It’s been about a year since Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams have played in Laramie.
That’s way too long, in singer Wofford’s opinion.
The honky-tonk group will perform as the latest entry in the Laradise Music Showcase on Friday night.
In advance of the concert, we conducted a question-and-answer session with Wofford. (Note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.)
Question: What do you have planned for this show?
Answer: We are excited to play in Laramie again! It’s a great music town, with a number of hidden gems, both artists and venues. Since we were last in Laramie, we put out an album, “Hard Core Broken Heart,” and we’ll be playing those new songs along with some of our older material that folks know. We’ll also undoubtedly play some country classics, because that’s what keeps me sane.
Q: What’s the history of the band?
A: The Hi Beams came together early in the year 2000. Back then, I was looking for folks who would play Hank Williams songs with me. Bret Billings and I are the only two members from the original lineup, but the current members have been playing together for 16 years now.
Q: Who are some of your influences?
A: We were heavily influenced by early honky-tonk and western swing music, and the two most recognizable names from those eras are Hank Williams and Bob Wills. But we’re influenced by a lot of West Coast country music as well, with folks like Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and, later, the country-rock stuff that the Byrds and Graham Parsons put out in the ’70s.
Q: What are you guys working on this year?
A: This year, we’re focusing on the live show and bringing the tunes from “Hard Core Broken Heart” to people. We generally take some down time in winter, so we haven’t had as many chances to play the new stuff as we’d like.
Q: How do you guys continue to evolve your sound and songwriting?
A: We try to listen to, and be open to, everything and anything. We take a lot of inspiration from our local scene and friends in bands around the region. I think, in a way, being regional and playing with folks like Jalan Crossland or Bonnie and the Clydes, Ryan Chris or Kerry Pastine and the Crime Scene creates a weird reverberation. It’s unique, in a way.
The younger bands sometimes throw out a larger net, and show you that you might be a bit insulated. I’m always wondering if what I’m doing is too throwback-sounding or “retro.” I’m always looking for something that sounds new to me. Unfortunately, I’ve lived long enough that everything sort of sounds like something you’ve heard somewhere, like in a dream.
Q: What do you want people to take away from your music?
A: First, a sense of fun. Second, a sense of history. Third, I want to depress them so much that they’ll want to buy a beer or two from the bar, which will make the venue happy enough to call us back next year!
Actually, we’re just trying to play original music for anyone who’ll listen, dance and give it a chance. I have to believe that, on some level, it reflects something about where we’re from, this part of the West. I hope that it’s inclusive, that it appeals to all sorts of people. Maybe it’s just an echo of the weird, wild American West. A lot of what we do is kind of goofy, country music that doesn’t take itself too seriously. We love it, though, and we hope that shows when we play.