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Studio Soundbites: Whiskey Feathers Record Inaugural Album

If you haven’t heard of Whiskey Feathers yet, it won’t be long before that changes! This relatively new band is exploding on the scene with their heartfelt storytelling and velvety vocal harmonies. Engineer Evan Kornblum recently collaborated with them to record their inaugural album Stardust a Garden.

Check out this Q&A with front man Brittain Duckworth for the inside scoop on their creative process and what’s to come from this breakout 6-piece band!

What’s the story behind Whiskey Feathers’ first album?

“I have always been enamored with space, time, space exploration, the cosmos, and our existence amongst it all. So much so, that I went to an aeronautical university and minored in Space Studies (I almost joined the US Air Force but a sports injury took me down an alternate path). I also love our home planet and love exploring and experiencing all the wonders of the ever-present nature around us. Add in my exuberant love of life, my struggles in life, and the love of life (my wife Kim), then meld it all together, plant the seed, give it time, water, warmth, and light and the result is Stardust a Garden.”

What inspired you to create it?

“After years of songwriting, I realized that there was a theme weaved throughout my writing. After sobering up and connecting the dots, I set out with the band to produce and release a genuine concept/thematic album that is intended to be experienced as the sum total of its parts vs a collection of unrelated singles lumped together on an album. What we ended up with is elements of a rock opera album that tells a story from the opening track When the World Ends. This track establishes the basis of the album; glimpsing the future through a telescope, you learn that the world is going to end in 7 days, and you are asked the question of what will/would you do with your last 7 days of life as you know it.”

How did you know you were ready to record?

“We are a relatively new group in our current configuration. The 6 of us formed in late 2021/early 2022 and there was immediate and undeniable chemistry. I have been writing steadily since high school and in various spurts of creativity. I was coming off another streak of songs on the heels of quitting drinking in September of 2021. The material for a cohesive album started to unfold while the stars aligned with forming the band. It became quickly apparent that it was time to make an album as soon as we could, so we jumped in headfirst on March 5th, 2022, and booked a full session, or 2, about every month from March until September of 2022.

We recorded an average of 2 songs per session and tracked the instrumentation playing live with the band. Then we followed up those sessions with vocal tracking sessions and rinsed and repeated the process until all 12 tracks were complete. It had nothing to do with being financially ready, because we weren’t, and everything to do with trusting our gut feelings that the time and place was here and now. Once the train left the station, we did what we had to do to get to our destination.”

Whiskey Feathers perform on April 22, 2023 in the Julian S. Smith Performance Hall

“We strive to use our music as a platform to communicate love, hope, light, relief, understanding, community, and a feeling of oneness and togetherness.”

Brittain DuckworthWhiskey Feathers

How do you approach collaboration with other musicians in the studio?

“As a band, we have the philosophy of focusing completely on one song at a time. Typically, I will pitch a new draft of a song, or an old song, that I think is worthy of exploring to the full band. It is important that everyone is present, and that I don’t share too much with anyone in particular before we have a chance to equally focus on it. I go into these sessions as open and as fluid as possible and ready for a true collaborative process. In our band, each member is free to explore and contribute any and all input and ideas.”

“We will play through the song and start to create with a shared intent and understanding that we do what is best for each song. We listen, we create, we collaborate, and we make collective decisions on what sounds best for the song. Plain and simple, no egos, and no thought on who gets more playing time or limelight versus another. It is not by chance that we share very similar tastes and intentions, so we tend to agree more often than not and when we don’t, we constructively work through it to find a shared solution that again, ultimately works best for the song. That is how I believe a true creative collaboration works anyway; the minute ego enters the picture, it is game over.”

What about with engineers and producers?

“In the studio with engineers and producers, we carry over the same philosophy; We come in prepared with tracks we want to cut and let the creative process unfold while being fully receptive to any opportunities for production that may come along to better the song. An idea may come from a band member, an engineer, a producer, a visitor, a gut feeling from the universe, or by complete accident, but when everyone’s ears perk up with collective excitement, then you know it is worth exploring.”

