Wild Ponies
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Wild Ponies

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | INDIE

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Americana Folk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos




“This is a CD to be held and cherished ... Imagine something like Janis Joplin being born and raised in the coal mining communities of Virginia”
--Maverick Magazine (★★★★) -

"Country Music People Magazine"

"They have an excellent ear for melody, and also write judicious hooks ... An album of great country and roots music"
--Country Music People Magazine (★★★★) -

"R2 Magazine"

"...Consistently high quality throughout -- country and Americana fans are strongly urged to check out this band"
--R2 Magazine (★★★★) -

"M Music and Musicians Magazine"

Formerly an acoustic duo, Doug and Telisha Williams plug in for these 12 country tunes, cut in three days with Ray Kennedy. The producer has worked with Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle, and like those artists, Wild Ponies swing emotional wrecking balls with great delicacy, sometimes waiting until the third verse to deliver devastating revelations about their characters—and themselves. On “Trigger,” Telisha doesn’t say until the end why she pulled the gun that’s left her hubby dead, and on “Truth Is,” she saves until the final line a reference to her painful childhood. “Everything I own is just a little bit broken,” they sing on a brisker cut, romping with heavy hearts that won’t weigh them down. - M Music and Musicians Magazine

"Wild Ponies Might Just Be Americana's New Dark Horses"

Michael Bialas - Huffington Post/No Depression - November 29, 2013

You’re a happily married couple who share a 24-7 existence, mostly writing songs while roaming free in what’s left of the open country. Yet when you put your first two names together, the act sounds like a finger-snapping folk duo resembling the fictitious Mitch and Mickey, who were reunited in the 2003 mockumentary A Mighty Wind.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but ... If you like your lyrics dark, your melodies moodier, your Christmases not quite so merry and your sound (particularly the fiddle) a little bit creepy, what do you do?

If you’re Doug and Telisha Williams, you’ve already quit your day jobs. Then you eventually jump in a dilapidated RV that’s the inspiration of a song called “Broken,” get out of the town where you played in an anonymous rock ‘n’ roll cover band in high school, make frequent stops to Nashville, then emerge as Wild Ponies after pleasantly discovering that the group name isn’t taken.

And you thought becoming a roots-rock star was easy. With Things That Used to Shine, their Wild Ponies debut album released in September, the Williamses finally are making a living as full-time musicians. The success is modest, but these rambunctious dark horses are enjoying every minute of it, and pulled off Interstate 95 on the way to Newark in mid-November to discuss their experience over speakerphone.

“It’s the best thing in the world. I’m having a ball,” Doug Williams said, happy to forget about those lean years doing “nothing very exciting” while employed by a furniture company in the small Virginia town of Martinsville, where he grew up and met Telisha. “I mean, it’s hard. We’re getting to the point now where some months we can actually pay more bills than others. And that’s a good thing. ... No amount of money could convince me to go back to a straight job now.”

Officially, Wild Ponies are still a duo, but they bring drummer Jake Winebrenner along for most tour dates and occasionally add a fourth member during what Telisha calls this “transitional” phase. Committing to move away from the folk scene, they’ve developed a sometimes raw, sometimes raucous, often rockin’ sound that will hopefully attract a wider audience. And with “The Truth Is” and “Trigger” covering disturbing themes such as sexual abuse and murder, Things That Used to Shine doesn’t have a lighthearted ditty among the 12-song bunch.

Their friendly and cheerful nature belies the serious tone of their material, though an acerbic wit occasionally creeps into the rowdy “Broken” (The only thing I can’t break is even) or the sweet “Valentine’s Day” (I don’t need flowers, they don’t last anyway).

Wild Ponies jumped the pond in October as an opening act for Rod Picott, finding appreciative audiences and venues throughout Holland, Germany and the United Kingdom where, according to Telisha, the music isn’t “a background kind of thing.” They’re already planning a European tour for 2014, but back in America are willing to “fill a date and rock a bar if we need to.”

The motivation to spread the word by touring nonstop appears to be working because they sold out the initial pressing of 3,000 copies on the road — before the album was released on the Ditch Dog Records label they co-own with Kristen Bakevich. The record is climbing the Americana radio charts, reaching No. 18 this week on a list that includes heavy hitters such as Avett Brothers, Band of Heathens and Head and the Heart.

