Who says you can’t mix business, love and friendship?
Certainly not the members of Gone West.
Despite the oft-repeated warning against bringing the emotional baggage of personal relationships into a moneymaking venture like an up-and-coming band, the Nashville-based country pop quartet Gone West features four musicians who are not only friends, but romantically coupled up.
Gone West includes two-time Grammy Winner Colbie Caillat, who has had Billboard hits with songs like “Bubbly,” “Realize,” “Fallin’ for You” and “Brighter Than the Sun.” The band also includes Caillat’s fiance, Hawaiian music award winner Justin Kawika Young; longtime Caillat collaborator and singer-songwriter Jason Reeves; and Reeves’ wife, Academy of Country Music and Country Music Television awards nominee Nelly Joy.
The four artists use four-part harmonies and unabashedly personal songs to create their fresh sound. And the young band is headed West to Utah next week.
Gone West will be in town Monday, July 22, to perform at Kenley Amphitheater in Layton, as part of the Davis Arts Council’s Summer Nights With the Stars series. Tickets start at $35, available through www.davisarts.org or 801-546-8575.
In a recent telephone interview with the Standard-Examiner, Caillat and Joy said that although Gone West didn’t play its first official show until last October, they actually started writing together as a foursome two years ago. And various members of the group have been writing together for even longer than that.
“I really think it’s because we’ve all worked together for so long,” Caillat offers when asked why she thinks Gone West works. “Me and Jason started writing together 14 years ago, so we have the foundation of writing for that many years and having our voices trained to sing together. And then I met Justin a year later, and he and I have been singing and writing together since then.”
Caillat also believes the organic way in which Gone West came together has been instrumental in its catchy sound.
“We didn’t set out to be a band,” she said. “It’s been this natural progressing of ‘Let’s try writing some songs and see where it goes.’”
Caillat and Joy say fans can expect a fun evening of music and conversation.
“It’s like a storytelling night,” Caillat said. “We do all our Gone West Songs that we have out now, we do a bunch of new Gone West Songs, and a new, fun cover. I do some of my songs, and Jason, Nelly and Justin do songs from their careers. It’s like an all-inclusive night for all fans, both individually and as a group.”
Not only are the members of Gone West friends, they’re also big fans of man’s best friend. They currently have three dogs between the four artists, and while the pets won’t be making the trip to Layton, the two women say they eventually plan on having the dogs join them on the road.
“They’re at home right now, because things are so crazy for us,” Caillat said. “But our goal is to eventually have our dogs out on tour with us. Once we get on a consistent schedule, that’s our goal.”
Indeed, one of Joy’s favorite Gone West stories involves Mate (MAH-tay), one of Caillat and Young’s dogs.
“Colbie and Justin are doing a love song on stage, and everyone starts laughing and pointing,” Joy recalls. “Mate had wandered out on stage and is taking a number two, right there. I think he felt he wasn’t getting enough attention.”
Most of Gone West’s songs are written by these four songwriters — sometimes with a co-writer. The collaboration has produced tunes like the autobiographical “Gone West,” the loss-inspired “This Time,” and the achingly beautiful “What Could’ve Been.”
Joy admits it’s not an easy process to have four distinctly different songwriters working on the same tune. She said everyone has a voice in the songwriting process, and all opinions are heard.
“That’s a lot of people to have in one room writing a song,” she said. “But the one thing I will say about that many people in the room is that no one’s ever going to let something fly that shouldn’t be in there.”
Indeed, all four songwriters have to sign off on every lyric and melody they create.
“That’s a lot of opinions,” Joy concedes. “So we push and challenge each other to make each line and lyric perfect.”
Still, Joy says at the end of the day it’s “totally worth the process.”
Although the two-time Grammy winner Caillat has the most name recognition in the band, the two women agree she’s just one-fourth of the magic of Gone West.
“Colbie might be the most humble, kind, generous rock star I’ve ever met,” Joy said. “It really is true. And it says a lot that she wants to be in this band and share her success and name.”
Joy, in particular, is familiar with the state of Utah. She spent two years under her given name, Danelle Leverett, as a member of the duo the JaneDear girls. Her bandmate, Susie Brown, hailed from Alpine, Utah.
“Utah is one of my favorite places to visit,” Joy said. “It’s beautiful there.”