Laurel Wright and Wesley Lunsford make up the duo known as The Young Fables. Their modern, traditional country stylings have made a lasting impression on big names in the genre like Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow, and Shaina Twain. Their connection, both emotionally and musically, is evident from the moment you listen to their music, and even more so once you spend a minute talking with them.
I was fortunate enough to get the chance to talk with them about how they met, their songwriting process, why they used Kickstarter to fund their latest project, Old Songs, competing in the new country music competition show Real Country on USA Network and so much more. Keep reading to see what they had to say.
Tell me a little bit about how you guys individually first got into making and performing music.
Laurel: Well, I grew up singing in church locally, like around my hometown. Then when I was 10, I wrote my first song, started playing guitar and then I guess I just haven’t stopped since then.
Wes: My mom bought me my first guitar when I was 13 or something like that. She took me, after I learned a few songs, to this open mic, back in my hometown and I played two songs; I think “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd and “I Want To Live” by The Ramones and it was awesome. So it stuck.
Then how did you guys first meet?
Laurel: I had a gig that I was supposed to play, about… what was it? Like five years ago or something, Wes?
Laurel: We were rehearsing and the guitar player that I hired, he just didn’t show up to the rehearsal. He wouldn’t answer anybody’s phone call. It was like two days before the gigs and my drummer was like, “Well, I know this guy named Wes?!?” I was like, “Well okay, whatever. You know it’s worth a shot.” And Wes is the only one left in the band now [laughs].
Wow. So then what made you guys want to move from being solo artists to pursuing music together as The Young Fables?
Wes: Well, I was never a solo artist; I’ve always been a sideman, guitar player. When we were playing together, it just seemed to be something special or something. Because once we came to Nashville, every show was together. It was sort of a fit by then
Where does the name The Young Fables come from?
Wes: We write a lot of songs with Laurel’s grandparents. So we were sitting around with our friend Patrick and we were trying to come up with names for the group. He was talking about us writing songs with her grandparents and he’s like, “That’s pretty unique. Not a lot of people do that.” Especially since Laurel’s grandparents are not musicians or songwriters; they’re just great storytellers. So he was like, “What you’re doing there is you’re taking these old stories and you’re making them new again, creating sort of young fables.” We’re like, “Man, that’s a great name.” So I asked the question everyone always asks whenever they hear our name and it’s like, “What are we going to do when we’re the old fables? We won’t be the young fables forever.” He’s like, “Well, it’s not really about you. You’re creating young fables.” I was like, “Okay, well that’s cool.” So that’s how it stuck.
That’s such a cool story. So your music would generally be classified as modern, traditional country, but I am always curious how you would describe your music if you couldn’t use genre names? What kind of music do you guys produce?
Wes: I always think about it as we make music in either two ways: it’s either traditional music with modern twists or modern music with very strong roots and history.
That’s an awesome way to describe it. Kind of going off that, I want to ask you about your latest project, Old Songs. I know you guys got it funded on Kickstarter. Why did you guys want to crowdsource it instead of going a more traditional route when it comes to getting an album made?
Laurel: Well, Wesley and I are completely independent. I’ve never been signed to a label, Wesley hasn’t and we especially haven’t as The Young Fables. We started making this record before we had the money. We just found the producer that we loved. We knew we wanted to make an album, but then when we met Mitch [Dane], we were like, “Oh my God, this is the guy.” You know? So we started before we had any of the money and I don’t know… it was a lot of money. I’m sure people thought we were pocketing money, but it is so expensive to make a record.
Laurel: I think we raised a little over $20,000, but I really think it costs us about $30,000 at the end of it for everything.
Wes: But also, when you do something like that, you don’t have to answer to anyone except the people who are already fans. It really afforded us to be able to make an album that we loved.
Laurel: Also, I didn’t feel when we did the Kickstarter that people were giving us the money, which was a thing for me. It’s like, “Okay, people gave us this money.” And it’s like, “No, people purchased a package.” So they were able to get it beforehand and that made me feel better. That’s sort of what sold me on the whole thing too, just not feeling guilty for people helping us out, I guess.
Right. I know some Kickstarters take a long time or, for some people, it’s a pretty quick thing. How was your Kickstarter experience in terms of how fast it was?
Wes: It’s very stressful [laughs]. We put a limit of 30 days to raise $20,000. I think we actually got to the $20,000 mark in 8 days.
Wow. That’s fast.
Laurel: Yeah. We didn’t expect that [laughs]. We didn’t expect to raise any of it, honestly.
You guys talked about it a little bit before, but I always love hearing about the songwriting process. If you guys could just give me a glimpse into that and specifically for the project, Old Songs. You guys spoke about collaborating with Laurel’s grandparents, but is that the only kind of collaboration you guys do? Do you prefer to keep it just you guys and her grandparents?
Laurel: No, we co-write a lot in Nashville. We’ve been here for about four years now and we found the groups of people that we really mesh well with. There’s a song on our record called “Daddy’s Girl” and we’re making… sort of a documentary about that and it’s about the songwriting process. So our manager Patrick just came in and he was like, “I’m just going to film the songwriting process from the very first time that you write until the very end when you record it.” We were crossing our fingers hoping that it would be a good song. Our friend Dean Fields, he wrote this song with us, and it turned out to be great. Patrick went home and he got to interview my dad and it was just a really cool experience. We’re really excited to share it with people. It’s going to be called Fable of a Song.
