Midland – Mary Wystrach, Jess Carson and Cameron Duddy – is one of the bands in Country music that has really put the work in to establish themselves in the UK.
Following the runaway success of their debut single “Drinkin’ Problem” in 2017, the band has prioritised touring in the UK and made numerous visits here over the years. The pandemic saw their last tour rescheduled a handful of times but they finally made it here last May, for a run that included a headline show at London’s The Roundhouse.
Midland is now back in the UK to play C2C: Country to Country for the second time and I caught up with them earlier this week to talk about their return, discuss the work they’ve put in to build momentum in the UK and find out their plans for their next record…
Welcome back to the UK. It’s been almost a year since your last visit and this is your second time playing at C2C. You’re higher up the bill this time so how are you feeling about it?
Mark: We feel great, man. It’s always good to have forward momentum. It’s better than slipping on the bill. It’s a big deal. You get to travel across the world to go play arenas with 1000s and 1000s of fans. It’s far from home and it’s amazing amazing to think that our music’s reaching all around the globe. The UK fans are fantastic, we love coming over here.
Over the last few years you guys have really put in the work in terms of building up momentum and a fanbase here. You must be seeing that paying off now?
Mark: It doesn’t seem like work but yeah. We’re usually having so much fun out here. I’ve been looking forward to this on the calendar for quite a while. We’re here to have a blast. It’s unique. It just feels different playing our music over here. Because we love so much of the music that’s come from the UK, we just get to feel like a star over here and it’s cool.
The pandemic of course derailed a lot for everyone, and you guys had to push your tour back a number of times. Do you feel that life is getting back to normal now and that you’re able to get back on the road and connect with fans again?
Jess: Yeah. I think we don’t have much interest in looking back. It was a hard time for everybody and it’s good to see people able to gather in crowds. I think there was probably some anxiety back at the height of things, that was never gonna happen again. We’ve yet to play here, but certainly in the States, I would say things feel back to normal.
As much as the pandemic was tough for everybody, did you feel it gave you space to sit back and look at what you’ve achieved as well as looking forward to what you want to do next?
Cameron: Yeah. We were able to write ‘The Last Resort’ album from home and that was a novel idea because we had written a lot of the first album in Nashville and then most of the second album on the road. This coming album, I think, is gonna be a smattering of writing in different areas; writing at home, writing in Texas, writing some international, some in Arizona and maybe in LA. We’re really looking for a change and new experience for the next album. Depending on how you write something, and where you record it, it really does a lot to inform the sound, I feel like. This is for us as much as for everybody else. We’re creating experiences and memories that are hopefully fulfilling for all of us personally and as a band. I personally want to look back at every album as a unique experience and a different thing. Coming over here andeing able to see the world all that informs what you’re going to say. I’m about four minutes from a Guinness so I…
(the band breaks into laughter)
Mark: The wheels just came off that (answer). You were coming down to land and then you said ‘fuck it’…
Cameron: I hit the aircraft carrier then I forward thrust all the way (laughs).
A lot of this year looks to be on the road for you guys with support dates for Eric Church and your own headline shows…
Mark: That’s gonna be great.
How are you going to find time to actually write and record this next album?
Mark: We’re gonna really buckle down and get a lot of stuff done, I think the end of this month, in April and probably May as well. We’ll really try to get all the writing done and then try to set some time in the studio where we decide to record that. We’re actually playing about a third less dates this year than we did last year, on purpose. This last year was so intense, and we just hit the ground running coming out of COVID. Dropping ‘The Last Resort’, touring the UK and doing Stage Coach, we played a ton of shows and that put a lot of wear and tear on this. We want to make room to do some other projects as well this year, so we’ll see. We’re supposed to be doing a movie, but I don’t know what’s happening with that.
The three of you are never short of things to do and while you say you’ll be playing fewer shows this year, that’s still more than most artists on average…
Mark: Yeah! What’s amazing about Midland is that we’re not really reliant on Country radio, so much as I think a lot of our colleagues are. There’s a lot of people that are maybe bigger stream wise but they pale in comparison as far as our ticket numbers that we do. We cut ourselves as a real rock and roll country live acts. I think that’s what separates us from a lot of different acts.
You’ve played a lot of venues in the UK now starting with the tiny Omeara following your first C2C…
Mark: Where did we play in in May in London? The Roundhouse? We also played Shepherd’s Bush (previously). They’re all kind of fabled venues.
The Roundhouse is pretty iconic. What was that show like for you guys?
Mark: It was fantastic, man. Getting to headline The Roundhouse in London was somewhat surreal. There’s shows and then there are shows…
It shows you’re doing something right…
Yeah, we definitely are but you definitely get up for playing bigger shows like the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. Every show is special, but some shows you really mark in your calendar and maybe you’re just a little bit more tuned in and focused. That’s what it felt like at the Roundhouse. We’ve got to play some amazing venues on the last run, and there’s still a lot of amazing venues for us to play It’d be fun playing in an arena (as a headline act).
How does it compare playing an arena to smaller venues?
Jess: It’s fun to have that (variety) because you get such different things from either one. In arenas and stadiums you don’t feel as close to the audience but there’s such an energy just from that many people being in one place, that it makes you step it up. In small clubs, people are right there and you can see all the way to the back. You can see people’s faces. It’s intimate. I don’t think I would want to do only one or the other forever. It’s why you see people like the Rolling Stones go on a club tour, I think. If you’re only doing stadiums, it will start to feel a little impersonal.
Country acts are starting to be able to play arenas now in the UK with the latest being Morgan Wallen who just announced his first show here in December. Is headlining arenas here the ultimate goal?
Mark: Yeah, of course. I think that the goal of every artist is to have as many people as possible to listen to music. I don’t think it’s just about the ticket counts or about the money. Sure that stuff’s nice but you’re kind of competitive with yourself. You want to keep that forward momentum going, and the evolution going as an artist. Keep searching, keep finding things that move you. That is the goal.
Midland are performing as part of C2C: Country to Country this weekend (Friday 10th to Sunday 12th March 2023). The band’s latest album ‘The Last Resort: Greetings From’ is out now.