It’s late June and Whiskey Myers are onstage at Soldier Field in Chicago, opening for the Rolling Stones on the rock giants’ No Filter Tour. Such a massive gig can go either way: it can be a triumphant win or a total crash-and-burn. Fortunately, the Texas six-piece have been training their entire dozen-year career for this night, and they nail it, gaining the crowd’s attention and even earning a shout-out from Mick Jagger when the Stones take the stage.
“It was the most hectic, but coolest day in the world. You’re opening up for one of your idols,” says Whiskey Myers guitarist John Jeffers a few months later, still high on the Stones buzz. “We learned that Mick picks bands off an iPad. He’s watching videos, scrolling through and we got handpicked by him. It was a bucket list gig.”
On their new album, Whiskey Myers channel their heroes in both swagger and vibe. Even some of the song titles allude to the Stones: one is called “Bitch,” another simply “Rolling Stone.” The self-titled LP, their fifth, was produced by the band — Jeffers, singer Cody Cannon, guitarist Cody Tate, drummer Jeff Hogg, bassist Jamey Gleaves, and keyboardist Tony Kent — and it explodes out of the gate.
The first five tracks are irresistible rockers with a hint of country twang peppered here and there. “Die Rockin’,” written with Texas icon Ray Wylie Hubbard, steamrolls into the B.T.O. boogie of “Mona Lisa,” which sets up the one-two punch of “Rolling Stone” and “Bitch,” the latter a song that Jeffers says he wrote with a “chip on his shoulder” after hearing too much similarity on the radio. “I heard the same lyrics in every single song I listened to,” he says. “After a couple of beers and a glass of wine or two, I ended up writing how I was feeling that night.”
By the time the album gets to the fifth track, “Gasoline,” it’s at fever pitch. After four previous albums, two with super-producer Dave Cobb, this is the record the band was poised to make. While 2014’s Early Morning Shakes was their breakout, and 2016’s Mud their most commercial success, both LPs had moments where they lulled. Not so here. Whiskey Myers, even at 14 tracks, is a concise, focused effort and proves the band can be just as compelling, hard-rocking, and genre-crossing on record as they are onstage.
“We write the songs as to how we want them to sound, and we like to rock, especially live, but we have country songs too. We’re from the country, and we grew up on that,” says Cannon. “But we never thought about cutting anything like that to fit a format. It’s a cliché, but it’s honest, and it really just comes out that way, being true to your own sound.”
“We understand what kind of music we play,” adds Jeffers, “in that we can go and tour with Lynyrd Skynyrd, open for the Stones, and then go play with Jamey Johnson and Miranda Lambert, and then do a tour with Shinedown. Once we get in the studio, there’s no telling how the songs will turn out: a rock song can be a country song, a country song can turn out to be a rock song. We always said let the music speak for itself. Hell, the Stones were one of the best country bands in the world.”
Whiskey Myers highlight those country leanings on the LP’s most foreboding track, “Bury My Bones.” Opening with haunting mandolin, the song finds Cannon lamenting life on the road, and how traveling the world is often fraught with danger. Jeffers wrote the song, with help from Nashville songwriter Tennessee Jet, after a particularly grueling European tour.
“We were running heavy and I thought, man, if I died over here, I don’t want to be buried here. Someone will have to take my ass home. I need to be buried at home, not in France or somewhere,” Jeffers says.
Aside from their hectic touring schedule, Whiskey Myers have been converting new fans in an unexpected way: by having their music featured prominently on the Paramount Network series Yellowstone. The group also had a cameo in an episode of the Kevin Costner drama about warring ranchers, performing onstage in a bar.
“It helped us tremendously. To reach that many people at one time, especially as an independent band, you don’t have the type of pull to do that,” Cannon says. “Every time you get to do something like that or open for the Rolling Stones, you reach people you couldn’t normally have gotten to by going around and playing every night.”
Still, the band recognizes the importance of playing live, whether it’s onstage at Soldier Field or chewing up the pavement on their own headlining tour. They have shows booked all the way into February in support of the new album, and anticipate crowds that are drawn to all sides of Whiskey Myers — both the band and the new album.
“It’s something you can put on and listen all the way through,” says Jeffers. “If you’re a rocker or a country guy, there’s something there that you’ll gravitate toward.”