The Nash Next Challenge is down to its 10 finalists, and in the lead-up to the announcement of the champion on Oct. 25, NCD will be profiling each of the 10 finalists.
Today, we are getting to know finalist The Young Fables, which is a duo comprised of Laurel Wright and Wesley Lunsford.
In July, Cumulus Media and Big Machine Label Group invited aspiring country artists and bands to participate in the Nash Next Challenge, an artist development competition where the winner will receive a recording contract with Big Machine Label Group and have an original song produced by Jay DeMarcus, which will garner national radio airplay on Cumulus Media radio stations across the U.S.
The winner of the Nash Next Challenge will be crowned on Tuesday, Oct. 25, at Mercy Lounge in Nashville by judges Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn, Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts, Danielle Bradbery and Big Machine CEO Scott Borchetta. The event, which will also feature a performance from Trent Harmon, is open to the public from 7–10 p.m.
The Young Fables
Members: Laurel Wright and Wesley Lunsford
Ages: Laurel, 21; Wesley, 30
Home City Market: Nashville
How did you get started in music?
Laurel: I started singing in church when I was 3 years old and haven’t stopped yet.
Wes: I always loved music, even as a small kid. I remember pretending with my brother that we were the Beatles in my bedroom, and I would be John while he would be everyone else. But I guess I officially started playing guitar around 14 years old.
At what age did you realize you wanted to make music your career?
Laurel: When I was a sophomore in high school I started spending more time with music than anything else. It probably wasn’t the best move for my social life, but I guess it worked out for the better.
Wes: I guess in high school when me and a few friends started our first band where we played songs we had written instead of just playing the next Metallica song.
Who are your musical influences?
Laurel: Kacey Musgraves, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Sarah Siskind and Jason Isbell are just a few off the top of my head.
Wes: I know everyone says this, but I love all kinds of music. On the country side I love Jerry Reed, Merle Haggard, Randy Travis and Roy Nichols, but I also love Bill Frisell, Allan Holdsworth, George Benson. If it has guitar, I probably like it.
What three words describe you?
Laurel: Messy, persistent, short.
Wes: Nerd, shy and curious.
What would you say is unique about your sound?
Laurel: I think we create modern music that’s rooted in tradition.
Wes: Going back to my influences, I think that my sound comes from an amalgamation of all my heroes and trying to fit them all into playing country music, and then add Laurel in the mix and that’s the sound.
What three albums would you take to a deserted island?
Laurel: Sarah Siskind’s In the Mountains, Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free and Kacey Musgraves’ Same Trailer Different Park.
Wes: Waylon Jennings’ Honky Tonk Heroes, Bill Frisell’s Gone Just Like a Train and Prince’s Purple Rain.
What’s a song you wish you had written?
Laurel: “Feels Like Home” by Randy Newman.
Wes: “Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning” by Willie Nelson.
What was the first concert you ever attended?
Laurel: Keith Urban! and I was on the front row because my mom won the tickets from 107.7 WIVK.
Wes: The first one I can remember was going to see Bob Dylan.
What’s the last song you heard that blew you away?
Laurel: “Villain” by Lucie Silvas.
Wes: Probably a song that Laurel turned me ont0—Jason Isbell’s “Speed Trap Town.”
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Laurel: “Redneck Woman” by Gretchen Wilson. Every time I sing it, though, it’s at the worse possible time, like at church functions or fundraisers. I never think of that until half way through the first verse.
Wes: I’ve only done karaoke once when I was probably 16 because I get so awkward onstage without my guitar, but I do remember singing “Welcome to My Nightmare” by Alice Cooper and you should have been there because I killed it.
Where is the craziest place you’ve performed?
Laurel: The Ryman Auditorium when I was 16. I got to sing a song I wrote and it was unforgettable.
Wes: In the middle of Belk in the mall, right between the Wranglers and the Lucky Brand Jeans.
What’s the first thing you do after a show?
Laurel: I do what I do every night—lay on the couch and watch Netflix.
Wes: Start practicing for the next one.
What’s been your most exciting or unusual fan encounter?
Laurel: I guess the time I signed a man’s nipple. He didn’t ask me to, but I did it anyways. Just kidding, he asked me to.
Wes: Usually I’m in the background, but I have had some cool encounters were Rodney Crowell told me he liked my guitar playing and Dave Mustaine gave me a thumbs-up!
What’s your favorite song to cover?
Laurel: “Crazy” by Patsy Cline. Yes, I know Willie wrote it, but I’m a girl, so I sing the Patsy version.
Wes: If we are talking about songs I sing, I love to do “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke” by Merle Travis.
What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done onstage?
Laurel: I was playing the Tennessee Valley Fair when I was about 16 and I was wearing a dress and—I don’t know if I should say this, but I wasn’t wearing any underwear, like always—I walked to the front of the stage not knowing there were tiny high-powered fans cooling the stage and they blew my dress almost completely over my head.
Wes: Probably one of the first times I was asked to sing “Hello Darlin’” by Conway Twitty and I started and forgot the words by probably the third line and was lost until the end. Usually I can recover or Laurel feeds me the words to get me on track, but not that time. Good thing it’s a short song.