Nashville-based duo My One And Only is emerging on the Americana scene with their debut album, The Past Year. Husband and wife, Ben and Kassie Wilson, give listeners a glimpse of their personal lives over the past year since they decided to make music together instead of pursuing separate solo careers. I got the chance to talk with this lovely couple about how they met, the meaning of their duo name, the recording process of The Past Year and so much more. Keep reading to see what they had to say!
Ben: I was playing guitar in a praise and worship band of a small church in a suburb of Nashville called Antioch and Kassie was attending that church. She knew somebody at the church and was attending. We kinda just saw each other and it was probably only 25 people at this church, in this cafeteria, at this school. Kassie was actually the one that messaged me first through MySpace. It all started from there. We started kind of hanging out a little bit.
Kassie: That was ten and a half years ago. Eleven years ago.
Wow. And how long have you guys been married now?
Kassie: We’ve been married nine years, a little over nine years. June 27 was our nine year anniversary.
Moving towards the music side, what inspired your duo name, My One and Only? I mean obviously your relationship, but why that particular name?
Ben: Well there’s a couple of things. We were both solo artists before we came together as the duo. So part of that is kind of the declaration that we’re not two artists anymore, but we are one. Then another part of that was our faith. Jesus is really central to our lives, so God, being our only God, our focus is a part of that. And then obviously our relationship, our marriage, us being the one for each other. So kind of all those aspects of it.
That’s cool. So your music would generally be classified as Americana, but if you had to describe your music without using genre names how would you describe the music you create?
Kassie: We do consider it Americana. If we weren’t using a description of a genre I would say it’s very storyteller. It’s very personal. It’s very… just sharing your stories. And I would say that, because we both had separate [careers as] artists and we come from such different influences in music, we kind of describe it as southern soul meets curious grittiness. So I think that’d be one way that we would describe it. And also just being such storytellers with our songs.
Ben: I’d definitely say that the stories and the truth, but the actual truth of our songs, is really important to us. We hardly ever write or want to write a song that’s just fiction. You want it to be something that people can grab onto, whether that’s something that’s going on in their lives or that’s happened before to them, something that they could kind of just relate to and connect with in our lyrics.
Let’s move on and talk about your new project, The Past Year. What was that recording process like? How long did it take for this to come together from start to finish?
Kassie: Oh, gosh. We probably wrote for a year. When we decided we were going to do this thing full-on like, “Okay, we’re going to do the My One and Only thing, let’s just take a year and let’s musically evolve and bring the worlds together.” So we spent the past year just writing and then we just picked out our favorite songs. Then we decided that we wanted to have a producer produce this project. In the past, Ben actually is an amazing producer and he produced all of my solo albums and all of his. So this time we wanted to bring someone from the outside in to do it. We found this amazing producer, and his name is Andrija Tokic, and he produced the Alabama Shakes’ first record. We really loved his work and we reached out to him and he happened to be here in Nashville and we decided to use him. He produced that project, and he’s just a ball of energy and he’s so good. He just so loves what he does and he really was just into our music. He brought it to a whole new level, so we really enjoyed working with him.
Ben: Yeah. And we called the album The Past Year mainly to put a time frame on that we decided to become a duo and decided to really just discover who we were in that year. It’s not necessarily that all of the events of the songs happened in the last year, but all of those came to the surface as we were songwriting in that year. And it was just an entire year of discovery. We were meeting with a lot of different people [in that year too] and they were just pushing us and encouraging us or saying, “I don’t like this so much” or “keep going on this path.” So it was really a year of discovery.
Going off of the idea of bringing two worlds together, what made you guys want to move from being solo artists to pursuing music together as My One and Only?
Ben: It’s funny because Kassie mentioned that we come from different influences in the past. I didn’t listen to any country music growing up. I mean not even one lick. I listened to alternative rock music and stuff like that. And Kassie listened to country and soul and all sorts of stuff. What I did in my solo career was alternative folk-rock and she did in her solo career country soul [music]. We always thought there was this rift between our musical styles. And there really was, the songwriting was about different topics, the feel was different, the whole industry was different between our two genres. Even people that would be in the industry in those two genres would be somewhat different. So we always just were like, “Oh, it’s just kind of an irreconcilable difference. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing individually.” Well then, there have been people in our lives that started to kind of tell us, “Hey, you should try something together.” And we’d always kind of sing on each other’s songs and everything, but there was a point where we were like, “Let’s just get over that hump of trying this together.” And it really was tough to get over that hump. It was tough to get our song styles to match and to compromise and come up with this sound. But it really worked in the end, it kind of surprised us, really, that it was reconcilable. So it was really at the advice of people around us that were like, “You should try this together. Yeah, I think it could work.”
Kassie: Well, I remember I had a meeting with a publisher that I’ve known for years. I just remember playing him some of my songs that I’ve written, and Ben was playing for me and also singing harmony on some stuff, and then I told Ben, “You should play him a couple of yours too.” And so Ben did and I just remember at the end of that meeting, our friend Bobby said, “You guys are cheating yourselves by not doing this together. You are so good apart, but what you do together is so special.” I just remember that kind of being like, “huh,” kind of this light bulb went off in my head and I was like, “I mean, what are we thinking?” Because we love doing music together and we always play together anyway, like why haven’t we done this already? So it was kind of that moment me where I was like, “Okay, let’s just try.” And it worked.
