Backwoods southern grit and authentic country soul come together when Tori Lund and Blake English put pen to paper. The duo, better known as Few Miles South, present a sound that blends a multitude of genres on their sophomore studio project, “californ i ain’t.”
With unique storytelling, skillful instrumentation and just the right amount of twang, Few Miles South is reviving country music’s glory days.
Hear from Tori and Blake about making the transition from songwriters to a band, the making of “californ i ain’t,” what they hope fans take away from the album, and more!
Pro Country: Who were your biggest musical influences growing up?
Blake: So many! Being from South Georgia, I grew up around country music. My dad played it, my granddad played it; a lot of kin on both sides played music, but it was all country. I grew up around Hank Williams, Merle Haggard- all of the old, traditional, cool stuff. But I also grew up around Motown, my mom loved Motown, so I got a good mix.
Tori: Mine are kind of different, I didn’t really get into country until the past five years when I met Blake. Before that, I was doing classical singing and operatic singing. I went to school for that, so I was trying to be like some of these opera stars like Dawn Upshaw or Kathleen Battle. My mom listened to Motown a lot when I was growing up, so Blake and I have that in common. We’ve been doing a lot of listening in the past five years and honed in on what we like. More recently, it’s been a lot of Linda Ronstadt, Ann Wilson, Loretta Lynn, Bonnie Raitt; those are the people that I love.
PC: Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted to make music for a living?
Tori: I knew that I always wanted to, I just never gave myself permission. I always felt that it wasn’t practical. In the past three years, I think we made that choice together; we quit our jobs, and we said, “If we’re going to do this, we might as well do it, because you only live once.”
Blake: I was playing music when I was three, and I think I always knew it was what I wanted to do. During high school, I was a pretty good baseball player, but I gave that up to do music full-time. I think I always knew though.
PC: You originally wrote together with the intention of pitching songs to other artists. What led to the transition of writing and recording music for yourselves as Few Miles South?
Blake: For me, I’d been in publishing deals out in Los Angeles. I got tired of chasing records and submitting; chasing the artist that was looking for a certain song, so I said, “We should just do this as a band and release it ourselves.”
Tori: I didn’t really know any differently. When I met Blake, I tried to learn how to write a song myself, because I hadn’t done that before. Pretty quickly, we decided that we wanted to do it ourselves.
Blake: We didn’t really have any networks with country music either, and that’s what we were writing. I was like, “Country music is what you should be singing, Tori,” and that’s what we did! We were going to shop the songs, and I didn’t really have any networks for country music being from LA, so that kind of lead to the transition of us moving back south; to be closer to country music and that network. We moved with the intention of getting the band and music out there.
PC: Were you feeling any type of pressure, internally or externally, as you were preparing to release music for the first time together with the release of “On Down the Road” single or the “Might Could” EP?
Tori: Not really, I wasn’t at all. I had barely dipped my toes into anything.
Blake: And we had so many songs sitting on the backburner. Of the songs on our new record, I would say half of them were three years old, maybe some older than that that we had written when we initially started. I was just ready to get them out there.
PC: “On Down the Road” has become your signature song so far. What kind of validation do you feel when your first release garners thousands of views and listens across multiple platforms?
Tori: It’s cool! I think we’re always looking forward and hoping we’ll reach more people, but that was really encouraging. I think it definitely helped that we had a music video. I think that song in general and the feedback we got on it helped solidify and guide up towards what kind of sound we wanted to create.
Blake: It felt good to put out a traditional country song and get a pretty good response, because we’re definitely not what’s playing on the radio right now (laughs).
PC: What went into the decision to make “Purple Skies” the lead single from “Californ I Ain’t”?
Tori: We asked some friends and family what they liked, and that one seemed to be the general consensus. I think the story behind it is the most unique and unusual for a country song, because it’s a gig that we played, unknowingly until we arrived, for a doomsday cult (laughs).
Blake: That was one of our first gigs, and man, what a strange gig that was (laughs). I didn’t really know it until the band was over, but I think the rest of the band knew before, but yeah, we were playing for a doomsday cult, which was interesting to say the least.
PC: “Californ I Ain’t” is one of the standout tracks on its album. Why did you decide to name the album after this song?
Tori: I think it encapsulates our theme; moving out of California, trying to simplify our lives, and following what we love.
Blake: It’s kind of a follow-up to “On Down the Road.” That song basically took us to Georgia, and now we’re in Georgia and we love it! We’d been ready to get out of California, and this song says it all. We’re definitely not in California anymore.
PC: “Mountain High” is one of my favorite songs on the album. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song?
Tori: We wrote this song about Jackson, Wyoming. We’re actually there now, we just played a week of shows out here. My folks live out here, and Blake and I come out here pretty frequently. We do a lot of camping. We’re nature lovers, and we have a bucket list where we want to visit all of the national parks. We’re mountain lovers, and we think people could benefit from being outside more.
PC: “Californ I Ain’t” was written, recorded, and produced in your home. Do you feel that creating this project in such a comfortable environment helped the finished product?
Blake: I think it does. There’s no pressure, you’re not under the “red light” so to speak, like, “Hey, we have to get this take,” or “We’re going over budget” and stuff like that.
Tori: It definitely helped not having to come out of pocket, when we normally would have had to if we had rented out a studio space or an engineer or a producer. It made it a lot easier on our pocket books, and we were fortunate that Blake could do all of that.
Blake: Now don’t get me wrong, I’d love to cut an album at Studio A in RCA Studios, but maybe one day (laughs).
PC: What do you hope people take away from the “Californ I Ain’t” album after listening all the way through?
Tori: I hope that they connect with the stories. I think that’s what’s most important to us; to make music that we love and share honest stories. We tried to reveal a lot more of our personal sides compared to our EP.
Blake: I hope people can relate to that, just simple, honest stories.
Tori: I hope they can dance to it, I hope they can find something in the stories that resonates with them.
PC: What are your plans for 2019?
Tori: Playing as much as we can. I think the biggest challenge of being independent, which I’m sure many bands can relate to, is doing all of the booking on your own. Ideally, we would love to find some help with that, that’s sort of a “vision forward” item we have for ourselves.
Blake: Adding a booking agent, management; just any kind of help, there’s so many avenues.
Tori: If not, we’ll just keep trying to reach new audiences and connect with people wherever we can. Just getting on the road as much as possible!
PC: Is there anything else that you want to add?
Tori: We’re just simple folks that want to play music and travel with our dogs and whoever we can get to play with us. We’re just living this version of a dream, and hoping one day, maybe we’ll be able to pay our bills doing it (laughs).
*All images courtesy of Few Miles South and Few Miles South Website*
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