Walker McGuire are certainly ones to watch y’all! With a successful first single to radio, clever lyrics and tight harmonies, it’s no wonder that these guys are on people’s radar. We caught up with Jordan Walker and Johnny McGuire when they played in the UK last month for Country Music Week to talk influences, the Opry, London tourist spots and more!
First of all, tell us the story of how you guys met and what prompted the move to Nashville.
Johnny: I headed to Nashville about 5 and a half years ago and we met at a writers round on West End at a place called the Commodore Grill, where you can go and play songs that you have written with other people or just by yourself. And, Jordan wasn’t even gonna play that night. He just went for a burger when his roommate signed him up to play and we ended up getting sat by each other.
Jordan: Yeah, I went to the bathroom and I came back and they said, ‘The next round is Jordan Walker and Johnny McGuire and Burning’, this band from LA and I was like, ‘Well there must be another Jordan Walker here’, and my roommate was like, ‘No, I signed you up’. So, we ended up sitting next to each other and we played one song a piece, and then swapped numbers.
So when was the moment you realised ‘This is it. We’ve got something good together’?
Jordan: We started writing a bunch of songs, and we were just kinda writing buddies and we wrote every day and then I think, the day we wrote Til Tomorrow, our single, we both kinda looked at each other and we were like ‘Man, this is a really cool song; we got a really good thing going and our voices really blend together and everybody around us had kinda told us ‘Y’all need to be a band, y’all not just writing together; you need to get things going’, so we just kinda ran with it.
You’re song Til Tomorrow has over 21 million streams on Spotify, which is nuts! Would you say that this has been the turning point in your level of success so far?
Johnny: Yeah, we’ve had a bunch of different little steps to success, you know, whether it was certain radio stations picking us up, getting publishing deals in Nashville, getting a record deal and then finally having that first radio single. But, I think Til Tomorrow will probably be our first pinnacle in our career, as it was our first single on radio; our first Top 40. Like Jordan said, we went from writing really cool songs that when we harmonise, we kinda sound like we could be a band.
It definitely comes across that way! You made your Opry debut back in Summer. How was that? I mean, it’s everyone’s dream!
Jordan: Yeah, I mean, I don’t wanna be cliche, but it was exactly that – the dream. I was actually talking about it last night to a couple of my friends and they asked me, ‘Oh, how was the Opry?’, and I said, ‘You know, you’re backstage hanging with family, hanging with friends. Everybody’s crying, hugging, drinking, all having a good time, but then you walk out on stage and it’s a whole other monster. You look out to the crowd, it’s like ‘Oh man, we’re about to do this’, but then, when you step in the circle, you realise, okay, we can do this. This is what we do, let’s do this. It’s more than just another show, of course, but it was a dream; it was crazy.
Who would your dream artist or band be to tour with?
Johnny: Oh man, well mine has died, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, but I guess if they were alive. But, i’d love to go on an Eric Church or Old Dominion [tour] right now. I could sit there everyday on the side of the stage and watch the show every night, so probably one of those two for me.
Jordan: Yeah, those were great answers. I could do with both of them for sure. I’m a big Jason Aldean fan. I just love the big guitars and everything he stands for. With him being the biggest act on our label, he does so well everywhere and his music’s awesome, so I think Aldean would be my guy.
Do you guys have any pre-show rituals?
Jordan: We always say ‘A shot of whiskey and 10 pushups’, but we haven’t been doing that a lot lately!
Johnny: Yeah, we need to actually come up with a cool pre-show ritual, because I do see other bands doing that and I sometimes think we get so caught up in preparing that we never really get together with our band and say ‘Alright boys, let’s get ready’, so we’ll let you know what we come up with!
For sure! So, we’ve seen you guys perform throughout the week. How has the Country Music Week experience been for you?
Both: It’s been awesome!
Jordan: The crowds have been incredible. We’ve just walked through a crowd. It’s 12.15pm and it’s already packed. That’s awesome and we don’t go on until 4pm, so to see people standing by the door when you walk in and they go ‘Oh my god, we wanna take pictures’. The crowds are way, way, way more attentive here and we think that it’s because they don’t get this as much as Americans do. I feel like they appreciate it just a little bit more, because of how little they see us. It’s been great. The crowds have been awesome.
Johnny: Yeah, we played at Marty Stuart the other night and you could just tell that he was having so much fun and he was interacting with the crowd.
Jordan: He was incredible!
