If there’s one thing Poor Man’s Change learned from months on the road this year, it’s that you have to know where you’re going if you don’t want to get lost. The idea sounds about as simple as a two bit country lyric, but a band driving towards a big break really can’t afford to make any wrong turns. It’s the main reason why, after signing with local label Hourglass Records, the OC-bred Southern Rock quartet decided that for a number of reasons it was better for them to jump ship and become independent again.
“[The label] had us on a direction of becoming a straight laced country band and we wanted to be more Southern Rock,” bassist Andrew "Birdshot" Ballenger says. “We had our way of doing things and they had their way of doing things so we thought it would better to be on our own.”
But the band didn’t completely swerve away from the label altogether. After a brief stint in Austin for South By Southwest, the band returned to the label’s recording studio to lay down Wild Kingdom, the sophomore follow-up to their 2015 debut The Southwestern. Where the debut five-song record felt more like an appetizer, Wild Kingdom fleshes out their sun burned mesh of outlaw rock and backyard party anthems seamlessly. The album’s lead single “Good Life” dabbles in a Post Malone-style approach to hip-hop country, melding elements ranging from electronic beats to lap steel guitar in a way that just feels natural.
“It was a good song to introduce new sounds and fine tune and give it its own personality,” says lead singer and rhythm guitarist Red Page. “This all coincides with going back to being independent when you’re able to own and operate your music and include things that normally wouldn’t fit in a certain box.”
Part of strengthening the control over their music was learning to share it. Though Page was always the principal songwriter, this time around each member contributed ideas for melodies, riffs and verses that brought everyone’s influences to table. What started as a badass riff on guitarist Drew “The Chief” Michaels’ guitar became a song for Ballenger and drummer Cory “Soul Train” Anderson also experimented with songwriting, sometimes at the expense of sleep.
“I remember being in bed trying to sleep and an hour and a half in I’d jump up and my old lady is like ‘What are you doing?’ And I’m like ‘Sorry, I gotta write these lyrics down,’” Ballenger says. “It was cool to be part of the writing process. And some of those lyrics I wrote became part of the song ‘Wild and Free.’”
The spirit of collaboration and artistic creation also involved a new financial player in the band this time around. Chris Schuman, a local fan and friend of the band, became a financial investor that gave the band the opportunity to record their album independently, film their music video for “Good Life” (directed by his brother Casey Schuman) and supplied them with the equipment resources to take their sound and their sound to the next level.
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“He’s the guy that makes everything possible for us right now,” Ballenger says. “It’s almost like having a label, but with freedom.”
Getting a helping hand from a fan willing to help them out definitely feels like an enviable position to be in—poor men who’ve been given a shot to live their dream with the help of a little extra change.
“There’s people along the way who gave us a shot to do something and we rose to the occasion and said we belong here,” Page says. “To give an opportunity for someone to shine, nine times out of 10 you put that faith in somebody, you get something special out of it.”
Poor Man's Change perform at the Wayfarer on Saturday (Record Release Party) with the Morgan Leigh Band and Ted Z and the Wranglers. $15, 8 p.m. 21+. For Full details, click here.