“Well, we were sort of prepared for the brand shift to take a year or even longer if needed. But it actually has taken off a little quicker than we thought. ... Wild Ponies is more representative of what we do sonically than Doug and Telisha was,” said Telisha Williams, who was so attracted to the beauty of an upright bass that she abandoned all her other instruments and learned to play it after buying one at the Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax, Virginia, a few years ago.

“When you hear two names like Doug and Telisha, I think what you picture in your head is two people with acoustic guitars singing folk songs and love ballads,” Telisha added. “It’s a very rainbow feeling thing, which is fine and great, but it’s totally not what we do.”

That’s evident from the opening lines of “Make You Mine,” which Telisha delivers with a vigorous snarl that brings to mind another Williams who’s not related.

Comparisons to Lucinda are inevitable, along with rough-and-tumble daring duos such as Shovels & Rope and honeyhoney, and Americana’s current power couple, recent newlyweds Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires. All of them know how to capably cover shaky ground, but exploring deep, dark places seems to come naturally for Wild Ponies.

Before they became the Williamses in 1998, Doug and Telisha grew up in the same town but under extremely different circumstances.

The truth is I’m more broken than brave
There are things I still think about everyday
Like his footsteps in the hallway
"The Truth Is”

Doug was born in North Carolina, moved just across the border with his native Virginian parents when he was 12 and, with one little sister, said, “I was really lucky with a great family,” that included “fantastic grandparents on both sides.” His grandfather taught him to play the banjo and his mother and aunt taught him how to play the guitar. He went away to study history and philosophy before coming back to Martinsville in his 20s to get married.

Three years younger, Telisha also learned music as a youngster, with her Uncle Sammy from the White Family Quartet teaching her how to sing by sitting at the piano and “making me match pitches.” The tight harmonies from the church gospel group inspired Telisha, who sang at her uncle’s funeral shortly after the Williamses got married.

She found solace in song, but otherwise experienced a far more complex upbringing when her house was forever divided after her parents divorced and her older sister and father moved out.

Belonging to a family she said was drowning in “a deep well of secrets,” Telisha kept quiet while becoming a silent victim of sexual abuse by her stepfather.

“The actual trauma of the abuse, it’s almost less damaging than the secrecy and the way that it’s handled afterwards,” Telisha said. “I feel like we’ve got to start making this a more comfortable topic to talk about and get away from it being so taboo and shameful because that is really what creates the environment (in which) that abuse can happen.”

The fact that her mother decided to “stay with the perpetrator” (Telisha said they eventually divorced but “she was seeing him two years ago”), only added to the suffering.

“I’m completely estranged from her now,” Telisha said. “We have zero contact with each other. And it’s because of that. It’s because of her choices.”

Previously hesitant about publicly addressing her past until incidents involving Penn State and the Catholic Church made the news, she found therapy and songwriting as ways to express herself. After earlier earning a master’s degree in psychology from Old Dominion, Telisha also could draw from her previous job with Piedmont Community Services as a mental health therapist working with child victims of abuse.

“Obviously, I had that job because I was drawn to that work and clearly still trying to work out some things for myself in the process of receiving all that training and doing that work,” Telisha said. “But I also have a lot of levels of knowledge related to victims of abuse. I understand as a victim myself, I understand as a professional who has worked for victims. I understand at several different levels kind of what victims’ needs are and also the advocacy side of it, too, of what victims need communicated to the public, some of the conceptions that people have.

“People think that victims don’t want to talk about it ’cause it makes them uncomfortable, but what makes them feel uncomfortable is that people don’t want to talk about it.”

Now that it’s out in the open, the Williamses appreciate the well-meaning fans who send thank-you emails and lend their support at the merch table, but Telisha said, “I don’t want that to ever, the performance of those songs, to be about me. I really want them to be about the conversation that needs to happen. And I kind of feel that that’s happening.”

Initially sharing her story through a press release was difficult, she said, yet “I feel so strongly about the work and talking about it being so important that I just sort of take a deep breath and steady myself and decide that that’s ... it’s what has to be done. It’s the right thing.”

