A Thousand Horses are Michael Hobby (lead vocals), Bill Satcher (lead guitar), Zach Brown (guitar and vocal) and Graham Deloach (bass and vocals) – and they’re the rising stars of the South. The band harness influences from the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers and Black Crowes, and sit with the renowned Big Machine label group. I got the chance to speak to frontman Michael Hobby following the release of their new studio album SOUTHERNALITY.
The four members of this relatively young band of just five years, have known each other for a long time and the band has a sense of pride in the knowledge that they have worked extremely hard for what they have achieved so far. But where did this musical journey start for the front-man of the band?
“I got my start when I bought my first guitar when I was about 12 years old. My best friend had one and so I wanted one. I went out and got one! I was kinda always dreaming of doing this since I was a kid!”
Musical influences are always diverse across a band, and it’s actually the collective influences that create the overall sound for the band album to album. For this particular band, country is an undertone and Southern rock is probably the most prevalent sound. Michael explains where his personal musical influences lie: “My biggest influence growing up would have been The Black Crowes, Tom Petty was a big influence on me too. I had older siblings and my parents were really into music so I kind of grew up listening to a lot of different genres of music through time. Though I’d say The Black Crowes are probably my biggest influence.”
SOUTHERNALITY is is the full length studio album that follows their EP titled A THOUSAND HORSES, released in 2010. SOUTHERNALITY draws on a completely different sound.
“That’s a five year journey between that EP and SOUTHERNALITY. It’s no different a struggle for any musician or artist, you all change over time. We had an advance for two weeks when we made that EP. We just had those songs and we were still together. It took us five years of touring and writing songs to figure
‚I got my start when I bought my first guitar when I was about 12 years old. My best friend had one and so I wanted one. I went out and got one! I was kinda always dreaming of doing this since I was a kid!..‚ it all out, which I’m sure is frustrating at times but you know, it’s been a good journey so far!”
Smoke is the debut single from the new album, and it’s release set a record for the highest debut by a new act opening at number 28 on Country Airch eck radio ch art.
“Smoke, yeah it was the first single that came out and you know it went to number one in 21 weeks and we just got certified Gold here in the United States last week, so yeah it did great. The reaction was good.”
A Thousand Horses were nominated by CMT for Group Video Of The Year for Smoke in 2016, joining a category that also saw Eli Young Band, Little Big Town, The Band Perry, Zac Brown Band and ultimately the winners of the award, Lady Antebellum. The award however, came as a surprise to the band, when they’d only been together as a band for five years and were only on their second release.
“You know that was our first nomination ever in an award show and to be in that category with the other great artists it’s like you know we were just happy to be there, and to be nominated for something that early. We got to play on the CMT awards, which was really cool. It’s awesome.”
Though the band are only young, its members have known each other for a very long time.
“Bill and I, our guitar player, grew up in South Carolina, together in a little small town. And we moved to Nashville together when we were 17/18 years old … He was still in High School at the time, I was graduating. Graham, our bass player, I’ve known him just as long. We’ve known each other for 15 years and grew up together discovering music and then we met Zach and we formed the band.”
An overall surprising sound on the record, is the very obvious presence of three strong female voices. Bringing a Southern gospel influence to the band are Kristen Rogers, Whitney Coleman and Brianne Angarole. Though the women don’t appear on the band line-up, their presence on the album, in the videos and in their live shows, makes it clear they’re a big part of A Thousand Horses’ sound.
“On recordings we’ve always used a female backup singer but it was always like that sound, you know that gospel sound on it and you know we were just using them on demos and recordings that we do and some of our people heard it and were like ‘well what’s that?’ … We were able to take them out on the road every night for the live shows. We love those girls they’re killer! They bring a whole other energy to the live show and a whole other sound and that’s what we want to create! When people come to see us play it’s just a big show – they’ve been really great for us.”
The band are often referred to as a Southern rock band, and while they reference English and American rock and country as influences, they are ultimately a sound collective of their own.
“Yeah I’m happy with the placement. I mean people say Southern rock, people say country, some people say rock. I mean we just sound how we sound. We just sound like A Thousand Horses. You can wave whatever you want but it’s just who we are and what we sound like when we write and actually play together. So some people call it Southern rock, some people call it country, some people call it that – we do what we do.”
As a touring band in the US, A Thousand Horses are continuously on the road.
“I love it. I’m out on the road right now. Yeah we love playing for our fans, people, meeting everybody, being on tours and we’ve been a touring band since we started. So touring is not a stranger to us. We’d prefer touring over anything else actually.”
Michael is the leading songwriter for the band, however, they all write together often.
“You know we all write together and you know we’re a band so we all write together. I guess maybe I take the lead while I’m writing but yeah if you are looking at the album you know every song on the album is written by somebody in the band or together as a band. So we all just kind of write, yeah I’m going to write a little bit today.”
SOUTHERNALITY has a whole host of wonderful songs including Smoke, (This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial, Travellin’ Man and Tennessee Whisky to name a few. So which song is Michael’s favourite from the new album?
“Oh man it’s like picking your favourite kid. My favourite song, yeah I love Heaven Is Close. That’s a song we wrote as a band together several years ago. I think that song really captures what we’re all about and I love that song.”
In the midst of all this talk of success, A Thousand Horses did almost lose it all. As a young band, the group received a call from songwriter Desmond Child, friend of Michael’s which lead to a call from Interscope and ultimately a signing. The band played two showcases for the label in Nashville, received a record deal, a manager and a booking agent. And then within a year, it all disappeared. The band lost the deal, the manager and the booking agent and were once again left to figure the industry out for themselves. And as a result they removed themselves from the equation for a summer while they tried to figure out what to do next.
“That was the best thing that ever happened for us. It really got us back to square one, no influence on who to be as an artist or what to sound like and a lot of songs came out of that period. You know, we were kind of angry with the man. Looking back on it now a few of the songs came out of th at, but you can’t let a couple of bucks [get you down]. You’ve just got to keep on keep
“You know that was our first nomination ever in an award show and to be in that category with the other great artists it’s like….you know we were just happy to be there…” on. That’s what our motto has always been.”
So, as our conversation draws to a close and the band that are taking over the States gathers even more of a pace, with their song (This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial released to radio, is there hope of seeing them in the UK sometime soon?
“Man we’ve been wanting to come to the UK since we were kids. That’s the ultimate dream, to score overseas, go to the UK and play. We are really looking forward to it!”
Hopefully we will see them on our shores someday soon. Laura Bethell www.athousandhorses.com