Ben: That song is probably one of the last ones we wrote in that whole section of writing for that record. But it has true stories in it. We’ve been married, as she said, for nine years, a little over nine years, and we’re not proud of everything that we’ve done in marriage. We’ve made mistakes and we’ve messed up and our focus shifts and stuff like that and we just get back to where we need to be. That song is just about some times in our lives where our focus kind of shifted into the wrong place, whether we kind of just let that slip slowly throughout the months or years
Kassie: I mean, it’s just a true story. Like he said, we may make some mistakes in marriage, but we also just want to be really honest and open with ourselves and our fans because, at the end of the day, we worked through those problems and at the end of the day we came to each other’s rescue. I just love that song so much because marriage is really hard, but it’s such a beautiful thing. There’s no right or wrong, there’s no set of rules you’re supposed to [follow]. You just learn from your mistakes and they bring you closer together. I just love being married and being able to do music with my husband and my best friend. So we just wanted to be super real and transparent with our lyrics and that’s what the song’s about, some of the struggles that we’ve gone through in the past. But at the end of the day, we are the ones that brought each other back and we love each other and marriage is just fun.
What do you hope people take away from listening to The Past Year?
Ben: I hope that people can relate to some of the songs that we’ve mentioned. We kind of write songs so that people will be somewhat connected to them. They’re not abstract songs that are just kinda out there and you can pull and pick and choose what you want to connect to it. It’s a story. It’s things that can be very personal, and even kind of heart-wrenching. So I’m hoping that people can feel connected to it. I think that they’ll probably get to know us a little better, they’ll feel like they’ll know us better with the record. But ideally, I hope that it kind of causes them to look at their own lives and to look at situations in their life and just kind of think about some things or just kind of feel sentimental, just that kind of introspective thing.
Kassie: And for me, I want people to connect to our music, yes, but also I hope that it makes people think. There’s so much great music out there and there’s so many amazing artists and songwriters and it brings so many different things. But I just want people to maybe think, because sometimes in this world we get so busy that we don’t step back and think about things and maybe self-reflect.
There’s a song on the album called “Oh Lord, I Need Some Mercy” and just from the title of it, you’d be like, “Oh, I wonder what’s that about?” But that song is so dear to my heart because it’s about the struggle of a person, an addict, and it’s from the view of an addict. And we personally went through, well my brother was an addict for, my goodness, almost 14, 15 years, and it just almost tore our family apart. But the thing is I honestly never gave up hope. I knew that he could change, I knew he could. We go through super hard things in life and other people are going through it too. But if we’re always, and I’m not saying that anybody’s doing anything wrong, I’m just saying “we” as in me, as in us, like you’re scrolling through Facebook and you see how perfect everybody portrays life. The thing is we’re all broken and we go through crap and I just want to talk about it and share and let people know that they’re not alone. Yeah, I went through hell with my brother, but you know what? We got through it and he became clean. He went through a program, he’s been clean for two years; Jesus got a hold of his heart. The beauty is that can happen for other people too. I just want people to have hope and to stop and think about things and to know that you can come out on the other side. I just want people to enjoy the album and be able to connect to us and to know that we’re all, we’re all going through the same struggles, we just write about it and talk about it.
Obviously, you guys just released this album, but what else do you have coming up for the rest of the year? Do you guys have any plans to hit the road anytime soon?
Kassie: Yeah, so we have been back about three weeks. We were in Rwanda, Africa. And since then we’ve just hit the ground running with the album release, but we actually head out on the road next week. So we’ll be doing some touring. We’re going to be going to Chicago, Iowa, St Louis, Georgia. We’re going to just be doing several mini-shows, just really pushing and promoting this new album. We’re going to be doing some really intimate venues and some singer-songwriter stuff, but also some house concerts, which we super love those. We’re just going to be plugging away and writing more too because it’s about that time.
My last question is more of a fun one. Our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner-nerd, so what is something that you two personally nerd out about?
Kassie: You’re such a nerd. This is great for you.
Ben: Let’s see… Maybe we’ll give two here. I love studying a certain topic. So I love studying certain topics in theology, just getting really deep about what the Bible says about something, what culture says about something, what we think the right thing is as opposed to what the religion of Christianity thinks the right thing is. I love just getting deep and spending days delving into topics like that. And another thing is that I love electronics. I remember, when I was a kid, I used to take apart almost everything I had, guitar amps or who knows what, stereos or whatever, just for fun. I mean, I remember watching NASCAR with my friends in my apartment when I was young and take these things apart and just cleaning the inside out. There was no problem with them, just clean the inside out, looking at everything and then put it back together, it was the weirdest thing. So yeah, I love that. What are you nerdy about, Kas?
Ben: I watched it.
Ben: That was because my friend watched.
Kassie: Oh, of course. You would never choose to do that. I’m from Alabama, so I was like, “Wow, I’m really impressed that you did that.” Yeah. His Mama always said he was taking things apart, and what’s crazy to me, [speaking to Ben] you’re still super nerdy.
Ben: We all have nerdy in us.
Kassie: For sure. But I love it. So one day I came home and I was like, “What are you doing?” He was like, “Well, remember how the speaker in my iPhone wasn’t working?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” He had his iPhone completely taken apart. It was in all kinds of different tiny pieces. I didn’t even know you could take them apart like that and he fixed it himself instead of getting a new $600 phone, which we would never do that anyways we would just buy one [off] Craigslist that was used. But anyways, I think that the thing for me is I think that I fell in love with a nerd and I’ve always thought you were kind of nerdy and I still think that you’re super hot and I love the way that you can do that because I can’t put together anything but music. I like to surround myself with nerdy people.
Ben: She’s living vicariously through nerds.
Kassie: I am so living vicariously, but I married one.