When the Austin, Texas duo the Wind & the Wave recorded their debut album From the Wreckage a couple of years back, they weren't even planning on being a band. They just knew that they'd stumbled upon a strong musical chemistry that neither singer-songwriter Patty Lynn nor songwriter/producer Dwight Baker had found anywhere else, and that they wanted to work together.
What they came up with was one of the best releases of 2014. Baker (who'd previously produced Lynn's band Soldier Thread along with Brandi Carlile, Alpha Rev, and Blue October) created a vibrant backdrop of mostly acoustic instruments and ethereal atmosphere for Lynn's gritty, passionate vocals, and Lynn responded with a deeply personal set of lyrics about her early life, and the experiences that molded her — good and bad. It was as if Daniel Lanois had produced Patty Griffin; every instrument stood out in the mix, but Baker created a warm blur behind Lynn's tales of childhood wonder and the harsh realities of growing up. She even wrote about her partnership with Baker, giving the band its name: "Now it's clear you're the wind and I'm the wave/Oh, together we can brave all the things we never knew."
The album struck a perfect balance between gritty and polished, and it fit into the increasingly large "Americana" genre while hearkening back to classic folk and country influences. It struck a chord with listeners and critics, and the duo even landed a song on ABC's Grey's Anatomy when they covered Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars" in 2015. And so with some success behind them and a new deal with Island Records in place, the dreaded follow-up album loomed large.
"There was definitely some pressure on our brains when we wrote our sophomore album," Lynn says. "Writing the first album was super easy for us, because we weren't even a band when we wrote it. We didn't have a label, we didn't have any fans, and we didn't have any outside expectations of what we should or shouldn't sound like. We were writing purely for fun and because we enjoyed each other's company. So that experience was really pure."
"The second time around, it was a little different because you can't help thinking, 'Well what does the label expect this time around, what are the fans expecting?'" she says. "'Are they expecting the thing we've already made? Do they want more of the same of that identity or do they want there to be growth?' But we tried to both put it out of our minds and just write whatever we think sounds good and makes us happy."
There was another factor involved with the making of their new album, entitled Happiness is Not a Place, that caused the duo some trepidation as well. Instead of Baker producing, veteran rocker, singer-songwriter, and all-around badass Butch Walker would be behind the boards. And at first, that wasn't the most comfortable position for Baker. "It was difficult for Dwight to let go," Lynn says. "When there are two producers in a room, and only one of them is producing, it is really difficult for him to sit in a room and watch Butch do things not the way he would do them necessarily. It's the first time Dwight wasn't producing something that he was working on in 17 years or maybe longer."
But the album's first single, "Grand Canyon," proves that their decision to bring in Walker (who the band is currently touring with) was a winner. It's a lean, pulsing rocker that strips down the sound of From the Wreckage and adds a little more muscle and a more epic chorus than anything on their debut. "Butch Walker had such a large role in what we sound like on this album," Lynn says. "It's definitely more raw and rock 'n' roll-sounding. It was good having an outside ear. Butch was all about grabbing a moment and an emotion, and he didn't really care too much about whether or not it was perfectly in time or if it was the right note. He didn't care if I sang something incorrectly. There are actually some lyrics on there that came out of my mouth differently than I had written them. But because it was a good take, he just kept it."
In order to truly push Lynn, Baker insisted on not being present when she cut her vocals, which threw her for a loop at first. "I was nervous because Dwight was the only person that ... he's so many things to me," she says. "He's a great friend, he's a great musical partner, he's a great sounding board. And I had grown very accustomed to Dwight letting me know when I was super awesome or when I was not very good. So I started to look to him for when things were sounding good. He wanted me to branch out and do it on my own. And through that experience, I really started to trust my gut a little bit more."
As for the lyrics, the newly-married Lynn has once again drawn on her personal life for virtually all of her material, and she's done a lot of growing up between albums. "I find it very difficult to write about things that I haven't experienced myself," she says. "On the first album I talked a lot about where I came from, my family, my home life, my childhood, and I started to talk about where I'm going. And on the second album, I talk about where I am today, my insecurities, what's difficult about being in a relationship and being on the road. I try to be very honest and real, because I think that the more I divulge my truth, the more I share about me personally, the closer I am to being able to relate to everyone else."