Singer/guitarist Ryan Humbert talks with Rock & Roll Globe about thd road to thd band’s great new album Bullseye
On their second album, Bullseye, The Shootouts deliver 12 new originals destined to become classics.
They play country music and don’t shy away from the sounds they loved growing up. Hints of Bakersfield, Roy Orbison, Bob Wills and Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western soundtracks pop up, but they’re reinvented in a way that makes them come alive for a generation unfamiliar with the roots of country music.
“Our mission as a band is to carry the torch for traditional country music,” said band founder, guitarist and songwriter Ryan Humbert. “You’re going to hear a lot of sounds that may remind you of other artists, songs or bands, but we’re putting our own spin on them. Everything comes back around again, in music, fashion, art and media. A lot of that has to do with different generations listening to the music that came before and filtering it through their modern experiences. That’s were we fall.”
The cover art of Bullseye features a cartoon cowboy brandishing an enormous six-shooter. It echoes the movie poster image of a gunfight that graced their first album, Quick Draw. “I’m a graphic designer by trade,” Humbert said. “I do all the artwork and we’re a fun band. We take pride in our musicianship and people have a good time at our shows, so the image of the band should reflect that. I’m a fan of classic comic book art and pop art and the images are a nice way to set us apart. When you look at the album art for Bullseye, you’ll know what you’re getting into. You won’t expect it to be a punk rock record.”
All the tunes on Bullseye hit the mark. “Rattlesnake Whiskey” is a stomping drinking song, with a hint of surf music in Brian Poston’s lead guitar work. It puts an ironic spin on the “drinking myself to death” lyric. “Hurt Heartbroke” is a rocker that tips its hat to Haggard and Owens, with some excellent honky-tonk piano supplied by guest sideman Micah Hulscher. “Forgot to Forget” is a waltz, with Humbert longing for a lost love. It’s made more poignant by the pedal steel of Al Moss and a memorable descending bass line from Ryan McDermott. “Here Come the Blues” is a classic bit of Western Swing, with Humbert’s wrenching vocal backed by Poston’s impressive guitar work. You can almost sense him winking, as he slips quotes from Roy Nichols into his solo.
The record gives you a jolt of uplifting energy, sorely needed in these harrowing times. The Ohio based band recorded it live, in Nashville, with BR5-49’s Chuck Mead producing. They finished it last March. A tornado had just destroyed parts of East Nashville before they started work and, few days after they finished, the nationwide lockdown took effect.
“It was an interesting time to make music,” Humbert said. “Chuck’s house was damaged and he lost both of his cars. I asked if he wanted to postpone, but he said, ‘Let’s do it!’ The lockdown was starting to happen as we were working. We gave it our all at the same time we were getting e-mails about shows and tours being canceled. It was surreal to be away from home, making a record during all that.
“Before we started, we looked at what we did on Quick Draw and the songs we’d been playing live since then. Quick Draw didn’t have any shuffles, or songs in a minor key, so we wrote some new tunes and cut 15 of them with Chuck. He knows when to crack the whip, when to put his arm around your shoulder, or when to crack a joke. He helped us steer the ship. We wrapped it up in six days.
“As we realized we were headed into a pandemic, we wanted the music to be fun. So we put 12 tunes on the record, keeping the tempos mostly upbeat. We aimed for something you could put on in the car, with the windows rolled down, or sing with friends around a campfire. If we can take the weight of the world off your shoulders for 30 minutes, then we’ve done our job.”
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As we slowly get back to a semblance of post-pandemic normalcy, Humbert, Poston, McDermott and their band mates – singer Emily Bates and drummer Dylan Gomez – long for the day they can begin to play live again.
“We did a few shows outside in the summer and fall, socially distanced, but only one was with the full band,” Humbert said. “Sometimes I go for a month without seeing anyone in the band. As I settled into this new life, it allowed me to renovate my farmhouse and start an online streaming version of my radio show – The Americana Roundup. (americanaroundup.com)
“Music is still a side hustle for us. The goal is to have a full time touring band, continue making records and become a bigger part of the Americana/country music world. There’s more going on in county music than you can hear on regular country radio. A lot of people don’t know they like country. People often come up to us after concerts and say, ‘I don’t like country music, but I like what you do.’ We laugh about that. We’re about as country as it gets.”