For twenty years Reckless Kelly has been doing things their way, straddling the fence between country and rock. Battered and Brewed caught up with frontman Willy Braun to talk about 20 years of success, tour life, and their new album “Sunset Motel.”
Good Afternoon! Thank you so much for talking with Battered and Brewed! What was a typical dinner or family meal like for you growing up?
Our mom is the best cook on the planet. She makes everything from scratch, and cooks most of the meals on an antique wood burning stove and almost everything in cast iron. She loves cooking healthy food, but not so healthy that you miss out on flavor. She cans fruits, veggies, jam and jellies, salsa, spaghetti sauce, pickles, etc… if it can be canned, she does it. She makes enough every year for the whole family and delivers boxes of canned goods to my brothers and I. All we have to do is save the jars so she can reuse them. Not a bad deal! But, back to the question- the typical meal was always something old school like pot roast, lasagna, or fried chicken. Mom’s fried chicken is unbeatable. Lightly breaded, fried in cast iron, and served with her canned corn, mashed potatoes, and home-made gravy. There was always so much food and we always ate it all. We didn’t know what the term leftovers meant when we were kids. People get excited about Thanksgiving, but we didn’t see what the big deal was… we were like, “doesn’t everyone eat like this all the time?”
Has music always been a big part of your life in the kitchen and family gatherings?
Music is a huge part of our family. Our grandfather, father, uncles, cousins, and pretty much everyone in the family are musicians. My dad has a song and an album called “the kitchen.” It’s about the family gathering in the kitchen and about songs written and music played at the kitchen table. All the women, (and some of the guys) in the family are fantastic cooks. So we’ll always have parties and jam sessions. Most of the guys will be playing music and most of the ladies will be cooking. After dinner, we’ll play music for the chefs and then after almost everyone has gone to bed, we’ll raid the kitchen. Mom just loves it when we do that.
Was there a lot of transition food wise growing up in Idaho, then moving to Bend, Oregon, and then onto Austin, Texas.
The biggest difference between the Northwest and Texas is the BBQ and Mexican food. You can get great BBQ and Mexican on every corner in Austin. Up North, BBQ is hamburgers and hot dogs. They’ll just laugh at you in Texas if you say that… I don’t eat as much BBQ as I used to because it’s just everywhere… catering, parties, etc. so I don’t think to go out and get it on my own much anymore. When we go out to eat in Austin you don’t ask “what kind of food do you feel like,” you ask, “what Mexican joint do you feel like?”
They say Texas does food bigger and better than anywhere else and Austin is no exception. What are some of the Texas staples that you enjoy?
Maudie’s, Maria’s, & Curra’s, are some of our favorite Mexican places. Coopers and Salt Lick have some of the best BBQ in town. But don’t limit your foodie experience to BBQ and Mexican. Austin is becoming a real culinary Mecca… Justine’s is a great place on the East side with French inspired food, but it’s not too fancy. They spin vinyl behind the bar and have killer cocktails as well. Moonshine is a cool place downtown with kind of an upscale, homestyle type food, and great atmosphere. There is some real fine dining at steakhouses like Jeffries and Eddie V’s. Vespio has amazing Italian food, and Trulucks has great seafood, especially for being in the middle of Texas. Uchiko and Uchi are two of the best sushi restaurants in the county. There are a bunch of killer food trucks as well. That’s kind of the new thing in ATX. All the bars have a food truck parked outside, and some are really really good. You can also get the best breakfast tacos in the world in Austin. San Antonio will claim the same thing, but they’re not as good as Austin’s.
What is your favorite recipe to make for your family?
I make a soup that I learned how to cook from our old friend Dave Musgrave who had a cafe in Idaho Falls called the Hawg Smoke Cafe. We used to play dinner shows there when we were just starting out. Dave was the best cook I’ve ever met, and was just a great guy. He taught me how to make his world famous “Cream of Johnny Walker Blue Soup.” It’s a chicken stock base with roux, onion, caraway, blue cheese, cream, and red cabbage, which is what turns it blue… it’s actually a little more purple than it is blue, but blue soup sounds more appetizing. Dave passed away a few years ago, but I still love making the soup, it brings us all back to the Hawg Smoke and all the good times and great meals we enjoyed there.
If you had to pair a piece of music to this recipe, what sort of music would it be?
Dave turned us on to Richard Thompson and the song “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” so I’d pair that song with the blue soup. Come to think of it, I do listen to that record while making the soup quite a bit.
Who is the bigger foodie in the band?
We’re all huge fans of food, so that’s a tough one. None of us are afraid of trying new things and we really do love food. But if I had to pick one, it would probably be Jay. He’s really in to all kinds of food and his Italian family takes the huge family dinner to another level. I’ve never seen anything like a meal at the Nazziola household. They prepare each meal like they’re feeding an army. You lose track of how many different courses have been served. It’s quite the experience, and the Italian style ball busting that accompanies the food is second to none.
What is the strangest or most inspiring thing you’ve ever eaten?
