The Derailers are doing things their way 

By Jeff Walker
Features Editor

The first album young Brian Hofeldt dug out of his parent’s record bin was The Beatles’ The White Album. Those who’ve heard it know this — it was a lot to chew on for a young musician.But he liked the songs enough to want more, and it only got better from there: Next came Sgt. Pepper’s, and then Revolver and then earlier Beatles records like Meet the Beatles and Please Please Me. One song led to another influence and another genre and before Brian knew it, he’d embarked on a backwards journey into the history of pop music.

He learned a lot from everything he heard from the British foursome, but one thing in particular — a remarkable knack for that two-minute pop song sensibility. And on every record The Derailers have put out, it shows.

“It just comes naturally,” Hofeldt, the frontman for The Derailers, said. “It’s just sort of my thing.”

It was actually through the Beatles that Hofeldt discovered one of his major musical heroes and a big influence on his band, country music singer Buck Owens.

“With a lot of the earlier Beatles stuff I found, certainly some of these are not their own songs. One specifically that grabbed me was ‘Act Naturally,’” Hofeldt said. “And then I find out from my folks that it was originally by this cat named Buck Owens. So I thought I better find out about him, along with Carl Perkins and Chuck Berry and all the others.”

Owens continues to be an influence on the sweet as bells Honky Tonk band from Austin. The Derailers make country sound saltier and the rockabilly jangles like a set of spurs, all grounded and padded by a smooth Rubber Soul.

The band was formed in Oregon in the early 90s by Hofeldt and long-time collaborator Tony Villanueva. After playing in various Portland-area rockabilly bands, the two relocated to Texas.

In 1995 the Derailers issued their first LP, Live Tracks; following with their second release, 1996’s Jackpot. The band’s early work was characterized by rougher sounding, straight up honky tonk that was finding a niche in south Austin bars like the Broken Spoke. The Derailers were cruising.

After being signed by Sony in 2001, a couple of shake-ups followed. The band released Here Come the Derailers and two years later, Genuine for Sony. As Brian explains, given the major label pressure to get on the radio and have a mainstream hit, the band drifted away from its original purpose — just to be a honky tonk band.

“Sony had this big shake- up in their corporate umbrella, and Genuine got lost in the cracks,” Hofeldt said. “In addition to being a backseat band coming out of Texas for this Nashville label, we got sort of pushed to the back. It was just disheartening is what it was. We’d worked hard for so many years. I wanted to be a priority with a label in our next situation.”

Also in 2003, Brian’s longtime co-front man and writing partner Tony Villanueva announced he was leaving the band.

“He left to become a preacher, it was sort of a different sort of a split up,” Hofeldt said. “It’s not like we were mad at each other. I couldn’t hold any fault to him — he’d given 10 solid years to the Derailers, and it’s a tough life.”

But The Derailers regrouped and found inspiration from unlikely places.

They had just finished their set at Larry Joe Taylor’s annual festival north of Stephenville when musician/songwriter Buzz Cason stopped by to say he liked the band.

“He said ‘here’s my card,’ and I got to looking at it, and kept asking myself, ‘where do I know that name?’” Hofeldt said. “After a minute or so this little guy came up and said ‘he wrote ‘Everlasting Love.’”

In the late 60s, Cason had been a member of the Casuals, one of the early Rock ‘n’ Roll bands to come out of Nashville. He’d been impressed by the reckless abandon the Derailers played with, and it even took him back to his days with his own band. The sharp looking suits the Derailers put on for the show didn’t hurt, either.

He invited the band to Nashville to cut some songs in his old analog studio, and in a few months, they had their sixth album, Soldiers of Love. “Soldier of Love” was a song written by Cason for Arthur Alexander and was also performed by The Beatles on Live at the BBC.

Hofeldt says that working with Cason gave him a renewed sense of energy and inspiration — not to mention direction.

“Buzz is one of those kind of guys that even though he’s in his 60s, he takes the stairs two at a time,” Hofeldt said. “He doesn’t have that nickname Buzz for nothing. It was a real motivating factor for me.”

The end result of “Soldiers of Love” is an organic, honest dance hall country sound that resembles just another Saturday night at the Broken Spoke. The Derailers, if nothing else, are doing things their way again.

In fact, there’s a new album due out in late July. It’s a tribute album to the late Buck Owens.

One Response to “The Derailers are doing things their way”

  1. […] Come late July the Derailers will be releasing a tribute album to Buck Owens. Take Country Back is hosting an article that details the band’s humble beginnings. […]

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