Based in Austin, TX, but rooted from all corners of the country, The Nightowls bring listeners back in time to an era when soul music reigned supreme. A touch of rhythm & blues, a modern twist and a melting pot of influences make for a seductive cocktail of sound that will knock you out of your seat. Since their debut album in 2014, The Nightowls have wasted no time taking the country by storm. The 10-piece band has recorded at some of the most legendary studios in the country, including FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL and, more recently, Royal Studios in Memphis, TN. Midway through a tour that took them through some of America’s most iconic cities, such as New Orleans, Nashville, Memphis, Chicago and more in support of their latest release, Royal Sessions, I was fortunate to land a quick interview with lead vocalist Ryan Harkrider.
Ragin’ Randy: What are some of your main goals as a band?
Ryan Harkrider: We only have one – To write great music and to travel the world playing it live for people.
RRE: If you had to choose just one aspect of your band that truly sets The Nightowls apart and makes them unique, what would it be?
RH: We pride ourselves on writing great music but above all we love putting on great performances. Every member of the band sings, dances, and performs together!
RRE: Austin, TX has a melting pot of a music scene these days. How has the community there and the variety of influences affected your growth as a band?
RH: Austin is a city known for being the live music capitol of the world and musicians from across the country flock to our city to be a part of the music community. The members of The Nightowls hail from all corners of the US and have brought a wide array of influences and talents together under one group.
RRE: How is the new record different from your past recordings? How was the recording process different?
RH: The writing process for Royal Sessions was different than our previous records because every member had a part in writing, arranging, and recording. This has created a much more cohesive sound as a band. The recording process was unique because the entire band was isolated together in the studio and we were able to collaborate together in the final stages of recording.
RRE: Your roots are in soul music. What did it mean to record your record in the birthplace of soul music, specifically at the legendary Royal Studios? Do you think this aspect had an effect on your final result?
RH: Being able to record at Royal Studios was an honor and truly inspiring. Not much has changed about the historic studio since the 60/70s and when you walk inside you feel transported to another era. For this record, this added a unique element to our experience and allowed us the freedom to make decisions and take chances that we wouldn’t normally take.
RRE: You’ve also had the chance to record at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, another iconic Southern soul recording studio. How were the vibes similar and different to those of Royal Studios in Memphis?
RH: Prior to recording, we did a lot of research into the histories of both studios- the artists, the producers, the recording techniques, microphone placements etc. And, while Fame and Royal are both classic soul studios, the style of soul music that each produced is very different. So, we made very different writing and arranging choices for each album and the result is two very uniquely sounding recordings.
RRE: Glide Magazine quoted that The Nightowls “…seek to bring together the fun loving times of Motown and Memphis soul…” Motown and Memphis, while extremely similar in roots, have distinctly different characteristics. Do you feel that The Nightowls relate closer to one than the other? (Not necessarily just in sound, but in feel, vibe, influences, etc.)
RH: No, I don’t think that we relate to one sound more than the other. I do, however, think that the recordings we did at Royal Studios resonate more with our band because of the collaborative recording process we implemented in the studio and the content of the songs are more autobiographical.
RRE: Vocalist Ellie Carroll has been quoted as saying that your live shows “…continue to get more and more choreographed and exciting.” How have your live performances evolved over the years?
RH: We’ve gone from being a 10-piece band standing on stage playing our songs live to 10 people dancing, singing, clapping hands, stomping feet and putting on fun, crazy performances.
RRE: What kinds of messages do you hope to convey to your listeners with your lyrics?
RH: We want to convey messages of hope, optimism, and of fun.
RRE: Where will The Nightowls be in 5 years?
RH: In 5 years, the Nightowls will be playing music and touring across America and Europe.
RRE: Your current tour is taking you to some of America’s most iconic cities, both for music and otherwise. Are there any highlights or stops that you’re most looking forward to outside the shows you’re playing? Monuments, historic sites, etc.?
RH: Millenium Park in Chicago, getting lost in New York, The French Quarter in New Orleans!
The Nightowls’ brand new 5-song EP, Royal Sessions, recorded at the famed Royal Studios in Memphis, TN, is available now on iTunes or via the band’s online shop. The band returns to Texas tonight, October 21, to finish off an incredible fall tour. Stay in touch with The Nightowls via their website HERE and on Facebook HERE. Enjoy this video of “Right Around The Corner” from the new record!