Though formed by brothers Micky and Gary Braun in their native Idaho, Micky and the Motorcars — who have called Austin home for over a decade — are a true-blue Texas band. After five studio albums, a live record, member shakeups and countless miles logged on tour, the brothers Braun reconvened with a new lineup and a new approach to their road-tested alt-country. The result is this month's Hearts From Above, an album funded by an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign and tracked with yet another Braun brother — Willy, who plays in Reckless Kelly along with eldest Braun brother Cody — that features more love songs than any of the band's past releases. It's a heartfelt collection of driving Americana tunes that finds lead Motorcar Micky, who recently got engaged, looking at love through a glass-half-full sort of prism.
With some West Coast dates in the rearview and a whole slew of Texas shows on the horizon, Micky spoke with Rolling Stone Country for our "5 Minutes in Texas" series. We asked him about his Texas influences, the recent lineup changes, writing love songs, and what goes into writing an album as opposed to writing a hit.
Lone Star State of Mind
"I grew up listening to Willie Nelson and Robert Earl Keen and Waylon Jennings, and looked up to those guys as singers and songwriters. Right out of the gate, that's what I grew up listening to with my dad and my brothers, so I started out with Texas music —Jerry Jeff Walker was also a big one. So I always have leaned toward this kind of music and this kind of attitude toward the music industry and how to handle it.”
Birds of a Feather Rock Together
"The newer artists like us that are down here playing — I call us newer artists, we’ve been here 13 years [laughs] — all of us are really pretty close friends, and we all have a common bond, and we write together a lot. It's just kind of one big family for the most part. There's a lot of us that have been here for a long time that always kind of stick together. And it's where I like to be. I think it's a cool thing. It's not all about getting your next big hit; it's more about playing music."
"Working with all [the new band members] was different and a lot of fun, just 'cause it was real fresh-feeling being in the studio. We had a good energy, vibe going on. We'd played enough on the road together that we were nice and tight, and it was just a good fit."
Band of Brothers
"We hadn't done a record in a while, so it gave me a little bit more time to make sure the songs were right and they all fit together right. My other brother, Willy from Reckless Kelly, came in and produced this record. And we hadn't worked with him before, so that was a lot of fun. We picked a brand-new studio that none of us worked at, a brand-new engineer that none of us worked with. So we just made everything new, but kept the name and kept our sound."
Just a New-Fashioned Love Song
"I got engaged in January of this year. I'd written most of the songs over the last couple of years, and the people that I've been writing with have been in the same vibe — they also have been in good, strong relationships. So it just took that avenue on this particular record. We had to sort through about 35 songs, but once it started going down a road of a more happy, love-song type record, then it was obvious. We just started thumbing through those songs and typing them up and making sure they were not too cheesy and not too over-the-top obvious."
Chart and Soul
"I think a lot of the [Top 40 mainstream country] artists, their records don't see a lot of attention past what their singles are. iTunes is such a big thing, to just go download one song at a time or whatever. I feel like our fans really buy the records still, they buy the hard copy and they listen to the whole thing. And they may not like every song on there, but they like a majority of them, where — I don't know, man, maybe I'm wrong on this too — but I feel like a lot of the Top 40 stuff that's out there, people are just buying the song that they hear on the radio and wearing that out. [We] try to make it as solid of a record as [we] can. I feel like records should still be made as a whole, and I think people will listen to 'em."
Acting Your Age
"Our fan base is either college kids that are going to school here in Texas, or out on the road it's usually a little bit older crowd — more the mid-thirties to fifties age. A little bit more of an adult crowd, I guess I should say. I think that the people that listen to our style of music just enjoy the lyrics and the stories behind the songs as opposed to something they can sing along to after hearing it one time."