Bona fide troubadours calling no place home but wherever they happen to be, songwriters Nate Rylan and Chris Brooks used to travel the country together as commercial drivers, hauling cargo and kicking up dust from Texas to Texarkana and Tallahassee to Teaneck. It was exactly the sort of blue-collar grind you'd hear about in a country song, filled with truck stops, radio static, blurred images of the countryside rolling by, and the reassuring rumble of the interstate.
Somewhere along the way — at a motel in Georgia, to be exact — the two pulled their guitars out of the truck's cab and wrote their first song together. More songs followed. Before long, they were stopping by roadhouses in their off-hours, setting up in smokey corners under the neon lights along the way to debut their new originals to bar regulars. The incredible, heartfelt response from the good folks across their routes found the two frontmen embracing a sound that updated the classic country twang of Jerry Reed, Kris Kristofferson, and other sharp-minded outlaws for a contemporary audience. Seemingly from nowhere and everywhere all at once, Rylan Brooks was born.
The duo's dynamic, driving sound kicks into high gear with If Wishes Were Horses, Rylan Brooks' second album. Recorded in Nashville with producer Dean Miller (son of the "King of the Road" himself, Roger Miller), these are the songs of two real-life highwaymen who've witnessed their share of highs and heartbreak throughout their travels. They kick up plenty of gravel with "Abilene," "Hands Off," and "She Loved That Cocaine," three roadhouse roots-rock anthems anchored in grit and guitars, and settle into a back-porch groove with "Passenger Blues." "Keeping My Distance" trades the hell-raising humor of the duo's 2018 release, Half Wild, for something haunting and melancholy, while "If Wishes Were Horses" — the album's warm, wistful title track — finds Rylan Brooks turning regret into a Seventies-inspired southern ballad.
Together, these 10 tracks paint a raw, real picture of a band on the rise, emphasizing honesty and autobiographical storytelling far above the retro-minded revivalism that often characterizes outlaw music these days. After all, Rylan Brooks' two members aren't looking to recreate the past. For all their old-school swagger, they're still making music for the present, filling If Wishes Were Horses with songs about their own victories, vices, struggles, and successes.
"We used to spitball lyrics while driving," Brooks remembers. "It started off with some very tongue-in-cheek stuff inspired by writers like Shel Silverstein. As we kept playing, we realized this music was a great outlet for any kind of story we wanted to tell…especially stories about our own experience out here on the road."
That being said, they don't deliver these stories alone. Rylan Brooks recorded If Wishes Were Horses at Omnisound Studios in Nashville, cutting tracks side-by-side with an all-star cast of Nashville’s best musicians along the way. Fourteen-time ACM “Drummer of the Year” Eddie Bayers had risen to fame by keeping time for Bob Seger and the Grand Ole Opry’s “The Opry Band”, while guitarists Guthrie Trapp and Michael Spriggs had collectively played with Travis Tritt, Dolly Parton, and Patty Loveless. Pedal steel player Steve Hinson previously toured with Randy Travis and Ray Price. Under Dean Miller's direction, the band punctuated Rylan Brooks' songs with Telecaster twang and dancehall dynamics, creating an album rooted not only in first-rate songwriting, but top-shelf performances, too.