End of the World, the new album from acclaimed Austin songwriting duo Wild Child (Kelsey Wilson and Alexander Beggins) wasn’t supposed to happen. In 2018, Wilson joined the singer-songwriter super group Glorietta, and debuted her critically acclaimed genre-bending, Motown-influenced solo project Sir Woman. Meanwhile, Beggins unveiled his musical alter-ego, CoCo Zandi, with the release of his first solo album, As Simple as a Dream. Then in 2019, after more than a decade of non-stop touring, the indie band, which was unexpectedly conceived in the back seat of someone else’s tour van, stopped booking or playing shows altogether.
Exploring different sonic directions, Wilson and Beggins didn’t know if they would ever make another Wild Child record, until, well, what felt like the “end of the world” hit Austin, and brought them back together. Pandemic lockdowns closed stages and drained bank accounts. In Austin, the ‘Live Music Capital of the World,’ local bands took their shows online. Wild Child was no different. With an unexpected abundance of free time on their hands, Wilson and Beggins got together to practice for a series of online performances for devout fans. Within 30 minutes of rejoining forces, they’d written the first single for what would accidentally become Wild Child’s fifth album.
“Photographs” is a soulful, brass-filled outing that “offers something familiar for Wild Child fans who have stuck with them over the years,” Wilson says. “‘Photographs’ was inspired by a picture of my dad, Buddy Wilson, who passed away in February. And in a way, it’s a tribute to old Wild Child songs. A bittersweet story, a ukulele and both of us singing. It’s a special gift to Wild Child fans.” Beggins adds, “It felt like our very first record, when the two of us wrote a bunch of songs while on tour for someone else. There wasn’t any aim to do anything with those songs at the beginning. For the first time since then, that’s how we started writing these songs. We didn’t know if we would make another record. It just came together.”
And it couldn’t have happened at a more difficult time. Take Day 3 of the 2021 Texas Big Freeze for instance, when 13 displaced Austin pals had taken refuge at Wilson’s house. There was no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and no end in sight. When Wilson couldn’t possibly take it anymore, one of the fateful 13, singer-songwriter John Calvin Abney, ripped a 90s-alternative riff on an acoustic guitar that would eventually turn into the album’s title track. “I just started singing about things that were freaking me out. Wearing a mask for a year. Global warming. There’s no heat, no water,” explains Wilson. “It was like a dirge to begin with. But by the end we were all screaming and laughing that, yes, this might be the end of the world, but we’re all together right now, making music in my living room by candlelight. It’s all okay.”
The next morning during a lull in the storm, the Wild Child caravan — complete with drummer and guitarist Tom Meyers, guitarist Cody Ackors, and bassist and piano player Taylor Craft (Sir Woman) — braved icy roads to recording engineer Matt Pence’s The Echo Lab studios outside Denton, Texas. They didn’t even stop to shower before recording an unwashed rendition of “End of the World,” flush with in-the-moment angst. “There’s no ukulele. I’m singing differently than I ever have before. You can hear my voice crack, and all the energy behind everyone playing,” Wilson said. “That set the tone. There were no boundaries. We’re back to how it was on Day One. We were making this music because we really needed to make it for ourselves.”
Abney tagged along, and in the process became the first songwriter to collaborate with Beggins and Wilson on a Wild Child album. His contributions to Beggins and Wilson’s songwriting process came as an unexpected blessing amid so much impending doom. “John was dating one of Kelsey’s roommates when we met. The first time we played together, we just fell in love with each other,” Beggins says. “When you have a musical partnership, like Kelsey and I have had for a decade, it’s strange to change the formula of writing. But we found someone we both trust and like working with.”
“Wearing Blue” started with a guitar riff Abney played before an early recording session. “While everyone was setting up their instruments, John Calvin started playing and singing. In 30 minutes, a song was written. That was a holy-shit moment. And it set the tone of the record,” Wilson shares.
The Wild Child family is also excited to announce the birth of Reba’s Ranch Records, a long-time vision of creating their own record label imprint to highlight some of the amazing music coming out of Austin, TX. The label was born after years of conversations within the band about the importance of controlling one’s own destiny and art. The imprint will be home to the Wild Child catalog, as well as Kelsey’s Sir Woman and Alexander’s CoCo Zandi recordings, and is a partnership with Secretly Distribution.
‘End of the World’ was mixed by Matt Pence (Jason Isbell, Elle King) and includes guitarist Charlie Wiles (Paul Cauthen, John Moreland, Orville Peck).