Wild Child’s Second Act

Revived during the pandemic, the Austin band release their fifth album, ‘The End of the World’

By Jeff McCord

It’s an all-too-familiar tale for bands releasing new records right now. Their stories seem to hang on the waiting of the pandemic years, the postponed plans, the uncertain future, the record that just can’t get finished. Or released. 

Austin’s Wild Child has a different story. The pandemic actually brought their band back to life. 

Wild Child’s finely-tuned rock melodrama has enchanted listeners for a decade. Yet by 2018, after four albums, widespread acclaim, an Austin City Limits television segment, and lots of road miles, Wild Child’s two primary songwriters, Kelsey Wilson and Alexander Beggins, were off doing their own things. 

Kelsey had joined the songwriting collective Glorietta, and had launched her soulful Sir Woman project. Meanwhile, Alexander had created his solo alter ego, CoCo Zandi. They were both recording, making plans, and Wild Child was a little more than a speck in their collective rearview mirrors. 

Then it was March 2020. And everything stopped in its tracks. Back in Austin, with little else to do, they reunited. 

“It was really important for [both of] us to go out and figure out what our sound would be like without writing together because we had only worked together before,” explains Kelsey. “When the lockdown happened, we started doing these virtual meet and greets just to bring people a break during the day, connect with people and make them feel good. And in doing those, we realized how much the music still means to people. And how lucky we are, how special it is. Without any plans or even a specific direction for the record, we started writing songs again, just for fun. The whole record fell together quickly. It was easy as it was making the first one; no pressure, no mouths to feed, no label breathing down our necks. We were doing it for the joy of making things together.”

And despite the difficult logistics of the times, things fell together reasonably smoothly.

“It was actually pretty seamless,” says Alexander. “We’ve always had a good group of people surrounding us, and we brought in John Calvin Abney. He’s a songwriter and a friend of ours. We wrote some songs with him for this record. Kelsey had been working with Matt Pence up in Denton at his studio. So when we decided actually to make the record, it was a no-brainer to do it there. We just had a blast working with him. And we called up all our favorite people to come in and be on the record. It fell together just as it needed to.”

They’re making everything sound easy in retrospect, though few things about the pandemic years went according to plan. Need evidence? The new Wild Child record is called The End Of The World. Sample lyric: “I can love you and everybody you know / Since we’re all going down”

Kelsey elaborates: “John Calvin was at my house during the [2021 snowpocalypse] freeze. We had a lot of artists over here. We were on our third day with no water and power, and very emotional. We were supposed to be in the studio recording but obviously, we couldn’t make it out of town. We were just sitting around in the living room by candlelight, freezing, thirsty, hungry, and exhausted because we had all been volunteering at the community center. And John Calvin just started playing chords on his guitar and just talking about everything that was scaring him at that moment. And we turned it into a mantra. We were singing back and forth, like, ‘You know what freaks me out?’ Everyone was going around the room, listing things, until we were all screaming. And it was very cathartic and beautiful and it turned this traumatic event into a celebration, the chorus being about we’re all together. So it’s okay. We’re taking care of each other. It’s going to be fine. And that it felt really important at that moment.” 

The song gave the album its title, and despite being an outlier in the Wild Child catalog, they made it a single. 

Kelsey explains the decision. “It’s always been pretty obvious. I think we know our fans really well at this point. When writing for a record, we’ll be, ‘You know what? Let’s give them one like this because they love that shit.’ Every once in a while we’ll put in songs that are just for us. This one’s a little far out. This one’s a little longer. ‘The End of the World’, the title track, was one where we weren’t sure if the Wild Child fans would be particularly excited because it just doesn’t sound anything like anything we’ve done before. But [times have] also never felt like this before. We’ve all changed and grown so much that this is what we sound like now. So that was definitely the biggest risk we’ve taken sonically.”

As it turns out, they needn’t have worried. The band is on tour throughout April and May. They played a nighttime Studio 1a performance on May 3rd and played their local record release show on May 5th at Emos. Everywhere they are going, they’re getting appreciative crowds. 

Kelsey describes the changed atmosphere. “I think because we were all stripped of live music for such a long time, and Wild Child in particular, you can feel the gratitude in the room from us and them. It really does feel like a sweet reunion. Everyone’s so present. Nobody talks during the show. Everybody sings every word. No one’s on their phone. There’s a new level of presence that I’ve never witnessed on a Wild Child tour before, and I’m sure it has everything to do with being separated like that.”

The band is feeling more vested this time out, too. The End of the World is the first release on their own label, Reba Ranch Records. Why did they take this step?

Kelsey: “There have been so many changes in the music industry in the past couple of years, and Wild Child is in such a special place because we have such loyal fans. So it made sense to cut all the middlemen out and just take care of everyone on our own. It’s a lot easier to control every aspect of the creative process and pick your own singles. And we’re lucky enough to be in a place where we can make all those calls and not have to answer to anyone else.”

Alexander agrees. “Less people making decisions for you is always one way to keep your creative integrity intact. It’s a more streamlined process to get everything out to the people who actually listen to our music.”

So is Wild Child back for good? At least for the time being, yes. They’re booked all the way through mid-August when they’re playing San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival. But that’s not all on their agenda.

“I will be going back and forth on tour with both Wild Child and Sir Woman all year,” says Kelsey. “I don’t really have a chance to put either one on hold. There’s a Sir Woman record. We’re gonna start dropping singles next month.”

Alexander is double-booked as well. “I’ve got a new CoCo Zandi record that’s finished, and I start playing some more shows this year.”

But they don’t seem daunted by their busy year ahead. If the pandemic has taught Wild Child anything, it’s to grab timely opportunities and move ahead.

“We’re happy for the new album being out,” says Alexander, “and we’re just going to see what happens next.” 


Set List:
Wearing Blue
Dear John
Sinking Ships (off the Expectations album)
Love On A Bad Day

Album: End of the World

Musicians: Kelsey Wilson – vocals, violin; Alexander Beggins – vocals ,guitar, ukulele; Alan Eckert – drums; Cat Demens – bass; Motenko – piano; John Calvin Abney – lead guitar; Spice – vocals; Uncle Roy – vocals; Christina Steele – violin


Producer: Deidre Gott; Confucius Jones; Audio Engineer: Jake Perlman; Audio Mix: Jake Perlman, Rene Chavez; Cameras: Patricia Lim, Michael Minasi; Edit: Michael Minasi; Host: Jody Denberg

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