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Kickin’ up mud: Nevada’s an enormous state—and Tripp Whitney and the Free Labor need to make it nation

5 min read

Reno country-rockers Tripp Whitney and the Free Labor need you to know: There ain’t nuthin’ badda than a cowboy from Nevada.

That’s the title monitor of their debut album Cowboy From Nevada, launched final November—but additionally the group’s total ethos.

“All the pieces about my life is difficult and work, and I feel that breeds humility while you do it lengthy sufficient,” mentioned Whitney, whose given identify is Derek McAdow. “I personal a home, and I’m only a car-washer. You recognize what I imply? However I did it by means of integrity and laborious work. To me, that’s Nevada—and I really like Nevada.”

Whitney is the band’s frontman and guitarist, and the “Free Labor” is usually bassist Jerry Spikula, his longtime pal, producer and writing companion. As youngsters at Douglas Excessive College in Gardnerville, the pair joined a rock band led by an older pupil whom Whitney credit for educating him to put in writing songs. Music quickly grew to become integral to each of their lives.

Whitney went on to tour the world in a Pantera tribute band, and Spikula left college early to imagine the lifetime of a working musician, backing large names and taking part in as a studio musician; he even as soon as auditioned for Metallica.

“I went to music college in Hollywood, and I lived in my truck and starved and slept in slaughterhouses,” Whitney mentioned. “I completed that 12 months of college and got here again. With (Spikula), we performed in a High 40 band and an authentic band, however he was busy working. And I selected to go a special route.”

Whitney caught to tougher, louder genres in his youth, founding hardcore and metallic bands in Reno like Buried and Slap Grama. In the meantime, Spikula’s wheelhouse grew to incorporate no matter was required of his studio work, though his tasks with Whitney, like Rock Animal Cookbook, hewed nearer to the rock sound they each knew.

Spikula’s experience in recording led him to open Abbey West Recording studio in his residence in 2013 earlier than shifting to a bigger area a number of years in the past.

“It was nonetheless at my home, however it was constructed very small,” Spikula mentioned. “I bought this place in 2018 right here—it’s like an actual precise place. I constructed it, and (Tripp) helped me, together with a pair different individuals.”

Whitney usually got here to Spikula for him to assist file and produce his different tasks through the years, together with his preliminary idea songs in 2019. Spikula had labored with nation artists earlier than, however to Whitney, whose favourite band is KISS, his flip to nation music got here as a revelation—and because it so usually does, it began with a woman.

“I used to be attempting to put in writing (a tune) for this woman, after which she stomped my coronary heart into the bottom earlier than I may end it,” Whitney mentioned. “She performed nation music, and my guard was down, mainly. I simply began listening to this music—after which, hastily, I understood it.”

Heartbreak, Whitney mentioned, alongside his life experiences as a single father and small-business proprietor helped him relate to country-music motifs like celebrating laborious work, self-determination and emotional vulnerability, all in methods he hadn’t thought of earlier than—musically talking.

At Abbey West, Spikula directed every part from Whitney’s vocal supply to his preparations, whereas enlisting drummer Bryan Jenkins, strings participant Buddy Emmer, backing vocalist Todd Baumgartner and greater than a half-dozen different studio musicians to flesh out the album.

“It’s a very ego-free surroundings,” Whitney mentioned. “I give him the vibe; he’s the persona. ‘So how’s he gonna make this factor begin and finish? How are we gonna hold you desirous to take heed to it?’ That’s what he’s nice at. … He can take a few of my guitar out and say, ‘We don’t need this lick right here,’ after which that tune will get completed.”

Added Spikula: “And he’s so fast with writing these things. I’m like, ‘We’d like this,’ after which there’s the verse.”

Because the pandemic raged over the following three years, Whitney and Spikula honed their sound and laid out “a profession’s value” of tracks within the Abbey West studio. They despatched Cowboy From Nevada to be mastered by Richard Dodd, whose previous purchasers embody Freddie Mercury, Jason Aldean and Robert Plant.

Cowboy’s tracks run the gamut of nation sounds, with boot-scootin’ outlaw jams like “Nation Boys Get Down,” twangy upbeat ballads like “Cowgirl Lovin’ on My Thoughts” and swampy anthems like “Vans Tattoos and Trailer Parks.” Whereas the latter is a self-aware stereotype sendup, the album principally avoids the pitfalls critics lob at “mainstream” nation, like too polished, too predictable, not nation sufficient, and many others. In moments when a Nashville millionaire would possibly, for instance, dispense a canned hard-rock breakdown, Whitney and the gang lean into raspy pedal metal slides or folksy banjo blues.

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Nevertheless it’s the eponymous “There Ain’t Nuthin’ Badda Than a Cowboy From Nevada” that gives the hook—a catchy tune and slogan that defines the band’s entire id.

“I feel Nevada wants some delight,” Whitney mentioned. “I suppose you can say it’s our gimmick, however we imagine in it sincerely.”

Added Spikula: “And nobody else is doing this. There’s at all times some man round right here who wrote some form of tune about one thing in Nevada. You recognize, no matter; it’s OK. Most of (our) songs will point out one thing, or a few of them might be all about Nevada.”

With the album out on numerous streaming platforms and self-funded bodily CDs, the band’s said purpose—to unfold Nevada’s nation repute far and large—could also be working. Tripp Whitney and the Free Labor presently has greater than 13,000 month-to-month listeners on Spotify, and Whitney alluded to some preliminary talks with a file label. Their fast objectives stay sensible, although, with Spikula hoping to draw some outdoors administration to rearrange excursions, and Whitney centered on getting their music on curated Spotify playlists to broaden the net attain.

As for larger aspirations: They need to headline the Reno Rodeo.

“The place are you, Rodeo?” Requested Whitney. “That is your tune.”

Study extra at trippwhitney.com.

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