Wes: Because I think the songwriting process is different for everyone and so what comes of that is just pretty cool.
When you actually got the money raised and you went in and started recording Old Songs, the whole project, what was that process like? How long did it take for that to come together from start to finish when you started recording?
Wes: It wasn’t very long. I think it was within a month. And it was funny because our schedule is pretty crazy. We play a lot; we couldn’t afford not to play. We were just scheduling like, “Okay, well you have four hours of recording time on this Tuesday and then we’ll go play a show. Then the next week we’ll do like Monday.” So it was like squeezing it in.
The lead single from the album is “Half as Good.” What’s the story behind that song?
Laurel: We wrote it with our friend Kenny Foster and all I had in my head was “half as good.” Whenever I started sitting down and actually thinking about it whenever Kenny was over at our house was… on our first record, we have a song called “Too” and it sort of shows the relationship between me and Wes where’s it’s new and fun. I wanted to have a song on this record that sort of was the same type of song but just showed the growth of our relationship as a couple and as people and as musicians. So that’s sort of how “Half as Good” came about.
What do you guys hope people take away from listening to Old Songs?
Wes: I hope that when people listen to the record that they hear something that maybe they won’t hear all the time. I feel like we talk about a lot of subjects on the record that are not talked about in music a lot of times or they’re talked about in different ways. We have a song, “Daddy’s Girl”, that’s about Laurel’s daddy. We have a song called “They Don’t Make ’em Like You Anymore”, which is about my dad who passed away.
Laurel: We like to say that we like to write songs about things that people don’t want to talk about; these things that everyone can relate to, or that a lot of people can, but then nobody likes to actually talk about them because they’re sad or depressing or just hard to talk about or even think about. We like to bring attention to those kinds of things.
I want to ask you guys about this new competition show you’re doing called Real Country. Can you just talk a little bit about the show and what exactly it is?
Wes: Yeah, it’s pretty cool because they took 21 artists from around the country and handpicked every one.
Laurel: They really did handpick people. Our friend Micah [Woods], he’s also on “Team Shania” and we became good friends with him and he told us a story about how Shania Twain was in the hotel he was playing at in New York and she literally asked him to come. So it’s very personal. No, we didn’t get to spend a lot of time with the judges, but it felt like they actually knew who we were, which is really cool, you know?
How did you guys get involved? Obviously, if Shania is picking, I figure you guys were approached and there is no audition process.
Wes: I think someone showed her our stuff or something like that. I don’t really know.
Laurel: She didn’t personally reach out to us like Micah’s story or anything. But there were multiple producers that kept calling us months before.
Wes: We weren’t really sure that we wanted to do it.
Laurel: Just because I’ve done things [like that] in the past, and we’ve done competitions together, and it takes a lot of time.
Then what made you guys decide it was something you wanted to do together?
Wes: They called us a bunch of times and at first we were like “no.” Then after a while, they were like, “Just look at the deal” and it just seemed different than a lot of other competitions. All they really wanted to do is take artists that they believed in and showcase them. I mean it is a competition, but it’s very loose.
Laurel: It really didn’t feel like one though. Even though it was a competition, throughout the whole filming process everyone was so nice and kind and no one was favored. Everything was very fair.
Wes: And they didn’t try to change any artist or any group. They found people who they felt like had a voice and wanted to showcase that.
Do you guys get to work with Shania throughout the process of the show or is it just her giving comments after a performance? What is the actual show format like, as much as you can say?
Laurel: Yeah, like I said, the only real one-on-one time that we got with Shania was whenever we performed and then we actually got to meet with her and chat with her for a few minutes just by ourselves. I think it was right before we went on. But that’s about it though. We’re not actually working with her or anything like that.
Gotcha. So it’s not like The Voice where you get on a team, you work with the judges and they help you pick your songs.
Last question — our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner-nerd. So what is something you guys nerd out about?
Laurel: Oh God, he’s like the biggest nerd.
Wes: I am a nerd about a lot of things. There’s three things. One thing is I’m a big board gamer, so I play a lot of board games.
Laurel: Like intense board games. Not just like Monopoly; we’re talking intense.
Wes: So that’s one. I also read a lot and I read a lot of comic books. That’s pretty nerdy. I also watch a lot of horror movies. I’ve been obsessed with horror movies since I’ve been probably 10 years old.
So I’m sure Halloween is right up your alley.
Wes: Oh yeah. It’s my favorite holiday. I think since I was probably 15, I’ve watched John Carpenter’s In The Mountain Madness and Halloween III on Halloween every year.
Laurel, do you have anything you nerd out about?
Laurel: Wes, help me out… Oh, I really like to watch YouTube videos and I really like to watch makeup tutorials, like I watch them just for fun. Half the time, I don’t even watch them to learn anything, I just watch them because I’m obsessed with it. But something that really might be gross to a lot of people is there’s this girl, her name is SAS-ASMR, and she eats food really close to a microphone; I could watch it for hours and hours and hours [laughs].