A Decade In, Turnpike Troubadours Still Going Strong

Photo by Cal Quinn courtesy of All Eyes Media
Turnpike Troubadours, along with Shooter Jennings and Corb Lund, play the Lawn at White Oak Music Hall on Friday, July 27.
A lot of bands form with no real plan, well, other than writing, playing and (hopefully) recording some music. That wasn't the case for country outfit Turnpike Troubadours, now ten years into their existence.

“This really was our plan, to make a real go of this band,” said RC Edwards, one of the band’s founding members. “It took a while to find the right guys that all got along, but at some point, it just turned into a family. We’re like brothers. We couldn’t do it without each other.”

After more than a decade together, Turnpike Troubadours – who play White Oak Music Hall on July 27 (Shooter Jennings and Corb Lund open) – don’t appear to be slowing down.

The sextet’s first two records garnered industry buzz but didn’t do much commercially. However, Turnpike Troubadours’ last three albums have all charted on the Billboard charts. The last two even peaked inside the Billboard Top 20 and reached the top three of the Billboard Country Albums charts.

Edwards, the band’s bassist, admits that having a plan from the onset really didn’t guarantee anything at all, save for some potential heartbreak down the line.

“Yeah, we had a plan, but other bands had those plans, too,” he admits. “At the five-year mark, we’d talk about bands we had played with, and very few were still around. But we did it.”

 Turnpike Troubadours had to find proper management, learn the ways of the music business, how to monetize their product and promote shows, and how to coexist on the road.

“We were beating our heads against the wall trying to figure it all out, but we finally got some actual guidance as far as getting on the radio and doing promotion,” Edwards said. “We were a total DIY outfit to that point, and before we had some help come along, we really didn’t know what we were doing. It wasn’t quite going anywhere.”

How times have changed. Turnpike Troubadours are unquestionably one of the most credible, beloved acts on the country indie circuit. They sell albums and move merchandise. They fill up venues nationwide and will put plenty of butts on the Lawn at White Oak Music Hall.

This isn’t the case for a number of popular country acts, many of whom have the support of major labels and mainstream country radio. Edwards and his Turnpike Troubadour bandmates say now that they’ve got an organizational structure in place, they see no need to pursue major label riches.

“It’s hard to see us ever wanting to turn our music over to someone else; that’s creative control and something we could probably never get eye-to-eye on with someone else,” Edwards said. “Maybe someone would give that to you, but it’s hard to imagine.”

Edwards counts a punk bassist — Matt Freeman of Rancid — among his biggest influences. This is good to hear for a couple of reasons: 1) It’s always nice when musicians of different genres influence one another; and 2) Rancid is a criminally underrated band and its third record, …And Out Come the Wolves, is pure punk perfection.

Now, a decade-plus into the game, Turnpike Troubadours are influencing their own brand of rising young artists. Such is life when a plan comes to fruition. Of course, Edwards is quick to credit the band’s management and support structure for helping keep that plan in place.

“We try to get some new music out every two years, so we’ll be ready for the studio again soon,” he said. “Inside this organization, we’ve got some great people that help us out in any number of ways. If you knew us, you certainly wouldn’t think of us as organized.”

Turnpike Troubadours (with Shooter Jennings and Corb Lund) play at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 27 on the Lawn at White Oak Music Hall, 2915 North Main. For more information, call 713-237-0370 or visit Tickets $30, plus fees.