Between Leopold and His Fiction and his new band Cowboy and Indian, Daniel James is a busy man, but he took some time to check in with us recently about how Cowboy and Indian got started and where it’s headed. As we learn in the interview below, things are moving quickly for the folk- and early rock-influenced band, even as its overall membership and sound continue to evolve prior to the group’s upcoming debut album.
Locals know you from Leopold and His Fiction. Can you tell us a little about the other members of Cowboy and Indian?
Yes! The line up of Cowboy and Indian is constantly expanding and retracting from a duo to anywhere up to eight musicians at once. Live and in the studio it seems the cast is set by when and who has arrived to play on any particular day. The way it remains stable in an ever changing line up is a solid core and the intensity of friendship/kinship we all share with the group at large. The song writing method and dynamic when put in to practice lends itself to benefit everyone involved.
At the core of the group:
Jesse Plemons- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica
Daniel James- Vocals, Electric Guitar, Keys
Peder Gilham- Vocals, Bass Guitar
Stephanie Hunt- Vocals
Trevor Nealon- Piano Organ
Dorian Colbert- Percussion
How did you all first meet? What drew you to the band?
Jesse and Jazz had been writing together for a month or so, playing from time to time in Austin, TX. When I was touring with Leopold to SXSW this past March, we stayed with Jazz and Co. at her house and we all hit it off. Leo and C&I, one big unified family, To the extent that when Leopold circled back to the west coast after a month around the U.S. I asked Jesse and Jazz to join our show. They’d open a handful shows playing 15 mins of Leopold’s hour long set and join us for quite a few of our appropriately collaborated renditions of Leo standards.
After that trip we would share songs and ideas, all i could think of was taking the vibrant unearthed treasure Jazz and Jesse exude naturally and polishing/producing it into what Cowboy and Indian is steadily becoming.
I’ve read that “Ledbellies (Hurt My Pride)” was written over the phone while you were in SF and Jazz and Jesse were in Austin. How did that work?
When we got around to writing that song. I had been back and forth between SF and Austin once or twice since we had met. Listening to where Cowboy and Indian was coming from, how they were raised musically and then adding who and where I’ve been into the equation led us to talk of gospel harmonies and backwoods realities. Influences. Reality with out any repercussion. There was a melody I sang for Jazz over the phone. Instantly she had a perfect harmony. The words came out, sent them over to Jesse, he put in his two cents and came up with the most amazing, matter of fact guitar line and solo. They came up to SF 10 days later and we recorded the song in my walk-in closet along with a few other tracks we managed to scratch away at between rehearsal and tour prep. and then went out for a 26 day tour. Everything’s been happening really fast and all at once with Cowboy and Indian.
The band is working on an album. How are your newer songs comparing to “Ledbellies”? Can you give us a sense of what the album will sound like?
We all write songs. A song that one person brings to the table will sound like that writers instilled and inherent talent. The other members contribute but always retain what the writer envisions. It works really well. The fact that each person is so open minded and musically communicatively capable of unspoken understanding the outcome puts us all in awe of one another. Completely inspiring and motivating to take in what is exactly at hand. Very excited to always see what is around the corner. Kids in a candy store. I feel so blessed that the band trusts me with producing our debut album. This is really the first album aside from the Leopold records ive had the duty of carving out the direction that will at first represent us entirely. The talent in this group is second to none. Jesse’s songwriting needs to see the light of day, once y’all hear what he’s got in mind you won’t be able to turn away. He’ll make it hard to think for yourself. He can relate to an inner consciousness that most of us cant subscribe to at will. He may is the best song writer i’ve ever heard. I mean it. Jazz’s voice cant be repressed by any simple minded words i would attribute to it. Her voice is all encompassing and enlightening. I’m very proud to be a part of everything they throw at me.
The album is a range from Folk to early amplified rock n’ roll. Gospel. Independent thought. A like minded whirlwind.
How has the tour been going so far?
Touring has been wonderful. we are finally getting down to the center of it. The first half was leisurely as far as shows, but imperative and overbooked as far as band productivity. Music videos, photo shoots, Sundance Film Fest. Now we are well into it with a few more weeks of solid shows that’ll put right back in Austin in time to finish the record and post up for this years SXSW.
What does this all mean for Leopold and His Fiction? Weren’t you working on a new album with that band?
Yes! Leopold has its third album all finished. We are exploring our options of releasing it. A very exciting album for us. In it we were able to convey the monumental direction we needed to go in. Once a few details fall into place we will have it out and running hot.
Anything else we should know?
Thank you for your support.
Jazz wants a hug.