Muddy Magnolias | A Gorgeous Hybrid

“We collaborate right down the middle on everything we do. We’re two women coming from two different perspectives.”

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Each week, I embark on a musical journey in search for the best new music has to offer. Having grown weary of St. Louis mainstream radio playing the same 20 songs, I knew they had to be more out there in the universe.

Every week, I load up my Spotify with all new releases and listen to them as I drive around the city. Most of the albums I hear are lacking and unremarkable. Some are good. Some are great. And then I happen upon an album like Broken People by Muddy Magnolias, which is remarkably magnificent.

Every track on the album is a combination of Kallie North’s Southern-fried rock vocals and Jessy Wilson’s sultry R&B harmonies. The marriage of R&B with rock is lightning in a bottle, as both singers give every ounce of emotional realness they have on each track, creating one of the best albums I have heard in years. You can’t fake this level of talent.

Their album affected me so much, I reached out to their management for the opportunity to interview the ladies, and the music gods smiled upon me. Taking a break from a poolside photo shoot, the dynamic duo took a few moments to chat with one of their newest fans.

Tell me a bit about how you two met.

JW: We met in Nashville about three years ago. We came from two different places. I was coming from New York and Kallie was coming from Mississippi; she lived on a farm, I lived in a concrete jungle. We both wanted to be songwriters and took that path, so we found ourselves in Nashville.

KN: Before I moved to Nashville I was working as a photographer in the Mississippi Delta, taking pictures of Blues history. When I got to Nashville, one of the first meetings I took was with BMI, with our now-manager. He hooked my up with publishers, and as a thank you I hooked him up with one of my photographs, which he put on his desk. Three weeks later, Jessy walked in the same office and saw the photograph and asked to meet who took the picture. So that’s really how we met: through one of my photographs.

The name Muddy Magnolias is so amazing. How did you come up with the name for the group?

KN: Thank you! It was a collective effort between a group of people who were hanging out with us early on. We didn’t have a band name and we got scheduled for a show and everyone put the pressure on us. They gave us about two weeks to pick a name because they wanted to print it on some posters. “Muddy” came from a Muddy Waters record, and “magnolia” was a word we loved that somebody mentioned. It just dawned on us one day to put the two together.

Your debut album, Broken People just came out. What has been the reception so far?

JW: It’s been really amazing. We did this really intimate show in Nashville. They invited people who had been fans, who were fans even before releasing our album. The place was filled, the vibe was cool, and we had our album playing on repeat. I kept walking through the event after we performed and hearing the songs; I was like, “Oh my God, Kallie, I think our album is good!” But the reception has been amazing. People are really taking to it.

I think most people’s favorites are “Why Don’t You Stay,” “Broken People,” and “Leave It to the Sky.” NPR gave us an amazing writeup. So I think on a ground level and an industry level, it’s been received very well.

Who does most of the writing, or is it 50/50?

JW: Absolutely 100% 50/50. We collaborate right down the middle on everything we do. I think that’s the beauty and the appeal. That’s why it’s so good: two women coming from two different perspectives. Somehow we are just always in sync and aligned. When we put out anything together, a vision for a song or a vision for a project that we are doing, it just comes out really dope.

Your current tour is wrapping up soon. Do you have any plans on launching a larger tour?

JW: We toured the West with Zac Brown, we did Midwest with Grace Potter, and we did the South with Gary Clark, Jr. And we are going out back everywhere. We are even going to Mexico. We are going to be international, worldwide.

Have you ever played St. Louis?

KN: Yes, we did! We played the Pageant with Gary Clark, Jr. Our keyboard player is from St. Louis; his name is Ian Miller and he is amazing.

What is your one necessity for you to have on tour?

Both [in unison]: Whiskey.

KN: We’re a funny band. We’re either on the bourbon or the yoga, one or the other, but we like to balance it out. If we have a strain of unhealthy days, then we go bipolar opposite and everyone is taking shots of wheat grass.

JW: [infectious laughter]

KN: But the number one item is definitely bourbon.

Let’s talk about dream gigs. Who would be your ultimate act to open for? What about fantasy venue?

JW: So we had a wish list and Gary Clark, Jr., Leon Bridges, Grace Potter, My Morning Jacket, and John Legend were on the list. So far we’ve done two off of our list. The only venue we haven’t done is Red Rocks.

KN: Yes, Red Rocks totally.

JW: We did Hollywood Bowl, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and the Ryman. Oh wait, we should play Barclays since I am from New York. What up, Jay-Z?

Broken People is a brilliant album; every song is unique and heartfelt. How was the recording process?

JW: We got dropped. We got dropped from Capitol Records and we decided to only mope for two weeks. Then we picked ourselves back up and decided to go ahead. We had written so many songs, we were just like, “Let’s just jump in the studio.” We just decided to go back to ground zero and produce this record. We drove down to Atlanta from Nashville and we holed up in the studio with our band for about a week and a half and we just did it.

You recorded this whole album in a week and a half?

KN: More like just five days. We got caught up in being dropped from Capitol, and leading up to that time we had made so many fans and had so many people that wanted music but we couldn’t put any music out because we were caught up in the big label drama. So when we got dropped, we were just like, “Let’s go do this now.” It breaks your heart when you continue to sing on stage, but you can’t put out any new music. It happened for an entire year. So the reason this was produced so quickly was truly for the fans.

If you had to pick a favorite, which song would it be?

Both [in unison again]: “Why Don’t You Stay?”

The majority of the songs are heartfelt ballads of sorts. Then we get to “Devil’s Teeth,” which is one for my drag queens. What prompted you to do such a fun and flirty song?

JW: That was one of the first songs we wrote; it just has that swampy, Delta blues vibe. That was something Kallie really gave a lot of in that particular session. She lives in the Delta, so that’s where that one came from.

What is one thing about you that would shock your fans?

JW: Ooh. That we are really, really, really ratchet.

What do you think the future hold for Muddy Magnolias?

JW: More music, more inspiration, more traveling, taking out music all over the world. Everything an artist’s heart desires.

And just like that, my time with the lovey ladies of Muddy Magnolias came to a close. I have to say, the crazy, beautiful energy these ladies demonstrated during the interview was infectious. Their souls are as genuine as their music, and I highly suggest you catch this band on their next tour. I know when they hit St. Louis I will be in the front row with Jägermeister shots for the ladies, as promised. | Jim Ryan

Follow me on Twitter @PlaybackSTLJim. You never know where I will pop up next.

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