Jay Buchanan’s return to his Feral Roots, in life, brought about a defining impact on his band Rival Sons’ new album — and its title track, premiering exclusively below.
Between albums Buchanan, who hails from rural southern California — “I mean two miles back on a dirt road,” he says — moved his family to a wooded, less populous part of Franklin, Tenn., south of Nashville. “Moving out here really informed so much of my writing,” Buchanan tells Billboard. “I grew up in the woods…and growing up that way really doesn’t leave you. You don’t get used to the stoplights and you don’t get used to the traffic and all the stimuli of the city. That wilderness and that silence is something that you carry with you.
“So the return to the country and the return to the wilderness was a real cathartic sort of homecoming for me, even though this is the Tennessee woods and I grew up in the southern California woods and mountains.”
Rival Sons still rocks hard on Feral Roots — evidenced on the Mainstream Rock Songs charting first single “Do Your Worst.” But it also adds rustic touches like those heard on the “Feral Roots” song, what Buchanan describes as “a particular tone and a very particular ethos” that blended acoustic and rootsy flavors into the mix.
“That song is one of my favorite collaborations that Scott (Holiday, guitarist) and I have ever done,” Buchanan says. “I had written the verses and the chord changes and these lyrics and I showed it to him, and Scott knows I’m very much into Appalachian melodies and the dark side of bluegrass and the mountain side of country music. He immediately goes, ‘Yeah, man, I totally get it.’ At one point later I called him and said, ‘Look man, this is a little too Appalachian-style and I think it needs some fuzz and that collective identity,’ and he didn’t skip a beat. It all fit like a glove, and it was a great creative flashpoint to witness.”
Those roots, feral and otherwise, are contained in the song as well as the sound. “Don’t get me wrong — I’m not a Luddite, but moving back to this sort of living was a very clear return to form for me,” Buchanan explains. “It’s about understanding that wild nature that is still within you, culturally and as a true human, no matter how far out of the woods we get. We love our devices and our stuff, all the things that we made, but we still look back to nature because nature made us.”
Buchanan and company will, of course, be coming out of the woods and getting back on the road to promote Feral Roots — which comes out Jan. 25 — starting a European tour Jan. 31 in the U.K. and returning to North America starting April 4 in Dallas. It will be Rival Sons’ most extensive series of headlining dates since 2015, though the group is hoping its run opening for Black Sabbath on its 12-month-plus The End Tour won new friends who will turn out to see the group on its own.
“We had to starve a lot of our audience in order to get a foothold with the later audience — but if Black Sabbath knocks on the door and says they want you to be the opening band for their final tour, then yes, of course,” Buchanan says. “That tour really gave us an education and an opportunity, and the return on your investment and seeing what that exposure is going to return to you remains to be seen. I don’t think we’re really going to see the full effects of that for a couple of years; It’ll be a slow drip, but it was a great time and we have no regrets at all.”