Nashville Americana singer-songwriter and virtuosic guitarist Jax Hollow manages to refine the heavier, rock ‘n’ roll machismo of previous work with producer Michael Wagener (Metallica, Mötley Crü), distilling a more distinctive sound that yields progressive Southern rock and country twang, as well as expert songwriting on her sophomore album Only the Wild Ones (out May 5). Hollow has been featured on Lightning 100’s “Artist of the Week” and opened for Peter Karp (Mick Taylor, Sue Foley) and Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy) on her 2022 European tour.
Recorded at The Sound Emporium and Music Row’s Sienna Studios with some of Nashville’s finest musicians, Only The Wild Ones’ lineup consists of drummer Matt King (Maren Morris, Brothers Osborne), bassist Lex Price (k.d. lang, Miranda Lambert) and Tim Galloway (Joshua Hedley, Cody Johnson) on rhythm guitar and banjo. “What an incredible experience, in one of the best studios in the world. Juanita Copeland pulled me aside, telling me stories of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ session in there, and then next thing I know she’s introducing me to Jason Isbell in the break room. I was over the moon.”
Still high on all the excitement and positive output from the sessions, Hollow took the next logical step: “I headed to the Smoky Mountains to camp out for a little while, and that’s where I landed on Only the Wild Ones,” says Hollow. “I wasn’t planning on naming the record after my song, but the title just clicked. There’s radical freedom when you’re trying to make it as an independent artist. It’s a bit feral. Sleeping under the stars, hopping from town to town… there were so many highs and lows to dive into artistically.”
Hollow’s sense of adventure and exponential growth as a songwriter show up in spades on Only the Wild Ones, spanning from rollicking country and scorching guitar solos (i.e. “Ethereal Emerald” & “Renegade Season”) to shimmering folk pop balladry in “Stepping Stone” and “Wallflower Girl In Bloom." Though there’s a warmth to the album, with Hollow’s crisp guitar tones, bright and crackling, there are undertones of darker notes, where the artist dives into life on the road. “Everyone’s experienced seismic life changes since 2020,” says Hollow.
“Wolf in Sheepskin'' is a fine example, with an undercurrent of something more sinister to this sentiment brewing in the chorus: “Sunrise, waking up with my .45,” sings Hollow. “There’s a beautiful numbness in the midst of chaos,” she adds. "Like the scenes in movies where everyone is frantically running around, while the camera zooms in on the main character, ears ringing and silent, lost in thought.” The grim reality of the lonely existence that comes with perpetual touring is not lost on Hollow - who performs on commercial cruise ships without a permanent residence. The artist makes light of personal affronts (“I’m too feral for your heart / It’s just a waste of time”) and then leans into a more cathartic proclamation, belting, “I’m better sleeping alone!”
Hollow’s tenacity and unrelenting journey as a songwriter continues on “Wallflower Girl in Bloom.” The percussive energy of Hollow’s acoustic guitar work and Galloway’s tuneful banjo underscore the beauty of witnessing a loved one's transformation. “The essence of that song is being so excited about seeing somebody come into who they’re meant to be. Witness, watch, and you just wanna bask in that glow,” says Hollow.
Jax Hollow proves she’s not just a shredder, but a damn strong songwriter, too. An artist who truly takes life as it comes, Hollow is a conscious rambler on Only the Wild Ones, in an ongoing quest for authenticity and true-to-form artistry. Look no further for evidence than the accompanying visuals for “Wolf in Sheepskin” - where Hollow can be found donning a wolf hat and happily shedding all her soul-baring truths - and “Wallflower Girl in Bloom,” shot in Arizona beneath the fresh blue sky, and grounded by cacti and mountains, as Hollow stomps with snakeskin boots and undeniable expressiveness. One thing that will always be at the forefront for Jax Hollow is the undeniable power of a song.
As the Only the Wild Things comes to a close, Hollow gets self-referential: “The Colt in the pasture, intrepid, untamed / A thundering heart’s gotta take on the reins.”