Everything I own is just a little bit broken

Though they continued to play music since their days at Martinsville High and had “great bosses” who allowed them to take time off to play weekend gigs, the Williamses decided to pick up the emotional pieces and live in an RV with a hot radiator and a leaking transmission for a year before establishing themselves in East Nashville in 2011.

“There was this dream that you could just, like, shift easily and slowly from one career to the other, but it really doesn’t work like that,” Telisha said. “So we made the jump in 2005” to pursue music full-time.

During their trips to Nashville, they received moral support and business advice from Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart and eventually became part of a warm community of musicians. The Williamses cohost the weekly East Nashville Song Salon songwriting group and “Whiskey Wednesdays,” a radio show on EastNashville.com.

As Doug and Telisha Williams, they made two indie albums before influential Thirty Tigers president David Macias (“he’s always been super-friendly and helpful to us,” Doug said) put them in touch with established producer Ray Kennedy.

The Williamses found Music City Nirvana the first time they visited Kennedy’s Room & Board Studio in the Berry Hill district, where they walked past his five Grammys and went upstairs to meet him in the control booth.

Doug Williams recalled Kennedy, a formidable figure who’s worked with many key players on the all-Americana team, saying, “Look what I found today. These are the original mixes of Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (which he co-produced with Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle). These aren’t the ones Lucinda used. We used different mixes. But these are the original mixes that I really liked.”

It turned out to be “a pretty monstrous day for us,” Doug said, and Kennedy soon recruited standout musicians such as fantastic fiddler Casey Driessen and Russ Pahl (peddle steel, baritone and electric guitars, banjo) to play on the record.

With Kennedy, the foursome celebrated New Year’s Day 2013 by starting to track every song for Things That Used to Shine, completing it in three days. Harmony vocals and other instruments were added later.

As the working relationship developed into a friendship (Telisha taught Ray and Siobhan Kennedy’s 10-year-old daughter how to sew), the producer played John Prine some of the Wild Ponies songs while they were mixing the record.

Liking what he heard (maybe their “Valentines Day” duet brought him back to his precious harmonizing with Iris DeMent on In Spite of Ourselves), Prine wanted to see them play live, so the Williamses put on a show that he attended last April at Mad Donna’s in East Nashville.

“We talked a little bit before and for maybe a half-hour or so after the show,” Doug wrote in a subsequent email of Prine, who recently was diagnosed with operable lung cancer. “He was very encouraging, very gracious. He said he hoped to be seeing a lot more of us soon.”

Receiving such valuable validation, Wild Ponies have no desire to give up their night jobs or any plans to start a family, feeling content with Annabelle, a lab/hound mix they adopted at the Martinsville SPCA.

They’re pleased with the reaction to their music, but don’t see a significant change in their lives since, Doug said, “we’re touring our asses off, so we don’t have time to notice.”

“It’s like the difference between being a parent and being an aunt or an uncle and watching your child grow,” Telisha said, recalling an analogy her husband often makes. “When you’re a parent, you see the kid every day, and so you don’t see the kid change that much because you’re right in the middle of it. But when you’re an aunt or an uncle and you check in every couple of months, there’s a big shift. And so I do think there is a shift.”

Supported by a team that includes booking agent John Laird of the Americana Agency, they feel comfortable enough with each other to share more than husband-and-wife responsibilities and songwriting duties. The Williamses take turns managing their careers, and joked about it during this give-and-take:

Doug: “We have a Magic 8 Ball and a pack of Tarot cards ...”
Telisha: “To help with our decision-making process.”
Doug: “It works out as well as most managers, I think.” (both laugh)

Such a funny exchange is just an example of how they can lighten the mood. Just don’t ask them to lighten up their music.

Crowded streets, busy feet, hustle by him
Downtown shoppers, Christmas is nigh
There he sits all alone on the sidewalk
Hoping that you won't pass him by
"Pretty Paper”

The Williamses will spend most of the upcoming holiday weeks on the road primarily in the Northeast performing Decembersongs with Rod Picott and Amy Speace, the Nashville-based singer-songwriter who helped start this tradition in 2010. Some of the songs they will perform are on an album available at bandcamp.com, and they promise to put on a fun show, but don’t expect a gleeful group of carolers taking a sentimental trip down memory lane.