“There have been zero songs that have turned out exactly how we planned them going into the studio. As prepared and rehearsed as you think the songs are, they always grow and take on a life of their own, which is an exciting experience if you surrender to the flow and trust your team and the studio process; try not to focus on the clock. It also helps immensely when you have a brilliant sound engineer and producer who is as equally excited and devoted to the process as Evan Kornblum in Studio B. He is a master of his craft, and the sky is the limit for this guru of sound and production. He was a pivotal member of Stardust a Garden and the end result wouldn’t be anywhere near the same without him.”

Evan had equal praise for the band, saying of Whiskey Feathers, “the first time I heard Brittain sing, I fell in love with his voice and wanted to produce, engineer, and mix the album. His songwriting style is unique and all the members of the band are top-notch players. During the sessions, we were focused on getting the music right; now that it’s released it’s amazing to see the public’s reaction. WTMD has been extremely supportive of the band and we are thankful for that. I look forward to seeing what Whiskey Feathers does next!”

Whiskey Feathers in the Julian S. Smith Performance Hall
Whiskey Feathers rehearse for Earth Day 2022 performance in the Julian S. Smith Performance Hall

 

What do you hope to convey or communicate through your music?

“Love, hope, light, relief, understanding, community, and a feeling of oneness and togetherness.”

What has been Whiskey Feathers’ most memorable experience while recording at our studio?

“Hands down, it’s the laughter and lifelong friendships that we have forged bringing ideas and concepts into creative realities. Music studios are as close to real magic as you can get in my opinion, and to share that experience with genuine friends to create tangible art is the ultimate connection. As a new band, it is truly the most pleasant and unexpected outcome of creating this album and I think it comes through in our music. Not that I didn’t think we would get along, I knew everyone was nice and the talent was certainly there, but I didn’t expect us all to fall as hard as we did for each other and the project. That goes for Evan as well. You can’t teach or learn to get along like we do. We’re a lucky lot.”

How has your music evolved over time and what do you attribute this to?

“All of my writing, your writing, anyone’s writing, is a snapshot in time and will always continue to evolve. Each song, and then each album, is a time capsule of our stories, experiences, and lives. If you are brave enough to share and be vulnerable, then it is imperative to create and release music in a cyclical and chronological order. Sharing it, and releasing it out into the world, makes way for new growth and creation. Recently, my writing has evolved immensely, not only through the vulnerability of my sobriety, but also due to the fact that I am now writing with the capabilities of a multitalented, 6-piece band in mind.”

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians who are just starting out with creating their own music?

“Like I said, all creation is a snapshot in time, and it will always continue to evolve and progress, hopefully for the better. That said, for better or for worse, if it brings you joy, relief, purpose, connection, and love, then NEVER STOP. It’s okay if it isn’t widely liked and accepted (maybe you’re ahead of your time). If you truly believe in it and fully like what you’re doing, KEEP DOING IT. If only for yourself and your own peace of mind.”

“Don’t compare yourself against the progress or the sounds of others. Art is impossible to rank and judge anyway. It is naturally part of creating to be influenced and inspired by all the creations that have come before ours, but we are all on our own paths and there is only one you on this planet doing what you are doing. No sense in trying to be something, or someone, that you aren’t in the hopes of giving your audience what you think they want to hear and see in exchange for some hollow applause. The more I’ve written and performed, the less I have cared about applause. It is nice when they come, but we all have our tastes and preferences; you just have to satisfy yours.”

What if you’re afraid others won’t like it?

“Between you and me, if you want to know the real secret: Be genuine and show them the magic in the perceived mundane; as humans, we yearn for unique authenticity. So, give em yourself: the good, the bad, the ugly, the real you and your best stuff. If you dig it, you won, period. If they happen to dig it as well, then we all win.”

Whiskey Feathers in Studio B with Engineer Evan Kornblum
Whiskey Feathers with Engineer Evan Kornblum

What’s next for Whiskey Feathers?

“We are very excited about all the new material and creative seeds that have sprouted up after the release of our debut album Stardust a Garden. Content wise, we are at least halfway home on another album. There is a tangible evolution of the writing and the band’s sound and we’re excited to get to work on our sophomore album!”

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