Native Run’s Rachel Beauregard and Bryan Dawley have been in Los Angeles for less than 24 hours, but the burgeoning country duo has already had a celebrity sighting at their hotel: Kings of Leon‘s Caleb Followill.
“I talked to him for a little bit and we smoked a cigarette together,” Dawley says. “You hear about the Sunset Marquis and how star-studded it is, so it was cool.”
For her part, Beauregard is just happy she didn’t freak out. “Normally when I meet really talented people, I geek out and I get really awkward, but last night I didn’t make eye contact and I went to bed without making a scene,” she says with a laugh. Mission accomplished.
The Nashville-based pair are in town to tout their first single, “Good On You,” which is at radio now. (Listen to the song via its lyric video below.) It’s on their Luke Laird-produced debut album, out on Toby Keith’s Showdog-Universal Music label in early 2015.
The two prefaced the single’s release with a series of internet clips, dubbed Cover Under the Covers, that features the Virginia natives on a bed recording their versions of some of their favorite songs, including Tim McGraw’s “Red Ragtop,” Bruce Hornsby’s “Mandolin Rain,” and Ellie Goulding’s “Burn.”
Dawley jokes that “Robert Mondavi,” the California wine brand, is to blame for the fun, loose cover tunes.
“One thing with Bryan and me, we really want people to know that we’re probably the weirdest people on the planet,” Beauregard says of the sometimes goofy clips.
For now, Native Run is out from under the covers and opening for David Nail through November 15th. It’s the first time they’ve had the luxury of a tour bus and a full band on the road. “We’re not having to get to a hotel at 2 a.m. and then wake up at 4 a.m. to drive six hours to the next venue,” Dawley says.
They love watching Nail perform and have picked up a few pointers, primarily, consistency and professionalism. “When you see him sing [“Let It Rain”], it’s like he hasn’t sung it 1,000 times already. When he hits those notes, he’s wailing and singing his ass off. You feel the emotional connection he’s giving to every single song.”
As Native Run’s EP, out now, amply displays, Beauregard and Dawley also have a love for mandolin and banjo. “One of my favorite things about the banjo is how understated it can be,” Beauregard says. “If it’s not there, you don’t miss it necessarily, but if you heard it in a song and then it went away, you’d be like, ‘this is not the same’.”
They gravitate toward such instrumentation in their own music and in the music they love as fans. Rolling Stone Country asked the two to pick their favorite songs that highlight some fancy banjo picking:
“Roll In My Sweet Baby‘s Arms,” Flatt & Scruggs
Beauregard: “The first thing you think of when you think banjo is Earl Scruggs because he is insane… ‘Roll In My Sweet Baby Arms’ is just perfect bluegrass: it’s fast, it’s harmony, it’s just great.
Dawley: Not a lot of people know this about him, but [Scruggs’] style of playing banjo, his right hand, is taught as the premier banjo method.
“Araceli,” Nataly Dawn
Dawley: Nataly is from the group Pomplamoose. The song is about the Greek figure Araceli. A guy named Ryan Lerman plays this awesome, very complex banjo lick that follows the story almost. It’s really interesting.
“Spaceman,” Tall Tall Trees
Beauregard: “I used to go to the Kennedy Center [in Washington, D.C.] every Tuesday night. There’s a free concert series —we’ve actually played it — and one Tuesday there was a band called Tall Tall Trees out of Brooklyn. The lead singer plays banjo and he has a song called ‘Spaceman’ and I just fell in love with the song. It’s quirky and weird and very Brooklyn-y, it’s just another example of how the banjo has made its way into the most indie of the indie songs.
“Rye Whiskey,” Punch Brothers
Dawley: “Chris Thile is one of my favorite instrumentalists, musicians and lyricists of all time. The thing I love about ‘Rye Whiskey’ is the banjo kind of takes the lead melody on all the instrumental sections. It’s just cool to hear the vocal quality [on] the lyrics and then when the banjo comes in and mirrors it, it’s an interesting pass-the-torch kind of thing.”
“Patchwork Girlfriend,” Punch Brothers
Beauregard: “If you go back and listen to old Opry videos by Scruggs and Flatt and fast forward to what the Punch Brothers do, there are so many similarities. ‘Patchwork Girlfriend’ has the lyric quality of that silly, old school bluegrass stuff: it’s basically about making his own girlfriend.”
“Friday Night,” Eric Paslay
Dawley: “[The banjo] has a very adhesive quality in a lot of country that you hear on the radio today, just the understated rhythmic quality. You hear that in ‘Friday Night,’ the way the choruses just elevate. A lot of that has to do with the banjo rolling through and that’s something I love doing in our music.”
“Katmandu,” Bela Fleck & The Flecktones
Beauregard: “Bela Fleck mixes world music, African music, jazz…. he brings the banjo into everything. [On] ‘Katmandu,’ he adjusts the notes just by tuning. It’s just incredible to watch. It’s perfect. It’s freakish, in a way. When you watch someone do something so perfectly and they know their instrument so well, you feel like you just saw something that really resonates.
“The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” Bela Fleck & The Flecktones
Beauregard: “Bela does a cover of ‘The Ballad of Jed Clampett,’ and it’s just so funky and weird and it has this woman singing through the whole thing. It’s a journey. It’s a weird experience, but I love how he plays the banjo in that thing.”
“I Don‘t Feel It Anymore,” William Fitzsimmons
Dawley: “I love sad ass music. He sings this song with Priscilla Ahn, who has an incredible voice too. The banjo is just so eloquently sad. It just pulls and tugs on your heart and adds to what they’re singing at each other. It’s a cool palette over a song like that.”
“Neon Light,” Blake Shelton
Beauregard: “This is an example of the Ganjo [a combination guitar and banjo]. We use Ganjo, as does Keith [Urban], as does Blake Shelton in this song. We just love it. Blake just always makes the right choices.”
“When God Dips His Love in My Heart,” Alison Krauss
Dawley: “She does this song with the Cox Family. I think originally Hank Williams did it. It’s just one of these three-part harmony [songs] and I’m obsessed.”
“I‘m Nowhere and You‘re Everything,” Chris Thile
Dawley: “This is a very Chris Thile-centric list. This song is off a record he made right after he was divorced called ‘Deceiver.’ I believe he played everything on the record, just kind of sat alone and made a record himself and cried into his banjo. The whole motif of the song is based off this banjo lick and the rest of the song musically sort of ebbs and flows around it.”