Marietta’s the Waymores celebrate a new album and 14 years of ‘honky-tonk osmosis’

The Waymores are Kira Annalise and Willie Heath Neal. Courtesy of Lindsay Garrett

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The Waymores are Kira Annalise and Willie Heath Neal. Courtesy of Lindsay Garrett

Make no mistake, Marietta-based duo The Waymores are not a country act.

Kira Annalise and Willie Heath Neal, seasoned vets from the Atlanta scene, aren’t acting — or selling anything other than pure, heartfelt “honky-tonk Americana” music.

On their sophomore release “The Stone Sessions,” the duo amp up their rootsy approach, with nods to fellow traditionalists Johnny Cash, June Carter, John Prine and Iris DeMent. In fact, it was their version of the Prine-DeMent duet “In Spite Of Ourselves” that initially propelled the couple on domestic and international tours, long before their debut “Weeds” was released in 2019.

On April 8, the musicians celebrate the release of their new album, issued by plucky Austin, Texas, label Chicken Ranch Records, by sharing the bill with like-minded friend and purist Dale Watson. They recently spoke with the AJC from their home in Cobb County.

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The Waymores, Kira Annalise and Willie Heath Neal Courtesy of Lindsay Garrett

Credit: Lindsay Garrett

The Waymores, Kira Annalise and Willie Heath Neal
Courtesy of Lindsay Garrett

Credit: Lindsay Garrett

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The Waymores, Kira Annalise and Willie Heath Neal Courtesy of Lindsay Garrett

Credit: Lindsay Garrett

Credit: Lindsay Garrett

Q: As you know, a good band is like a marriage. But The Waymores are a band and a marriage.

Willie Heath Neal: I always like to joke that when I was married before, I’d head out on tour and my wife would be at home, pissed-off at me. Now when I head out on tour, my wife’s in the passenger seat pissed off at me.

Kira Annalise: He’s never getting rid of me. Willie and I will hit our 14-year mark this month. The only times we ever get snippy with each other is when we’re home too long. When we’re in the van, life is just blissful. I think we’re both built a little bit backwards because most traditional couples could be really annoyed living in a van a few feet away from your partner for 200 days a year. You spend so much time together in a van and on the stage that you just learn to read each other’s mind.

Neal: It definitely becomes honky-tonk osmosis. We’re much more content in the chaos of the road than being stagnant at home.

Q: As the relationship endures, has your songwriting technique changed?

Neal: It’s kinda funny. When I first met Kira around 2007, I’d always written alone. People would say, ‘Hey, let’s get together and write.’ I just couldn’t fathom how that worked because writing was such a personal thing to me. When we met, she’d just started playing music and songs were flowing out of her. But my songwriting had kinda dried up. I have this theory that the life you live conditions you to be an antenna. You receive these songs from the universe. But my antenna was broken. I wasn’t receiving anything. And here was Kira just pouring out one great song after another. She’d be like, ‘Hey, I wrote a song. Do you want to hear it?’ I’m like, ‘No, I don’t want to hear another damn brilliant song you wrote when I haven’t written crap.’ Then one day, Kira had a fragment of a song. She had some verses and I had a chorus I’d been carrying around for 20 years. And then, ding! After that, it was like I was back, I could write again. I guess she fixed my antenna.

Q: As you created the album during the pandemic, was your songwriting antenna picking up static or were the ideas coming in on a clear channel?

Annalise: We wrote a song called “Road Worn” and it came out all at once. We were looking at the situation that we were both stuck here in the house. I was just sitting at the dresser crying because I didn’t know what to do with myself. It’s all about missing really weird aspects of being on the road, things that you never thought that you would be missing.

Neal: We could definitely tune in to what was happening and it forced us to be artists. We could do nothing but write songs, eat and drink. Those were the only avenues we had and the stuff was just bangin’ out. We don’t rush the songs, but once your antenna receives it and you dial that sucker in, it starts coming out.

One of the featured tracks on the new record is a cover of Dale Watson’s “Caught.” Now he’s on the album and headlining the release party.

Annalise: Yeah, it was on his 1995 album “Cheatin’ Heart Attack,” his first album. We originally wrote to him, asking for his blessing to put our spin on it. Then I got a little ballsy and asked him to play lead on it. Fortunately, he’s an incredible guy, super humble musician and he’s always looking to help out the underdogs.

He started the “Ameripolitian” movement, adding more fuel to the debate about what is Americana and what is what is country.

Neal: Yeah, he started the whole Ameripolitan brand and the festival. Because now, when you call your music country, people automatically assume it’s the pop-country crap that’s coming out of Nashville. He wanted to stay away from that — and we do, too. The word “country” is almost tarnished now. Sometimes we’re considered to be “alternative country” or something when it’s like, no we’re just country. There’s nothing alternative about what we’re doing. I call us acoustic honky-tonk.

Annalise: The rest of the world started calling us Americana. So I just combined the two and said, ‘We’re honky-tonk Americana.’ We’ve never tried to make country music. Neither of us set out and said, ‘Oh, I’m going to be a country artist.’

Neal: It just comes out country.

Obviously, you’re purists.

Neal: I mean, how many songs can you have with the same chord progression about your truck? It’s probably written by some guy who’s never even been on a damned tractor or lived on a farm. Those people are not artists. They’re acts. Acts are told what to sing, what to wear, who to be seen with. That’s not us, that’s not what we do.


CONCERT PREVIEW

The Waymores with Dale Watson

8 p.m. April 8. $25 in advance. Smith’s Olde Bar, 1578 Piedmont Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-875-1522, sobatl.com.