Johnny: He’d hear someone say something and he’d talk to them and it was just a really fun environment and I don’t think you always get that in America, because sometimes people are maybe more concerned about getting a shot, which is great, but they’re not bringing us shots when they’re buying them! [Laughs] But they’re both really great, American and English audiences. It’s been really great to see the appreciation that these people have, because we’re not over here all the time.
Yeah, because everyone that plays here says, ‘They all know the words to our songs’ and that’s why the Nashville artists love coming over.
Jordan: Yeah, we started off as songwriters, so anytime anybody knows the words to our songs it really hits us. It’s the thing we love the most, so it’s really cool to see people sing along, phones in the air and having a good time.
Have you guys had a chance to check out any tourist spots here in the UK?
Johnny: Oh yeah, we went to Hyde Park our first day with our manager and then yesterday we split up and Jordan went to check out some spots around town and we went to do some filming.
Jordan: I went to Somerset House, which was unreal. So cool. I went to walk around there and there were a lot of famous movies filmed there; a lot of famous movie scenes and then I walked down and walked over a couple bridges, Tower Bridge and London Bridge.
Johnny: I went and checked out where all of the heads rolled in the Tower of London.
Going with the theme of ‘Lyric magazine’, what’s your favourite lyric from any song, any artist?
Jordan: Mine is probably Keith Whitley ‘I’m Over You’, just because of the irony of the whole situation. You know, ‘They say i’m drinking more than I should, but I ain’t been doing all that good.’ It’s just that idea. I think that was the first song of its kind and it really opened up like the ironic side.
Johnny: And I like the Tom Petty lyrics, ‘some days are diamonds, some days are rocks, some doors are open and some roads are blocked’ from the song Walls and it’s just, you know, some days you’re gonna have good days some days you’re not and it’s said in a cool way.
Following on from that, tell us about your writing process and how you come up with the songs.
Johnny: I mean, it’s pretty different. Jordan and I, we both come from such different influences that a lot of the time he’ll come up with the melody and I’m more of a, I mean I like melodies too, but i’m really more thinking of the lyrics I guess, so does he. The thing about our different influences is if i’m having a bad day at some point, he’ll usually have a good day and pick me up and bring me to a corner where I can help him, and put something forward to the song and it’s kinda the same thing for when it’s the opposite.
Jordan: Yeah, I think our different influences really help us. A lot of people say, ‘Well he came from a folk and rock ‘n’ roll background and you came from a country background. How does it work?’, and it almost comes off as kind of a negative thing, but I think it’s a string. Everything I do melodically is country and we also have those pop melodies that we grew up on and lyrically, I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Texas, so I have some stories that are pretty country for radio. The way he [Johnny] directs the lyric; the way he can go in. I can say something to him and go, ‘We need to say this in six syllables. How do we do it?’ and we kinda come down to it. At first, it was a leaning curve, as we’d never really written with anyone before, but we’ve got it pretty locked down now.
Who would you say your influences are in your writing?
Jordan: Oh man, I mean, mine – I don’t want to be cheesy and go back to Keith Whitley…anybody in the 90’s though. Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, George Strait – those guys. There’s some great, great songs and that’s what I grew up on. I have to say, the late 80’sand all through the 90’s country.
Johnny: I’d probably say John Prine and Tom Petty. They’re the two guys I grew up with. I listen to John Prine when I was like 4 years old and I knew at 6 or 7 that I wanted to write songs and play guitar because of him.
Your new song ‘Mysteries of the World’ is out, tell us about the song.
Jordan: It was actually a song that came to life a couple years ago. We were driving through the middle of nowhere and headed home one day and I was listening to a book on tape about D.B. Cooper , which a lot of people don’t know, but in 1971 he stole $200,000 and jumped out of a plane.
Johnny: Hijacked it. They brought him in and he took back off.
Jordan: It’s a crazy story. It’s the only unsolved FBI case.
Johnny: If you heard the song and go, ‘who the heck’s D.B. Cooper?’
Jordan: Everybody texts us that! So, that kinda came to life and in the book on tape. It’s just another ‘Mystery of the World’ and I remember. The first time I was pretty upset, because I thought I was going to get some closure on the situation, but I didn’t! I told Johnny about the idea and was like ‘let’s write a song about this’ and we sat down with a couple of buddies back home and really dove into it. It took us 3 or 4 days to write, but it’s our favourite song off the record, so we wanted to give [the fans] a tease of here’s what’s coming and that’s kinda what the record’s going to be like.
Speaking of the record…set a date?
Johnny: No set date. December though. A lot of different people that we know, who we’re friends with, labels, are putting out a couple of projects around that time, so we’re just trying to pin point a good date at where we fit in perfectly among those records.
Jordan: definitely before the end of the year, though.