Eleven Hundred Springs is a well known and beloved band from Texas for over 20 years. They released their new album “Here ‘Tis” this month on State Fair Records. A little of the Bakersfield sound, a little of the rockabilly spice, these guys are truly fantastic musicians. Matt Hillyer’s voice is one you don’t often come across these days. His voice and the music echoes that nostalgic sound that seems to be making a comeback these days, but these guys always sounded like this. There are bands that play country, and then there are country bands. The distinction comes down to authenticity. They also released a documentary about their long established career and the making of this album at their album release party.
What led you to form the band?
Well, we thought it would be a fun way to make beer money on our nights off from gigs we had with other bands. It’s started as a side gig for all of us.
Can you describe how it felt to record your first album “Welcome To Eleven Hundred Springs”?
Pretty exciting and fun. We had all made other recordings before. So, we had enough experience to know what we were doing, but it was still relaxed enough about it for it to be fun. Things are always really fun in the beginning.
You released the debut on your own label, 13 Recordings, did that allow you more creative freedom?
Yeah, it wasn’t much of a label. We’ve always had lots of freedom in the studio. Label or not.
What has changed in your recording process with your latest album “Here ‘Tis”?
We took on the whole thing ourselves with help from our mix engineer Greg White. The rest was all done by the band. We really learned a lot.
Your band’s bio states “a commitment to the true soul of country music” — how does that commitment shape the music you create?
Well, it’s never been a novelty to us. We love the truth in the different styles of country music. When it’s good, there’s so much truth in it. That’s what we have always looked for.
Which artists have influenced your band?
Recently Jeopardy crowned its all-time champion — which band member would be best to face-off against Ken Jennings in a country music trivia competition?
I think that’d be Jordan Hendrix or Ray Austin.
Recording at the Cadillac Barn — how did it influence your latest album?
Well, we weren’t worried about the time clock which made things more relaxed. Also, it’s just a fun place to be.
Can you share the backstories to the songs on “Here ‘Tis”?
This Morning It Was Too Late — I actually had a friend ask me if I had any tunes to pitch to them for a record. That hasn’t happened to me too many times. I have always been a fan of the Honky Tonk dance classics by the likes of folks like Gary Stewart but haven’t really written too many tunes like that. Once I had the hook, it really fell in line.
All Jokes Aside — This is a song Chad wrote about a running buddy of ours. It basically says, “For better or worse, we’re brothers.”
Miles Apart — I had the opening guitar lick for this for years and I didn’t know where to use it. Then when the idea and melody of the song, it fit right in. It’s about keeping things together in a relationship at all costs.
Fair Weather Friend — We got a lot of rain last year, which is a good thing. However, it got pretty gloomy. I sat looking at my back yard and wrote a mellow tune inspired by my back yard looking like a swamp.
Let’s Move Out To The Country — I was really trying to write a different song, but the sounds of construction outside my window were making me crazy. I thought, “I gotta get out of the city.” Then I thought that’s what I should be writing about.
The Song You’ll Never Hear — I have always loved George Jones, especially the era of the early 60's. Now, I’m no George Jones but that era of his records inspired this song. It also came from the idea that sometimes singers work at it so much for performance that we can forget to sit and sing a song for no one but ourselves.
Looking Back — This is a retrospective of all the years Steve Berg and I have spent on the road making music together. A lot has changed since we started and it’s a reflection sans regret.
Let Me Be Your Man — We love Western swing and, while we’re not the best at it we have fun trying. This song idea came after I was hanging with some friends in New York. A woman in our group said, “I have to leave. I’ll just walk to the corner and catch a cab.” I offered to walk with her. She suggested the notion was “kind of sexist”. That hadn’t occurred to me at all. Maybe it’s old fashioned, but it’s how I was raised. The idea was inspired by that old fashioned feeling and being ok with it.
Let Tomorrow Wait and See — This is another one of Chad’s songs. I believe it’s about the ups and downs of relationships.
Nobody Cares — This has been a snarky joke I always say to my friends at inopportune moments. I said it so much that I started to joke that I would write a song called “Nobody Cares”. The first verse had that snarky attitude but it turned into a song about inclusiveness. Basically, that no one cares if you’re different. You deserve a chance to be happy.
Up and coming artists from Dallas that fans may not currently have on their radar?
Bucket list venues to play in Texas?
What are some of your favorite memories from past shows?
It’s hard to nail them down, but I always love it when we’re able to bring other musician friends up on stage to jam. We’ve done a couple of shows like that in Steamboat Springs at Music Fest, and they’re a blast.
What do you think is one of the biggest highlights of your career?
These shows were strange, but we backed up Bo Diddley a couple of times and he was a childhood hero. So, it felt pretty cool.
What do you hope for in the future?
I hope we can continue making records, playing shows, and also get into producing music for others.