After taking a hiatus from the road during the pandemic, Flatland Cavalry is back on the bus.
Touring on the heels of the Far Out West Sessions EP, frontman Cleto Cordero is bringing along his wife, acclaimed Oklahoma country musician Kaitlin Butts. In addition to opening for Flatland Cavalry at The Jones Assembly on this tour, she frequently is featured on their songs and during their live set as well.
Cordero spoke with Oklahoma Gazette on the eve of his 30th birthday.
Oklahoma Gazette: Looking at the cover of your newest studio record here with the tour bus, touring is kind of your bread and butter, right? It seems like based on the lyrical content, being on the road is very ingrained. How were the past couple of years, in contrast to constantly doing shows?
Cordero: We were hitting the road so hard right before all that stuff happened that whenever we kind of got the official notice from management, ‘Our calendar’s wiped clean and we’re not gonna be on the road for a while. We’re going to figure this out.’ I remember just kind of being a little bit relieved, to be honest with you, just knowing that we’ve played a bunch and maybe it’d be good to be home for a little bit. I kind of just took the time to rest and enjoy the people that don’t get to see as much, you know what I mean, because I am touring. But to me, I kind of use the time to just rest and reflect and really write because I need that’s all I really could do to be useful.
OKG: It seems like a lot of this material is very reflective as compared to earlier efforts.
Cordero: Oh, for sure. Essentially, it was a year I stayed over at my mother in law’s place in Oklahoma and built a garden back there and everything and just kind of made the most of the space and just found sitting there. Management will set me up with writes and stuff each week, which I was kind of nervous about because I hadn’t really co-written much before. But it kind of challenged me … You have nothing to do with sit there, so I would kind of wake up early and think about what’s going on, what just happened the last seven years, you know what I mean? So that’s definitely probably why you can feel that in the songs.
OKG: Where in Oklahoma were you camped out?
OKG: Kaitlin’s your wife. What’s that like, basically where your work and personal lives are so intertwined?
Cordero: I always kind of go off my gut feelings. Falling in love with music led me to my dream job and it led me to this person who’s my dream girl. If I just keep trusting that love that led me to things that changed my life, I surely will trust it to carry us to the end of this journey of music, however it all plays out. Definitely at times, I’m here, she’s there, and that can be stressful, but we both understand what we got ourselves into and what both of our dreams are and how they kind of unify together. She has someone to understand exactly and vice versa, what it takes and what it entails and we kind of help each other in that regard as well.
OKG: Do you guys make it a point to try to tour together as much as possible or do you each pull your own thread sometimes and use the time on the road to kind of develop yourselves before you reconvene?
Cordero: We’re definitely trying to be more strategic about when we play together …One day, Flatland could be opening up for her, you know what I mean? It won’t always be the other way around. She’s got her own whole thing going on, but whenever we do get to play together, we try to make the most of it and have fun like we are two kindred souls and not work associates.
OKG: What’s your writing process? Are you a collaborative person or do you come up with the idea and have other people work with you or does each person bring their own thoughts to the song?
Cordero: That’s what I’ve enjoyed a lot about it — you don’t know how the cookie is gonna crumble. … Some days, you’re the one that’s bringing the song idea in. Other days, you’re barely contributing. You feel like your brain’s not working, and so I kind of love that process of discovery. It’s like mining for gold to me. Last week, I wrote a tune with Nick Walsh and Ashley Monroe. I’m a big fan of hers and you can kind of get in your head to be a little nervous and stuff, but then you discover that she’s nervous and so was Nick. And then after you get there in the room together, you start talking and have some coffee and talk about life and you realize that amidst the three of y’all, there’s a lot of experience and talent and spirit and stuff. Chances are, you’re going to come up with something great if you just kind of get out of your own head and just kind of feel what the song wants to be.
Flatland Cavalry plays The Jones Assembly July 7. Tickets are $22.50 in advance and $27.50 day of show.