Interview: Wild Child on Austin, The Give-and-Take of Live Music, and Folk ‘Bangers’

Earlier this week, we gave you our favorite up-and-coming Austin bands; now we’ve had the chance to sit down with one standout to get some more insight into the burgeoning scene in “The Music Capital of the World.” Wild Child is the indie-folk project of founding members Kelsey Wilson and Alexander Beggins, who pieced together the band after meeting by chance while touring with another act. With the help of friends and family, the band released their debut Pillow Talk to surprising success. With the favorable reception, new opportunities arose with their second LP, yet with increased recognition also came more challenges. We discussed the give-and-take of playing live shows, the recording freedom that comes with success, and how live music influences the music you make.

Wild Child Interview

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Wild Child are the archetypal musicians of 2014—they use words like “brand” and have a strong grasp on how the music industry operates. With the changing environment of music these days, it appears emerging artists must double as entrepreneurs, constantly searching for that “big break.” The intense workload or the heavily-populated Austin scene aren’t about to stop them from making music, though; Wild Child explain how they’re learning to feed off the energy of their fans and keep going. Kelsey and Alexander took a break from songwriting to chat. Have a seat and join us.

Rukkus: Thanks for talking with us, guys. First off, the Austin scene seems to have a lot of great rising talent, what’s it like to be a part of the environment? And how does it influence your music?

Kelsey: It’s definitely a little difficult being surrounded by so many folk bands…not that folk is done, but we want to keep pushing the boundaries. Like, we’re Shakey Graves’ [a prominent Austin folk band] biggest fans and we tour together and we’ve played shows together since the very beginning; we used to have a Monday night really crappy residency in Austin a couple years ago with them, and we’d all get together and give each other feedback. It’s never really competitive, it’s just we’re really proud…and there’s so many Austin bands that are getting really good recognition nationally right now. It’s actually a big family environment.

Alexander: I think we’re all together under the Austin ‘brand name,’ so anytime a band from Austin does well, it’s a win for the team.

Rukkus: You guys seem to have great chemistry; how did you start making music together?

Kelsey: Alex and I both decided to play a few things for this psychedelic rock band called ‘Migrant,’ so we met each other on that tour. We didn’t really know each other before. Alexander had his ukulele with him, and though neither of us had ever really sang or wrote anything before, we kind of found that he had what I was missing and vice versa. Together, we could actually complete a song. Once we started writing, we couldn’t stop. By the time we got back home, we found out we were neighbors, and just pieced our family and friends together to make a band before South By [Southwest] in 2011.

Rukkus: Do you feel you make each other better as musicians?

Alexander: Definitely. We know how to complement each other in terms of writing. I think the more we do it, the better we get at it.

Rukkus: Is South By Southwest the goal for Austin bands; the ‘jumping off point,’ so to speak?

Kelsey: South By is the jumping off point, but you strive for ACL [Austin City Limits]. But, it was incredibly exciting when we got in…it’s just so much work. Alex, you wanna take that one?

Alexander: South By is great because there’s a built-in crowd and industry people there that can help build your brand nationally. So, the first year we just went in and tried to play a great show. The second year, it was like, now we’re looking for a manager or an agency, so we’re shaking hands and meeting people. You never know who’s going to be there to impress; it’s really just like a musicians work week. Last year we played something like 13 shows.

Rukkus: Wild Child is building quite a reputation for energetic live shows. Is it challenging to bring the same energy every night? What keeps you going after all the touring?

Kelsey: We’re actually just learning about getting the energy back from the crowd. We’re at this incredibly lucky point where we have a good fanbase in a bunch of cities around the U.S., so we can go to New York and they’ll be fans there that know our lyrics and they’ll be happy for us to be there So, even if we’ve been on the road for a couple weeks, and we’ve been sleeping on floors, and we just did a 27-hour drive, and unloaded all of our equipment and sound-checked…even though we’re exhausted and gross, and well, we’ve been arguing all day…to be in a room full of smiling people that are just so happy you’re there, it’s hard to be upset about that. It keeps you going. You want to give back as much as they’re giving to you…it’s a constant give-and-take.


Rukkus: Are there any shows that really stick out that you’ve played recently?

Kelsey: New York was really great. We sold-out New York, and that was fantastic. We’ve never done a solo headlining tour and sold-out anywhere before. New York, D.C…I couldn’t believe there were people in any of these cities that knew who we were.

Alexander: We’ve been on the hustle really hard since last May, playing non-stop shows. The crowds just kept getting better and better by the third or so time we played in the same market. One show that stuck out for me was Fun Fun Fun Fest.

Kelsey: Yeah, that was awesome. We were on the comedy stage, so it was Sarah Silverman and then us, and then Daniel Tosh played right after us. It was a unique line-up, but it was really cool. We got to meet a lot of people we never thought we’d meet. And there were big bands playing at the same time, like MGMT and Jurrassic 5, so we didn’t think anyone would be there. But it was a packed tent.

Rukkus: Any shows you’re looking forward to?

Alexander: Another Austin show coming up soon. We haven’t to get to play much there, but that’s kind of the nature of the beast.

Kelsey: We’re going to play Colorado for the first time in Boulder, doing an acoustic show for E-Town. I’ve been wanting to go there for a while so I’m pretty excited.

Rukkus: A lot of people like to stress the importance of a “sophomore album.” After the success of your debut, how did you approach your second record?

Alexander: We didn’t stop writing after the first album at all, and we kind of felt the more we played through Pillow Talk, the more we felt that a loud, fun, high-energy show was better, so we started writing with that in mind. By the time we finished all the material, we realized that there was a bigger, more orchestrated sound. So, we got a bass player to come on, and got Ben Kweller to produce, and we got a big studio. Everything just felt bigger.

Kelsey: Yeah, there were no limits with this one. For the first one, we were just piecing the parts together…like, I guess we’ll try playing cello? With The Runaround, anything we wanted to do we could just make happen. So, it was very different.

Alexander: With the live band too, we could actually give them a demo and say ‘what do you think?’ It was more of a team-effort.

Rukkus: So, did you feel your live show kind of dictated where the album went?

Kelsey: Absolutely.

Alexander: Yeah.

Kelsey: After a couple years, you realize it’s hard to play songs like ‘Pillow Talk’ in a loud, rowdy bar. It doesn’t happen. We wanted to see how far we could streach it, because playing the quiet, sweet stuff just doesn’t cut it at a music festival.

Alexander: What we’re doing most of the year is live shows, so it just kind of happens that way. It’s tough to do a record without some bangers on it.

Rukkus: What are your plans for the future?

Alexander: We’re writing up a storm right now, so just trying to play as much as possible. We have January off, but we have a big tour coming up in March and April.

Rapid Fire Questions:

Rukkus: What was one of your favorite albums of 2013?

Kelsey: There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely – Possessed by Paul James (another Austin guy).

Alexander: Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend. They did some great things to push their sound. It was inspiring in a lot of ways.

Rukkus: What do you guys drive to gigs (make/model)?

Kelsey: We’ve got a Dodge Sprinter.

Dodge Sprinter: Where The Magic Happens

Dodge Sprinter: Where The Magic Happens

Rukkus: Describe Wild Child in three words.

Kelsey: In three words?

Rukkus: Yep.

Alexander: Fucking really rad.

Kelsey: [laughs] No. Fucking really rad? How about: Dope dick playa’?

Rukkus: Is that your final answer?

Kelsey: I don’t know if Alexander will let me…

Alexander: No, that works.

Kelsey: OK, we’ll stick with that.

Grab your Wild Child tickets now!
Article by Nicolas White

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