Analogue Music | Wayne Graham

Wayne Graham

By Matt Conner

Even a sibling connection needs time to grow.

For the last 10 years, brothers Kenny and Hayden Miles have built a devoted following both here and abroad with their thoughtful Appalachian blend of influences as the creative core of the band Wayne Graham.

Certainly the familial connection gave them creative chemistry from the outset, but to hear them describe the process of making their latest album—1% Juice—the duo are still learning to trust each other in the writing process.

On the eve of their latest album release, we sat with both Kenny and Hayden to tell us more about their success in Europe, their process for the new LP, and how the two are still growing as songwriters together.

Analogue: You guys had European tour dates to celebrate the release and then those were obviously shelved like everything else. Have you been surprised by the connection there in Europe over the years?

Kenny Miles: Yeah, it's super-surprising what an appetite Europe has for country music. That's what they call us. I mean, they say 'Americana', too, but we were labeled as a country band the first couple times we went over. Middle-aged men would sometimes show up wearing bolo ties and cowboy hats and cowboy boots. There's a huge culture around Western American living over there.

Also, there's still a deep appreciation for folk music over there, so we suit at least a portion of the German appetite pretty well. It's been interesting to see how they relate to the music, sometimes not even being able to understand the accents as we sing the songs. It's been a cool experience.

Analogue: Kenny, you described this new record as a 'push-and-pull' with your brother. I'd love to hear specifics there. Where were you both standing and what was that tension like?

Kenny: Maybe Hayden can tell you where he was standing. I'm not exactly sure that I know. [Laughs]

Hayden Miles: I had a couple songs I wrote on the record and they're generally what I tend to write songs about—pretty simplistic moral ideas. That's typically how my songs will go. I like writing songs about small things and simple ideas. I feel like Kenny is pretty high-concept at times. Overall, the way my songs fit into it is that there are all these meanings of life and death, the cycles of life, but I never really saw tension there so much. I don't know.

Kenny: I don't think I meant it to sound like there was a tension as much as it was a pendulum swinging back and forth.

Hayden: We talk, too, about how I tend to have more hope in my songs and there's a little more reality in Kenny's.

Kenny: As Hayden was speaking, I was thinking maybe I represent an irrational side of things and maybe Hayden is rational. Or maybe we trade places sometimes. But throughout the course of this album, I felt deeply lost and also deeply hopeful. I think maybe Hayden is a little more emotionally and spiritually secure than I am. This is me voicing those questions or maybe just voicing the different theories I came across in my own search.

"I almost feel like having Hayden there is my tether to a foundation of some kind that allows me to explore further than I would if I was alone and second-guessing every decision I made." -Kenny Miles

Analogue: Based on what you just said, I can picture the collaboration between the two of you yielding surprising dividends, like you couldn't make the music you do without the other. Yet I also wonder if there's a tension of never fully exploring your own side of the pendulum that you just described. Do you feel like you're fully able to bring what you want to the table and that's captured on the album or are the albums a great compromise because community demands a give-and-take?

Kenny: Great question. It doesn't feel like I have to censor anything I bring to the table or that I have to self-edit in that process. I almost feel like having Hayden there is my tether to a foundation of some kind that allows me to explore further than I would if I was alone and second-guessing every decision I made. It helps to have someone with a solid outlook and head on their shoulders to remind me what the ground feels like.

Hayden: He's saying that about a man who has no job and lives with his parents. [Laughs] With what we do specifically, it gives us both an opportunity to be really honest with the other in what we write. There are songs on a past record dealing directly with conflicts that have come between us or just struggles we've had together. So that feels really good and healthy to be able to write that way. It's almost to where you sort of have an idea that the other person knows what you're talking about at times. If we had it all to ourselves, it would be a different thing, but we couldn't make what we make without the other.

Kenny: Hayden is working on a solo record right now, so we definitely have interest in making music in whatever formation we can make music.

Hayden: It's a different focus. It's almost like a gospel record or something. That's the only sort of reason to deviate at all from this. It would be a different type of person than who would listen to our stuff.

"We were just up for trying different stuff to see if it would work. Even if it didn't work, it's probably still on there." -Hayden Miles

Analogue: Could you go places on this album you couldn't before because you'd developed that chemistry?

Kenny: I think so. There's a level of comfort, even though we've recorded all of our records in our parents' basement, there's still a bit of anxiety that filters into the process every time. But we've both recorded enough songs now that we sort of trust ourselves in a different way. We trust each other in a different way. We're also more willing to see where things can go rather than having preconceived notions of how something should sound or end up.

Hayden: This album in particular was just really fun to make in a different sort of way. We were just up for trying different stuff to see if it would work. Even if it didn't work, it's probably still on there. [Laughs] It was just a lot of fun. It felt free compared to our past ones.

Kenny: Yeah, it felt like we had permission to take really weighty, heavy topics lightly in the context of these songs. At least sonically, we could play around with how to deliver whatever point a song is trying to make. That was a cool thing.

Analogue: Is there one aspect that you're most proud of?

Kenny: This is probably our best sounding record so far. I think we've matured as producers somewhat, so I think we're more selective with what we leave in or add in the first place. I guess I'm just proud of the way it sounds.

Hayden: I'm very proud of the record altogether. I'm super-happy to be able to have one of our German friends on the album. It isn't the first time Ludwig [Bauer] has been an album for us, but the stuff he adds is amazing. We send these songs to him one way and they come back a totally different way.

Kenny: All because of one instrument.

Hayden: Yeah, it's always really exciting to hear what he does to it. In a way, this album feels the most like us. It wasn't easy, but it's the most simple in the way we were able to feel honest about it, to feel honest about how we sound.

VISIT: Wayne Graham

Photo: Melissa Stilwell