”
Besides, added bassist Rick Barrio Dill, country music and vintage soul have more in common than you might think. There are even songs on the band’s 2015 album 1 Hopeful Road that recall classic country, blues and swing, particularly Before the Tear Drops and Angel City, California.
“In the ’50s and ’60s, all the main soul acts recognized the amazing songwriting that was coming out of Nashville,” Dill said, citing Ray Charles, Joe Tex and Ike and Tina Turner as inspirations. “Whatever music you’re into from a current standpoint, you can trace it back to some sort of DNA thread that we all share.”
Vintage Trouble has enjoyed a lightning-fast rise since founding in 2010, thanks to a scary talent for winning over fans in high places. They’ve played every major festival from Glastonbury to Bonnaroo to Coachella, delivered a blazing set on Austin City Limits, and were a Tonight Show favorite of Jay Leno. (Amazingly, this Dixie Chicks tour isn’t even their first country trek — they’ve also performed with Willie Nelson and Brantley Gilbert.)
Their appeal has everything to do with Taylor, a former contestant on the show Rock Star: INXS who’s an absolute force of nature on stage, frequently marching through the audience during the band’s high-energy rave-ups; and the whip-smart skills of the rest of the band. They’ve never sniffed a hit, and are so far removed from superstardom that when they’re not touring stadiums with rock and roll royalty, they’re usually playing small clubs — but their sizzling live show is the truth.
“We look forward to connecting in different ways,” Taylor said of this Dixie Chicks tour. “The biggest thing that I think has helped us with our contribution to music this time is the idea of connecting to an audience and reminding people that it’sn ot about presentation, but it’s about community. The fact that we’re playing with the Dixie Chicks for this kind of audience, for us it’s exciting, because it’s a new arena — pun intended, of course — to try and connect to. It’s like, what is it like to try to reach the hearts of women and more sensitive people that cry and pour their souls as they listen to country music? What does that mean for us? How do we get to those people?”
Dill said he was surrounded by country fans growing up in east Hillsborough County, but it wasn’t until later in life that he saw the craft and beauty in the music.
“If you actually dig, there is some amazing, amazing s---, stuff you’d give your left nut to have written,” Dill said.
Taylor raves about the Chicks as songwriters and performers, particularly singer Natalie Maines. “She is A-number-1, way-up-top, one of the best voices in pop music, period,” he said. “I love this word, so I’m not saying it derogatorily, but they weren’t so twangy — the melodies were beautiful, their soundscape was lush, and so they just became pop acts with great melodies and chords and great vocals and arrangments. I think we have more in common than we do not have in common.”
That goes for their political outspokenness, too.
“If you thought it was f---ed up when George Bush was leading us to war — which, inevitably, was f---ed up — then c’mon, there’s plenty to use the megaphone for now,” Dill said. “Just as much, if not more.”
Thirteen years after the Chicks became country-music pariahs because Maines said she was “ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas,” it’s still a topic that comes up in any conversation about the band.
“I guarantee you that as much as talking about their songs on the way to the concert, their fans are talking about the whole Bush thing,” Taylor said. “There’s no way that’s gone.” “Or the Trump thing,” Dill added. “Or the Obama thing. Or whatever.”
“It’s what makes them celebrated,” Taylor continued. “Everyone is questioning how they feel about the stuff going on now because of that, and I would hope that they would be proud of that.”
It certainly helped Vintage Trouble book this tour with the Dixie Chicks.
“We lucked out because of the fact that we’ve got big mouths,” Taylor laughed. “At the end of the day, you don’t want to seem like someone who has nothing to say.”
-- Jay Cridlin