I first saw Willie Heath Neal at a now-defunct East Nashville bar called the Radio Café. Back then, Willie was fronting an outfit of badass outlaw pickers called The Damned Old Opry. It was late 2003, and they were sort of the house band there. My band at the time, The Wheels, were playing later in the night, and while I was drinking a cold beer and eating some hot wings at the bar after soundcheck, I ended up having a conversation with Willie about the ups and downs of the music business, his dissatisfaction with the pettiness of Nashville, and his many near breakthroughs. I took it all in as he sat there pontificating, his hair slicked back, his tattooed arms bobbing and weaving whenever he was particularly irate about something. He seemed like an alright guy, so I stuck around to catch his early-evening set.
What was it like working with Mark [Robertson] from The Legendary Shack Shakers? Tell me about the sessions for your new album Out of Highway.