What happens when you put four talented award-winning musicians in a band together? Magic, of course! Hailing from Nashville, Gone West brings together two-time GRAMMY Award winner Colbie Caillat, multi-platinum singer-songwriter Jason Reeves, four-time Hawaii music award winner Justin Kawika-Young, and ACM and CMT nominated artist Nelly Joy. Together, they create Nashville-meets-California country greatness.
Gone West will be releasing their debut album Canyons via Triple Tigers on June 12th, an album that follows the release of their 2019 EP Tides.
Ten Minutes With Gone West reveals how the band came to be, their upcoming album Canyons, and their newfound creative process.
The Orchard: You’ve got a new album Canyons in the works that is coming out very soon. What does it means to all of you as a group?
Gone West: It means everything to us. It’s our life put into melody, and, in this album’s case, more so the lives of the people in our lives. There’s a lot of heartbreak on this record. We were inspired by people, including our friends and family, who are going through hard times. We’re proud of the diversity of songs on the album. It’s not a one-dimensional album. Canyons represents the ups and downs. The record is a reflection of what we were all going through.
We were involved heavily with every aspect of the album and spent an excruciating amount of time on every melody and lyric. We produced a lot of it ourselves or co-produced it with other people, so that’s what makes it unique. Without the four of us, it wouldn’t sound the way it does.
The album cover shot was taken on one of our favorite roads in Malibu. One of our favorite things to do in Malibu is to drive all the way up the canyon and then drive all the way down. It’s really windy, taking hard right turns and left turns, but if you’re not driving, you can look and see a beautiful canyon, or you can go a little bit further, turn to your left and see the ocean. We hope that when people listen to our album, they feel like they’re on a journey. We hope they feel like they’re driving through the canyons in Malibu.
When you’re all in the studio and you’re kicking off a song, how do you start?
Every song is different which can make writing sessions fun, yet challenging at the same time. With our single ‘What Could’ve Been’ we went into the session with our producer and writer Jamie Kenney. He had this idea after he listened to and was inspired by our EP. We got into the studio that day and he had part of the chorus already. He sang it to us and we all instantly just loved the idea. The melody was beautiful but the lyric idea was about how two people could look at a past relationship and have a sense of regret and think about if they had made small changes, maybe they could’ve ended up together. It only took a couple of hours to write and we recorded it that same evening.
However, ‘Slow Down’ was different. We also worked with Jamie Kenney but that was a long, slow day of writing — no pun intended! We almost gave up on it. It must have been six hours in before we even started what is now the chorus of ‘Slow Down.’
Would you say that when creating music, your ideas bounce off one another when you’re in the same room?
Yes, and even more so as we learned how to write with four people. That in itself has been a unique experience for all of us. Most of us either write by ourselves or write with one other person, maybe two max. When you throw in a room of four people, sometimes a fifth person, that is A LOT of people to make happy. But that’s what’s cool about it; we all had to be excited about every line, every melody, every production element, so we could all sign off on it.
Toward the end of making the album, we felt like we really hit a stride on the writing side. ‘Tides’ was one of the last songs we wrote. We clearly remember that song in particular was writing itself. The guys started grooving on guitars, Colbie started spilling out this melody and then next thing you know we have lyrics and the song just came together.
What are your top songs off the new album?
We’re all going to have different favorite songs!
Justin: I love the first two singles, they’re probably in my top three. I love ‘Tides’ — it’s unique and it is the kind of a song that shows the different things that we each bring to the band.
Colbie: I think my two favorites are ‘Slow Down’ and ‘Gone West.’ I love that in both of them we’re all singing lead and that it has these big chorus harmonies. Those are my top two.
Jason: I’ve never thought about this. I’ll go with ‘Tide.’ I think it’s my favorite song to listen to as an outsider because I feel like once you record something it’s not yours anymore. I don’t feel like I’m in there anymore, so I think I can listen to it from the outside. It feels happy and it feels smooth. Like Justin said, it shows all of us and he sings Hawaiian as well — I love that!
Colbie: I want to chime in because I also really love the first song we wrote as our band called ‘When To Say Goodbye’ and it’s one that’s so old. We wrote it two and a half years ago. That was the first song, the only song we wrote, and we thought we were just going to put it out online and then we were like, “let’s keep writing and see where this goes.” Then we turned into Gone West. It’s still the one that because it’s so old, we forget to listen to it, and then when we do, it’s amazing that that was the first song we wrote together. I love listening to it.
Nelly: Yes, I would agree. ‘When To Say Goodbye’ was one of my favorites from the beginning and still is one of my favorites. It’s the song my mom always talks about! Also, ‘Knew You’ because that was a really truthful moment for all four of us, something we all experienced together. I loved that we took a hard thing we went through and we turned it into something really happy and fun. Melodically and musically it feels that way, even though it’s kind of gut-punching in regards to what it’s saying. My third would be ‘Gone West,’ because it’s the cornerstone of who we are.
How do you think your sound and ability to collaborate creatively when writing and performing evolved since that first song?
When we recorded our first song, we didn’t know what our long term sound would be. Our hearts gravitate towards the classic rock sound, our style is organic and acoustic, and we knew we wanted to be a four-part harmony band. By incorporating all these different styles from our individual solo careers and the music we all grew up listening to, we were able to help shape our new songwriting and production style for Gone West. It’s important to go into new ventures with an open mind but grounded in how we established ourselves individually as musicians. From there we added on the layers. We hope our fans feel like they’re on this journey with us and get glimpses into who we really are.