After a recent run of successes–including a 2015 Grammy Award for best folk album–Chance McCoy is stepping away from Old Crow Medicine Show to Wander Wide a bit with his first solo album. The title track premieres below.
The self-released 11-song set, out Sept. 20, lets the West Virginia-born multi-instrumentalist expand his sonic palette, ranging from the modern rock feel of "Electric Crow" — which McCoy wrote specifically for his weekly residency at The Basement in Nashville — and "Nashville Ca$hville" to the atmospheric rural blues of "Sugar Babe" and the swampy Southern rock of "Jitterbug Bayou." "I'm just a creative person and wanted to make new music and needed a home for it," McCoy tells Billboard.
"I love everything we do in the band, but I think it's a very specific thing. I was creating all this music on my own, and it didn't really feel appropriate to be bringing different kinds of material in. When I moved home (to West Virginia) I built my own studio in the basement and wanted to learn how to produce and make my own record and experiment with new sounds and new styles and stuff, just for the fun of it.
"I ended up with all these (songs) I'd done and thought maybe somebody other than me might enjoy this music, so I felt it was time to share it."
Wander Wide's gently rolling title track dates by several years and is a rare co-write, penned with The Voice Season 5 contestant Chance Pena. "He sang 'Wagon Wheel' or something that kind of tied to Old Crow or Americana music and I got a call that, 'Hey, he wants to write a song with you,'" says McCoy, whose father was an electronic musician whose inventions included electronic sound chips for toys, including Battleship. "I said, 'Sure, send him over — Chance and Chance can get together and write a song!' It was a watershed moment, the first track I felt proud of as a producer."
"Wander Wide" was originally written for Pena to record, but his team rejected it. “They basically just weren't into it," McCoy recalls. But McCoy liked the track, and when he began putting the album together in earnest he decided to give it his own shot.
"It wound up being a centerpiece for the record," McCoy notes. "The lyrics were written from my perspective of traveling out west, being in the wilderness, white water rafting, living out of my truck and driving around, being really in tune with nature and living this adventurous lifestyle. But the flipside is I had to leave behind everybody who was significant to me, all the people I felt connected to. So there's a two-edged thing, and I think that resonates with people. And the title fits well for what the record is, the adventurous nature of it."
McCoy has played Europe twice this year with his own band and is headed back in October. He's lining up some U.S. dates as well and considers himself on an amicable leave from Old Crow Medicine Show, which was original slated to take the year off from touring but wound up scheduling some dates. "I haven't officially quit the band," McCoy says. "I'm taking a year off to do this (album), but everything's fine between us. The bass player (Morgan Jahnig) engineered this record for me, even."
McCoy has more new music coming, too, including a track for the film The Peanut Butter Falcon, due in August. And he has his eye on another solo album in the not too distant future. "I think we're talking about next year starting to put out music again because there's a lot of good songs I have that I want to put out. Why stop, right?"