When Anna Wilson made an impromptu trip back to Nashville a few weeks ago, it gave the award-winning songwriter an opportunity to catch one of her all-time favorite bands, the Eagles, at the Grand Ole Opry.
As she looked around at the attendees waiting to be let into the venue — all of them, she estimated, between 50 and 75 years old — a smile crept onto her face as she realized that the new ’70s-style-California-rock band she’s fronting, Troubadour 77, ought to have plenty of people out there willing to give it a shot.
“That customer base and that demographic, I think that they’re hungry, and they would be engaged,” Wilson told The Salt Lake Tribune in a phone interview. “So when someone’s trying to make something new for them, that isn’t the same old recycled classic rock playlist, but goes alongside it and sonically matches what they’re familiar with and what they like to listen to, I think that there’s a real audience out there. So we’re just gonna try to find ’em the best we can!”
Troubadour 77 is the brainchild of Wilson and her husband, Monty Powell, another former Nashville songwriting heavyweight. After the couple spent a quarter-century in Music City, crafting hits for the likes of Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn, they now split their time between a beach house in Florida and a Utah mountainside home in Huntsville, near Snowbasin ski resort.
But while they still dabble in writing and producing for others, they’re primarily focused on their music for now.
After releasing a four-track EP back in the spring, T77’s debut full-length album, “Selma Avenue,” hits the market on Friday. The band is staging an album release party and concert at the O.P. Rockwell club in Park City on Friday in celebration.
“The reason for our band is we’re trying to carry the torch of the ’70s singer-songwriter movement that was pretty happenin’ in Los Angeles, with the Eagles and Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt, guys like that, J.D. Souther, who were all at the Troubadour, making music and getting discovered,” Wilson said. “That music has really influenced our band, and the record, ‘Selma Avenue.’ ”
“Selma Avenue” album release party/concert
When • Friday; doors at 7 p.m., show at 8
Where • O.P. Rockwell, 268 Main St., Park City
Tickets • $10; Ticketfly
Indeed, the album name and its title track are a reference to the spot just off Hollywood Boulevard where the Criterion Music label’s headquarters and recording studio once stood. Criterion is where Browne first cut his teeth as a recording artist. Wilson herself signed with Criterion in the mid-’90s. Bo Goldsen, Wilson’s longtime publisher and the son of Criterion founder Mickey Goldsen, shared some of the stories of the label and the building with Wilson before his death in October 2016.
In turn, Wilson is excited to share some of the behind-the-scenes details of the tracks on “Selma Avenue” with fans on Friday night.
“We’re gonna give ’em a little bit more of the stories behind each of the songs and what influenced them, and kinda tell them how this record came to be. So it’ll be kinda like a concert, but also a glorified documentary!” she said with a laugh. “We’re not gonna have anybody asking us questions, but we’re gonna be volunteering some of the backstories — that’s what really makes people connect to your music, and, hopefully, become a fan for life.”
Wilson and Powell will actually be doing something similar on Thursday night, too, as they’ll be performing an acoustic show sans their T77 bandmates at the Gallivan Center as part of the Excellence in the Community series. They’ll play material from their solo careers, some of the hit tracks they’ve written for various country superstars, and maybe even “throw in a couple Christmas things that night, ’cause ’tis the season!” It’ll be “a very intimate, in-the-living-room kind of vibe,” Wilson added.
Monty Powell & Anna Wilson
“Stories and Songs from Nashville”
When • Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
Where • Gallivan Center, 239 Main St., Salt Lake City
Tickets • Free; more info at Excellenceconcerts.org or 385-743-0146
Beyond that, the couple are excited for another of their projects to finally see the light of day. They were commissioned several years ago to recruit various country stars to perform their favorite Billy Joel songs for a tribute album. The music — featuring the likes of Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Zac Brown Band, Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris and LeAnn Rimes — has been completed for a while now, but the album’s been held up in legal red tape. “Nashville State of Mind” is finally slated for a 2018 release.
Getting that music out, though, still can’t compare with “Selma Avenue” making its way into the public consciousness.
“The most pertinent thing at the moment is the album release — we’re pretty excited about that,” Wilson said. “It’s sort of the cherry on top of the journey we’ve been on all year in 2017, trying to bring the music to the fans. Twenty-sixteen was all about creating and making it, writing the songs and recording it. And then this year has been all about trying to leak it out to people one by one.”
After Friday’s O.P. Rockwell show, the plan is to spread the music a bit further while also combining business with pleasure.
T77’s upcoming “tour” will see them play a series of shows at ski resorts throughout the Intermountain West.
“We’re living the ski bum life — we’re skiing during the day and playing music during the night!” Wilson said. “Now, we’re just praying for snow once we pull in — we don’t want to have to drive in the snow!”