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Fast-Rising Country Group Gone West Talks Friendship, Surreal Opry Debut

Gone West

Early success for country group Gone West, from a well-received EP to an unlikely venue for its live debut, culminates years of separate musical ventures for longtime friends Nelly Joy (of Big & Rich-affiliated country duo The Janedear Girls), Colbie Caillat, Jason Reeves and Justin Young.

Caillat, a former solo star with a Grammy win for Jason Mraz duet "Lucky," took her fiance Young, a contemporary Hawaiian music artist, and married couple Joy and Reeves on the road while touring on 2016 solo album The Malibu Sessions. The four longtime friends soon decided to combine talents, resources and fan bases by forming a new band.

By Jan. 18, 2019, the four-piece had written enough songs suiting their collective, new identity for the Tides EP (Triple Tigers).

"What really inspired the EP was us all writing together because even though we've known each other and been friends and worked together in different capacities over the past 10 or 14 years, we'd never wrote songs together," Joy says.

So far, a truly collaborative songwriting process has netted quality and variety. The four songs on Tides range from the steel guitar-driven slow-burner "This Time" to the bubbly, clap-along "Confetti." Since the EP's release, the group successfully crossed modern Nashville production with tight harmonies and a splash of '90s nostalgia on its first single, "What Could've Been."

"What's so cool about all four of us is we have different strengths and weaknesses," Joy says. "When we get into a writing room together, it's pretty special because everyone brings something special to the table. It's great because some days when you are in a writing room, some days you are on and some days you are off. If I go in and I'm moving a little slower than normal, then someone else steps up and brings it to the table. We take turns bringing our A-game and shaping songs into what they are."

Before building a reputation off its initial recordings and finishing a debut album in late 2019, the group made quite the debut. On Oct. 26, 2018, it became one of the first, if not the first, acts to play its first-ever gig on the hallowed Grand Ole Opry stage.

"It as such an incredible experience because we had just announced ourselves as a band," Caillat says. "We'd put this live, one-take video of our song 'This Time' out on the internet. From that, the Opry heard it, and they offered us to come and perform two songs. It was the biggest welcome for us from country music."

In all likelihood, the quality of the band's early material and anticipation for a debut full-length can be chalked up to the friendships that predate their working relationships.

"I think the fans can really feel when something is organically coming together versus something that's been put together by the industry," Joy says. "When there's an organic chemistry and love floating around on stage, that's hard to hide or fabricate."

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Fast-Rising Country Group Gone West Talks Friendship, Surreal Opry Debut