I get a lot of inspiration from places we eat on the road. I love trying to recreate the dishes back home in my own kitchen. The Tadich Grill in San Francisco has a Poached Ginger Soy Halibut dish that is just out if this world. I’ve spent hours and hours trying to recreate it at home. I’ve come close, but it’s still not the same.
Are there any foods you just don’t like?
Mayonnaise. I hate it. If a sandwich shows up with mayo on it, I will burn it, and then burn the ashes. Gross.
After playing a late at night show, what is your go to munchies?
We always have pizza delivered to the bus after the show. It’s almost always available and is usually a safe bet, cause even crappy pizza is still pretty good. I always have to lobby for “pizza diversity” because all the guys love pepperoni, and who doesn’t? But I get tired of the same old pepperoni every night, so I try to get some variation in there. I like mine with pineapple, jalapeño, and Canadian bacon. Most of the guys don’t like that though, so it takes a little convincing.
What are 3 things we would find in your refrigerator.
Pro ice (We call good big solid ice “pro ice.” Everything else is BS)
For fun, can you give an example of a “typical day” of eating for you, whether you are going out with friends or cooking at home.
Typical day for me would be something simple for breakfast. I don’t eat a lot of breakfast, but when I do there’s always spuds involved. So i’ll make hash browns, scrambled eggs, and bacon or spam. It’s a guilty pleasure. Lunch is really anything. I’m always busy so it falls by the wayside. Dinner is the big production. I love to cook a big meal for whoever is around. I cook a lot of the same stuff mom used to cook, and use her canned goods whenever I can. Lots of fish, and I use the grill a lot. Always charcoal, but I have a new grill called a FireDisc that’s pretty rad. It’s like a big wok on steroids. I’m still learning how to use, it but I’ve had some fun figuring it out and trying new things with it.
For over two decades, the band has toured coast to coast relentlessly, tell us about that and one memorable meal you’ve had during your travels.
We have our favorite restaurants in every town. In San Francisco, we go to Tadich, in New York we go to Wo Hop, Salt Lake it’s the Red Iguana, etc… the most memorable meal lately was at our friend Jimmy’s house. He works at a Chinese restaurant in Austin, but he and his wife Ling host family style dinners at their house. We went with some friends for our record wrap party and they served 13 or 14 courses of Chinese, American, and everything in between. They just kept bringing out more food. Every single thing we ate was magical. The highlights included piles and piles of lamb chops, lobster, soup, and the grand finale, beef tenderloin with melted foie gras over the top. It was unreal. I have daydreams about that meal.
Who gets to decide where to eat?
We all know the same places, so we usually don’t have to decide. It’s sometimes about convenience, or whatever is closest to the venue, but if there’s a good spot in town, we’ll all go together without much debate. There are places like Tadich Grill, or The Red Iguana in Salt Lake City, that we simply will not miss. We’ve been known to drive 100 miles out of the way to stop at Red Iguana.
Is there anywhere you have wanted to travel or a restaurant you have always wanted to dine in that you have not yet?
I want to go to Thailand just for the food. I’m sure there are plenty of other reason to go, but I know I’d love the food. Bucket list for sure.
How do you maintain a balance of eating healthy while on the road? Anything you avoid or try to avoid so you can keep fit?
It’s a lot easier to eat healthily on the road than it used to be. We avoid fast food for the most part, there’s usually some healthy options wherever we eat. The clubs sometimes provide catering, that’s pretty healthy as well. This day and age all of the food fads like gluten free or low carbs make it easier than it was 10-15 years ago.
Aside from your passion for food and music, what’s the one thing that really keeps you ticking?
Baseball. We’re all huge fans and it’s all we watch and talk about from April to October. People will get on the bus and ask “do you guys ever watch anything besides baseball?” The answer is yes. But only during the off season.
Tell us a little about your new album “Sunset Motel,” that released in September?
Its our 9th studio record. We went back to Arlyn, the same studio that we made our first album, “Millican.” We had a great time in the studio, and had some friends stop by and play on a few tracks. We didn’t spend too much time rehearsing the songs this time and just kind of let them take shape in the studio, so it wound up being a pretty organic sounding record. It’s kind of “classic Reckless Kelly.” We’re pretty proud of it!
“Moment in the Sun” and “How Can You Love Him” are both great songs. When picking the songs for this album, how did you decide on these two?
They were just strong songs to begin with, and the recordings turned out well. In a way, they’re similar in the sense that they’re both about wanting to be with someone that you shouldn’t be with and about the other person being with the wrong partner. I usually leave a lot of room for interpretation in my songs so that the listener can sort of make up their own storylines, but those songs are pretty specific and laid out for you.
Any places you can’t wait to get back to on the “Sunset Motel” tour?
I always look forward to the west coast. It feels like home and the weather is great. Cool venues and great people. If I could spend more time out there I would.
Finally for Battered and Brewed, If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be and what would you drink?
I would love to have a drink with Sir Paul McCartney. I wouldn’t know where to start. I’d have a million questions for him from songwriting, to what was Yoko like, to what it’s like being largely responsible for shaping music as we know it today… I’d let him pick the drink. He’s a knight and a Beatle, so I think it would be appropriate to let him choose.
About Reckless Kelly:
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