Green River Ordinance, the Fort Worth band that landed a major-label deal earlier this decade, thanks to gleaming rock songs like Goodbye LA, tried something a little different for its latest EP, Chasing Down the Wind.
Having parted ways with Capitol Records three years ago, GRO was determined to do things its own way, and that included a stylistic shift into … country?!
Yet, talking with frontman Josh Jenkins, embracing the rootsier side of things isn’t as surprising as it might seem.
“I grew up kind of singing country, and I kind of revolted against it for a long while,” Jenkins says, laughing. “I grew up singing Gene Watson and Merle Haggard songs, so it’s always been a part of our writing style. Over the years, it naturally drifted back into [the songs].”
Jenkins, along with bandmates Jamey Ice, Joshua Wilkerson, Geoff Ice and Denton Hunker, does slip easily into songs steeped in folk and country, as evidenced by the breezy charms of Wind cuts like When My Days Are Done, Flying or Cannery River.
The veteran band will bring songs old and new to Billy Bob’s Texas on Friday.
The Wind material, penned in a cabin tucked away in the wilds of Tennessee, feels like a logical evolution of GRO’s sound, even if it is slightly jarring upon first listen.
“After [last year’s] Under Fire and the success of [single] Dancing Shoes, we thought, ‘Let’s do whatever feels right for us,’” Jenkins says. “You’re influenced by people and therefore, you emulate them, but you lose your own voice. So, for us, it was ‘Let’s not worry about it. Let’s try to be who we are.’”
The shift also comes 13 years into Green River Ordinance’s existence, a point where any restlessness would be understandable. The marked shift away from pure pop and rock has also allowed the quintet to perform in places — Amarillo, say — where it might not have found itself on national tours opening for Bon Jovi, Goo Goo Dolls or Train.
“We’ve been doing it for so long — we wanted to be more daring with what we do, and worry less about the end result,” Jenkins says. “We just tell a story that’s true to us, and hopefully, it resonates with people.”
Jenkins describes Wind’s creative process as “way more enjoyable than some of the stuff we’d done [in the past],” and that the band put a premium on enjoying themselves, as well as the music being made.
“I think we’re all of the age where … it’s not really knowing what the future holds, but in that, being free,” he says. “If this is the last record we ever make, let’s just have fun and do it in the way we want to do it.”
But Chasing Down the Wind won’t be the last thing GRO ever releases. Jenkins says the band is already hard at work writing new material, in between a tireless touring schedule that will take them to St. Louis, Indianapolis and Chicago later this month.
“I think people have … really reacted the best” to Wind, Jenkins says. “There are some red dirt country fans two-stepping to songs; college kids listening to the cool, kind of hipper folk stuff — it’s been fun for us to feel like our music is living in a place that’s good for us.”
The coming year will likely see more new music from Green River Ordinance (which Jenkins describes as “more of the fun, up-tempo, toe-tapper stuff”), as well as more touring.
“We’re constantly evaluating how we grow to the next level,” Jenkins says. “I feel like our career has been a very long ladder and we’re just trying to take the next step, and figure it out and navigate this world as best we can.”
In other words, don’t be surprised if Green River Ordinance undertakes a few more left turns.