On the surface, it might seem as if The Young Fables can’t catch a break.
The Nashville-based country duo, consisting of Blount County natives Laurel Wright and Wes Lunsford, saw their lives upended by a brutal 2018, in which Wright lost both her sister, Lindy, and her father, Ron. The dual tragedies, only nine months apart, sent the young singer-songwriter into a tailspin of emotional anguish that was palpable to the hometown fans that have followed her career since she was a pre-teen.
In 2019, however, the pair, alongside manager Patryk Larney, began to assemble the songs that make up their new album, “Pages.” By year’s end, they were in the studio, laying down tracks for the most mature, musically complex and emotionally resonant record they’ve ever made. As they did with their 2018 album “Old Songs,” they went into 2020 hopeful that fans would contribute to a crowd-funding campaign to pay the tab in exchange for a copy of it.
“We had made a down payment, and then we recorded ‘Pages,’ and we were going to do our Kickstarter campaign in March — but then a tornado hit Nashville, and we thought that it wouldn’t be a good time to ask people for money,” Lunsford told The Daily Times this week. “Then the pandemic hit, and we realized we probably weren’t going to raise the money then, either, because nobody had it.”
And so the pair launched its Kickstarter campaign a few weeks ago, a digital fundraising drive that ends on Sunday morning, hoping to raise the funding to get “Pages” across the finish line. It’s a lot of money, they acknowledge, but given the scope of the talent they recruited to work on the project — including Grammy Award-winning producer Mitch Dane — that amount only covers the recording process, Larney pointed out.
“If you really respect your music, and you want it done right, you’ve got to pay for it,” Larney said. “We understand that it’s a lot of money for a record, but in this day and age, it’s a way of selling the music before it’s released, because CDs aren’t making money this year. I was at a concert last year, and the artist playing said, ‘If you buy a T-shirt a the table on your way out of this concert, it’s the equivalent of listening to my record 10,000 times on Spotify.’
“So these days, for artists, you have to think, ‘How do we make this money back?’ By backing something like this, fans are saying, ‘This music is worth something to me, so I’m going to pay you $15 for a record.’ What they’re doing is pre-ordering the record with the $15 they donate, and that will help us pay off this incredible debt that we inherited in our responsibility to tell this story.”
And what a story it is: Wright made a name for herself in Blount County as a songbird with a penchant for touching originals and a voice that makes listeners sit up and take notice. Multiple appearances on “American Idol,” national singing championships and gigs everywhere from local restaurants to the Foothills Fall Festival primed her for a move to Nashville several years ago, where she teamed up with Lunsford to start a new project.
The Young Fables, she said, is not a Laurel Wright solo vehicle, and the songs on “Pages” are proof that whatever talent she has is only elevated when Lunsford plays and sings by her side. A guitarist with a jazz background, he’s been endorsed by Gretsch Guitars and finds a way to fill in every track with the complexities and nuance of an ace picker who intuitively knows what a song needs to sound better.
“Take a song like (Patsy Cline’s) ‘Crazy’ — I’ve sang it my whole life, but when I met Wes and he played it, I sang it differently, and it wasn’t like I even tried to,” Wright said. “I know I’m more interesting with Wes, and that’s why we’re a duo. We’re comfortable with each other, and we make each other better. We both do our own thing every now and then, but I don’t sing with other people the way I sing with Wes. If I’m on stage with another guitar player or another band, it’s not the same.”
And without Lunsford — or Larney, for that matter — it’s questionable whether she would have made it through those twin tragedies of 2018 with her sanity intact. On the other side of them, she’s found a way to open herself up to fans about grief, depression and loss — without lingering in those emotions, personally or in song.
“People are expecting to hear a song about Lindy, and a song about my dad, and maybe a song that sums it up, and that’s what we wanted to go for from the very get-go with this album,” Wright said. “A part of me died when they died, and that’s very important, but I didn’t want this record to be all said. Going back to the idea of turning the page — I did lose a lot, but I also grew a lot. I feel like I’m a different person, and I look at things differently.”
The story of that personal evolution is captured in a new documentary, “The Fable of a Song,” which the duo and Larney have been working on steadily since 2018, when it began as a simple exercise in capturing the magic of songwriting. Over the past two years, they’ve altered the story to wrap it around the deaths of Wright’s sister and father, and in so doing have created a film that’s a snapshot of musical brilliance and perseverance through loss.
One of the reward tiers for Kickstarter donations, in fact, is early access to “The Fable of a Song,” which is complete and will be shopped to various film festivals in 2021 before the team works to secure a distribution deal for wide release, Larney said.
“Everything is sitting there ready, but all of the money is to help recoup some of the costs and help put it out,” he said. “The idea of ‘Pages’ is that your life is one big story. Something I recall Laurel saying that really struck me was that everybody says to her, ‘You’ve got to take it one day at a time’ … but for a long time, she didn’t have any good days.
“She said, ‘I have moments in the day that are good, so I have to take it one moment at a time.’ And instead of explaining that out, we came up with the idea that everybody’s life is a story, and you have to take it one page at a time. On each page, there’s a different story within the bigger story, and the only thing you have to do is stay present, stay on the page you’re on, keep reading the story, and keep turning the pages.”