Updated: Sep 10, 2019
The new music video for a Nashville-based band’s original song, I Stand For the Flag, has taken off like a firecracker on the fourth of July -- fueled in large part by Facebook. A policy of the social network giant that flagged the Wes Cook Band’s song for “political content” created a controversy that landed the local band in the national spotlight. This past week has been a whirlwind of travel and network TV interviews in between their scheduled shows on Broadway, where the Wes Cook Band has been a staple for several years.
I met up with the band’s leader (Wes Cook) and fiddler (Nathan Stoops) to talk about the story behind their patriotic single before the video was even uploaded to YouTube or Facebook. That was on a Saturday, and the plan was to premiere the music video two days later on the band’s social media. But when Wes attempted to boost the post with paid ads, Facebook rejected it for political reasons. A media firestorm ensued, causing the band to receive more coverage than they ever imagined from media outlets such as Yahoo, Breitbart, Fox News, Sirius XM’s Patriot Channel, and Business Insider – all of which helped the video rack up hundreds of thousands of views and shares.
So what is the story behind the song and the band? Music City locals and tourists have been drinking and dancing along with the Wes Cook Band for several years. The band typically plays seven shows each week at downtown venues including The Stage, Famous Saloon, Legends Corner, Tin Roof, Redneck Riviera, and The Second Fiddle. Wes says, “we don’t sound anything like today’s country music that’s on the radio.” His band mostly covers 90’s country and southern rock; their original material “is more of a southern rock, red dirt Americana sound.”
The band has toured and opened for some big name acts in the past. Nowadays (at least before the current media hype that has them jet-setting to interviews) they enjoy the opportunity to spend more time at home with their families, which is one of the benefits of being a working band on Broadway. While some local musicians play up to four shows a day, Wes and his band members limit themselves to a maximum of two shows a day to maintain their voices (and sanity).
“It’s a grind; it’ll wear down on you pretty fast.” Wes adds that the band does a lot of three-and four-part harmonies. “So once the vocals are gone, we’re not doing any more shows the rest of the week.” As the lead vocalist, Wes drinks two gallons of water per day to stay hydrated, and relies on local honey, apple cider, and whiskey to take care of his voice.
Nathan, who plays fiddle and does background vocals, came up with the idea to write a song about the flag because he wanted to contribute something positive to the national conversation that was going on at the time (the controversy surrounding professional athletes and the National Anthem). “I’d been kicking around the idea for several days of how can I combine my knowledge of what’s going on in the world, my desire to help people, and my music career? I had an idea to write a song called I Stand For the Flag, but to write it from a nonpolitical perspective.”
Nathan took his ideas to Wes and they made a rough demo of the song. When they played it for a producer at the publishing company Wes is signed with, the reaction was not what they expected. “The feedback we got was ‘your song sucks -- but your idea is huge.’” Nathan says “we were expecting to tweak this or tweak that; not start over from scratch.” That prompted them to bring in a third writer, Will King.
According to Nathan, “one of the coolest things about the process from that point was the differences between our belief structures, and using that to come up with a song.” Nathan grew up in a conservative family; Wes is middle-of-the-road; and Will considers himself to be liberal. “What better way to make a nonpolitical statement about standing for the flag than to cover every political spectrum and figure out a way to convey a message of unity towards a country that gives you the freedom to do what we’re going?” The song went through numerous rewrites over the next couple of weeks. “We kept hammering at it until we felt like we finally figured it out; this is what we were trying to create.”
The band started to play the song at shows, and Wes says they got a lot of positive response from fans. “We’ve had veterans reach out to us and tell us how much they appreciate the song.” Soon after, the band partnered with Grunt Style to design “I Stand For The Flag” shirts; 15% of all merchandise sales is donated to Fit-Ops Foundation (an organization that provides job skill training and job placement to veterans).
When it came time to produce the music video, the band reached out to videographer Craig Lunceford (Monster Pictures), whom Nathan had worked with in the past. Wes says “We did a live shoot at The Stage on Broadway, starting at 9 AM before the crowd arrived.” Later they were joined by friends and unknowing tourists, who all became part of the video. In order to get across the message of the song, Nathan says the focus was on the flag itself. “We wanted the flag to be the hero of the video; the citizens of America secondary, and then the band as third in the order of importance.” The band hopes the music video will convey a nonpolitical message of patriotism. “There’s so much division in the country that people tend to look at that more than the ways we are similar sometimes…. you can share differences and still love the person.”
Working without the benefit of a record label or PR company, the band planned their own marketing strategy for the release of the music video. Just two days before the song was posted on social media, Wes said, “On Monday (July 2), we plan to cast out our net as far as we can.” Judging by the music video’s success so far, they’ve already caught some pretty big fish.
For more information, links to social media, or to buy an “I Stand For The Flag” shirt, go to www.WesCookBand.com
Wes Cook Band is scheduled to perform at the inaugural Nashville Patriot Fest at Nissan Stadium July 27, 28, 29; proceeds from the event benefit several TN non-profit organizations.
I Stand For The Flag is available on iTunes. The song was produced by Steffon Hamulak.
The Wes Cook Band includes Wes Cook (lead vocals); Nathan Stoops (fiddle); Trevor Layne (drums); Jason Kirkimilis (lead guitar); Paul Sanders (bass).
FUN FACTS AND TRIVIA
10 years ago, Wes was busking on Broadway for a living
At age 19, Nathan was playing in a symphony orchestra
Best Concert Ever
(They attended the show together!)
Favorite song to cover
Wes: Interstate by Randy Rogers Band
Nathan: anything by Garth
Favorite thing to do with friends from out of town
Both simultaneously: Go out on a boat at the lake!
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