Dec. 18, 2013 at 6:18 a.m.
The Midnight River Choir and its authentic brand of good-mood country soul is making its way to Cuero this weekend.
Frontman Eric Middleton caught up with Get Out to talk about the band's newest album, getting wrapped up in honky-tonk and finally deciding that he would stop cutting his hair.
I've heard your name came from the "River Gods" along a tubing trip. What was it about that experience that made you want to to form a band?
We had talked about it before hand. We all knew that we wanted to play music. When the river trip happened, that reassured me that I was with the group of people I needed to do it with.
I have to ask you about your hair. Are you channeling any of the great long-haired musicians?
We obviously are big fans of the jam bands like The Band and the Allman Brothers. Not that we're necessarily trying to model ourselves after them, but it kind of comes with the territory. We're playing music, so we've got to stop cutting our hair.
There's an album coming out in February, right? What can you tell me about that?
It's coming out March 11, on my mother's birthday.
I have never been a part of anything I liked more than doing this record. It was our first opportunity to do it on a semi-professional level with a producer. We did our mixing and mastering in the Bay Area of California.
It's a grown-up version of anything we've ever put out. We've gotten away from singing - not that we ever did too much - but it's less of the party songs and more about songwriter style, things that mean something to the heart.
The new album is going to be called "Fresh Air." A lot of people that have heard us lately have said our music is a breath of fresh air; we figured why not name the album after that?We have a new song on the record called "Funny Thing". Our producer and his manager brought about half that song to me and asked if I liked it and wanted to finish it with them.
It talks about the truth as if it's a person and the way you should treat it. It didn't necessarily open my eyes, but it made me think about that in a different way. It almost taught me to think of everything as if it was a person and the way it would act, to think about dealing with whatever subject it might be as if it were a person, treating the situation right and taking care of it.
Does anyone in the band have any formal musical training?
Not necessarily formal training. Our bass player used to be in the choir in high school. Mitchell, our drummer, his dad is Rodney Pyeatt, who plays guitar with Stoney LaRue. He's been around music his whole life.
For me, I hurt my back in high school playing football, and my grandfather bought me a guitar, an Epiphone Hummingbird, as a rehabilitation tool. Once I had that, I couldn't really do much else except sit on the couch and play that thing. I still have it. It's at my dad's house. It's pretty special to me.
For playing a lot of "honky tonks," MRC doesn't necessarily play a lot of honky tonk. "My Friend" is a prime example. How did the band wind up on that scene?
Mitchell, our drummer, wrote that song as a wake-up call for his brother. It's almost like a remember-when thing now, rather than a trying to make that point to him.
We were geographically placed into the Texas country scene, especially being around New Braunfels and San Marcos. I moved to San Marcos for college in 2007; I was a big fan of everyone around - Cross Canadian Ragweed and Stoney LaRue and Randy Rogers. We just fell into that group. We never called ourselves Texas country, but we grabbed onto the coattails of the market.
And it's worked! Y'all recently played the Steamboat Music Festival. What other festivals would you like to play?
We want to do as much as possible. This was our fifth year at Steamboat. All of the festivals that Dickson's Production puts on are great. As far as the ones we're gunning to get on, we're trying to get on any one of them.
You mentioned that your songwriting has grown up. How so?
I've been writing songs since I was 13. They started out that way about partying, but when I started writing songs, I didn't necessarily party much being 13.
My writing process has always been making a story out of a situation that happened. Most of my songs are based on a true story.
The songs of this record evolved because I started writing with Monty Byrom, our producer who's been writing songs professional for 15 or 20 years before I was born. He knows how to craft the song and pull the words out of me, rather than finish my ideas. He pulls the words out of my brain.