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A Thousand Horses

A Thousand Horses

$20 ADV / $22 DOS
Ages 18+

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Back in the summer of 2021, the members of Nashville-based band A Thousand Horses headed to a farmhouse in Texas and spent three days writing songs on the front porch with no real agenda. “Over the past few years we’ve all gone through a lot of change in our lives, and we’d gotten to a place where the band felt very splintered and there was so much uncertainty in the air,” recalls guitarist Bill Satcher, who co-founded A Thousand Horses with frontman Michael Hobby, bassist Graham DeLoach, and former guitarist Zach Brown. “We decided to take a weekend to isolate ourselves, and refocus on why we started doing this in the first place.” Inspired by the untamed beauty of their surroundings—a 300-acre creekside ranch overrun with wildflowers and 100-year-old oak trees, the Milky Way shining bright in the night sky—A Thousand Horses soon came up with a wildly life-affirming song called “Highway Sound”: a soul-soothing track that instantly set the tone for their new album The Outside.

“As soon as we wrote ‘Highway Sound,’ it felt like a sign from the universe that we needed to keep going,” says Hobby. “It had that same feeling as when we first started playing music together back when we were kids, and became the focal point for an album that’s all about finding your freedom despite the many forces in life that try to hold you down.”

The third full-length from A Thousand Horses, The Outside finds the band working with Grammy Award-winning producer Jon Randall (Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, Parker McCollum) and delving deeper into the freewheeling originality they’ve embraced since their Dave Cobb-produced debut Southernality (a 2015 release featuring their platinum-certified, chart-topping single “Smoke”). In bringing the LP to life, A Thousand Horses mainly recorded at Sound Emporium and Blackbird Studio in Nashville, slowly carving out a one-of-a-kind sound merging elements of Southern Rock, Classic Country, and hard-driving Americana. “There was no deadline or pressure from a label, but at the same time we felt more focused and determined than we ever had before—it was the perfect creative storm,” Satcher says. “Making this record felt like therapy, but it was also so much fun,” adds Hobby. “There were days when we’d look up at the clock and realize we’d been at the studio 16 hours, and we couldn’t wait to go back in the next day. We needed that time and space to do what felt good to us, and not let anything dilute our true creative nature.”

When it came time to name their new album, Thousand Horses chose a title that reflected that newly heightened self-reliance. “The Outside is a statement of being unapologetically yourself—it’s about being the truest version of who you are, never putting yourself into a box, never falling in line with the current norms or ‘this year’s big thing,’” says DeLoach. “We’re calling this album The Outside in the hopes that people can find self-empowerment in the music: it’s a way to discover your inner fire and use it to light your path. When you live life that way it inspires others to do the same, and the world could use the power of good in it now more than ever. That’s what we want to spread with this album, and The Outside embodies our message.”

The Outside kicks off with the very track that sparked its creation. “‘Highway Sound’ started with the guys playing guitar out on the porch,” Hobby reveals. “I was inside and heard this bad-ass riff, and it hit me right away. Everybody jumped in and we just started rolling—it was as natural as it can get, songwriting-wise.” Opening on the joyful roar of Hobby’s harmonica, “Highway Sound” arrives as a sing-along-ready anthem etched with so many ear-catching details, achieved in part through such unconventional instrumentation as electric sitar and talkbox. “There’s a lyric in ‘Highway Sound’ that says ‘Brand new start, broke in boots/Old baggage left back home,’ which to me really captures the whole spirit of this record,” says Hobby. “It’s about the freedom of cutting ties with the negativity of the past, and putting your energy into celebrating a new beginning.”

A deeply honest unveiling of their dreams and demons and desires, The Outside next launches into the Southern-Rock reverie of “Summer”—a timeless piece of nostalgia-tinged storytelling, adorned with warm Mellotron tones, Satcher’s luminous slide guitar, and a heavenly crescendo of full-band harmonies. “I had this idea to write a song about a girl named Summer and all the unexpected turns that life can take,” says Hobby. “It’s a sad song with a happy feel, and by the end you realize that Summer was the muse of the main character’s life, even though she wasn’t in it for long—everywhere he goes and everywhere he sings, she’s still there in the music he’s playing. I think everybody’s got their own Summer in some special way.”

Over the course of its 12 songs, The Outside sheds light on everything from the thrill of following your own path (on “The Outside,” a powerfully cathartic rock-and-roll anthem) to the sweet relief of finding inner peace (on the gorgeously understated “No News”) to the profound pain of disconnection (on “Strangers,” with heavy-hearted lyrics written by Hobby with Chris Stapleton: “That’s how you find out/You’re really alone/When a room full of strangers/Starts feeling like home”). As the album unfolds, A Thousand Horses match its emotional complexity with an equally intricate and unpredictable sound. “We really wanted to explore in the studio, and Jon was the right producer to guide us through that,” Satcher says. “Our thinking behind everything was, ‘If it seems obvious, let’s do the exact opposite.’” To that end, the unbridled instrumental “Southeastern Stomp” emerged from a late-night burst of pure spontaneity, while the slow-burning “Roll On” morphs into an all-out epic at its sublimely explosive bridge. And on “Over The Counter,” A Thousand Horses deliver a darkly hypnotic track fueled by fantastically gritty outlaw-country grooves. “With ‘Over The Counter’ there was no demo or preconceived idea of what the song should be,” DeLoach points out. “It ended up being one of the most creative moments in the whole process of making the record, where we just got together and made everything up on the fly.”

Closing out with the ethereal “Drift Away,” The Outside fully reflects the band’s lifetime devotion to music. As kids growing up in Newberry, South Carolina, Hobby and Satcher first started playing together in high school and soon joined forces with DeLoach (Satcher’s cousin, originally from Savannah, Georgia). “We knew we wanted to make this happen come hell or high water, and we threw everything we had into it,” says Hobby. “Bill and I moved to Nashville when we were 17 and 18, and Graham followed us as soon as he graduated the next year—he got his diploma, hopped in his car, and drove all the way here.” In recent years, Hobby and Satcher supported each other through such life-changing experiences as becoming fathers and getting sober—a turn of events they consider highly influential on the making of The Outside. “It wasn’t a rock-bottom type of decision; it was more of a conscious choice to be better people, better fathers, better musicians, and to apply a very clear vision to everything we do,” says Hobby. “Because of that, we were able to push ourselves in ways that we never had in the past, and maybe weren’t even capable of doing before now.”

Since completing The Outside, A Thousand Horses have endured another major shift: Brown’s departure from the band in early 2023. “Zach had gotten to the point where he needed to be home with his family, which is all part of the natural progression of life,” says Hobby. “We love him and we miss him, but at the end of the day we want Zach to do what’s best for him.” Not only vital to the band’s sense of brotherhood, that belief in emboldening others to live their truth imbues every song on The Outside. “We want people to find their freedom and find their voice in what we’re saying, so they can stand on their own and be proud of who they are,” says Hobby. “The world needs a little healing these days, and hopefully by telling our stories as honestly as we can, we’ll help bring people to a better understanding of whatever it is they’re going through.”

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