Doug laughed about writing “these really dark, heavy Christmas songs” and covering Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper,” a bleak and reflective song of the season that Roy Orbison recorded in 1963.

“I think if you’re gonna invest in a song, it should have some weight to it,” Doug said.

Their methods might vary — “I don’t think there’s any song that we’ve ever recorded that doesn’t have at least a little bit of a stamp with us both on it,” he said — but Doug and Telisha aren’t afraid to collaborate or experiment.

Their cowriting partners have included Speace (“Trouble Looks Good on You”), Sally Barris and Amelia White, yet another busy East Nashville artist with an upcoming album that includes two songs written with the Williamses.

While participating at Lamb’s Retreat for Songwriters in northern Michigan, Doug and Telisha each turned in separate assignments — the rollicking round-and-round trip of “Massey’s Run” and a granddaughter's wistful understanding of “Iris” — that turned up on their album. (From left, Doug and Telisha Williams, Rod Picott and Amy Speace, with Annabelle relaxing.)

“We just taught there last weekend again and had two more assignments that turned out to be really interesting, creepy songs,” Telisha said. “So we’re interested to see where that goes.”

Asked if he ever foresees them switching gears to more upbeat fare, Doug pointed out that he doesn’t even like lighthearted movies, then added, “I’m kind of interested in possibly trying to write some songs that provide a little bit more open affirmation maybe, but still heavy.”

These Wild Ponies certainly seem strong enough to carry that weight around. - Huffington Post/No Depression

"Wild Ponies Take Aim At Abuse with "Trigger""

It only takes 15 seconds to kill the bad guy in Wild Ponies’ first-ever music video, “Trigger.” And good riddance to him. The Nashville trio is taking aim at domestic abuse on their brand new album, Things That Used to Shine.

“It’s a personal story. People don’t like talking about abuse,” says band member Telisha Williams. “There is a lot of shame and secrecy around it, and when victims come forward, it can empower other victims to speak their truth. The prevalence of sexual abuse isn’t even really known because so many victims don’t disclose. The secrecy and shame is huge part of the abuse — in some ways more damaging than the physical part.

“This song came together as sort of a ‘what if?’ situation — an opposing scenario of how abuse usually gets handled, how it was handled at Penn State and in the Catholic Church and with me. A mom learns her daughter is being abused, and she takes care of it. I’m not saying murder is the best option, but keeping it a secret isn’t the right way, either. There is a place in between those scenarios where the victim can thrive after healing.”

Despite the pointed lyrics of “Trigger,” though, not every song is quite as stark. The project officially comes out Tuesday (Sept. 10), and it’s worth tracking down especially for the nifty title track, a hearty salute to secondhand stuff.

After a few shows in Tennessee later this month, they’ll head to Europe for nearly all of October. In the meantime, Telisha and husband/bandmate Doug Williams answered a few questions by email.

CMT Edge: Where were the indoor and outdoor scenes filmed for “Trigger”?

Doug: We were sitting around talking about a location, trying to find a house that would fit the scene. I could see the whole thing so clearly in my head — the kitchen table, the weeds in the front yard, the dirty dishes in the sink, gravel driveway with maybe an old, rundown car or two. I just sort of described it, and Jake (our drummer) said, “Dude, that’s my house!” He was right. We actually filmed the whole thing down at his place outside of Murfreesboro, Tenn., and the country roads around there.

Telisha: We borrowed our friend Kira’s truck. It seemed like the right vehicle for the story. Our Honda Element just wouldn’t do.

There are some neat references in the lyrics — like the photo from Ruby Falls and the salt-and-pepper shakers. They might seem like minor details at first, but how do you think that enhances the story you’re telling?

Doug: I believe in songs you can really get inside of, songs that put the listener in a real place. Little details like that can say a lot in just a few words. Hopefully, it gives you insight into who these people are, where they come from, maybe a little bit about what kind of relationship they’ve had in the past.

Telisha, what did you enjoy most about stepping into the role of the narrator in this song?

