Friday, Sept. 23, at 7 p.m.
Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, 916 Charleston St., www.callaghansirishsocialclub.com
Tickets: $7 at the door
Before co-founding The Prescriptions, Birmingham native Hays Ragsdale was practicing songwriting as a hobby and never considered playing professionally.
“I never really thought to go out and play live in college,” Ragsdale said. “It just felt natural to learn songs in my room by myself.”
Eventually, family friend Chas Williams, a seasoned Nashville veteran, encouraged Ragsdale to move to the Music City and establish a reputation. Soon, Ragsdale crossed paths with bassist/fellow Birmingham native Parker McAnnally, who turned to another Birmingham native, Jack Thomason, to take on guitar duties. Thomason’s college connection, drummer John Wood, completed the quartet. With their shared musical goals, The Prescriptions’ formation seemed natural.
“After Parker put me and Hays into contact, I started learning his songs through guitar, drums and voice,” Wood said. “After a few weeks, our schedules lined up, and Jack came out and ran them on guitar.”
“I had never performed original music [in public] until I moved up to Nashville,” Ragsdale added. “It may have been the first time with these guys. I don’t really know why it worked out that way. I’m kind of glad it did.”
Wood describes early practice sessions as “a lot of fun.” Ragsdale’s personal compositions evolved through creative democracy. With his lack of experience playing with a group, he admits that collaborating with three other skilled musicians allowed him to grow as a musician.
Ultimately the band created a philosophy of adhering to “no creative boundaries.” The end result was a trademark sound based on edgy alt. rock and Americana made famous by icons such as Neil Young and Gram Parsons.
“It was a blend of all of our influences, I would say,” Ragsdale explained. “I think that’s why we hit it off musically and as friends. We listened to the same bands coming up. It wasn’t a conscious choice to be an Americana band.”
As The Prescriptions’ repertoire began to grow, they were eager to take their songs into a live environment. They quickly entered the studio to lay down tracks for what would become their debut EP “Either Side.” Once again, Williams provided his guidance as well as his instrumental talent. According to Ragsdale, Williams did not specifically direct the band, but taught The Prescriptions the power of simplicity. He also lent his lap-steel and guitar to the EP.
“He’s just a total pro,” Thomason said. “He’s been doing this a really long time. He’s got a great approach to music, as far as creating it and in the studio. I think it helps all of us that we’ve got somebody that’s seen a lot of the business, just being in the room holding things together.”
The four-song EP has almost a building intensity beginning with the dreamy folk rock mix of electric and acoustic guitars the track “She Is Waiting” displays. “My Stranger” turns the album toward alt. rock, with driving beats, crunchy riffs and a wailing solo.
“Either Side” reaches an apex with the contrasting mix of fuzzed-out guitar and clean vocals found in the track “His Songs.” Afterward, there’s a dynamic shift in the heartfelt acoustic ballad “Can’t Ask for More.”
“For me, at least, there’s not a conscious decision to create a song for a specific type of audience,” Ragsdale said. “It’s always what each individual can bring to the table and create, not that we’re not going to come up with a new sound. We never say, ‘This needs to be an Americana song or this needs to be a punky song or this needs to be bluegrass.’”
McAnnally said “Either Side” is meant to draw attention and book shows while the band records a full-length album. In recent months, they’ve been recording in Nashville’s Forum Studio. According to McAnnally, the soon-to-be titled full-length album is at the halfway point.
“The full-length will be similar to that mentality of taking a nugget of the song, fleshing it out and pursuing it to its fullest form with not much regard for making it fit into a batch of songs,” McAnnally said. “It won’t be too far off from the EP. We’re looking to have it finished and released by spring of next year.”