Leave it to Great Peacock — a band whose big, bold sound has been sharpened by years of relentless touring — to create some of the most compelling rock & roll road music of the 21st century. Forever Worse Better, the band’s third release, is an anthemic soundtrack for a life spent on the move, chasing down brighter horizons somewhere between the blur of truck stops and traffic lights — drawing from imagery that is painfully absent in the present moment in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Self-produced and funded by the bandmates themselves, this is Great Peacock’s defining album: a record about the three-way intersection between drive, desperation, and determination, rooted in the epic sweep of heartland rock, the harmonized melodies of amplified Americana, and the hooks of guitar-driven pop music.
The Nashville-based musicians — frontman/guitarist Andrew Nelson, guitarist/harmony vocalist Blount Floyd, and bass player Frank Keith IV — have racked up plenty of highway miles since releasing Making Ghosts, the 2013 debut record that introduced Great Peacock as modern-day interpreters of the American South’s rich musical history. They took their cues from the greats, rolling the concentric influences of Tom Petty, George Jones, and forward-thinking folk bands into a sound that was just as colorful as the group’s name. Then, as the euphoric rush of forming a new band gave way to the grounded (but equally inspiring) reality of touring for 100+ days a year, Great Peacock evolved their sound while also expanding their audience. They swapped their acoustic guitars for electrics. They made room for synthesizers and harder-hitting hooks. By the time Gran Pavo Real arrived in 2018, Great Peacock had grown beyond their rootsy beginnings, now flaunting a sound that paired the band’s southern stripes with sharper dynamics and more pointed, poignant songwriting.
Like the album before it, Gran Pavo Real was accompanied by a flurry of tour dates. Great Peacock gigged everywhere they could, selling out dive bars one minute and graduating to amphitheater shows the next, leaving a unique mark everywhere they went. In between tours, Nelson found himself on the road in a different capacity, driving a delivery truck for a small farm. He crisscrossed the southeast week after week, delivering meat to restaurants in different towns. It was a good job, but a lonely one, too, and Nelson kept himself busy by writing songs. Inspiration was easy to find, from the rhythm of the road to the open expanse of sunlit landscapes shining through the windshield. What began taking shape during those solitary trips was a new album about being alone and searching for outside acceptance — in romance, business, and music — before realizing that true acceptance begins with yourself.
“The first half of the album is about feeling empty and looking to fill that void with romance,” says Nelson. “It’s about a girl, and I didn’t wind up getting that girl. The second half — and the album as a whole, really — is about learning to love and accept yourself. Those themes tie in with this being the band’s third album. We’re struggling to find success, and I want people to know we’re struggling, just like they are. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, though, and you can work hard to get to it.”
Looking to create a southern take on heartland classic rock, Great Peacock purchased their own recording gear and took their time recording Forever Worse Better, with Nelson and Floyd sharing production duties. The bulk of the songs were tracked at Sound Emporium during a series of live takes, while overdubs took place at Floyd’s home studio. And while the album’s guest list is admittedly impressive — with everyone from American Aquarium’s former pedal-steel guitarist, Adam Kurtz, to Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit’s lead guitarist, Sadler Vaden, lending their help — most of Forever Worse Better was handled in-house, a move that showcases the strength of a band whose members have not only crystallized their sound, but sharpened their own abilities, too.
“I ain’t afraid of dying, I wanna ride that high wind, I’m afraid of never being alive,” Nelson and Floyd sing on “High Wind,” wrapping their harmonized voices into a song that encapsulates the album’s go-for-broke mentality. From the swirling keyboards that kickstart “All I Ever Do” to the gospel-like fervor that fills the album’s closing statement of self-worth, “Learning to Say Goodbye,” Forever Worse Better boldly aims for the same sonic territory occupied by the masters of atmospheric rock & roll. Seminal albums like Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA, U2’s The Joshua Tree, and Oasis’ Definitely Maybe are all evoked, as is the gritty grandeur of Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps and the modern rumble of The War on Drugs. The result is an album that proudly wears its influences on its sleeve, yet still sports a sound that’s unmistakably Great Peacock’s own.
Forever Worse Better is an album born from the rigors of the road, and all the personal struggles that come with it. In 2020, the road looks much different, as live shows and touring have ground to a halt. Great Peacock have created a soundtrack for those of us who, like them, long to be back on the road to somewhere better, the windows down, the radio cranked high, songs moving through our head at highway speed.
“Stands as the Nashville trio’s definitive statement. It’s a deeply personal record that reflects the struggle between the public and private, the desire to keep striving for one’s dreams and the recognition of the sacrifices made along the way.” – PopMatters
“Festival-ready Southern rock…splits the difference between Tom Petty’s jangle and the otherworldly swirl of Eighties college-rock.” – Rolling Stone
“Propulsive, earth-scorching…surprisingly weighty material.” – American Songwriter
“An emotionally charged and thoughtful American music masterpiece.” – Americana Highways
Sensible effects from across the country and rock real to make an enjoyable and widely-appealing experience…reminds you why you became a dedicated music fan in the first place.” – Saving Country Music