Michael Ford, Jr. & The Apache Relay consist of Michael Ford, Jr. (Vocals/Guitar ), Michael Harris (Guitar/Background Vocals), Brett Moore (Mandolin/Tenor guitar/Organ), and Kellen Wenrich (Fiddle/Chord organ).Their debut album 1988, produced by Doug Williams, will be released later this month and features talented artists including Jessica Lea Mayfield, Joe Kwon, and Byron House.
Genre: Americana / Folk
MATTHEW: How did you meet each other (Michael Ford, Jr., Michael Harris, Brett Moore, Kellen Wenrich)?
MICHAEL FORD, JR.: The band met through my brother Ben, actually. This past January/February I started playing several solo acoustic shows, but I quickly got tired of performing alone. I have grown up playing in bands and felt that I was not doing the songs justice playing them solo…I needed additional instrumentation. I have been greatly influenced by acoustic music this past year, especially Americana and folk music, so I figured finding a bluegrass band to add instrumentation to my songs would work well. I ran the idea by my brother and he said, “Have you heard that Mike Harris has a bluegrass band? They’re called The Apache Relay”. Mike and I lived next door to each other Pembroke and had become friends, so with that, I called him up and we set up a practice at his apartment. Our first practice was where I met Kellen and Brett.
MATTHEW: Your debut album, 1988, was produced by the renowned Doug Williams (The Avett Brothers “The Gleam”, “Second Gleam”, “Four Thieves Gone” and “Mignonette”). How did this opportunity come about?
MICHAEL FORD, JR.: It was pretty amazing how working with Doug came to pass, really by the grace of God. One of my favorite albums of 2008 was the “Second Gleam”. I love everything about it; the songs, the production, and the sounds are absolutely impeccable. While sitting a computer one day last winter, I realized I had never even checked to see who produced the record or where it was recorded. I picked up the album and saw that Doug had produced/engineered the album at Electro Magnetic Radiation Recorders. With my dream to record a full length that May, I started brainstorming about how I could have Doug produce it. I was logged in to myspace at the time, and felt the urge to search for Doug on myspace and actually ended stumbling on his myspace account. I sent him a message telling how much loved his work with The Avett Brothers and how I would be honored to make a record with him. About three weeks later he responded and asked me to send some demos…the rest is history!
MATTHEW: You also worked with talented musicians while recording your debut album. Singer/Songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield, Cellist Joe Kwon of The Avett Brothers, and legendary Nashville bassist Byron House each stepped in on the recording of 1988. What was it like working with each artist/musician?
MICHAEL FORD, JR.: I can’t even tell how humbling and surreal it was to work with Jessica, Joe, and Byron. Technology played a big role in having each of these people on the record, because it allowed them to record their respective parts wherever they were in the world at the time we sent them the tracks. The way it worked was myself and The Apache Relay, as well as Noah Denney (played drums, piano, sang bgvs, and helped produce) would record the tracks live, Doug would work up a rough mix and send them out to Byron, Joe, as well as Jessica and they would record their respective parts, send them back to Doug and he would lay them into the mix. Byron and Jessica finished all their tracking the same week we were in the studio (May 16th-20th) and Joe was able to track cello after he had a break from touring with The Avett Brothers in early June. One moment in particular I remember is when we came back from dinner break the last night of recording and I heard Jessica’s vocal track on “Magnolia Street Heartbreaker” for the first time. I literally freaked out; it was one of the most surreal moments to have one of my favorite artists singing along in harmony with me.
MATTHEW: There will be a DVD documenting the making of 1988. What can we expect to see in the footage?
MICHAEL FORD, JR.: The making of 1988 includes interviews with Doug Williams, The Apache Relay, Noah Denney, and myself. In addition, the short will include behind the scenes footage of the band tracking in the studio, and our trip to North Carolina. The DVD was directed/edited/produced by our dear friend, Parrish Stikeleather.
MATTHEW: You have accomplished a great amount in the short time the group has been performing together. What is next for Michael Ford, Jr. & The Apache Relay?
MICHAEL FORD, JR.: We are so thankful for the blessings bestowed on our band thus far. Our goals for the future is to continue working hard and to play as much as we possibly can to get the record heard by as many people as we are able too. We all have an understanding that while we’ve had some amazing doors open for the band, there is still much work to be done.