- Reckless Kelly’s history of relationships goes back more than 30 years.
‘I’m a little bit country, I’m a little bit rock ’n’ roll,” sang toothy pop siblings Donny and Marie Osmond back in the 1970s. Today, Reckless Kelly co-founders Cody and Willy Braun are basically the opposite: a lot country, a lot rock ’n’ roll, and not nearly enough pop to be embraced by the Nashville music industry.
Granted, the Austin band’s 2016 album Sunset Motel did reach No. 11 on the Billboard country chart, but it did so with virtually no radio airplay.
“Country radio, to me, has always been mostly pop,” says Cody, whose duties in the band include electric guitar, fiddle, mandolin and backing vocals. “They’re not going to rock the boat. They’re not gonna really have much to say other than, you know, shake your ass and have a good time. And once in a while, you’ll get a dead grandparent song or something. And there’s people who love it, and that’s great. But our band definitely doesn’t fit in that slot, and it never really did.”
Reckless Kelly’s most recent album, Bulletproof Live, is a case in point. Released in June, it was recorded during last year’s West Coast tour in which they performed the 2008 breakthrough album in its entirety.
The timeless themes of love, heartbreak and life on the road are well-represented, but so are political critiques like the Katrina-inspired “God Forsaken Town” and the anti-war “American Blood.” Those themes are timeless, too.
“That’s history in a nutshell,” says Cody. “Everything repeats itself. No matter how bloody the battle, as soon as there’s a break in the action, people always want to go right back into war.”
While Reckless Kelly’s history goes back some 20 years, Cody and Willy began playing music together more than a decade before that while growing up in Idaho. They were toddlers when their father gave them a quarter-size fiddle and half-size guitar. Before long, they were out on the road, with their brothers Gary and Micky, as part of their dad’s Western swing outfit. By the time they reached high school, their family band had recorded three albums and played The Tonight Show twice.
Ultimately, Cody and Willy made their way to Austin, which was then the epicenter of the nascent Americana scene. There, they began sharing stages with alt-rock heroes like Alejandro Escovedo.
“Alejandro was just a big influence on us,” says Cody, whose band has covered Escovedo’s songs live, if our math is correct, more than 200 times. “He’s always had really cool deep dark story-songs, and then matches that with just really awesome rock and roll. That’s something we try to do, as well.”
After their current 40-city tour is finished, Reckless Kelly will head back to Austin to mix their next album with Jim Scott, whose past clients have included Tom Petty and Wilco.
“We’re happy just being able to do this music on our own terms,” says Cody. “We try to make music that we love, and hope other people like it too. That’s really all we do.”