WildChild1_Credit_Todd_V_WolfsonInterview with Alexander Beggins of Wild Child

by Greg Allard

On October 8th, the Austin-based award-winning folk-pop band Wild Child will release their second album, Runaround, produced by grammy-nominated artist Ben Kweller. Runaround follows their 2011 debut Pillow Talk that had three songs hit # 1 on Hype Machine. Wild Child, which won SXSW’s 2011 awards for best indie band and best folk-rock band, consists of the songwriting duet of Kelsey Wilson (violin & vocals) and Alexander Beggins (ukulele & vocals), along with Evan Magers (keys), Chris D’Annuzio (electric bass), Carey McGraw (drums) and Saide Wolfe (cello). The band will appear at the High Dive in Gainesville, Fla. on Friday, September 13 at 9 pm. I got a chance to talk on the phone to Alexander about the band’s origins, the dynamic songwriting and performing relationship between Kelsey and himself, and their upcoming album produced by Ben Kweller.

How did you and Kelsey meet?

Kelsey and I were touring together, we didn’t know each other quite yet. This band called The Migrant selected Kelsey to play violin and I was playing other instrumentation like the accordion, the banjo and the ukulele. So, we were on the road for just a little under two months. We started writing songs together—a little at first—and then we started writing a lot of songs together, and we were gone so long it just starting clicking. When we got home we thought “let’s start a band.” We took the drummer from The Migrant. My cousin [Evan Magers]—we got him when we were in San Francisco. He became our keyboard player. Then we talked to Kelsey’s brother—do you know anyone who can play cello? Yeah (haha). So it all came together naturally and organically. And that’s the start.

Awesome. Was there a point when you realized – wow – this is really taking off, this is beyond what I thought it was going to be? Was there some magical moment when you realized it?

Oh– every day, man. There’s so many bands out there and you’ve got to be lucky to be one that anyone listens to. When we finished our first album, the day after our first album was released it started to get a lot of play. It went to the number one spot of Hype Machine. That was big because I’d been trying a whole lot of different stuff for years. Then we started going onto a more global scale. I was getting email from all across the world in different languages. I would say, “I don’t know what this is saying but there’s a whole lot of exclamation points.” {Laughs} And either they really like it or they’re really envious. But now being able to tour more and to be able to do big shows outside our home town is all just surreal.

You said it’s surreal?

Yeah—totally.

Speaking of surreal, would you tell us how Ben Kweller came to produce your record?

Ben Kweller lives in Austin now. He’s kind of moved around a lot. He’s got two kids, a wife and he was settling down and he wanted to produce. Ben and his staff were having a meeting talking about talent and one of his employees threw out our name. He listened to us and really dug it. I was checking my voice mail and heard like, “Hey man, this is Ben Kweller. I don’t know who might be working on your next album but I just wanted to throw my name in the hat.”  I called him back like, “hello—is this you?” So we met up with him and we started talking about what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it. We jumped in his car and started playing little pieces of each song, and he said, “I love this—this is going to be amazing.” And then we spent a lot of time with him and finished up the last bunches of tracks, and then we came back with the full band and got everything fine-tuned. So, we’re good buddies now and it feels like a family operation—his people and our people.

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What would you say is the difference between the first record and the one you worked on with Ben that’s coming out October 8 called “The Runaround”?

 

 

The first album kind of came together as we were doing it. We kind of got the recording gear and we had someone who understood how to record really well and that’s it. We would sit down and we had never done an album before on our own, and everything just went by itself. We were practicing for our first show, SXSW 2011, recording and trying to figure out who was in the band. But we kind of just did it as we went along and I think it adds to some of the magic of that first album. It was fun and thrown together. But for the second album by the time we went into the studio with Ben we knew exactly what we wanted, and it sounded like it was a lot bigger. There’s some hip hop element, there’s some horns in it, and we kind of like really pushed the bubble as to how big we could get it without taking away from the ukulele– a guy and a girl singing—I think we pushed it pretty far. So, although it seems big, I think it retains a lot of the magic that the first one had.

I really like the dynamic between you and Kelsey when you’re trading vocals, and I heard you guys write together—could you describe the dynamic yourself?

We’re kind of like musical soul mates. I consider myself half of a songwriter and she considers herself half of a songwriter. We can’t really write well without one another. Often you’ll see in our songs the view of one mind but it’s actually two people writing those songs. And at the live shows everyone used to think it was really cute because we used to look at each other while we sang but we were just really nervous. {laughter} But we were playing live and fronting a band—something we had never really done before. There’s a certain connection that we have since we started this together. We have fun writing. We started writing songs as songwriters when we recorded our first album. I don’t know, we just feel lucky and I think we’re on the same level as far as gratitude for where we are. Sometimes we just look at each other and say, “Holy fuck—isn’t this cool?” At the same time, we understand that at the end of the day it’s just music and I think we carry that kind of attitude into the studio and onto the stage.

You’ve probably been asked this question before but a lot people might assume that because you are a songwriting duo that you are romantically involved.

Right—we hear this a lot and the answer is no—we’re not. I regard her as my sister or my close friend and we sure fight like family. {laughter} But no we’re not— she’s actually engaged. When we’re on stage we look into each other’s face and we’re really really close so it gets misconstrued.

Of course.

But hey—I’ll play it up if I need to. {laughter}

You said something interesting before in an interview, that “some lucky stones were thrown our way.” Tell me—how do you describe “luck?”

We just released our first single off the new album, and even though we have more people behind us and more money to throw at it, it doesn’t make it any easier. I think that it comes down to a million different things coming into play at the exact right time. When we had our success with Pillow Talk, it felt really natural and we were like—check it out. And now we’re trying to retreat back and we have so much more exposure—I don’t know, maybe sometimes you need luck and I guess something was in the air that needed to happen. But we got some lucky stones thrown our way.

Haha. I like that description. You know, some people say the stars aligned or something. “Some lucky stones were thrown our way.” {laughs} Your single “Crazy Bird” is very catchy.

We did a lot of songwriting exercises over the last two years. We were writing this tune that was upbeat and positive. We couldn’t quite do it but we came as close as we could. For some reason music is an outlet for us and we do it to vent our emotions and feelings. So, we recorded what was to become the single and said—OK that’s done and we didn’t think too much of it. But then later it just kind of came together and it’s really fun to play live. It’s good because people sing along with it and it brings people out a little bit.

Well, thanks so much Alexander for taking the time to talk. I hope I can get out to see you on Friday the 13th.

Thanks, Greg.

WILDDD

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