Nashville songstress Heidi Feek has no problem wearing her influences on her satin sleeves. “I naturally [gravitate] towards anything that has to do with cowboys or James Bond,” she tells Rolling Stone Country. “You really can’t go wrong with those two things.”
For Feek, it was only natural that an obsession with cowboy culture and trail songs would not only find its way into her own music, but also become one of its defining features, as it is on her latest single, “Trail Pop.” “I’ve always just loved it so much and thought, ‘One day I’d love to write some trail songs,'” she recalls.
And so she did, tapping co-writers Willie Breeding (also in the producer’s chair) and Matthew Craig Johnson to work with her on the new tune, which is the title track to a full-length she’s prepping for 2015. The trio imbues Feek’s sultry vocals on “Trail Pop” with dry, sun-baked strains of lush, Spaghetti Western strings and wobbly, cinematic guitar lines slip-sliding against the shuffling gallop of drums that sound like reins whipping a saddle. That electric guitar work comes courtesy of Steelism six-string-slinger Jeremy Fetzer, whose own band has taken a sonic cue or two from Ennio Morricone in the past.
“I wanted him to play on it specifically because his ear is perfect for this project,” Feek says of the guitarist. “He was really into it, so when we went into the studio, he came up with a lot of that stuff on his own.… He’s one of my favorite musicians in Nashville. He’s amazing.”
The daughter of trad-country duo Joey+Rory, growing up, Feek didn’t have to look far beyond her backyard to discover classic influences. “The raising that I had in country music definitely lends itself to my attention to things like lyrics and storylines,” she says.
Among Feek’s desert-island-albums are Marty Robbins’ Gunfighter Ballads and Trails Songs and Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger. Fittingly, “Trail Pop” is an “on-the-road” song about life on the trail, so to speak. “Anybody who has a job that involves being on the road or traveling at all, it’s kind of like being on the trail, talking to your significant other and saying, ‘I’m gonna be back when the season is over,'” explains the singer explains, who, as a touring musician, can relate. Early in life, she learned first hand the emotional toll that life takes on musicians and their families.
“Having grown up in the music industry, I’m pretty well aware of what musicians do and what it takes as an artist,” Feek says. “It’s a job; it’s a career, but it’s a love and a passion.… You’ve gotta take the good, the bad and the ugly.”
Consistent with “Trail Pop’s” dusty atmosphere of desert-road loneliness, the video for the song (directed by Feek’s husband, Casey Pierce) offers hat tips to Sixties gunslinger- and spy-movie aesthetics, while bringing a sleek, modern sheen to the table. Feek and Pierce make no attempt to veil their timeless influences.
“We watched a lot of the intros to the Bond movies,” Feek explains. “Casey also gathered a lot of inspiration from Spaghetti westerns — The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in particular.”
Though Feek has few details to share about the album, she says the title track offers a good sampling of what’s to come. “I’m so close to the project, every song sounds different,” she says before adding, “I think [this is] a good introduction.”