Music

This band just loves to play

Rising country band Midnight River Choir returns to The Motherlode

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The Motherlode Saloon in Red River will be welcoming the New Braunfels, Texas-based quartet, which will perform alongside Amarillo artist Zac Wilkerson Wednesday (Jan. 3) at 9 p.m.

With 8,000 followers on Twitter and approximately 2,400 monthly listeners on Spotify, the band has fans shaking and dancing in their boots.

Previously, the hybrid country-rock band has reached No. 2 for the track “Fresh Air” on Lone Star Music’s top 40 and has broken the top 20 on Texas Regional Radio Report.

Frontman and guitarist Eric Middleton, guitarist Justin Nelson, drummer Mitchell Pyeatt and bassist Bob Driver III have released three albums and multiple singles since 2008. The harmonizers will make their way on tour through Texas, our beloved New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri on their current tour.

Regulars of the Motherlode Saloon, the MRC bandmates consider the whiskey-stained floors their home away from home. “We stop to see the owners and all the bartenders when we’re passing through. That’s one of our pit stops when we’re off,” said bassist Driver.

On their down time before or after the show, the band’s members also enjoy a little gambling at the casinos.

Each year, the band visits 15 to 20 states and performs in various venues. While the bandmates aspire to rank with the greats like Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, they’ll never turn down a show or a chance for people to listen.

“We’ve played all kinds of shows, we play in garages, acoustic around the campfire. Some nights, we’ll play in a big pavilion for thousands of people, sometimes we play in a dive bar,” Driver said. “You know we’re not picky about where we play; we just love to play and we’d love to play to anybody that’ll listen to us.”

When asked what the biggest venue the band has played in so far, Driver shrugs off the question.

“I don’t see it as a size of the venue thing. We have played some big venues, but I always enjoy the quality of the venue, the quality of the people in the crowd,” he said. “I like to be up close to people. That intimate feeling – we really dig on that, we like our shows to be an experience like we’re hanging out.”

From the shows to the road, the band enjoys a good time. While the bandmates are passing golden sunsets and scenic landscapes on the road in their van, they frequently enjoy a “ukebox.” Carrying a ukulele in their van, they enjoy stopping at gas stations, serenading local employees and creating music on the spot.

While Midnight River Choir has toured nationally, the band has also reached audiences abroad in the Dominican Republic, Mexico and even Europe.

“We have not been overseas as a band, but our singer has done two acoustic tours. He went to England and Ireland last year,” said Driver before he revealed more about events that happened in Mexico.

The MRC is lucky to still be accompanied by bassist Driver, who fell nearly two stories off an ancient Mayan ruin last year after a day of drinking and playing a show. Driver escaped with only severe cuts and scrapes. “It was an adventure. I’d do it all over again,” said Driver.

As far as the music is concerned, envision the sound of Brooks and Dunn, add an Axl Rose solo, a little groove and stop imagining the country stars your grandpappy listened to. Wide-brimmed hats, silk overcoats, dreamy features, laced boots and heartbreak are the ingredients of the MRC.

The choir writes songs about Jim Beam, vivid full-moon nights, struggles of the road and unrequited love for two-stepping and whiskey-shooting activities.

The band is full of spontaneity. The group’s members enter the battlefield with no set list and custom guitars varying from a standard Gibson SJ-200 to a candy orange hollowbody Gretsch bass and a Slash L telecaster from a guitar crafter, Perry Riggs, out of Houston, Texas.

“We’re a jam band; sometimes we’ll play the songs differently. We’ll play a song one night and we’ll play it slightly different the next night,” said Driver, who describes set lists as “cheating.” “We play to the crowd. You never know what the crowd is going to be like. Some nights, people will want to hear a more mellow set with some country songs in there, sometimes you want to dance, sometimes you want to rock.”

For the future, the band is planning to record a full album this summer with Shooter Jennings, pioneer of Southern rock and son of outlaw country legend Waylon Jennings.

Check out the MRC’s sound at midnightriverchoir.com and don’t miss the Lone Star State group at the Motherlode Saloon.

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