by Jessica Nicholson
Before earning radio hits such as 2017’s Platinum-certified “Drinkin’ Problem,” and churning out progressive-meets-retro, barroom-ready songs such as “Mr. Lonely” and “Cheating Songs” on their 2019 sophomore project, Midland’s Mark Wystrach, Jess Carson and Cameron Duddy formed the group during a series of recording sessions in Texas back in 2014.
Duddy—also a filmmaker and music video director known for his work with Bruno Mars—had been tasked with filming as Wystrach and Carson entered a studio in Texas to create music and see if they could create a sonic style uniquely their own. Duddy ended up spending less time behind the camera and more time joining Wystrach and Carson in making music—and ultimately, officially joining as a member.
The trio has never done anything according to textbook standards, and now, they will give fans a look at the group’s genesis, via an upcoming documentary, Midland: The Sonic Ranch Documentary.
Duddy recalled those early sessions in a statement, saying “We weren’t 100% when we walked in the door, beyond Mark and Jess were going to record these songs and see what this sound really was. By the time we walked out, all three of us knew this was a sound that didn’t exist, and it was a kind of country music we really loved.”
“The idea Cam wanted to come along for the ride was really fortuitous,” Wystrach added. “He has such a strong eye for story and shots, so he almost can’t help himself. When we went back to just look at how we started, we couldn’t believe what was on film. Suddenly, there was all this footage of how groups are born, sounds come into being and honestly, all the stuff that goes into growing a band.”
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The documentary will premiere March 19 across ViacomCBS platforms, including CMT Music, MTV Live, PlutoTV’s CMT Equal Play channel and a global premiere on CMT Australia.
The trio will also release the songs they recorded during these early sessions as part of an accompanying soundtrack on Big Machine titled Midland: The Sonic Ranch. The soundtrack is filled with original songs that were recorded during that time—including “Fourteen Gears,” which was later re-recorded and included on their sophomore album Let It Roll.
“We were always about the music,” Carson said. “And the way real people could create something different. We’re all vintage people, whether old concert t-shirts or rhinestone suits, and recognizing what’s beautiful in the past set us up for this sound that we found out we had, a sound that borrowed from Gary Stewart and Mickey Gilley, Merle Haggard, Dwight [Yoakam], Buck Owens. Once we knew that, we wanted to chase it across the skyline. Now people can see our journey.”
MIDLAND: THE SONIC RANCH TRACK LIST
1. Fourteen Gears (Adobe House Version)
2. Cowgirl Blues
3. Worn Out Boots
4. Champagne For The Pain
5. Will This Life Be As Grand
6. Fool’s Luck
8. She’s A Cowgirl
9. Runnin’ Wild
10. Texas Is The Last Stop
11. Cowgirl Blues (Jess Carson Vocal)
12. This Town