Talk about Americana! It all started with a Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks cover when Stereophonics songwriting legend Kelly Jones was on a solo tour and asked Austin, Texas roots duo The Wind + The Wave to open for him. “I’d watch them from the side of the stage and I knew that our voices would work very well together,” reveals Black Deer-bound Kelly. “So we tested out a cover of ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’… and everybody loved it.”
Far From Saints might have been conceived at that moment, but due to the fate 2020 had in store for the rest of the world, it would be a long time before the band got busy being born. “The next day we sang something in a dressing room and it just formed from there. We booked two recording sessions, one at the end of each leg of the tour, and we did the whole Far From Saints album in nine days.” Kelly says. Then a global pandemic intervened. “We were an ocean apart after the pandemic hit,” he continues. “The record sat on a shelf for nearly two years.”
Introducing: Far From Saints
A new day dawned and Jones and Patty Lynn eventually started planning. During the 2019 tour – in backstage hallways, dressing rooms and hotels – Kelly, Patty and The Wind + The Wave’s Dwight Barker traded musical touchstones, talked influences and tried harmonies together. It was time well spent: “That was helpful because I wasn’t nervous, like, ‘OMG I’m going to write with Kelly Jones’, you know? It wasn’t like that,” reveals Patty Lynn. “Kelly and I were just two artists in similar spots who were both ready to try something new.”
What they tried led to a road undiscovered for Welsh musical icon Jones and his newfound collaborators. Listen to Far From Saints’ first shot across the bow, ‘Let’s Turn This Back Around’, and you can immediately hear why the record went straight on to the BBC Radio 2 playlist. Its mixture of alt-country flavours and ruminations on loved ones left behind when musicians tour is a true musical conversation told from two distinct points of view. “That song in particular lends itself to being a duet,” Kelly says. “And it was important to us to have both perspectives in ‘Let’s Turn This Back Around,” Patty reveals.
Admit it, you can detect all your favourites in this beauty. The slide guitar figure, the finger-picked acoustic guitar and the perpetual motion of the melody all sound familiar, while the epic sweep and grandeur of the widescreen outro hints at the ambition to come when Far From Saints start playing live. ““We never really said ‘what are we writing about here?’ to each other,” Kelly says. “It was much more about chasing an atmosphere and sentiment. When the record was finished, it all felt so easy… I could stand back and listen to it as an audience member.” Patty agrees: “Being a songwriter in a band can feel heavy for me sometimes, knowing that I have to finish a song and it’s all my responsibility to write the words,” she says. “But we left space for each other to do our own thing and I enjoyed sharing ownership of that process with Kelly.”
It’s not the first time the songwriter who has led Stereophonics to million-selling, stadium-filling success has spread his wings. Once an aspiring scriptwriter, Kelly has written stories, plays and scripts before – and even a solo record or two. ‘Only The Names Have Been Changed’ slipped out at the height of Stereophonics’ success in 2007 and revealed a roots rigour to his righteous compositions. Tunes such as ‘Suzy’ and ‘Rosie’ were intimate and lyrical portraits of loners set to softly-strummed electric guitar, strings and textures hinting at another side to Kelly Jones. The Wind + The Wave, too, are no strangers to three chords and the truth, having been celebrated for the folky country pop across a handful of albums since 2014.
But it’s Far From Saints who these wonderful musicians have prioritised now. Following the aforementioned success of debut single ‘Let’s Turn This Back Around’, the collaborators head out on tour with Paul Weller, before arriving at the deer park in June for their first ever festival appearance. “We’re looking forward to getting on stage and performing these brand new songs in front of a new audience,” Kelly declares. “And we’ll be in the company of some amazing Americana artists – the festival is set to be a fantastic weekend!”