Placing Odds on a Turnpike Troubadours Reunification

I haven’t wanted to do this. Because ultimately, it should be the primary members and partners of the Turnpike Troubadours who should be allowed to control the narrative about any potential reunification, or the lack thereof for the band that went on indefinite hiatus two years ago this month.

Unfortunately when it comes to anything Turnpike Troubadours-related, you’re dealing with a fan base that is so incredibly gossipy in a high school fashion, and an overzealous media willing to take any tiny crumb of information and convey it as breaking news, sometimes these conversations are unavoidable. There’s an insatiable hunger for information on this band that fuels a lot of rumor and wild speculation.

The truth is—whether you believe it or not—you don’t really want to know whether the Turnpike Troubadours will ultimately come back until they’re ready to tell you themselves. Sure, you want to peak into mama’s closet to see what you got for Christmas or your birthday. But ultimately, you’re just spoiling the surprise. Or, you’re running the risk of being let down.

The latest little morsel to be dropped about the potential of a Turnpike reunification was the response to a comment on an Instagram post by Staci Felker, who is the wife of Turnpike frontman Evan Felker. Yes, you almost need a diagram to understand the source. Staci Felker was showing off the couple’s new baby, and said to the question on if Evan will ever tour again, ““Yeah, he’ll play again someday, but we’ve really loved and appreciated the time to just be a normal family.”

Soon it made its way to the blogshpere as a sensational piece of revealing news. Sure, it’s a promising pronouncement if you’re a fan of Evan Felker and the Turnpike Troubadours. It’s also a pretty massively obvious statement. Evan already played a series of songs backed by The Teague Brothers in February. Evan Felker is a singer and a songwriter. Of course he’s going to want to scratch that itch at some point.

But what folks really want to know is will Turnpike reunify? Though some—like the operators of the band’s now rebranded Facebook fan page—made the ludicrous statement that it will never happen. You don’t need to know anything about the Turnpike Troubadours, or be privy to some sort of inside information to know that’s a presumptive statement, no matter what people on the inside say when stuff is at its worst. You just have to know about music.

There’s a reason The Eagles had to name their 1994-1996 tour and a subsequent live album Hell Freezes Over. It’s because they all had to eat their words when they said a new tour and album would never happen. It’s not just the money, it’s the camaraderie, and the deep friendships that exist in these bands that you just can’t bury. Sure, sometimes bands do split for good. Finito. But until they start putting bodies in the ground, never count them out.

But you came here looking for more specifics, and maybe some inside information, didn’t you? After all, knowledge on the status or intentions of the Turnpike Troubadours is social capital for the fans that run in those circles, no matter how much some of that gossip has probably hurt the band in the past.

Well, we do have some public pronouncements from members in the past. In March when revealing a new album from Turnpike bassist RC Edwards and Amber Watson and their project RC and the Ambers, Turnpike Troubadours steel guitarist Hammerin’ Hank Early (who also plays on the RC album) said, “Wish I could give you some good news, but I’ve been told not to share any details about all the good news I’d love to share.”

The offshoots from the Turnpike project are an interesting dynamic in how or when any reunification might take shape, or not. RC and the Ambers have an album called Big Country they’re looking to release. Of course Turnpike fiddle player Kyle Nix released his debut album Lightning on the Mountain in 2020 that featured all the members of Turnpike aside from Evan Felker, and something a lot folks either didn’t know or forget is there was supposed to be a big tour tied to the album where the members of Turnpike (sans Felker) were supposed to tour behind Kyle Nix. If that tour had transpired (thanks COIVD), we might be looking at this matter entirely different.

Recently at Mile 0 Fest in Key West, Florida in late April, both RC and the Ambers, as well as Kyle Nix performed. If Turnpike guitarist Ryan Engleman—who’d been playing with Reckless Kelly recently—would have also shown up (Reckless ultimately cancelled), we might’ve had a mini Turnpike reunion right there in sunny Florida. Instead, RC Edward and Kyle Nix didn’t even perform together publicly.

Perhaps there’s a scenario where Turnpike basically reunites, but behind Kyle Nix like the initial plan was before the pandemic. Perhaps Evan Felker will go out singing Turnpike songs with the Teague Brothers behind him (they keep curiously winking every time someone brings a Turnpike reunification up). Or maybe the Turnpike Troubadours proper reunify, but maybe Kyle Nix decides he’s his own man now, or RC or Ryan Englemen decide to stick with their new gigs, and replacements must be found.

Remember, even though we all have the most recently lineup of the Turnpike Troubadours cemented in our brain as the one and only band, early on they had multiple other members come and go, including John Fullbright. Some have even surmised that John Fullbright could fill in for Evan Felker.

But you didn’t come here looking for hypotheticals, you came looking for hard information. The truth is, there’s very little at this point, or at least that I personally want to share publicly, or that I’m able to confirm. Because I don’t want to spoil the big surprise, if there is one, or run the risk of letting you down if there ultimately isn’t one.

Yes, there are murmurs out there of tours coming together, or perhaps studio time booked. But at this point, nothing has transpired that is concrete. One bit of information I can confirm is that after the Turnpike Troubadours sued their previous managers in 2020, their affairs are now being handled by Jon Folk, who is also their booking agent at the Red 11 agency. Folk is also the booking agent for Kyle Nix solo. The fact that as a collective, the Turnpike Troubadours are still able to make global decisions about management and such is probably a good sign if you’re wishing for a reunification.

But so much of this is really just a gut feeling. These guys aren’t superstars. They’re the boys from Oklahoma. Stuff got a little sideways, and Evan Felker needed to take a little time of to get it straight. He’s probably back with who he needs to be back with, and becoming a mother or father always invariably changes your perspective and priorities in life.

For us as fans, spectators, and journalists, the Turnpike Troubadours (and their potential reunification) is our little obsession. But to the actual members of the Turnpike Troubadours, it is their lives, and the lives of their families. Those lives have already been sent into upheaval multiple times, and all while gossipy fans gawk at them with a tub of popcorn in their lap, with some usurping just as much entertainment value out of their unraveling as the melody of “7&7.”

It’s natural to be curious. And for some, they really do care about these guys on a personal level. The music of the Turnpike Troubadours has meant so much to them, and they want to know they’re okay, and if there will be any more of it in the future.

But what Staci Felker said that was important wasn’t that Evan Felker will play music again. It was, “We’ve really loved and appreciated the time to just be a normal family.” If you’re a true fan of the Turnpike Troubadours, that should be the news that warms your heart and gets you most excited. You’ve already received so much joy from the music of this band. And of course Evan Felker will play music again at some point. But it should be at a point when he’s healthy, and ready to do so. Otherwise, we might end up right back at square one. Or, at a place that’s much worse, where no reunification is possible.

As for the odds of the Turnpike Troubadours actually reuniting? After all, that’s the whole damn reason you clicked on this rambling article. Well, put me down at an 80% likelihood at the moment. My guess is it will happen in some form or fashion, eventually. And who knows, maybe even sooner than later.

© 2021 Saving Country Music
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