500 Miles to Memphis may not be a local Dallas band, but five of the band's 36 listed upcoming shows will be played in the region--three this weekend, then one more in August and yet another in October.
The Cincinnati-based rock country punk band has been connected with Dallas for years. For starters, frontman Ryan Malott used to live here. And John Pedigo of The O's has played in several of their shows, as well as on the song "Everybody Needs an Enemy" from the band's last release, We've Built Up to Nothing. (Download that song for free after the jump.)
The band released We've Built Up to Nothing earlier this year. It's the band's third album, following the self-titled 500 Miles to Memphis and the sophomore release Sunshine in a Shotglass. We've Built Up to Nothing is something of a re-invention for the band, though: The album features more vocal harmonies, as well as a full orchestra, while still upholding the band's rockin' honky-tonk roots. It's been a successful re-invention, too: 500 Miles to Memphis' songs have been featured on MTV's Nitro Citrus, various television commercials and on extreme sports videos from athletes like Travis Pastrana.
This week, we got to talk to the band's frontman, Ryan Malott, about all of the above.
You worked with John Pedigo of The O's on this release. How'd you guys end up working together?
Well, I think it was about seven or eight years ago. I lived in Dallas and that's how I met John. We stayed in touch and we did a bunch of touring together through the years. Like, I toured a bunch with his older bands and still play with The O's a lot. He's a real close friend of mine and we were recording our new album and I just asked him, "Hey, why don't you play a banjo track on these songs?" That was pretty much it. Been playing in Dallas for years and years.
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So, I understand that your song "All My Friends Are Crazy" is on Rock Band. Is it background music? Or is it a song you can play?
You go on the Rock Band network--I'm not 100 percent sure how it works. When you buy the game, you hook it up to your PS3 or your XBox to the Internet and it brings up this network and you can literally download millions and millions of songs, and one of our songs is on there. You can buy it and you can sit there and play it. It's pretty sweet. I haven't got to play it yet, but there's a lot of people on YouTube trying to play it and it's, like, super hard. It's funny.
Is it super hard to play on a regular guitar?
Uh, actually, not really. What they do with the Rock Band game is they combine the fiddle the steel and the guitar parts into one part of the guitar on Rock Band. So, literally, when you're playing the Rock Band game you're playing three different instruments. It's pretty hard. It's definitely not that hard in real life.
Your name came about because it is 500 miles from your hometown of Cincinnati to Memphis. Were you making that drive (or planning that trip) when you guys came up with the name?
Yeah, actually, I started the band about seven years ago and it was on my drive when I was moving to Dallas. I just saw a mile marker sign for Memphis because Memphis is like the halfway point between Dallas and Cincinnati. I just saw a mile marker sign and though "Ah, that'd be a really cool name for a band." A year later, I started a band and pretty much just Mapquest-ed how far Cincinnati is to Memphis.
Is Memphis where you wanted to get started with your band? Why Memphis?
Our genre is like a mix between rock 'n' roll and country and punk rock. Memphis just has a lot of history like with Sun Records and Elvis, and it's, like, the birthplace of blues. And it just sounds cool and it's memorable.
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On your latest album, We Built Up to Nothing, you worked with Erwin Musper who has worked with bands like Van Halen, Def Leppard and Elton John. What was it like working with him?
It was great. He actually has done our past few albums and he's phenomenal to work with. His English is a little bit broken, but as soon as you get into the studio it doesn't even matter. He dials in everything just perfectly. He's just a blast to work with. He's been helping our band out for a while. He just makes great sounding albums. We're super happy to work with him.
How did you guys get hooked up with him?
Well, he's been through the touring thing and the mixing thing for the past 40 years and he kind of retired and he lived in Kentucky right off Cincinnati and just set up shop. I met him kind of randomly. He came out to one of our shows and loved the band and wanted to work with us. That's pretty much it. It was just luck of the draw, really.
You guys are going to be playing in Dallas this coming Friday through Sunday. What can fans expect at your upcoming shows this weekend?
It's gonna be a wild show. Dallas is always a really good town for us because, of course, we've been playing it for a long time. Got a lot of fans down there. Yeah, our last show down there pretty upbeat, pretty wild, lots of fun.
Catch 500 Miles to Memphis three times in the metroplex this weekend: On Friday at Fred's Texas Café in Fort Worth; on Saturday night at City Tavern; and on Sunday at La Grange.