Follow your own path? Check. Make good music? Check. Have fun in the process? Double check.
Like Frank Sinatra, country/roots/rockers Reckless Kelly — which plays a free concert at Snowbasin Resort this weekend — has pretty much always done it their way. The secret to being Reckless Kelly, according to founding member Cody Braun, is no big secret. Indeed, it’s pretty much straight-forward Music Business 101.
“We always followed our own path, tried to make good music, and have fun doing it,” Braun said in a recent telephone interview from the band’s adopted home in Austin, Texas. “I don’t think we ever had to sway or change our path for any reason.”
Braun says that, unlike many bands, Reckless Kelly has always been able to make the records they wanted to make over the years. So he’s not sure he’d change a thing if he could wave a magic wand and alter the band’s trajectory.
“That’s hard to say,” Braun muses. “I can’t say I would have changed much at all, aside from being a little smarter with the record-deal signings. But when you’re starting out and you don’t have any leverage as a band, you’re sort of at their mercy.”
Braun says he’s seen other bands do the Nashville deal — signing with a record label for a career that goes nowhere before the band eventually breaks up. He feels fortunate Reckless Kelly has been able to chart their own course.
“We can’t complain, because we’re still playing music after 23 years,” Braun said. “And we’ve learned a ton from everything we’ve done. This wouldn’t be the same band if we’d gone a different path.”
Reckless Kelly, led by brothers Willy (vocals, guitar) and Cody Braun (vocals, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica), was exploring Americana music before that was even a term. Hailing from central Idaho, the four Braun brothers — Cody, Willy, Micky and Gary — had toured with their father’s western swing band, Muzzie Braun and the Boys, from a young age. As kids, they’d shared the stage with artists like Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell and Merle Haggard, and appeared with their father on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show.”
Eventually, the boys formed their own bands, with Willy and Cody fronting Reckless Kelly and Micky and Gary heading the alt-country group Micky and the Motorcars.
Next week, all of the Braun brothers will be back home in Idaho for the annual Braun Brothers Reunion music festival in Challis. In addition to various configurations of the musical Brauns, this year’s fest features Steve Earle and the Dukes, Reverend Horton Heat, Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers, and much more.
“I think it’s the 36th year for our reunion,” Braun said. “Mom and Dad ran it for so many years, and we’ve kind of taken that over now.
In June, Reckless Kelly released “Bulletproof Live,” a track-by-track live recreation of their 2008 breakthrough album “Bulletproof.” The record was recorded during the group’s 2018 West Coast tour.
“Mainly, it was the 10-year anniversary of the record, and we’d planned on playing a bunch of those songs on tour, so it was just kind of something fun,” Cody Braun said.
Because they have a digital board and record every show they play, Braun said they were able to make the album on the cheap.
“Plus, we hadn’t put out anything live in awhile,” he said.
Braun said Reckless Kelly is currently putting the finishing touches on the next studio album; they’re hoping to release it next spring. He says that by the time the as-yet-untitled record drops, it will have been four years since the band’s last studio album.
Braun won’t say much about the album, other than: “I can tell you it’ll be a bunch of songs on it. We recorded a lot of songs, and it’s a good representation of everything we’ve done in the last 20 years — a wide range of stuff.”
He and the other band members love the recording process; it’s some of the most fun they have as artists, Braun says. And maybe they have a little too much fun.
“It’s so much fun, we always end up spending more time and money than we should,” Braun said. “We spent a good four or five weeks in the studio on this one, which is a long time these days.”
Working in the studio versus playing live are two “totally different animals,” according to Braun. He calls the studio process “creative, almost relaxing.”
“We just settle in, lock the doors, start making music and try to come up with some cool stuff,” he said.
Braun said, these days, fans simply don’t listen to records the way they used to. Today, listeners download a single here, a song there, and create their own music mixes.
“I don’t know that sitting and listening to records is a thing anymore, so a lot of it gets lost in translation,” Braun said. “But our live shows have always been high-energy, and they keep folks’ attention.”
Earlier this year, the Grammy-winning Reckless Kelly was invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. Braun says the band was “humbled and honored” to be asked to play there — if somewhat surprised.
“We never even put that one on our bucket list because we thought we’d never get the call,” he said. “For years, we’d been told we were too rock-and-roll for Nashville.”
So then, what IS on Reckless Kelly’s bucket list? Not much, Braun admits.
“We haven’t done a bucket list for awhile,” he said. “One thing we’d always wanted was a tour bus. We toured in a van for so long that we got pretty tired of sitting on everybody’s laps from Point A to Point B. So once we got that tour bus, we thought, ‘Well, that’s all we wanted.’
“We should have dreamed bigger, I guess,” he concludes with a laugh.
Fun fact: The band’s bio points out that Reckless Kelly has played in 49 states. So, what’s missing? North Dakota.
“That’s one of those places that’s hard to get to,” Braun said. “We don’t tour much in the winter time, and summers go by pretty quick up there.”
Although Reckless Kelly has played all over Utah, as far as Braun knows Sunday’s show will be their first at Snowbasin. He’s looking forward to the concert.
“We’re excited to be there, we love it there,” he said. “It’s close to home, where Willy and I grew up out there in Idaho.”