Jamie Wilson remembers the first time she and her three bandmates in the all-female Texas-based Americana group The Trishas sang as a unit. The ad-hoc group — including Kelley Mickwee, Liz Foster and Savannah Welch — had come together in 2009 to work up some songs for a tribute to Lone Star tunesmith Kevin Welch, a shared inspiration of the group and Savannah’s father.
But as they struck their first notes together, Wilson says it was clear that this could be much more than a one-off thing.
“It was something really different and really special, and we could really tell none of us had ever heard anything like that before,” she says. “The moment that we all actually hit the notes that we were supposed to hit was pretty cool. We all did it, and I think we even kept the note going a little longer than we needed to just because it sounded so good, And then we all kind of stopped and looked at each other. None of us had ever sung with girls before, much less three other ones.”
Almost three years later, the impromptu get-together has become a permanent gig that has people buzzing about the quartet being the next Dixie Chicks, and the Aug. 7 release of their first full-length release, “High, Wide, and Handsome.”
A graduate of the University of Memphis, Mickwee was formally trained in musical theater throughout much of her youth, but she says she never sang popular music in front of an audience until her senior year of college when she joined her boyfriend Jed Zimmerman’s band, which included John Paul Keith & the One Four Fives bassist Mark Stuart. Stuart recently started playing solo.
After a while, Zimmerman and Mickwee bought an RV and traveled the country for five years, playing wherever they could. When the pair split in 2007, Mickwee landed in Austin, where she already knew Wilson, then a singer with The Gougers.
“I kind of laid low for a year and had to figure out what I was doing before I met the girls,” says Mickwee, who worked on her guitar-playing while doing only a handful of gigs as part of a duo during this period.
It was Foster, working for the company that organized the Welch tribute, who first suggested the women get together. She called Savannah Welch, who called Mickwee, who pulled in Wilson. The new band got its name shortly before its debut.
“The Trishas was just a name we threw out off-the-cuff backstage so we would have a way of being identified backstage,” says Mickwee. “One of the two songs we were doing was a Trisha Yearwood song that Kevin wrote that was a big hit. There was no thinking involved because we didn’t think it was going to be the name of a band.”
Response from that first gig was so positive, however, The Trishas were soon fielding gig offers. They quickly threw together a set, and a year later released “They Call Us the Trishas,” an acclaimed EP that was made up mostly of material that existed before the group’s formation.
In contrast, Wilson says “High, Wide, and Handsome” is a much more full-realized work. Recorded at Nashville’s Sound Emporium with producer Mike Poole, the record finds The Trishas’ sound fully matured with songs custom built around their voices.
“There’s only one song on the album that’s completely by someone else,” says Wilson, pointing to “The Fool” by Wilson’s friend, Courtney Patton. “Except for that, we all had a hand in writing every one of the songs, whether it be all together or in some combination with each other or outside collaborators. Everything was written with The Trishas in mind. It’s just us.”