Meet Thomas Wynn and The Believers, an American band with a striking new organic rock record about building a better life, a life you really believe in. Named #1 Rock Band and #1 Country/Folk Band in the city for seven consecutive years by the Orlando Weekly, Thomas Wynn and The Believers are breaking beyond the Southern rock scene with the release of their new album, Wade Waist Deep, their Mascot Label Group debut.
The record is packed with the facts that make American music timeless—the deep Southern heat of the guitars, the complex, pulsing rhythms, and the male-female vocal harmonies that sound like only a brother and sister can. Breathtakingly in-sync with his vocalist sister, Olivia Wynn, Thomas Wynn sings about overcoming fear to become the person you were meant to be. Wynn, who fell in love with The Band’s first album Music from Big Pink in his early teens, brings classic country rock and soul into the new century with tunes that evoke the best of CSNY, Levon Helm, and John Prine.
Growing up in Orlando, Wynn played guitar and bass in church with his brother, while Olivia sang in the choir. Family and Bible study gave rhythm to their lives. “Our parents and our church were certain,” says Olivia, who participated in the Orlando Deanery Girls Choir, where she received vocal training and sang in cathedrals. “My favorite part was watching my dad [the original drummer of the legendary 70’s country band Cowboy] listening,” remembers Olivia. “I think he was trying to pick out my voice.” So the drummer once signed to Capricorn Records (Allman Brothers Band, Marshall Tucker Band, etc), now a family man, sat quietly in church and heard in his children the new voices of Southern rock.
The birth of “Wade Waist Deep” saw Thomas Wynn and The Believers traveling from Florida to Sputnik Sound studio in Nashville, where the band recorded with four-time Grammy award-winning producer, Vance Powell (The White Stripes, Jack White, Chris Stapleton). “I really wanted to do it outside of our hometown,” said Wynn. For the month of August 2016, Wynn and The Believers went on a journey to a sonic place that’s big, bright, and visionary.
Moving beyond his previous, confessional songwriting, where he sought relief from heartbreak and addiction, Wynn has reached maturity on this album, which sees him pushing for higher, spiritual fulfillment. Life—and music—have changed for Wynn since he became a father to one-year-old Abel. “It’s that yearning, that longing for the person that you want to be,” says Wynn.
As a child, Wynn learned from his father how to give a song the right kind of respect. Wynn remembers, at age five, his father showing him how to set up the drums “the right way,” then putting on an egg-timer and saying, “Play this beat ‘til the egg timer runs out. Don’t do any fills. No nothing. No frilly stuff. Just that beat. Learn to love that beat.”
The album opens with “Man Out of Time,” a hypnotic blues that sees Wynn describe how music makes us believe: “I felt a pulse slow to the ear, but deep in body, and free from fear,” he sings with drive and conviction. His sister’s harmonies swirl in between Wynn’s transcendent guitar solos like a haunting church choir. Hitting your heart like a drum, “Heartbreak Alley” is a classic country tribute to the lover who brings a lost man back from the edge. With sparkling acoustic guitars, triumphant Hammond organ, and enormous choruses soaring above the loneliness of the past, the song strikes gold through Wynn’s startling sincerity and gratitude.
The title track, “Wade Waist Deep,” dives right into an instant-classic groove, offering up casually genius guitar licks that ask us all to “slow down,” “trust the path [we’re] on,” and “set [our] spirits free.” Wynn’s message resonates strongly with the listener in anxious times like these. Calm down, go deep, have faith, and peace will come: “If you’re quiet enough, you might just hear a voice.” In the gospel-inspired “I Don’t Regret,” hope gives Wynn’s voice a striking emotional power, and he cries out at the climax as his electric guitar bleeds soul.
In “My Eyes Won’t Be Open,” Wynn’s voice shakes with the intense vulnerability of the best soul singers. This genuinely moving ballad about becoming a father finds Wynn facing his fear of a leaving this world and realizing that his children will carry on the lessons he’s taught them. Wynn triumphs in asking the big questions: Who will remember us when we die? Will our troubles matter? What will we leave behind? Seeking to see life from a higher place, “Mountain Fog” moves up the mountaintop in a deep rock rhythm, carrying the listener to a moment of ecstatic, guitar-driven connection. “There’s a mountaintop high above your heart,” sings Wynn.
So who, and what, are The Believers? They’re musicians united by a common belief in the power of these remarkable songs. Olivia Wynn works meticulously to make her vocal harmonies so hauntingly correct that they’re startling to hear. Colin Daniel Fei plays that vintage Hammond organ that can take you to church or send you straight to hell. Chris “Bell” Antemesaris wails wildly on blues harmonica. David Wagner and Ryan Miranda hold down the deep grooves on bass and drums, respectively. The band came together naturally. All of The Believers are regulars in the Orlando music scene who admired Wynn’s work and wanted to help him take it farther. From Antemesaris, who just kept on showing up at Wynn’s gigs and asking, “Can I sit in on a few?” to Wagner, who started out as a fan of The Believers, declaring “I want to be involved in this somehow or other,” Wynn has earned the band he has now.
With two previous albums and several tours already under their belt, Thomas Wynn and The Believers have shared the stage with the likes of Cheap Trick, Gov’t Mule, Medeski, Martin & Wood, SIMO, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Drive-By Truckers, and more. Many have already taken notice of the emotional energy and power of Thomas Wynn and The Believers’ live show. “Maybe the best band we’ve ever had on that stage,” says the Albany Herald. “One of the newest, brightest, tightest, smoothest, most energetic bands to come through,” says Georgia Music Hall of Famer Alan Walden. “One of the most exciting new bands in Florida,” says WMNF 88.5 FM. “Folks stood, jaws dropped…shook their heads, and said, ‘Damn. Can’t remember the last time I was so impressed by a band I knew nothing about.’” Now Wynn and his band are excited to get out on the road for national and international tours in 2017.
As for Wynn, he’s ready to convert us all to believers. But maybe not in the way you’d expect. “I don’t care how many people know my name,” he says, “as long as when they hear my music, it makes them feel something.” For Wynn, that’s the victory that’s sweeter than no other.
Stream Thomas Wynn and the Believers’ Wade Waist Deep below, exclusively through L4LM: