Nashville-by-way-of-Maryville outfit the Young Fables play country music that celebrates the genre’s best-loved traditions without calcifying them, that incorporates classic pop and rock songwriting elements without sounding calculated or cliché.
“We like to call ourselves ‘modern traditional country,'” says YF singer Laurel Wright. “The guy who is recording our upcoming record asked us if we thought we would have any songs for country radio. I said, ‘No, does it sound like we do?’ And he said, ‘No, it really doesn’t.’
“We want to do justice to the songs we write, and we want to stay true to who we are. And we don’t want to try to be something we’re not.”
The Fables’ story is one of weird serendipity. A three-time veteran of the “American Idol” TV show, vocal ace Wright had scheduled a rehearsal with her backing band one afternoon some four years back, in anticipation of a forthcoming show.
With no advance warning, her regular guitar player skipped out and turned off his phone. “With a show coming up, I was getting desperate, and then my drummer says, ‘hey, I know this guy named Wes (Lunsford),'” Wright remembers. “I was like ‘whatever, just call him up.’ Wes came, and he killed it at practice, and then he killed it at the gig. And now he’s the only one left from the band.’
The Fables’ partnership is very much a matter of compensatory inclinations; though he’s a more than capable singer, Lunsford considers himself a guitar player above all else — a versatile, virtuosic player capable of providing sublime accompaniment for any musical moment, or of stepping into the spotlight for a dazzling solo break.
And Wright is a singing star who wields her acoustic guitar as a rhythmic auxiliary to Lunsford’s more complex six-string tapestries. “Since we moved to Nashville, we’ve seen a lot of duos that start playing out, and then break up,” Wright says. “Usually, the problem is they both want to do the same things, they both want to sing lead and play guitar. But Wes doesn’t want to be in front; he likes playing guitar and singing backup.
“It seems that things just sort of fell into place for us, like it was meant to be. It’s the same way with the way our personalities fit together. I’m crazy and loud and psycho. Wes is always calm and go-with-the-flow.”
Having moved to Nashville a couple years back, the duo made waves by winning something called the Texaco Country Showdown, the first prize for which included a showcase performance at the historic Ryman auditorium. They have also released a preternaturally accomplished debut record in 2016’s “TWO,” hailed by a number of Nashville scribes who fell under the sway of Wright’s lithe, expressive voice and the duo’s alt-country songwriting savvy.
Now they’ve set to work on a follow-up, an album with the working title “Old Songs,” set for release sometime in early 2018. “The record won’t be so different from ‘Two,’ but I do think it will reflect how we’ve matured,” Wright says. “We wrote every song on the first record, except for three that were co-written by my grandparents. This one, we’re working with a number of friends as co-writers. And we’re writing about more difficult topics, more serious, adult themes. I’m happy with where it’s going, and with where we are now as a duo.”
The Young Fables will play Preservation Pub Saturday, Dec. 23 at 10 p.m.