After two releases that frontman Willy Braun considered “kind of concept albums,” the Austin Americana troupe Reckless Kelly wanted to keep it straight-up and simple on its new Sunset Motel, which is due Sept. 23 — with the track “Moment in the Sun” premiered exclusively on Billboard.
“On [2011’s] Good Luck & True Love we really wanted to be kind of stripped-down and sound like a band in a room. And [2013’s] Long Night Moon had a lot of songs that ended up being about traveling and had kind of a loose storyline,” Brawn tells Billboard. “So after doing those two, I was really in the mood to just write about whatever and not be stuck with any one theme or anything.”
It also helped that Reckless Kelly allowed itself a bit of extra time to write for Sunset Motel. “We ended up writing about 30 or 50 songs and picking the best 20 or so and then recorded them and knocked it own to 13,” Braun says. “It just ended up being the best of the best. It was kind of a relief not to have to try too hard to go in any one direction or any kind of vibe.”
That said, “Moment in the Sun” does have a sister song on Sunset Motel in “How Can You Love Him.” “It’s kind of just about somebody who can’t make up their mind,” Braun says about the former. “They keep always going for the ‘grass is greener on the other side of the fence’ option. We all know those people that never really can settle for anything ’cause they’re always thinking there’s something better on the trail. I ended up throwing a lot of metaphors in there — the last verse is about horse racing, even.”
Sunset Motel also coincides with Braun and Co. celebrating 20 yeas of Reckless Kelly. “Sometimes I can’t believe how fast it went. Sometimes it feels like 40 years,” Braun says with a laugh.
But it’s also allowed him to take stock of what the group has accomplished over the course of nine albums — including tenures with the Yep Roc and Sugar Hill labels before launching its own No Big Deal imprint — and plenty of time on the road. “It’s really just been about staying the course,” Braun explains. “When we started this thing, we wanted to kind of make our own style of music. We didn’t want to force it in any one direction, so for the whole history of the band, we’ve just let it evolve, not get too far away from what we started out doing but not make the same record over and over. We never tried to chase mainstream fads or drive pickup trucks or wear tight jeans or any of that. We’ve just stuck to our guns and just made music we’re proud of, and I think our fans have appreciated that.”
There are no special plans to commemorate two decades together, however. “There’s a lot of different pieces that didn’t fall into place, just with timing and logistics and stuff like that,” Braun explains. “We thought about a big 20th anniversary collection, but we kind of wanted to make a new record before we did anything like that. We might do some special shows and little things to celebrate the 20 years. Maybe we’ll do the big party for our 21st birthday, or down the road for our 25th or something. We’re not planning on going anywhere.”