In such an intimate music community, Nashville has a way of bringing artists together for the sake of collaboration and innovation. In the same way, past experiences and camaraderie between musicians Mike Harris and Evan Donohue sparked the idea to create a new local band. Throughout the past few months, Harris and Donohue have used their collective compositional knowledge to produce songs that visit the nostalgic sound of classic rock while pressing against the boundaries of conventional guitar implementation.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with the two gentlemen and becoming a fly on the wall as they told tales of life on the road as touring musicians and shared their expectations for this newfound band. Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado I present Warm Ryders…
R: How did this band come together and who are the members?
Mike Harris: Evan ran sound for the band I was in called Apache Relay. Evan has always been a great musician and a great songwriter, someone that I have made music with in the past. Evan was getting to the point to where he was about to submit songs to Apache to see if we would want to record them, and when the band broke up we decided to play those songs together. Evan and I were hanging out a good bit in the van on tour, and we listened to a lot of classic rock. It was in that band that we thought, “What if we found a way to make a band be a relevant version of what Tom Petty or The Eagles were for their era?” Hopefully we are hitting that mark.
R: The band is extremely cohesive for a new band, what do you attribute this to?
WR: We are naturally good friends. We talk shop together for hours. Yesterday we went to Radnor together and hiked seven miles. We did a little interval training and spent quality time together when we were not gasping for air getting up the ridge climbs. The band that exercises together stays together.
R: What was the vision in starting this band?
WR: We do love classic rock, but we need to add the fact that we have a drive to put electric guitar back in the rock and roll spotlight. I know that sounds as if we are high and mighty, but part of this band is following the steps of some of our brothers in music and really exalting the guitar to its rightful place at the throne of rock and roll. We respect the opportunity to earn that “timeless” label, but at the same time we want to find ways to progress with guitar. As a culture, if people do not stop being so concerned with being timeless and looking back on the past, no one is every going to experience something new. We are not even beginning to crack into that zone as a band, but our goal is to take the guitar to new compositional places.
R: What does the rest of the year look like for the band?
WR: We are doing whatever it takes to keep the lights on this year. What we really need is six more hours in the day to get everything done. We really would love to get an EP or a full album out this year. Our community of peers, who we know both professionally and casually, has been very supportive of Warm Ryders, and we are really grateful for that. At the present time, we are playing shows to keep up our chops. Subconsciously, however, we are playing so that people inspire us to keep playing and follow through with recording. We are so stoked that people are having such a great response to what we’ve created here.
R: What’s your favorite venue or state to play/that you have played?
Mike Harris: When I was in Apache Relay, we opened up for Mumford & Sons at the Ryman. What an amazing time that was. That was massive for us and it still is. I am so glad that those very generous young men afforded us that opportunity.
I look back on this one show, and not everything went right, but when we played NYE in downtown Nashville, it was awesome. My mom and dad came up with my little sister, and they brought my Mom’s dad. My grandfather is a blue-collar man who grew up listening to the Opry on the radio. For him to come to Nashville and see us play, that’s the biggest show I will ever play. Another favorite time playing was when we sold out Exit/In. Evan opened up for Apache Relay, and it was fantastic.
R: What would you do professionally had you not gone into music?
Mike Harris: In high school I was definitely into paintball. I am not saying I thought I had a chance at going pro, it was just a possible aspiration of mine! At that time, professional paintball was more of a thing than it is now, but it is basically the same level as trying to be a pro skater.
Evan Donohue: I think I would have been a teacher. I really enjoy teaching, so that’s what I would have done.
R: What’s the craziest/most potentially illegal thing you’ve done on tour?
WR: That last weekend we were both out with Apache was so fun. It was a time where we were mourning the loss of the band, but we decided to make it the most fun weekend ever. We had to fly from here to Denver, and then ride from Denver to Telluride. We opened for ZZ Top in Telluride alongside Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats and Rich Robinson. While we were in Telluride, we rented a Chevy Suburban and drove up to the top of this mountain, and parked and hiked up even further. Telluride’s elevation is about 8,000 ft. and we drove up Black Bear Road, which is about 12,000 ft. The next morning we drove to the Grand Canyon on our way to a show in Del Mar, hung out in Los Angeles after that show, and basically had a fun funeral party to close out our time with that band.
R: Which movie resonates with you the most?
WR: We are really into Star Wars. It’s always going to be the original trilogy. It’s almost not even fair to say that, but I will say we are really into it. We love trilogies in general.
Mike Harris: I do love The Vanishing and Uncommon Valor.
Evan Donohue: I am all about Woody Allen films.
R: What is your go-to movie soundtrack?
Mike Harris: You know what soundtrack I love? It was a movie Evan and I saw together… Guardians of the Galaxy. We skipped Lollapalooza in Chicago and went to see Guardians of the Galaxy. Afterward, we got Lou Malnati’s pizza.
Evan Donohue: Dead Man by Jim Jarmusch, or of course Star Wars. Stranger than Paradise has a great soundtrack, and so does Blue Velvet. Blue Velvet was actually filmed in Wilmington, NC, and when we were on tour there with Apache Relay, we got to take the day to see all the sites where the movie was filmed.
R: Where is your favorite local spot to hang out when you are not touring?
Mike Harris: I like hanging out at Radnor Lake. I also like being at my house and/or wherever my motorcycle goes. Evan and I have also been known to go to the gun range.
Evan Donohue: I do not know why I always want to go to this place, but I am always drawn to going to PM on Belmont Blvd.
R: What album could you play on repeat without getting tired of it?
Mike Harris: Good Ole Boys by Randy Newman is my favorite album of all time.
Evan Donohue: Get Happy by Elvis Costello. I love Elvis Costello. If anyone who is reading this interview is making an Elvis Costello biopic and needs an actor, I am your guy.
R: What’s your go-to word in the English dictionary, profane or otherwise?
WR: “Tight” or “cool”. The word “tight” is great, because if you say it at the right time you can make people laugh.
Catch Warm Ryders 5/23 as they perform a set at The Family Wash for Pickers Presents A Heartache Tonight: A Tribute to The Eagles.