Most folk songs involve fictional characters or folklore legends, but the tunes penned by Truckstop Honeymoon's Mike West and Katie Euliss stay endearingly close to true life. Their name is itself based on the first night they spent as a couple at a truckstop somewhere in the middle of America.
"We don't have to make much up," West admits. "We typically have to leave stuff out to make it more believable."
The Australian-born West stumbled upon his true musical path in England while fronting a youthful '80s indie-pop band called The Man From Del Monte. At the time, he sported a sharp haircut and moaned in a vocal timbre not unlike the Cure's Robert Smith.
"I was 24 or 25 and Guy Clark came over and played solo in my hometown of Manchester," West recalls. "He just played a fantastic show and it was really inspiring for me to see so much music and power from some middle-aged guy with no accompaniment."
The encounter inspired West to cross the pond and settle in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, where he started picking banjo and mandolin, and selling CDs that supposedly "cured hangovers and small-mindedness."
"In a bar you've got to be a bit of a snake oil salesman, and I guess I've got a bit of that in me," West explains. "I like the little vaudeville salesman thing. Sing our songs and put on a bit of a show and sell our wares to make groceries."
West sat in on mandolin one night with Euliss' band, and before they knew it, the two were spending their first night of marriage shacked up at a truckstop.
Fast forward to 2006: With Euliss on standup bass, the couple was touring the United States with their two tots in the back seat, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.
"Our neighborhood was totally trashed. There was no way we could live there," West remembers. "They didn't let people in for a long time. I had to sneak through a National Guard security barricade to see what had happened."
West and Euliss kept their family on the road, finishing the tour and finally relocating to Lawrence, Kan., far from Mardi Gras and hurricanes. But the songwriting and touring never stopped. "Our kids have been in and out of bars all their lives. They know how to conduct themselves in a punk rock bar. They know how to tell the good drugs from the bad drugs," jokes West.
Truckstop Honeymoon returned to the Ninth Ward three months later for a string of performances, and filmmaker Nathan King Miller followed with a camera for a documentary called Won't Let the Angels Take You Away.
The couple's latest musical release, Homemade Haircut, is a celebration of survival and serendipity. They've already begun writing material for their next album, even as they wait to see what further accidents will happen.
"We certainly haven't got done telling all the stories we have to tell," West promises.