Telisha: I actually struggled with that at first. I wasn’t sure if it would be creepy for me to be the murderess AND in the band. When I watch the video, I’m surprised at how different I look in the two roles. I have to admit I felt like a badass acting as the character. Let’s just say I was method acting.

When you saw the finished video, what was your initial reaction?

Doug: Telisha and I were sitting in a rental car outside of a coffee shop somewhere in Minnesota when Justin (Justin Hall – video producer) emailed us a link to the finished video. I’m not going to lie. We both cried. The last scene, the way Justin put it together, it just hit really hard. It was exactly what we were hoping for, but it still stunned us a little bit.

Telisha: Our first viewing was on an iPhone screen, and we felt like it had the impact we were shooting for. We couldn’t wait to get to a real wi-fi connection and watch it on a 15-inch computer screen. - CMT Edge


2006 - Rope Around My Heart
2009 - Ghost of the Knoxville Girl
2013 - Things That Used To Shine



Video Links:





Written during a busy year on the road, Things That Used To Shine is an album about leaving somethings behindand meeting others head-on. Its also the studio debut of Wild Ponies, a Nashville-based outfit fronted by Virginia natives Doug and Telisha Williams, who have previously toured and recorded as acoustic folk duo Doug & Telisha. Released by the bands newly formed independent label, DitchDog Records, Things That Used To Shine finds Telisha opening up about the skeletons that have haunted her closet for years. Grammy-winning producer Ray Kennedy (Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams) recorded the albums 12 songs in three days, running the bands harmonies through the same pre-amps once used by the Beatles. Casey Driessen, Russ Pahl, Jake Winebrenner and other heavy-hitting roots musicians also make appearances, beefing up the bands songs with everything from organ to pedal steel.

The album deals with some heavy subjects, including Telishas abusive stepfather.

Telisha: Well, part of what prompted that was the bad news that came out about Penn State, as well as the abuse in the Catholic Church. Everything was kept secret for so long, and I think thats part of the problem. People feel like they dont have permission to talk about those things, theyre too taboo. One out of every four females has been abused, so if we can all be a little bit more open and talk about it, maybe we can create some change. I dont think we wrote this record to be a trauma recovery recordbut that just happened to be what we were dealing with.

Was it difficult to write songs about such a personal subject?

Telisha: I had help. We do a song salon in East Nashville whenever were at home, where you play a song for a group of writers and they give you feedback. Id taken one of our new songs, The Truth Is, to the salon a couple times and people kept saying, This song is about truth, but youre still holding some things back. They knew I was playing it safe. So a little while later, Doug and I were driving back from a tour in Minnesota, and I was trying to write the last line of the song. I had this part that went, Im more broken than brave; theres things I still think about every day, and Doug added, like his footsteps in the hallway. He nailed it. It was like a tsunami took over my body. I had to pull over.

Doug: In one way or another, the majority of the album deals with loss, rejection, abuse or starting over.Its about trying to find places where people dont necessarily have a voice, or dont know how to speak out on their own, and we try to give them some sort of a voice.

One of your biggest influences, Hazel Dickens, had the same mission.

Telisha: Shes kind of our matron saint. She wasnt afraid to speak up for other people, or for herself.

Doug: She was super influential when it came to womens rights, workers rights, union rights and so on. She was doing this bluegrass mountain music, but it was crazy progressive.

You tracked the album in three days, with Jake Winebrenner on drums and Russ Pahl on pedal steel. You guys must have been moving fast.

Telisha: We wanted to play together at the same time to capture the live sound. On most of these songs, Im recording my vocals and my bass at the same time. Live shows are what we love the most about this business, so why not try to capture that?

Doug: And theres an honesty you get from a live recording that you cant get from overdubs.
Telisha: Maybe I could sing better if I wasnt playing bass at the same time, but it wouldnt be as authentic. This is what we do. This is how we sound.

Before moving to Nashville, you were based in Martinsville, VA. What made you decide to leave?

Telisha: In the year before we left Martinsville we spent about 180 days on the road (according to our IRS documents), so we were out quite a bit. Its hard to come in and out of a small town. People have their routines, and you become less and less available to be a part of that, so slowly you lose touch.


Band Members