Gone West: Four Solo Artists Find New Harmonies, Forge New Collaboration
By the time Gone West became a band, all four of its members had solo career experience: Colbie Caillat enjoyed success in the pop world, with hits including "Bubbly," while Justin Young was an acclaimed Hawaiian singer-songwriter. Nellie Joy had a successful career as a Nashville songwriter, and spent some time in another country band, the JaneDear Girls. Jason Reeves, meanwhile, was a Nashville transplant who'd honed his songwriting chops in LA and gained traction in the country community, too, penning tracks for acts including Lanco.
Despite the fact that all four were veterans of the music business, the quartet found an entirely new direction once they teamed up. There were many reasons for this discovery, but the simplest one was the addition of one particular instrument.
"I think the biggest road that opened up was having access to a steel guitar and being able to put that in our songs," Joy explains. "'Cause before, even in my old country music, for whatever reason, I didn't use the instrument. Now we're getting to, and we're all obsessed with it."
An even bigger -- and more liberating -- change has been playing music as a band, as opposed to as solo artists. "It's just a lot more freedom," says Reeves.
"We can rely on each other, and it's kind of like a team instead of an individual sport," he continues. "Like, I was watching golf this weekend, and I was thinking how crazy it is to be a golfer, because it's all on you, and you have to be perfect every day."
If being a solo artist is like golfing, Reeves goes on to say, being in a band is like being on a basketball team: "[In basketball] you can, like, be injured and not even in the game, and your team can rise up and still win the game for you," he explains. "I feel like that metaphor applies to this band. We all help each other, and it's more a team sport."
Collaborating took the pressure off in another way, too, Young points out: It forced each of Gone West's members to relinquish some control.
"Especially when you're an independent solo artist, you're so possessive of [your music and creative process], because everything you put out reflects directly on you," he says. "It's kind of fun to be able to say, 'I'm gonna give my input and throw it into the pot that we all have, and not be so focused on what the end result's gonna be.'"
Gone West chose "What Could've Been" as their debut single in part because it represents all of the bandmates' contributions equally. In the song, the group trades off lyrics, with no one particular vocal line taking center stage. Not every song they write adopts that egalitarian format.
The quartet didn't write the track specifically to be a single; in fact, Joy says, picking it to ship to radio happened "organically," once they started rotating the song into their setlists. It made sense, however, to introduce fans to their music with a song that showcases them all.
"I do think that we wanted to make sure that whatever first single came out was one with all of us on it. Because I sing on the verses of "Confetti," for example," Caillat explains. "We wanted to make sure that our first representation of our band showed that there were four singers in it, and that it was an obvious ... collaboration."
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