High Hopes: A Thousand Horses

Cut Michael Hobby and he’d probably bleed Tennessee whiskey. From the hat to the drawl, the frontman’s roots are writ large. But to dispel any lingering doubt, he’s given his band A Thousand Horses’ debut album the title Southernality.

“It’s those two words, ‘southern’ and ‘personality’, combined,” Hobby explains. “We all grew up in South Carolina and Georgia, so the laid-back, slow-paced, ‘Yes ma’am’, ‘No ma’am’, sweet-pea kinda living was what it was all about.”

Hobby and guitarist Bill Satcher met in a South Carolina music shop when they were 14, picked up Graham Deloach on bass and welcomed Zach Brown (also guitar) in 2010 after moving to Nashville. A country-rocking splice of Allmans, Stones and Crowes became their sound, while a boozy brainstorm sparked their band name. “We were sitting around in a hotel room drinking beer, throwing out ridiculous shit, and I just threw out A Thousand Horses,” Hobby recalls. “I mean, every band name sounds stupid at first.”

Today, Hobby insists he relished the band’s early kickings. “You gotta grind,” he says, grinning. “That’s the fun part, y’know, touring in a van, not making any money, playing for the bartender and the cook, or a bunch of people sitting at tables that don’t give a fuck. That’s what every band should do.

“Y’know, we lost our manager, our booking agency. We put our records on credit cards for a long, long time. Any artist goes through some shit if you do it long enough. And that’s kind of our story.”

Southernality, then, is the payback. Hobby remembers the sessions, in Nashville with Rival Sons producer Dave Cobb, passing in a blur of bonhomie. “We got obsessed with pinball. It got pretty competitive. And we’ve been known to partake of a few adult beverages. Y’know, at the end of the night, you take a shot of whiskey, do a vocal. It can really loosen you up.”

The tracklisting pinballs between heartfelt and hedonistic.

Trailer Trashed,” says Hobby, “is just about getting drunk. We like to have a good time. I remember one time, we were out in LA at the Rainbow, hoping Lemmy would be there. As we were running back to the hotel, Bill fell and scraped his face. We had to doctor him up for a photo-shoot the next day. (This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial is when you’re finally laying it out there and confessing your truths to this other person. Tennessee Whiskey is a true story. I had to call my girlfriend from El Paso, and that’s where we broke up. Every word of that song is legit. Being on tour can take its toll on anybody’s relationship. It’s not the ideal life, but it works for us.”

So the Horses keep thundering on, with a nine-piece live line‑up Hobby says will blow the doors off when the band reach Britain. “Our shows are big, energetic, loud. It’s a whole shitload of fun. That’s what I wanted when I was a kid. Still do.”

FOR FANS OF: The Black Crowes

“Bill is a huge Beatles fan; Graham was the punk rock kid that listened to Rancid and the Ramones,” Hobby explains. “Zach comes from the Rolling Stones side of things. But, y’know, as far as influences go, the one album that we can all agree on is the Black Crowes’ Southern Harmony And Musical Companion.”

Classic Rock 218: News & Regulars

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.