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Nashville power couple Monty Powell and Anna Wilson spent 25 years in Music City crafting hit songs for country stars such as Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn, among others.
Now, the 16-years-married duo have split Nashville and are splitting time between their beach house in Florida and their mountainside home in Huntsville, Utah, while promoting the brand-new band they co-founded, Troubadour 77, which is looking to put a modern spin on the 1970s Laurel Canyon, Calif., sound while primarily appealing to baby boomers and older Gen Xers.
So, naturally, the first question would be … um, why?
"Well, let's put it this way," Wilson joked in a phone interview, "we've been trying to do it for our entire careers and Nashville wouldn't allow us. So we decided to take our wares and try somewhere else!"
Troubadour 77, who are based out of Salt Lake City, are issuing their debut release today, the four-song, straightforwardly named "Troubadour 77 EP." For those willing to splurge for a Pledge Music Access Pass (at pledgemusic.com/troubadour77), the band's full-length debut album can be had today as well. For those unwilling, a new track will be unveiled the first Friday of each month until the album's "official" release on Dec. 1.
Wilson said the motivation for her and Powell was twofold.
First of all, there was a desire to take one tiny corner of a music industry now hyperfocused on young consumers and shift it to a high-buying if underserved older demographic too often reduced to "people [who] wanna buy that nostalgia and that recaptured youth."
And so Troubadour 77 named as an homage to the famous Los Angeles club that hosted the likes of James Taylor, Carole King, Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, and for the year in which the Billboard Top 100 list was populated by a murderer's row of classic rock tunes honed a style that might entice its target audience with a classic-but-contemporary sound.
"What if we actually tried to be a new band making new music that sounds like it could live alongside those playlists and songs and artists? We felt that the kind of people that are pursuing those kind of songs and those kinds of artists for nostalgia's sake would welcome the fact that there's a new band out there making new music," Wilson said. "That might be a really good way for that generation to discover some new music. … No one's really catering to them. Our mission is to be in that niche."
Beyond such calculated practicality, though, lie emotion and optimism and sentimentality.
Wilson and Powell's other underlying motivation for T77 is that it gave them an outlet to replenish the passion that had initially brought them to Nashville but that had gradually eroded over a quarter-century devoted to naked attempts at mass-consumption hitmaking.
"I never in a million years ever thought I would leave Nashville. And Monty was very enamored with … maybe just sort of [wanting to] take a step out of the rat race, so to speak, and dial things back," Wilson said. "I was a little not sure that's what I wanted to do, but I understood it. Everything has its season, musicmaking has its season, and we felt like we didn't have a whole lot more to offer, creatively. We were a little burned out, I guess you could say.
"We just kinda thought we needed to step out and regroup and rediscover what it is we love about music and what it is that is important to us. And not necessarily have to write and create for the masses and the industry, but do it based on the muse that was in us," she added. "Sometimes, as creators, those two things are at odds can I write a song that's gonna go up the charts really fast on the next Keith Urban record or do I write something that's really honest and true to my own personal heart?"
They chose the latter. Wilson played piano and handled most of the lead vocals. Powell played guitar and added some vocals as well. It took them about a year to come up with an album's worth of material they were happy with, and all the recording was done in their home studio in Huntsville.
Rather than simply release it, however, they were struck by a new bout of inspiration to form a band and play live. Guitarist Austin Weyand was recruited, and when he informed Powell and Wilson that his wife, Kassie, was a bassist, she was added as well. Longtime friend Nathan Chappell rounded out the lineup on drums.
After T77 spent the winter "sort of honing the band and honing this material," they're now ready to go public. They're already booked for the BottleRock Festival in Napa, Calif., over Memorial Day weekend and are now trying to finalize a local slate for the coming months.
"We're in the process of trying to book some things, specifically for this summer. This summer is shaping up really great for a lot of local things we're gonna have here in Salt Lake and Park City and the Rocky Mountain West area," Wilson said. "I'm just trying to finalize a little bit of the schedule before we release it, but we're gonna be pretty busy."
And if listening to and seeing T77 helps their audience to realize that getting older doesn't have to mean slowing down or standing still, all the better.
"As Monty says, 'I started a rock band at 55!' One of the things of our band is it's never too late to pursue your dream, even if it's to be in a rock''n' roll band. There's so many boomers right now who feel like they're just getting started. … Everybody's feeling younger and more engaged than your 60-year-old was 30 years ago," Wilson said. "I'm 44 and Monty's 55 and our drummer's 53. We're definitely not your 20-something band but we sure can hang with them!"
About Troubadour 77
Background • The band started as the passion project of longtime Nashville hitmaking husband-and-wife team Monty Powell and Anna Wilson, who wanted to add new music to the 1970s Laurel Canyon canon and create new listening options for baby boomers and older Gen Xers.
Lineup • Wilson handles most lead vocals and piano, while Powell does guitars and vocals. Another husband-and-wife duo, Austin and Kassie Weyand, play guitar and bass, respectively. Nathan Chappell is the drummer.
Touring • T77 are booked for the BottleRock Festival in Napa, Calif., on Friday, May 26. They are working to finalize a schedule of shows in Utah and the intermountain west.
For more information • Visit the band's website at http://www.troubadour77.com.