If the songs “This Girl Of Mine” by The White Animals and “Western Flyer” by The Claimstakers were on your mixed tapes in high school or college, then you’re familiar with Steve Boyd. The singer/guitarist/bassist was a key figure in the two Nashville-based bands that were imposing presences on the Southeastern club circuit and college radio during the ‘80s and ‘90s. But while Boyd will be forever associated with these groups, he also fronted The Escape Goats and The Easy Kings along the way. These days, Boyd’s primary focus is The Easy Kings, the quartet he shares with (White Animals drummer) Ray Crabtree and guitarists Jondie Davis and Jack Harris. Though the project seems relatively recent in the scheme of his lengthy career, Boyd reminds me that the band first formed some 17 years ago.
“I started The Easy Kings in ’93,” Boyd recalls, speaking by phone from Decatur, Ala. “It’s been broken up. We did The Easy Kings for four or five years and we did a little recording. The only thing we were able to release during that time was an EP called Quad 95—it never quite got beyond a weekend hobby for me to play a little bit and have an outlet for my songs. I did that for about five years, and in ’99 The White Animals reunited for a series of shows that carried on until 2006 or 2007. So, there was a break and I felt the itch to get back in and have a band, so me and Ray put The Easy Kings back at the forefront. We’ve been recording and working on a 10-song project that should be ready by 2011.”
On Friday, November 19, The Easy Kings will perform at Rogue Tavern with The David Seale Accident opening the 9 p.m. show. The double-bill is a natural one as Boyd and Seale have shared the stage on a number of occasions.
Though the band has undergone several lineup changes over the years, the current Easy Kings lineup has allowed Davis to play alongside Boyd, one of his musical mentors.
“Jondie is a Decatur native and he is nine or ten years younger than me,” Boyd says. “Back in his high school days, his band was a fan of The White Animals and they did a lot of our material. I’ve always known him loosely since his college days and he eventually migrated to the Nashville area and he lives in Franklin, Tenn. A couple of years ago, when we were getting The Easy Kings together, Jondie was there and he wanted to do the gig so he came on.”
Having logged more than 25 years in the music business, Boyd has seen numerous changes in the industry’s business model. He is both optimistic and pragmatic about the current climate of recording and distribution.
“The Internet is the great equalizer,” he offers. “With the economical way that you can produce music these days, it makes it easier for everybody but it does create a huge supply of music and bands. You have to do whatever you have to do to get noticed, so we’re going to get our music out there and people will be able to buy it or download it. I imagine we’ll put up a lot of free downloads so people can have the music. Hopefully, people will be drawn to it. A song either gets in your heart or it doesn’t, so we’re hoping these songs will become favorites for people and it will grow organically. If you really like something, you want to share it with your friends. So, we’re hoping that our music gets shared.”
A longtime Nashville resident, Boyd has also witnessed changes in the city’s musical community.
“People don’t get out like they used to,” he observes. “Anybody from Nashville that was a musician back in the day would remember hanging out in the Elliston Square area and going to The Exit/In or The Gold Rush and that’s where you saw everybody because it was all before we had cell phones and could just call anybody or text anybody anytime you wanted. If you wanted to catch up with somebody, you went down to the bar and you knew everybody that was going to be there and that fostered that kind of community scene.”
With a healthy list of songs in his catalog, Boyd pulls material from his entire career when performing live with The Easy Kings.
“It changes from night to night, but generally on any night I’m going to be doing a couple of Claimstakers’ tunes and I’ll throw in two or three White Animals’ tunes that people would remember. But the majority of it is new material. You get a little bit of the whole package.”
Along those same lines, I ask Boyd how his older songs remain fresh and relevant to this day.
“There are some songs that can’t or don’t, so I just don’t play them,” he says. “But some songs, like ‘This Girl Of Mine,’ I have a fondness for them and it never really gets old—it’s like an old friend. But I have to be careful not to play the same ones every night so it doesn’t get stale.”
Though musical styles have fallen in and out of favor throughout his career, I offer to Boyd that staying true to himself may be the secret to his longevity.
“I never did chase the latest trends and I’m not going to start,” he replies. “I’m still a melody guy and I like to write a good chord structure and put a catchy melody to it.”
Rogue Tavern is located at 2312 2nd Avenue North. For ticket information, please visit www.roguetavern.com or call (205) 202-4151.
Brent Thompson writes about popular music for Birmingham Weekly. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.