Taking it Easy with The Apache Relay
We recently had the pleasure of talking with Michael Ford Jr., guitarist and vocalist for Nashville based rock ‘n’ roll band The Apache Relay. The band began with Michael and his brother, Ben, while Michael was attending Belmont University. In Nashville, Michael picked up some band members, took a break from school, and set sail for the open road. The Apache Relay has since been on a national tour playing sold out shows at iconic venues across the country, but they haven’t let it get to their heads. In fact, the band of Southern boys have graciously and humbly taken their accomplishments and used it as fuel. The burning coal that is necessary for any successful band to keep it goin’: tenacity. The band’s latest album, The Apache Relay, was a thoughtful time for the band. Kevin Augunas at Fairfax Recordings, formerly known as Sound City, produced their self-titled record.
It was a nice surprise when I went to dial Michael’s number that I recognized the familiar area code of my suburban hometown in Southeast Louisiana. It just kind of makes you remember how far you can go if you’re willing.
Don’t miss out on The Apache Relay’s upcoming show Saturday April 11 at Exit/In with Evan P. Donohue and Milktooth.
INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL FORD JR. OF THE APACHE RELAY
Didn’t you used to play music on the Northshore across from New Orleans?
I did. Totally.
When did you start playing music?
When I was 11. We [Ben Ford] made an EP when I was in 6th grade and he was in 8th grade. That was the first thing. We had a band. That was the cool thing about the north shore. There were always so many bands around [when I was there]. It was really surprising. It’s kind of this suburban town, but there were tons of bands and people playing music and doing that kind of thing.
The Northshore had a very small underground scene around 2006, did you ever go to the DIY venue the Shack?
Yeah I’ve been to the shack before. Totally. All the churches were having like rock ‘n’ roll shows. It was kind of bizarre and awesome. It was really cool. Everyone was kind of open to it and excited about people playing music.
What brought you to Nashville?
Playing music in a band and pursuing that. My brother [Ben Ford] had moved to Nashville a year before that and we had a band there and wanted to get that band going. So we both moved to Nashville together.
You started as a music industry major at Belmont University, formed the band there, and then dropped out. Do you think your music business degree helped you to form the band or was it more of you not knowing what you wanted to study but you knew you wanted to play music and it was sort of a compromise?
Yeah, it was a little bit of both, you know. I eventually ended up finishing in like 2011 by taking a bunch of online stuff. I really wanted to play music and my parents really wanted me to go to school and Belmont was kind of like the best of both worlds. At the same time there’s so many bands and musicians there. That’s where our band ended up meeting.
You guys have opened for Mumford & Sons, sang on stage with Jenny Lewis, and played at Newport Folk Festival. You’ve already accomplished a lot of impressive musical milestones. What are some venues you’d still like to play at? Bands you still aspire to play with?
I’d love to go back and play Newport again. I’ve never been to Coachella so I’d like to play that at some point. There are so many bands I’d love to open for-- Wilco, My Morning Jacket. We were lucky enough to play the Ryman once; we got an open slot there. That was a really amazing and humbling experience. It was so nerve wrecking.
Do you draw from any of Nashville country forefathers? Or does The Apache Relay like falling in between that gap of country and rock?
Yeah, we kind of fall in between that. A lot of that is just because people have different musical influences in the band. Certain people in the band listen to [country] more than others. That’s kind of what keeps us staggering those lines. Lots of different minds going in the making.
People call The Apache Relay, folk-rock, indie, Americana. Do you identify with one genre more than another?
I don’t want to ever be boxed into something. I want it to feel good and feel natural when we’re playing the songs. When people ask [what kind of music we play] I just say rock ‘n’ roll. That’s such a broad term you know. I think almost anything can fall in the rock ‘n’ roll umbrella. I don’t really have a good perspective of it because I’m so inside of it. I’m in the band. There’s no way I can know really exactly what we are and how we do or how people perceive it at least.
How has Nashville shaped your music? Do you feel like Nashville is a community? Do you think that a place can affect the music that comes out of it or vice versa?
At the end of the day I think people that are there are shaping it. I do think the history of this town has a role in it as well. But it’s a little bit of both. I don’t know if its one particular thing. Since I’ve moved here its definitely helped shape me and opened my eyes to a lot of different things that’s been really cool and exciting.
What are a few of your favorite bands to play with in town?
That’s a tough one. Andrew Combs. We’ve been touring a good bit with the Weeks and The Wild Feathers and having a great time with all those bands. Those are the first that come to mind. There are so many good people here and good bands, I could go on forever.
Favorite venues or house shows?
I’ve always had a great time playing the Mercy Lounge. I really like that place a lot. Playing the Ryman that one time. That was insane. That was such a great time. That room sounds incredible especially on stage, it’s mind blowing. I’ve always enjoyed seeing shows at the High Watt and Stone Fox.
Who designed your raccoon t-shirt?
I’ve got to go with Grimey’s. Tried and true. Great people great records. But there are so many great record stores. We’re really lucky to have that in town. I like the idea of people going out in town and going to record stores and buying local music. That’s always a win wherever you’re going.
Probably Mickey’s. I think they have a really good jukebox. I love going to Mitchell’s and I really like the fact they have the free spins on the jukebox. I love tons of stuff they have on there. It’s fun to spin music for free and eat awesome food.
Tap room. I love the people there the staff is super awesome.
Silly Goose. So good! It’s a really amazing restaurant. I think their food is incredible and it’s run by great people.