The Faster Horses Festival busts out of the gate this Friday afternoon, bringing more than three dozen country headliners and up-and-comers to the International Speedway in southern Michigan. Among the highlights: The Cadillac Three, a trio of Nashville natives whose love for Merle and Metallica makes them one of the heavier groups to hit the festival’s main stage — especially when they light into their new single “White Lightning.”
With a touring schedule that’s taken the guys from a sold-out run in the U.K. to their own Aviators and Radiators Tour in America, the Cadillac Three have spent most of 2015 on the road. That requires a lot of time on the bus, of course, and frontman Jaren Johnston takes his bus time seriously, cuing up the right songs to blast out of the coach’s speakers before and after the band’s gigs.
“Before we play,” he explains, “we’ll be on the bus, listening to a lot of ZZ Top, Skynyrd and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. A little Rival Sons, maybe. That uptempo stuff really helps to get us going.”
And after the show?
“We love to come down by listening to the last Sturgill [Simpson] record. It’s so old-school sounding and mellow. I love the Secret Sisters’ records, too, and the Turnpike Troubadours’ Goodbye Normal Street. We’ll put those records on and literally listen to the whole thing.”
To help get Faster Horses’ 25,000-plus attendees into the festival spirit while making their way to the event in Brooklyn, Michigan, Johnston hooked us up with his ideal road trip playlist, offering commentary about each track along the way.
Turnpike Troubadours, “Gin, Smoke, Lies”
We did a lot of Texas dates before we signed to our label, and we became good friends with those guys. Evan [Felker]’s melodies are great. They remind me a bit of Ben Kweller. And that song, “Gin Smoke and Lies” — that’s the jam, dude! He’s pissed off at this girl, and the way he talks about it, it’s so roundabout and brilliant.
Sturgill Simpson, “Long White Line”
I know it’s a cover, but I love it. It’s perfect for driving. And it just goes hand-in-hand with sitting on the bus, having a drink and a smoke. That guitar player, man! He’s a madman. He’s a ninja.
ZZ Top, “La Grange”
You hear that song all the time, growing up. It’s in every commercial, but you can’t hear the whole song in a commercial. Then you listen to the whole thing and realize how great it is. Every time that drum fill comes in, I get off. I love the groove! All he does is laugh! “Have mercy! Ah hah hah hah.” But all their stuff is great. “Cheap Sunglasses.” “Sharp Dressed Man.” On a road trip, you can’t beat Top.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, “Took Out a Loan”
I love that opening riff. It’s the first time I heard anyone play music that was tuned that low. That band is one of the reasons Cadillac sounds like Cadillac, because I heard the music and thought, “I can do this.” They have such a southern thing to their sound sometimes, and I don’t think they even realize it. They just do what they do.
Rival Sons, “Keep on Swinging”
That’s one of the sickest bands to ever walk this earth. They’re unreal. It’s the vocals, the drumming, the groove. Also, a lot of it goes down to me being a nerd and geeking out over [producer] Dave Cobb’s drum sounds.
The Secret Sisters, “Tennessee Me”
I have that first album on vinyl. We met Laura [Rogers] years ago. She was a big fan of our old band, American Bang. The first song of that first album, “Tennessee Me”. . . Man, I love it. I love their whole thing. I listen to it on planes because I don’t like flying, and it kind of calms me down.
Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Swamp Music”
We’re friends with those guys. We toured with them, and Rickey [Medlocke] and Johnny [Van Zant] would ask us what our favorite Skynyrd songs were, and my first answer would always be, “‘Swamp Music,’ because of the riff.” And they’d never play it! Every night we were out with them, they’d joke and promise me that they were gonna do the song that night. Like, “Yep, it’s coming up! Fourth song on the setlist!” But they never do it. I love their normal standards, too. “Tuesday’s Gone.” “Gimme Three Steps.” You can’t beat those. I wish people wrote songs like that these days, instead of songs about tailgates.
Pantera, “I’m Broken”
We’ll play this right before we go onstage. We’ll punch each other in the face, take a shot and then roll out to the stage, and we feel invincible.