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Whispers of the Plains: Hotels and Highways

Hotels and Highways released their debut album digitally this week. Entitled “Lost River”, the trio have captured whimsical folk in a glass bottle of dreams. Here we get to chat to the band about how it all came into being:

All three of you are experienced performers in your own right. How did Hotels and Highways come together and why was it formed?

We are experienced performers, but we’re mostly known for being solo artists. Hotels & Highways was born when Syd and Patrick were on tour together about 6 years ago and started writing songs in hotel rooms and on the highway. This past fall we decided to get together at a cabin and write some music and add Lisa to the mix. We planned this as a simple writers retreat, but fortunately the album was a complete surprise.

How did your band name come into being?

As we said above, the band name came from a literal description of what was happening in our lives when we started writing songs.  However, the fact that the name is so simple and not over-baked seems to have foreshadowed a lot of the spirit in our current songwriting style and band ethos.

How do you let a song evolve during the writing process? It must be great to have such a mixpot of skills and experience!

We’re open to letting the song take us out of our heads and on a journey. We are constantly aware of the need to stay open and allow the song to take shape. Some come from pre-existing ideas, others seem to come from nowhere, but we always aspire to listen to each other and remain present.  A new experience for us was just write with everyone at their stations.  It really helped to know that if a song was chugging along on drums and feeling good, there was no reason to let craft or “interesting” chords get in the way of the energy.  That is an easy pitfall when writing by yourself on an acoustic guitar.

“Lost River”, the band’s debut album, was recorded in just 10 days. How much of a challenge was it to squeeze everything in? Did it help to have a limited time as it led to quick decisions or would you have rather had more time to tweak?

Once we realized we were making an album, we were already so far into it that it just became a matter of staying focused and prioritizing our recording schedule. That’s simply the situation we found ourselves in — we briefly discussed treating these recordings as demos and re-recording the album in a studio, but we quickly scrapped that. The album is what it is because of the manner in which it was recorded. That’s not to say our last night was not a long one.  Final vocals were mostly recorded in the eleventh hour, but the sessions were so loose that it didn’t seem like we were under a deadline.

You’re currently embarking on a large tour. How important is playing live to you as artists?

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head right there in the question! Playing live is not the whole enchilada, but it’s sure a major part of the picture. If you can’t meet folks and connect with them one on one it’s more difficult to introduce yourselves to them. In our case, we’ve got fans that know us as individuals and going out to meet them with this band seemed like the best, most natural way to start this band’s career.   So, far we have heard from our fans that the live show is even more powerful than the album.  To some, this could seem like a back-handed compliment, but it is usually prefaced with how much the recordings have meant to listener. In our eyes, if our live show is surpassing the passion we put into a record that we our so proud of, we must be doing something right.

If you had the chance to make a second album or go on a world-wide tour which would you rather go for next?

We’re writing some on the road now here in the US — if we were able to go for longer and in a larger capacity we’d choose that. Think of the material! [Editor: I smell a boxset coming on!] Classic bands honed their chops playing night in and night out before the age of the DJ.  We can’t go back in time and be a part of that world, so the road is as close as we can get.  If we are to grow as musicians, which we hope to do, it would be a lot more fun to do it in front of a crowd than to practice scales in our bedroom.

Each of you bring to the table instrument that you play and are known for. Do any of you have any hidden musical talents we don’t know about or anything you’d like to learn?

The goal is to be able to sit in a room with someone else, pick up or sit behind the nearest instrument and play confidently.  The one thing that might not be evident about us from the first listen to Lost River would be our love of so many different styles of music.  So many of our influences, from British guitar-rock to power-pop or even big-band standards are tucked away into the mix, or were as references on the album.

Will you all be continuing solo projects too alongside Hotels and Highways?

We aren’t the kind of people to unequivocally close any doors! We love to play music when it feels good. Right now this feels good!

Any secret news tidbits you can let us in on for the future of Hotels and Highways?

We’re an open book man, no secrets here — we plan to tour, write, record and continue doing what we’re doing! The only secret in our vaults was the vinyl release which was even a secret within the band.  Patrick surprised Lisa and Syd in Nashville with a limited edition pressing of 12 inch LPs.  Buy one now at Hotelsandhighways.com

We’d like to thank Hotels and Highways for taking the time to speak with Higher Plain Music and wish them best of luck with the tour and album release. HPM’s review will chime in shortly!

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